My 2-minute dog trainer (mealtime) lessons with Kory the past couple of days have been an AL1RTO contact performance. Oh, that’s a new acronym: At Least 1 Rear Toe On. I’ve pretty much decided that 1RTO is too granular and 2O2O is too rigid. As a consequence I’ll accept either both back feet on the ramp or just one. Kory has big ol’ feet by they way. I expect that he’ll be growing in to them. He’s now 5 months old.

Kory has never had the full length of a contact obstacle. He’ll get to see contacts only when he has a rock solid AL1RTO working in our training sessions. I’ve taken one of my TDAA 8′ crossover ramps and lifted one end up on a milk crate. It’s set up on a small carpet down in the cool of the basement.

In this training I’m marking with a clicker. After Kory assumes a position that meets my criteria I’ll give him a click. I’ve also given myself permission to click multiple times while he holds position. After one c/t I’ll take a step rotating my position around him. If he holds position he gets another c/t. If he doesn’t hold position he gets my correction… which is to break off, turn my back on him, stop giving him warm praise. It’s completely neutral. And I can’t bring myself to develop a wrong performance marker.

I spent a day physically shaping, helping him find the position by picking up and putting down his feet. Then I spent another day lure shaping, drawing him into position with the offer of a treat. But now we are in free shaping mode alone. I give my command “Bottom” and wait ‘til he sorts through offering a variety of performances to find the one that gets the c/t.

He’s just about got it. He’ll get on the board and pounce his front two feet off and give me a lop eared “is this it?” look. C/T. You betcha it is!

My movement during the training is actually an important element of the training. I don’t want to practice the position by hovering over his head. That would put me too much in the context of the performance. Once he really understands the performance to the extent that he immediately mounts the board and pounces into position I’ll be varying my position and staying in constant motion. You get what you pay for… and this is what I want to own.

The Sternberg Method

As I’ve noted before – I subscribe to the “Sternberg method” for teaching a bottom performance. The handler shapes the dog into position and then rewards and rewards and rewards the dog for being in position. If the dog breaks the position then the handler breaks off giving praise and reward. It’s a very neutral correction.

With the dog in position, the handler will reward the dog and reward the dog and reward the dog. As Sue Sternberg puts it, “you reward the dog til you think your gonna die!”… and then…

You reward the dog and reward the dog and reward the dog.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

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