Distance Training Fundamentals

Tuesday nights are pretty much given over to a series of semi-private lessons with a group of students who come out regularly. We have temporary sale on private lessons in which the fee is drastically reduced and all the money goes to a facility beautification fund. Yes, I’m selling my body for rhododendrons (or cone flowers, or whatever).

The Tuesday night group has a variety of objectives for these focus lessons; things like contact training, weave poles, and distance.

So tonight, if anybody actually shows up, I’m going to put them through one of my foundation drills for a basic dead-away send (in this case, to the tire).

The Training Game – the Puissance

I will typically pose this as a game. One of the things I really look to expose is the corrosive nature of “competition” on the discipline of the dog trainer. Once you start ranking and comparing results among different individuals some of them will lose their patience and composure and begin to compete when it’s much more prudent to focus on giving the dog small training steps with lots of potential for reward.

1st Round


We begin with one side of the building cleared save the tire positioned at the back end. I explain the rules of the training game to everyone. The purpose of the game is ultimately to see who can send their dog from the greatest distance to the performance of the tire. We will proceed with multiple rounds. And after each round the rules of the game will change in some minor extent.

In this first round everyone can send their dog through the tire 5 times, and 5 times only with this caveat: each send must be farther than the last. If the handler steps forward of his last send line at any time, his turn is over. I have a couple of flat sticks that I lay down on the floor adjacent to the channel to the tire. In this round I actually will forgive a single misstep (over the line). But I make a deal out of it and tell them that they’ve used up their one fudge for the entire rest of the night. This is to remind them that I am watching and to be aware of the sticks that I put down on the floor.

Some will try to show off in this introduction of the send to the tire. I will observe this behavior without comment. It may cost them in later rounds when they really needed to use the early round for basic reinforcement of the performance.

2nd Round


This round is very much like the first round except that I’ll put the initial stick at 10′ from the tire. And I’ll tell them that they get three sends to the tire. The first two can be forward of the containment line, but the last send must be behind the line. Furthermore, if the handler stays behind the line for any send… then he has completed the challenge, and his turn is over.

Again, some will try to show off in this introduction of the send to the tire. However if they send to the tire from behind the line on their first send I’ll tell give them a quick congratulations and inform them that their turn is over. A bit of showing off here will deprive the handler and his dog of a couple of conditioning steps.

It’s always interesting in this step to see the point at which a trainer sends his dog to the tire. If He makes the first two sends from 2′ and 3′ away from the tire… then it’s a big jump back to 10′ for the last send.

3rd Round


The 3rd round is rather like the 2nd round. The handler gets to send three times… the first two of which must be forward of the line. However in this round the third send will establish a new send line that everyone behind must beat when it is their turn to send their dogs.

Now, it is the nature of a puissance that if a handler fails to send his dog from the send line established by the previous team then they have failed in the game and must sit and watch. However over time I’ve found this to be a cruel twist to the game. So what I will do instead (since we are in training after all) is establish a placement system. So the first dog that fails will be in last place; the second to fail in second to last… and so forth. But I will tell them that it’s possible for them to have redemption before we are through and advise them to get in as many positive conditioning steps as they can in the training of their dogs.

We will repeat this round until all at least one dog is being sent from 50′ or more.

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I will continue this discussion tomorrow.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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