Go the Distance!

Well, I’ve been occupied. I’ve had it in my head for at least a couple years now that I should write a distance training manual for small dogs. Over time—using my web-log for a focus for writing discipline—I honed and refined many of the concepts and exercises that are intrinsic to my understanding of distance training in dog agility. And yet, I had a hard time staring the project from the POV of a cohesive content plan.

I had an epiphany! It occurs to me that there is fundamentally no difference between training the small dog and training the big dog. The concepts are the same. The exercises and methods and objectives are identical. And so the concept of writing a specific guide for the small dog is flawed from the onset. Little dog people will tell you that their dogs have to take more strides between obstacles; they move slower; they are tiny and don’t have the speed and impulsion of their larger cousins.

I find that any training objective begins with a mission statement and, you might say, the will to prevail. As often as not the little-dog person will spend more energy explaining why they can’t achieve the distance training mission than they actually do working on the distance training mission. Aye, there’s the rub.

And so, I return to the drawing board free of the shackles of the misstated mission. The size of the dog makes no difference.

Distance Training Workbook

And so what I’ve been doing for most of the past week is developing a workbook based on my own lesson plans. I’ve been living like a bear in the basement thumping on the keyboard and referencing hundreds of short articles I’ve written on distance training and handling.

My objective is to publish a distance training workbook on a monthly basis suitable for instructor-led lesson planning or as a reference to the back-yard agility enthusiast. I figure that after about a year I’ll have written (and rewritten) most of what I know about training a dog for distance work in agility. This week I just wanted to give it a good start.

I have a bit of editing to do yet. And I want to do my usual technical thing, putting the project in a .zip file so that the reader can click on any of the course maps and spawn it into the Clean Run Course Designer. That little detail alone represents 8 or 10 hours of work.

I’ll let you all know when it’s available. I figure by January 1 it will be good to go.

Sample from the Workbook!

As a handling exercise, this simple sequence is more difficult than it looks. As a distance exercise it is considerably harder than it looks.

Sometimes the solution to a distance challenge when constrained by a handler containment line mightn’t really be the best handling solution if there were no constraint to movement. In the workbook I also intend to study handling challenges in which a distance handling solution is the most elegant.

Which is true of this sequence?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available on the Country Dream Web Store.

4 Responses to “Go the Distance!”

  1. mariann jackson Says:

    ok, this is really bugging me…. what was your reasoning for little dogs needing to be trained to do distance differently then big dogs? yes i understand the more strides to go a yard stuff. seems to me that if the dog understands the piece of equipment by name he should just go no matter were the handler is. i do distance (20 to 30 ft or more) with a 20 and a 16 and have taught them exactly the same way. their knowing the name of the piece of equipment was the first thing we did. being able to send and recall was next. then around the clock (which i learned from your camp 8 or 9 years ago) with the distance just slowly increasing. as for little dogs being slower, down here there are some very fast little motor scooters whose yps top my pretty fast 20. but i’m making the assumsion that yps is based on speed to cover a yard not stride length or number of strides needed. and maybe that’s wrong and i need to rethink things.

    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Mariann,

      Actually, I don’t believe that there’s a real difference in training the small dog and the big dog for distance at all. I think this was my point.

      Hope all is well with you!


  2. mariann jackson Says:

    i guess i misunderstood your post. i thought the first part dealt with your trying to write about how to teach distance to small dogs and then you had the epiphany that there is no difference. on that assummsion i was asking why you ever thought there was a difference.

    hope you have a good new year

  3. Adrienne Says:

    I’m happy to say that I have a small dog. We certainly need work on distance. But I am also happy to say that I really have never heard anyone around here squawking about a little dog not being able to do distance. My distance skills are improving. I am mostly facing the constraints of a really small backyard. A 20 foot send pretty much exhausts the avaiabl lawn! lol

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