Asking the Question

The first rule of distance training is that the dog needs to understand the performance of the obstacle. What we have to do in the training of the dog is to ask the question… “do you know how to do this obstacle?”

In the discussion below I show the handler making the introduction of a “hoop” to the dog. In case you don’t know the hoop is an obstacle used by NADAC. I find it to be an excellent obstacle for training a very young dog because there won’t be any stress from jumping. Later we’ll transfer the same method to jumps.

This is around-the-clock training. It is also a progressive sending exercise. Though clearly as we begin the send might only be a matter of inches. Because we want the dog to go forward of the handler to go through the hoop we might introduce the directional command “Go On!”

I show in the drawing clock positions #6 back through #3. These correspond with the numbers on a clock and are only intended as rough references. While sending the dog forward to go through the hoop the handler/dog trainer might move only in small incremental steps around the circumference of the clock.

One of the benefits of this training is to teach the dog to “square up” a bit for the performance of an obstacle. With hoops it isn’t a very dramatic action. By the time we introduce the tire (using the same method) squaring up will be considerably more important.

There is a point in training that we can be pretty confident that the dog understands his job… the performance of the obstacle. In this drawing I show the handler making his start with the dog roughly 25′. Under my rules of “asking the question” I begin with my dog at side facing neatly in the direction of the hoop and take a single step, while pointing forward, telling my dog to “go on, hoop!”

Introducing “Go On”

The intention of this exercise is to teach the dog to continue working beyond the handler’s position, even when the handler comes to a full stop. The sequence is a series of three hoops in a line.

We start with the hoops placed very close together. In this drawing the hoops are only 5′ apart. Initially the handler will leave the dog on a stay and lead out nearly to the #3 hoop before starting.

Only gradually the handler moves back toward the front of the line of hoops to send the dog forward.

In rewarding the dog I’m especially fond of using the toss of a ball or a Frisbee. The toss should insinuate a “reward line” forward of the dog supporting the dog’s forward movement.

Only gradually the hoops should moved apart. And each time they are moved apart the handler will begin forward of the dog near the final hoop. And in each successive repetition the handler will move back down the line until he can make the send from behind the first hoop.

While engaged in this training the handler should exercise very basic dog training discipline.

  1. Focus on that thing you’re teaching:  Go On! This means that the dog should continue working forward.
  2. Have a good marker for performance. Use a clicker! Or, give a good verbal marker… “What a good boy!”
  3. Always reward a successful performance. This could be a food reward and it might be a game with a toy.
  4. If the dog fails you should back down on the escalation of the exercise. This might mean the hoops should be closer together; or the handler’s starting position should be farther forward.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who is the lady in this picture? And, what is her connection to the “Madhouse on McDowell”?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.


One Response to “Asking the Question”

  1. Bernie Says:

    The lady is DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. Kevin Johnson’s (the Mayor of Sacramento and former Phoenix Sun) fiance.

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