Distance Foundation

I had an interesting conversation with a student in a private lesson. She told me that she wanted to enter her dog(s) into the distance program at her training center, but was not allowed because her dog had not attended/graduated from a series of “foundation” classes. The horrible thought lept into my mind that the “foundation” class is where the dog’s prospects for working at a distance from the handler are utterly destroyed. The dog learns to run agility tied to the handler’s hip. The opportunity to learn to work at a distance from the handler as a part of his “foundation” is completely lost. Distance becomes a matter of painful remediation.

Consequently I ignored every opportunity to focus on “handling” and devoted our time together exclusively to distance training topics.

I want to share a couple bits with you, mostly in order for me to document a thing or two that I might have learned.

Blending Distance Foundation Exercises

I had a student once who had bought my Jokers Notebook, issue #0. That is as some of you know the foundation issue to the Jokers Notebook series. I asked her how she was doing with the exercises. She said that she had tried a couple of them. <sigh>

So here’s the deal. The foundation book is not a mixed-bag potpourri of options and occasionals. All of the exercises are intended as a homogenous whole and all must be approached with grueling consistency and continuity until the esential skills are owned by the dog.

Easy for me to say, I’m sure.

Because we’re doing “everything” in terms of foundation you’ll find that different exercises have relationships. In one exercise you might be doing an advanced proofing exercise for one skill, and using that skill as a springboard/prerequisite to practice another skill. For example:

Progressive Sending: Pipe Tunnel

This is a simple exercise you might do with all obstacles. The handler begins close to the obstacle, sends the dog forward for the performance, and over time moves back farther and farther until the dog is being sent from a magnificent distance to the performance. Certainly, early on the tunnel is a fun exercise to practice progressives sending.

A Simple Progressive Tandem

In this sequence I specify handling. It is simple enough. The handler will start with dog on left until the dog gets into the tunnel. On the exit of the tunnel, however, the handler will pick up the dog on his right lead. At jump #5 the handler will do a Tandem Turn (crossing behind the dog on the landing side of the jump)

This exercise depends on a strong send to the pipe tunnel at #3 so that the handler can appear at the corner of the turn at jump #5 at precisely the moment the dog arrives at that jump. The faster the dog is, the more important it is for the dog to have the sending skill to the tunnel.

In the progression of the exercise I’ll typically associate a displaceable “wing” at the corner jump (#5) to get the dog off the handler’s hip. This is especially difficult for handlers who train where there are no winged jumps. The idea of the dog being 5′ away can make their heads explode.

In the next bit I’ll take the wing away. But I’ll ask the handler to visualize the wing and to conduct the turn from this modest lateral distance. I have to remind the handler that the dog turns “when” the handler turns, not “where” the handler turns.

The next step is quite an advancement; but a logical one. The handler will “layer” the tandem. The handler shows the turn at the corner but doesn’t cross around behind the jump at the corner. Instead he will move in a path parallel to the dog, which should neatly drive the dog to the pipe tunnel at #8.

Saw It On Facebook!

I hope this is covered by the Affordable Health Care Act!


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running.  www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

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