Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #2

We all hunker down, as the crest of the coronavirus pandemic wave crashes inexorably towards us. It’s difficult to feel normal while the world about us is not.

That being said… I would like to give some dog-training direction to my own students and anyone else who might want to follow along with exercises that can be accomplished in the back yard.


I invite my own students to come out to use the training building. On a regular basis through the week I have taken to sanitizing surfaces, door handles, jump bars, and the toilet.

A reasonable precaution for the dog trainer to take would be to show up with protective gloves which can be discarded in the poop bucket outside before you get back in your car.

Prerequisite Skills

The exercise I will share with you below is best approached if you have mastered a couple important prerequisite skills. These are: A solid “Stay”; and an “Accelerating Step”.

How to Teach a Stay

Here I will share with you a method I learned many years ago.

Marty Sit Stay

And, more of the same:

Arrow Sit Stay

Introduction to the Accelerating Step

Get that picture out of your head that has the handler standing flat-footed and flapping his arms while the dog works “at a distance.” Movement is an important element of directing the dog to independent performance.

The accelerating step is a simple discipline that requires the handler to take a big step at the very moment the dog is moving past him. The step gooses the dog forward in the send.


The Lesson Plan

Today my discussion will focus on the “dead away send”. This is sometimes difficult to accomplish. You might find that taking the training steps is a more direct way to accomplish the training goal, that is wandering about aimlessly and wishing for the best.

Sometimes a student will tell me that “my dog is a Velcro dog!” To which I ever will observe that Velcro is a two-part fabric. OTOH, we must admit that if my agility training methodology in general has always insisted that the dog be close on the handler’s heel, then it is a big step to allow the dog to leave the proximity of the handler and work away, independently.

An important early training objective with an agility dog in training is to create powerful obstacle focus for a winged hurdle, commonly called a “Jump”.

To tell the truth the Jump is often overlooked in training. You’ll see novice dogs in competition running around jumps but eagerly veering off-path to get into a pipe tunnel, or park themselves on a contact obstacle. A dog will go where they have a high reward association.

But we are not going to over-look the jump.

In the illustrations I’ve drawn here the young dog is introduced to the “Go On” command using Hoops (an obstacle notably used by NADAC in competition). My expectation is to begin the training with a very young dog… young enough to learn, but not old enough to be jumping. Later we’ll make the transition to jumps with displaceable bars.


In the introduction to the Hoop I’ll do a modest progressive send with my dog. I start very near the Hoop at first and praise and reward when she goes through. I’ll move back very gradually, sending her to do the Hoop and earn that praise and reward.



The moment you add a second Hoop… you are officially doing “sequencing” with your dog. This is actually an important introduction for the dog to the idea that performances will be a chain of events.

We graduate to two Hoops. The handler begins near to the seconds hoop before starting the dog. Each repetition the handler will start slightly farther back, until the dog is sending forward through both hoops while the handler stays behind.


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.

You’ll notice in the video that our dog is very young and not every send has a successful conclusion. The basic training tool is to praise and reward when the dog gets it… a being very neutral, deny praise and reward when the dog does not.

From time to time you might use a “framing” obstacle at the end of the line of hoops or jumps. This is a dandy opportunity to accustom your dog to a progressive send into a pipe tunnel, for example.




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.

The only reason we’ve been using Hoops is that we were working with a very young dog. If you begin this with training a dog that is already grown and steady, you might begin with jumps. In any case, ta some point, the trainer will have to make a transition from Hoops to Jumps.


Don’t lose sight of methodology. When the basic exercise changes the handler will begin forward of the dog, and only gradually move back toward the front of the line of jumps to send the dog forward.



In a few short months the exercise needs more and more room. That was the intention from the beginning. We want to teach the dog powerful obstacle focus for jumps and give the dog permission to go forward of the handler in the performance.

While we have not in this forum shared every grizzly moment of training, we’ve shown just enough to demonstrate that it is a continuity and a discipline.



In this video the dog trainer was clearly happy with his dog and pleased with himself for his work. But do keep in mind that this is a basic skill that needs to be constantly refreshed over the dog’s active career in agility.


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4 Responses to “Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #2”

  1. melonimarco Says:

    Reblogged this on Agility Dog Italia.

  2. heather Says:

    Ollie and I used the accelerated step today to practice for NDAL. I am learning to use Coaches eye and put together a video showing our accelerated step send.

  3. Heather Cotterman Says:

    Thank you!

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