Writing a Lesson Plan for Agility Classes

Our floor is always set for the current NDAL league course. Consequently, it’s natural that we will develop the lesson plan using the set of equipment on the floor.

A lesson plan should be appropriate for the skill level of the handlers and dogs for whom it is intended. So the exercises that we would present to a Masters class is going to be dramatically different from what we present to a Novice class.

This is the course that we will be running this week:


Sketching Out a Plan

A “break-down” format is a lesson plan that is based literally on the sequencing from the NDAL game of the week. The curriculum probably should include “freestyle” exercises, which have the dog running sequences that have no relationship to the game of the week.



Red Numbers

We’re working on a “Lead Out” in this exercise. The slight slant to jump #1 will beguile the novice handler into squaring the dog up for the jump, rather than squaring the dog for the sequence ahead.

White Numbers

Again, we’re working on a lead-out. In the previous exercise there wasn’t much incentive to get a very long lead out. In this sequence, however, the handler is obligated to be comfortably forward of the dog as the dog commits over jump #2 in order to be in position to Front Cross. Of course, some novice handlers won’t spot the need for a change of sides here.


Red Numbers

The focus of this exercise might very well turn out to be the performance of the teeter. For some dogs it takes awhile for the dog to muster up enough confidence to do the teeter. For novice dogs you must insist that the handler reward the dog on the tip of the teeter.

The sequence calls a change of sides on the approach to jump #4. If you want to have a bit of fun with the exercise, you can ask for another change of sides from jump #4 to jump #5.

White numbers

This is a simple dog-on-right sequence. The exercise will certainly be about the weave poles. Note that the weave poles are wired. More advanced dogs might need only the entry and exit wired; some might not need wires at all. But you should be prepared to provide for the lowest-common-denominator.



Red Numbers

This sequence begs for two Front Crosses. In the transition from the weave poles to jump #3 the handler might start the cross too early and pull the dog out of the weave poles prematurely; giving the instructor an opportunity for a “timing” lecture.

The next cross is a simple Front Cross wrapping the dog after jump #5.

The Post Turn from jump #3 to jump #4 might emerge as a subtle challenge. In the Post the handler is obligated to create an approach to jump #4.

White Numbers

The interesting bit in this sequence is surely the transition from jump #3 to the counter-side tunnel at #4. This is surely the work of a Front Cross; [of the eight different kinds of Front Crosses, this is a serpentine Front Cross which delivers an “S” shaped dog’s path. Truly, it is a combination movement, Front Cross to Post Turn.]

A modest lead-out would probably be a good idea.


Black Numbers

For the most part, this sequence could be taken as a fun romp. But I put a twist in the exercise in the #6 to #8 bit. I would love to use this bit to teach a “Tandem Turn” (crossing behind the dog on the dismount of jump #6)… which means the handler should approach jump #6 with dog-on-left.

The harder concept to teach is how to set the approach for jumps #8 and #9. I’ve drawn an “x” on this course to demonstrate where the dog should turn to set a square approach through those jumps.

Red Numbers

The central challenge in this sequence is the threadle from jump #5 to jump #6. The movement is complicated by the notion that the handler probably wants dog-on-right on the approach to jump #6. What to do?

A “Flip” (Ketchker) might be a good answer to solving the threadle. Have the first aid kit handy for the handler who isn’t exercising enough awareness of the teeter on his left… while giving attention to the dog, on his right.

Instructor Notes

  • Most of the sequences in the lesson plan have the dog starting a sequence in roughly the same place/area where they END the sequence. This allows the handler to toss down the dog’s leash and doesn’t use up a lot of class time with the handler trudging across the floor to capture his leash while the dog runs wild about the building.
  • You should show a sequence to students without suggesting the handling solution. The handler’s first round is the “entertainment round”. This allows the instructor to assess what his students have learned. On subsequent attempts at the sequence, the instructor can make handling suggestions, give long lectures, and tell jokes.

    By the way, it is possible that when your students run a sequence, they will teach you (the instructor) something you didn’t know or should, at the very least, study.

  • You should give much thought to where students will stand while awaiting their turn in an exercise.

    In the interest of providing plenty of social distancing in a group class, handlers should queue for an exercise with 10′ or 12′ of separation.

  • While it’s good to have the Clean Run Course Designer, and Word, and Acrobat and Photoshop; computers and devices high tech…

    NONE of this is required to have a lesson plan. Sketch out your sequence, make a few notes about what you want to accomplish. The important thing is that you don’t get stuck in a “Gee! What should we do now?” moment.

    With that in mind… I’ll include a page or two for the complete “Barbarian’s Lesson Plan”.


The Barbarian’s Lesson Plan




Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.

One Response to “Writing a Lesson Plan for Agility Classes”

  1. melonimarco Says:

    Reblogged this on Agility Dog Italia.

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