Archive for September, 2021

Protected: Jokers Notebook ~ Module #12

September 26, 2021

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Protected: Module #11 ~ Jokers Notebook

September 19, 2021

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Module #10 ~ Jokers Notebook

September 10, 2021

This is the tenth week of the Joker’s Notebook distance training plan. This week will introduce the A-frame to the young dog. And we will use performance of this obstacle to practice the dog’s growing repertoire of distance skills.  

The A-frame should be set very low for the novice dog. Our immediate objective is to overcome any fear the dog might initially feel and grow his confidence. Each day you should give at least ten minutes of quality time training your dog.

Some of the exercises this week can be very technical for a young dog. Don’t expect to master everything in a few days. In fact, you can expect to spend the next couple of months sorting out the skills presented in this module.

Introducing the A-frame

When introducing the dog to the A-frame for the first time the A‑frame should be set very low. The handler should have a tasty treat in hand (the hand nearer to the dog), and use that treat to focus the dog forward and up the center of the ramp.

Some dogs can be fearful of going over the top of the A-frame because for all they know there’s a big fall waiting for them on the other side. Be patient and coax the dog up and over. With a particularly fearful dog you can put your hand under his butt to support his forward movement. In this case you’ll have to put the treat in your counter arm top lure him over the performance.

The handler should have a command that means this obstacle. Chances are that you already have that word in your vocabulary. I use “Walk Up!” because I find verbs more compelling. Don’t forget to always use your command.

Initially we will do the A-frame as the end obstacle when sequencing. We want to conclude with a two-on/two-off finish.

Simple Sequencing to the A-frame

We will introduce this sequence working with dog on right so that the dog trainer can add lateral distance in modest incremental steps. It doesn’t hurt for the dog to benefit from a bit of patterning early on.  

The video below shows a dog introduced to this sequence for the first time. You’ll note that the two-on/two-off we’ve worked on in previous modules is becoming a “prerequisite skill”.

Contrast that with the handler’s improved lateral distance:

The Tandem Turn is a movement that creates acceleration and increases the real estate (distance) between the dog and handler. In our practice of the A-frame we also practice the Tandem Turn to make the approach. 

In this sequence the Tandem occurs on the landing side of jump #2. In the instant of the movement the handler’s left arm flashes up; her body rotates; and she steps to the left; and she gives the verbal command “Left”. It all happens at once.

Note that the small dog handler might have to usher the dog a stride or two out onto the flat before doing the turn; both to bring the dog out for a square turn to jump #3 and to get the dog out from under foot.

The handler should remain focused on racing the dog up and over the A-frame. The lesson from the very beginning must be that we take this obstacle at speed. On the descent the handler should tap the brakes and ask for a two-on/two-off finish to the obstacle.

Beware of “menacing” the dog on the landing side of jump #2. The handler should be enticing the dog to be forward in the opening two jumps. So taking much of a lead-out will be self-defeating.

Adding Distance Incrementally

We don’t really want the dog to learn that the handler is a part of the A-frame performance. If the handler is always about a foot or two away from the dog in the performance of this obstacle, then the dog will surely come to understand that the handler is a part of the performance. Not good.

So, we will remove ourselves from the dog’s performance of the obstacle, a modest amount at first, and then more and more as confidence grows.

As we progress in this exercise, we’re looking for a modest separation between the dog and handler to get the dog out to the A‑frame while the handler works a short distance away.

The student homework video below shows Elaine and Dawson in the training steps for the featured sequence. Note that they sequence was laid out allowing them to practice the exercise in both directions:

The Devil’s in the Details

Truly, the devil is in the details. I’ll make a short list here.

  • The handler arrives at the turning jump at the precise instant as the dog and will make the cue to turn away as the dog is in the air over the jump.
  • The handler steps behind the dog, not in front.
  • While I’ve drawn the handler figure using a counter-arm signal an inside-arm signal is more natural to most dogs. However, the inside arm signal doesn’t bring in your outside shoulder as the counter-arm signal does… so you’ll have to bring around your own outside shoulder when using the inside arm.
  • Note the red line showing the handler’s path. It stays focused forward on the approach to the A-frame until the dog has his feet on the obstacle. Only then can the handler turn and address the path parallel to the dog.

Training Steps for the Tandem Turn

Let’s revisit out training steps for the Tandem Turn. You might want to go back to the beginning and work you way up, because we’re going to introduce a radical new twist to this movement.


We introduce the Tandem to a dog on the flat. Avoid standing still and spinning the dog in front of you. What you’d really like to practice is turning the dog away from you while you are both in motion. Think of the turn as being roughly 90 degrees.

As you move forward together; and you draw your dog past your knee; and continue to support him in a turn away from you while giving the directional command (Right, in this case). This is a simple Tandem Turn on the flat.

Tandem on the Hurdle

As soon as possible transfer the work you’ve done on the flat in teaching my dog to turn away into the more robust movement associated with jumping.

There’s always a risk that a dog will shut down in this kind of training. If you think about it the handler tends to curl up as though to strike his dog in a menacing fashion on the landing side of the jump. This could cause your dog to shut down on the exercise.

The Lateral Distance Step

Now, we’ll start to make a more advanced use of the Tandem turn.

You will next practice the Tandem from a lateral distance. You will work parallel to the dog from a comfortable distance of 10′ or so. The cues are the same and the timing is the same. And still, the handler crosses on the landing side of the jump.

The biggest mistake a handler will make when practicing this is not actually using the lateral distance which has been so carefully saved up for handler movement in a convincing fashion. Although working at a comfortable distance from the dog it’s the handler’s job to sell the turn.

The Layered Tandem

You cannot move to the Layered Tandem until you’ve mastered the lateral distance step described above.

This is a rather advanced application of the Tandem Turn. The handler shows the turn and gives the dog a strong command to turn away. But rather than going all the way around the jump the handler will layer to the inside of the jump.

The student homework video below shows Elaine and Dawson doing the training steps for this exercise:

Layered Tandem to the A-frame

Having mastered the layered Tandem, we return now to the A-frame sequence.

If we move the containment line back to the handler’s side of the first two jumps the exercise is considerably more advanced. Note that the rules of movement are essentially the same as when the handler could step fully around the jump. Consider these additional notes on execution:

  • The handler approaches the turning point at a lateral distance from the dog. This gives the handler room to move and convince the dog into the turn.
  • I had not intended to skip by focus on the jump in the easier version of this exercise. But the handler’s movement in that exercise pretty much suggested the performance of the jump. In this case, however, the handler must (in the red transition line) keep focus first on the jump and then on to the A-frame.

In the YouTube video below the handler has layered to the outside of the sequence, an advanced variation with an 8-month-old dog. This student faithfully does her Notebook homework each week:

Over time you will freelance your use of the Tandem Turn, which creates separation and acceleration:

Video Homework

Send links to at least one video demonstrating the training exercises in Module #8:

  1. Introducing the A-frame;
  2. Simple sequencing to the A-frame;
  3. Tandem Turn to the A-frame;
  4. Practicing the training steps of the Tandem Turn and, if things are really going well, showing a layered Tandem.

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Protected: Appendix D ~ Pinwheels and Tandems

September 9, 2021

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Protected: Appendix A ~ Progressive Sending

September 7, 2021

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Protected: Module #9 ~ Jokers Notebook

September 5, 2021

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