Saturday, September 10, 2011

Introduction to Distance Training - Part One

A question commonly heard is "How do I train my dog to work away from me?"  I thought I might try to answer that question with a series of videos.  For my first video, I used Max, my 10 year old Airedale.  Max has been retired from agility for many years because I was unable to get him to stay on track when we ran.  Max has several novice NADAC titles, but we were never able to earn a Q in open.  

Max is not totally unfamiliar with the concept of distance.  He is my first agility dog, and my first agility instructor taught her students to handle with distance, not necessarily extreme distance, but certainly you did not run by your dog's side.  Also, some layering was including in almost every lesson.

I finally bit the bullet and constructed a set of hoops, so I will be using hoops to work with Max.  (I'm also using them to work on increasing Belle and Dusty's distance skills.)  Since Max is not familiar with hoops, the first thing I do on the video is shape the behavior I'm looking for.  My criteria for Max's hoop performance were minimal:  I just wanted him to pass through the hoop.  Once he was doing that fairly well, I introduced the command, "hoop," and started working on increasing lateral distance.  Lateral distance is the easiest distance to obtain.  You simply move a little further away each time.  If your dog pulls off the obstacle, you've gone too far.  Move in a little closer and try again.

The last thing I am able to do in our short training session is introduce some send distance.  I would say this is a fairly novel concept for Max.  I think send distance is harder to train for many dogs.  Your dog has to be willing to move away from you.  A lot of our training involves getting our dog to pay attention to us.  Telling them to move forward without us flies in the face of all that training, especially for dogs that aren't particularly possessed of a ton of drive.

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