Beginners Homework

Here are some of the exercises we have talked about in class which you can practice with your dog at home.

An agility course can be considered as two elements; the dog's ability to take each obstacle and the handlers ability to steer the dog from one obstacle to the next. To do this succesfully we are aiming for independent obstacle performance from the dog and for you as a handler to learn handling skills, to guide your dog about the course.

You are alway welcome to watch to more experienced dogs in the other classes, you will see the handlers running their dogs around the course, in what almost resembles a sort of dance, the dogs mirroring their handler's turns, working with them.

Independent Obstacle Performance
We aim to teach our dogs understand what is required for each obstable, to be able to perform each piece of equipment without the assistant of the handler.

'Feet' Position for Contact

Foundation Skills - 'Go On' and 'Out'

You can use your stairs at home to practise the Feet position that we use on the A-frame and Dog-walk.
You will need: A plastic lid to use as a target and some treats.
Aim: For your dog to stop with his front feet on the ground, and his back feet on the equipement (at home your stairs). This exercise will also help develop the muscles he will use to help him balance as he comes down the A-frame.

Method: Place the target on the ground, approximatly 10-12inches away from the last step (Closer for small dogs). Place 1 treat in the target. Keep one or two treats ready in your hand or pocket. Take your dog so he is only one step above the ground. At this stage make sure he has seen the treat. Let him step forward to get the treat. He should now have his front paws on the ground, and his back paws are still on the stairs. It doesn't matter if he sits. Whilst he is still in the 'Feet' position, put another treat on the target and as he eats it say 'Feet'. We want your dog to learn to wait in the feet position until you say he can move, so we are teaching the position a bit like a stay. Place another treat on the target and let him eat it as before. Once he has finished tell him 'Go' and encourage him to walk forward off the steps (no treats for this).

Once your dog understands to stop in the Feet position and does it right 5 times in a row try it from the second step. As long as he does 5 in a row at this new level you can add another step. Now start saying 'Feet' before you let him step down into position. Don't practice more that 10 times in one session. A realistic target for 1 week of training is for him to be able to run down five steps and stop in the feet position.

N.B. Make sure you dog only runs down the stairs on your command. At all other times he must show you manners and walk down stairs normally.

Jumping: Coming soon, a jumping exerise to help you dog develop balance over a sequence of jumps

Foundation Skills

Two basic skills used in agility are the ability to get your dog to work on ahead of you, and out to the side.

'Go On'
As our dogs can run alot faster than us it is important that your dog understands to run on ahead of you. We use various training methods in class to teach your dog to work on, and below is a game you can play in the garden or park to help your dog.

Practice - Go On
Start with dog on your left.
Hold a toy discreetly in right hand (the outside hand)
Step forward on left leg and raise leg arm (inside arm), at same time throw toy straight forward with right hand.

As your dog becomes to understand the game begin to delay the throw of the toy by a fraction, so that your dog is surging forward on the inside arm signal, and then rewarded with the toy.

Repeat with dog on right (reverse the above)



Start with dog on your left.
Hold a toy in your left hand (the inside hand)
Step forward and slightly to the left, on left leg and raise leg arm (inside arm), at same time throw toy out to the left-hand side.

Work up to starting dog from further out on your left, ie 1ft away, 2ft away etc, so that your dog learns to move away from you even when not in close to you.

Repeat with dog on right (reverse the above)

Trouble shooting
If your dog starts to spin as he moves forward or out the delay between the cue and the reward of the toy is too long. Go back a few stages and throw the toy quicker, so he runs straight, rather than turning back to look for the toy.

'Out' Part II
Here's another good game to play to teach your dog to go 'Out'.

The aim is to teach your dog to run out away from you round an object. The object represents a jump wing.

Start by luring your dog up to and past the object (we'll use a chair).
Hold the toy in your inside hand (the one closest to the dog) this will become part of the cue to tell your dog to work 'out' away from you.
Reward by throwing the toy.

Gradually fade out the lure, until you are able to signal 'out' with your hand and your dog runs out and past the chair, and you reward by throwing the toy.


Train on both sides

© Ridinghood Pet Dog Agility Club 2004