We have a lovely indoor venue which we train in on Monday evenings. We currently have two trainers who run two sessions each 18:30-19:30 and 19:30-20:30.
Jo Bird who has been involved in competitive agility since 1999. She is a qualified Kennel Club agility judge and can regularly be found judging at agility shows throughout the summer. She was also trained by a City and Guilds instructor in dog grooming at Hartpury College and will groom all sizes and types of dogs.
Colin Owen is a club member and KC judge.
Training takes on many different forms and is normally around what the members want to train on or courses they have found diffcult at recent shows. Sometimes a full course is set up and then you are shown a number of different ways to run it, other times you may concentrate on jumping, contacts or weaves. Below you'll find some useful training tips and building blocks for agility success.
Agility should be fun for you and your dog. There will be times when you feel you are going backwards – we all have them, just go back to basics for a while. Always praise your dog when he/she has got it right, don’t blame your dog when the exercise goes wrong. Always finish on a high note.
Think your commands out carefully before you start. Use one command for one action. Make sure it is clear, concise, consistent and different. (For example, one dog did the tyre when her command was changed from “tyre” to “through”). Teach a left and a right command – dogs left and right. Work your dog on both sides of you (heel and side). If you use a contact command, follow it with a release command. “Go on” is useful, “go” can then preface any obstacle command – go weave, go tyre, - to send the dog to the obstacle in front of him.
You may find it useful to have a “quiet” or “slow” release command which you can use on occasions when you don’t want your dog to do 0 – 60 in 2 seconds, such as for crossing roads. This option also allows you to have a slow release for if the course turns 180 degrees after the contact
Your dog must touch the yellow (or white) painted bits on each end of the A-frame, dogwalk and seesaw. They usually get the “up”, the “down” is more difficult. The preferred Bromsgrove DTC method is to stop with 2 front feet on the ground, 2 hind feet on the equipment followed by a release command. If this doesn’t work for you, please discuss other methods with the trainer.
Some trainers prefer “silent” contacts, where all you do is release your dog; they are supposed to do the stop without a command. This has obvious advantages in that it means you are not giving a command at the wrong time and it saves your breath for running. Another option is “running contacts”, where the dog just runs down the contact and keeps going. These are very fast; judges may fault them because they have not actually seen the dog’s feet on the contact, and so far there does not seem to be a reliable way to train them without the dog jumping off – but watch this space!
Your dog must always enter the weaves with the first pole on his/her left, whether the dog is doing left- or right- hand weaves. There are a wide variety of ways of teaching weaves, and eventually we will find one that works for you and your dog. This is usually the most difficult piece of kit for a dog to learn – don’t give up!
Wait and Recall
The Technique – choose the most comfortable position for your dog, about 1.5 m from the obstacle for a collie sized dog, nearer for a mini. Re-assure the dog, give a firm “wait” command, leave the dog, and pick them up from the other side of the obstacle. The pick-up can be facing, side on, or with your back to your dog. Practise waits away from jumps, also return to your dog without doing a recall sometimes – it keeps them guessing, so they don’t pre-empt your commands. Train your waits – don’t always just release them.
Advantages. Gives you a head start on a super-sonic dog, allows you to get into the right position for a turn, or to be in place to help with troublesome obstacles.
Disadvantages. Can slow “flat” dogs down even more. If your dog breaks the wait, he/she is in control before you’ve even started.
The Technique. Teach your dog to “go on” by throwing a toy or titbit, or by leaving the bait at the end of a run of jumps. Tunnel addicts can be sent on into the tunnel.
Advantages. It’s another way to control that supersonic dog – you don’t have to run so fast.
Disadvantages. None if you can get your dog to do what you want at the end of a run of jumps. This is where you direction commands come into their own.
This is teaching your dog to look for the next obstacle, an extension of “go on”. It can be achieved by motivating your dog to enjoy agility, rather than doing it because you are enjoying it. Make your hobby major fun for your dog; use plenty of play and rewards, especially those re-inforcing “go on”.
Early sequencing is achieved on straight lines of obstacles or “wall of death” circles; with more experienced dogs, using direction commands will keep your dog’s forward momentum on turns.
This is merely turning right or left with your dog on the outside of the turn. Use your direction command to accustom your dog to work right and left when you are not alongside.
Simple turns can be “tightened up” by using the “wrong” hand (the hand furthest from the dog) to command your dog in to you and turning towards your dog. Don’t turn too quickly – or your dog will go off somewhere else.
Turn around a Jump Wing
Think this through before you try it! Send your dog over a jump, giving the direction command to turn the dog to you when the feet hit the floor, step back from the jump wing, and using the hand which was on the “away from your dog” side, call the dog through between you and the jump wing and turn towards and with your dog, so you are both running back the way you came. STAND UP STRAIGHT ON THE TURN. Bending down towards your dog will push him/her back over the jump.
There are three fast and successful methods of changing sides with your dog (not including the “twizzle” or the “trip over”). It is not advisable to cross at any sort of spread (including the long jump and the wishing well) or at the tyre, as any mis-timing will distract your dog and may result in your dog crashing the obstacle.
You turn in front of your dog, facing the dog all the time.
Advantages. Good for sharp turns, and can be used to tighten turns. Can be used to slow a fast dog e.g. to get a correct weave entry – always assuming you can get in front of your fast dog!
Disadvantages. This is an aggressive position, and can de-motivate a slow or sensitive dog. If you get the timing or position wrong, your dog may drop the pole, or, worse still, land on top of you.
Cross Behind (Rear Cross)
This is crossing from one side of your dog to the other while the dog works on in front of you.
Advantages. Good for soft corners. The only way of changing sides with meteoric collies working in front of you. Doesn’t slow the dog if properly carried out (without a twizzle!). Can produce lovely “tight to the wings” changes of direction once your dog gets the hang of it.
Disadvantages. The dog must be working on in front of you, so difficult with a poultice type dog. Strong willed dogs may carry on regardless the way you were going originally. Sensitive dogs may sense the change while in mid-air, and drop poles.
You change sides by crossing in front of your dog without turning to face him/her. You have your back to your dog throughout the turn, though a quick glimpse over your shoulder is a good idea, just to make sure your dog hasn’t gone off rabbiting while you complete the course. You do need to dip a shoulder (or give a hand signal for a smaller dog) to indicate on which side your dog should catch you up.
Advantages. Good for maintaining speed throughout the change of sides – especially useful for slow dogs.
Disadvantages. You must be far enough in front of your dog for the dog to see what is coming next – mis-time this one and you’ll be going base over apex over your dog! You do need that quick glance over the shoulder to make sure your dog is in the right position, or you may find the dog has taken the wrong jump.