How to Structure Your Dog Agility Training

How to Structure Your Dog Agility Training post image

In the video below, we show you a recent typical training session with our young border collie Miriya. This session is her first time to transition from threadle work in the flat to actual jumps, and every repetition is shown in order, although we’ve edited out the transitions (time between repetitions) to keep the video less than 3 minutes. Note:

1. When Mir and I enter the field, she is 100% focused on me, not the environment. I don’t have to call her to me or use the toy as a lure. You can build this skill up gradually over several sessions and this routine will help you at your weekly training class and at agility trials.

2. I use my assistant Sarah to hold Mir at the start line; since this is our very first time trying this skill on jumps, I want to focus my energy on the timing, position, and motion involved in the handling rather than start line criteria.

3. In the teaching phase that took place prior to this session, I used patterning to teach the basic threadle maneuver, but once she demonstrates understanding of the handing, I mix in previously well understood behaviors like wraps and 270s to avoid patterning and check to see that Mir is responding to the actual cues I am giving her.

4. Keep your transitions (the time between repetitions) short, preferably with your dog engaged with a reward (like tugging) or performing simple tricks to keep your sessions energetic and motivating for your partner.

5. The bars are set below full height; when you introduce a new behavior to your dog, drop the height for a few sessions so that you can eliminate bar knocking as an issue. In my session with Mir, all repetitions were rewarded, even the ones with dropped bars. Remember, you can selectively reward (jackpot) better repetitions in future sessions, but try to focus on one skill at a time initially.

6. The session ends when I tug with Mir all the way back through the gate, at which point she is released and free to do whatever she would like. Defining a clear beginning and end to all of your training sessions will help your dog differentiate between work/play and free time.

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