Let’s be contrary, and start our discussion with Exercise 2.
Exercise 2 powers your dog straight toward an off course tunnel but requires a very sharp turn away from the tunnel and back to jump #3. Using our motion as the handler, we can decelerate (slow down) at jump #2 to show the dog that a turn is coming, and that the tunnel is not the next obstacle. Exercise 3 is the same as Exercise 2, except jump #2 is 6 feet closer to the tunnel, making it even more difficult for tunnel loving canines. Save Exercise 3 for the show-offs in your training group.
Likewise, we can accelerate beyond jump #2 to show the dog that the tunnel is the next obstacle, shown in Exercise 1.
The concept of handler acceleration vs. deceleration can be the foundation for a clear and easily taught system of handling for your dog. When you practice these sequences, alternate Exercises 1 and 2 with each dog so they can pick up on the difference in handler body language. For example, if it’s my turn, I may run my dog 4 times straight with no break except for rewarding my dog (tugging or food). I will do Exercise 1 first, accelerating on to the tunnel. Next, if my dog does Exercise 2 (deceleration) very well, turning tightly when I slam on my brakes, my next repetition will be Exercise 1 again. But if she struggles to turn away from the tunnel, I will repeat the deceleration exercise 1-3 more times depending on her energy level. For dogs that can’t take their eyes off the tunnel, move the tunnel further back.
When you watch the video below, please note that when I accelerate toward the tunnel, I move past jump #2. When I decelerate at jump #2, I do NOT cross the plane of jump #2, and my body appears to be leaning backward, which helps the dog read the cue. Some handlers will cheat by “sending” their dog to the tunnel and hanging out by jump #2, but you will note that standing by jump #2 is our deceleration cue! For these unfortunate handlers, they are using the same cue (slowing down at jump #2) to mean two different behaviors (take the tunnel vs turn at jump #2). These handlers are easily noticed because they often yell “COME!” as their dogs take the off course tunnel, or make a very wide turn.
Videotape your sessions and you will begin to understand how your dog interprets your cues.
Enjoy training your agility dog! Post your comments and questions.