February 28, 2014

How to Structure Your Dog Agility Training

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.

You may also like

  • I enjoy your podcasts. I train alone and do not have a separate yard to train so dogs are left with the equipment unless I take it all done after each session. Young dog is NOT toy or treat driven but I will work harder on the tug drive.

    • Thanks Pat!
      With your dogs out on their own, it’s important for YOU to mentally define when your session starts and ends and to create some sort of routine for you and your dogs. Work time means full attention until you give them the all clear to go back to life like normal!

      Glad you enjoy the podcasts!

  • when would you typically start ADDING HANDLER DISTANCE to training a young dog like this?
    suppose you want to simulate a course run where you have to lateral away from the dog but still need to threadle from a distance.. you think this skill should be included at this age?

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Looking for more?

    Become a Bad Dog Agility VIP Member for exclusive training tailored to you and your dog. Enjoy the motivational benefits of our supportive community of agility trainers. Transform the way you think, train, and compete. Our online VIP program opens just once a year—we are currently OPEN for registration. Enrollment is open April 25th - May 1st, 2024.