April 24, 2012

Puppy: Introduction to Angled Approaches

After teaching your dog to take a single jump, you can change the angle of approach, varying your position from 1 through 6, as shown below. This exercise comes from  “Your Handling at Severe Angles” on page 271 of Agility Right from the Start by Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh, an excellent agility foundation resource. Eva and Emelie maintain a website at agilityrightfromthestart.com that features a very helpful (and free) video page.

While you move around the jump from position 1 to position 6  to create different approach angles for your dog, the reward (tug toy or food) should always be thrown in the same place (by either you or an assistant), shown in the diagram below as the green X. The reward should be thrown as soon as your dog commits to the jump, which will create a powerful drive into and out of the jump. If you delay the reward, the dog may turn toward you or shorten their stride. Equally important, make sure you are running with your dog all the way until she snatches the toy. If you hang out by the wing and throw the toy forward without moving forward yourself, you will devalue your deceleration cue–when the dog sees you slow down or stop in the future, she can no longer reliably predict where the reward will appear and her performance will suffer. Remember, when you slow down or stop, the dog should drive toward you looking for her reward. When you drive forward, the dog should extend at speed looking forward for her reward.

Helpful tips:

1. Use a helper to restrain your dog and build forward drive.

2. I used a clicker in these exercises.

3. At times, start your run from behind the dog to simulate a trial or mid-sequence run and increase drive.

4. Keep a fast pace, quickly moving from one repetition to the next.

5. Ignore dropped bars, wide turns and other unimportant mistakes. I will withhold the reward for gross errors like taking the jump the wrong way or leaving the course. In the many sessions that follow this first one, you will be able to selectively reward better performances (such as repetitions without dropping a bar).

6. Be sure to do the mirror image (opposite side) of this exercise in your next session.

7. You can perform the same exercise with other obstacles like the wingless jump, tunnel, chute, and weave poles.


On the very last repetition, your puppy has done her first 270. The second part of the video shows the same exercise performed with a straight tunnel.

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