Teaching your dog the obstacles is a big part of agility training. The more independent your dog is at performing the obstacles, the easier it will be for you as a handler to concentrate on your job on the course - directing your dog to the line that leads him to the correct obstacles.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when teaching your dog the obstacles:
- If you are a beginner, introduce your dog to the obstacles with an experienced instructor for the first few times.
- Only use safe equipment to minimize the risk of injuries.
- Take your dog’s age and stage of development into consideration when training: give your dog time to grow before starting with jumps, weaves and A-frame, for example.
- Warm up yourself and your dog properly before training, and cool down afterwards.
- Make sure that learning the obstacle skills is a positive experience for your dog. Choose a reward that your dog really likes, praise and reward him often for a job well done.
- Your dog will become brave and confident in performing the obstacles when you let him use his brain and figure out what to do in order to get his reward: start by watching the offering the jump exercise.
- Have a clear criteria in mind before you bring your dog to training: what do you want your dog to do, what are you going to reward him for and how.
- Keep your goal in mind when training; your dog should be able to clear the obstacles independent of your movement or position. The more independently your dog can perform the obstacles, the more possibilities you, the handler, have to handle all kinds of sequences and courses.
- Don’t repeat the same things the same way multiple times in a row; when your dog does what you wanted him to do well and without assistance, move on and change something in the exercise - your own position and distance from your dog, for example.
- To make your dog’s obstacle performance even stronger, practice with different kinds of distractions. Despite what you are doing, your dog should stay committed to an obstacle and try their best to perform it correctly.