Handling your dog with a method that relies more on body language than verbal commands is often perceived as needing to constantly be ahead of your dog. Is it true? Do you need to be able to outrun your dog to handle him with body cues?
No, it’s not, and no, you don’t.
When you watch dogs communicating with each other, you can see that they can understand each other from a distance - even when they first see each other - not just when nose to nose. Dogs are masters of body language. They are able to read very subtle changes in each other’s body language - and in ours. We shouldn’t underestimate their ability to understand us, when we focus on communicating with them in a way that makes sense to them.
The secrets of handling from a distance
Normally, you can make up for any skills that your dog lacks by running and helping your dog with your own motion. But when you can’t - or don’t want to - run to each obstacle with your dog, you need to teach him more skills than for running with him. The slower you are than your dog, the more skills you will both need, including:
- Balanced focus: your dog will choose going to obstacles over coming to you but still follows your handling. He will actively seek obstacles to perform because it’s so much fun.
- Strong commitment: your dog will stay committed to obstacles, no matter what you do. This skill will actually lead to a point where you CAN be ahead of your dog in many places, even if you are slower than your dog!
- Independent obstacle performance: your dog can perform obstacles approaching from different angles, and doesn’t get distracted from doing his job by your motion, change of position or anything else that goes on around him.
- Sharpened tools for handling: the more handling techniques you have in your toolbox, the easier it will be to handle any situation on a course. When you know how the seven elements of handling work, it is easy to learn new techniques. Even though the handling techniques are first taught to the dogs so that the handler is close to the obstacle, most of the techniques can later be performed several meters / feet away from the obstacle, once the dog knows them. When handling from a distance, you will probably end up using somewhat different techniques than your friend who is doing a lot of running with her dog.
- Understanding of CCC - Connect, Commit, Cue: a great connection with your dog means you can commit her to the next obstacle at the earliest moment possible. When your dog has got great commitment to obstacles and you recognize the moment the commitment happens, you can give you next cue. And the earlier you head to the next spot, the sooner you get there!
And what about those verbals?
Verbal commands are very useful in some situations, such as tunnel - contact discrimination, or sending to weaves and tunnels from further away. Verbal cues work best when they are used to support what the other six handling elements are already saying to your dog. And don’t forget that verbals are also a fantastic way to support and encourage your dog on the course!
Learn more with the OneMind Dogs method program!