Agility Training Challenge 16 - Virtual Dog

You’ve probably already heard about the 10 commandments of agility, right? The fourth commandment instructs you to “Do the walk through with your virtual dog.” That’s what we are going to focus on for the 16th Agility Training Challenge.

Australian OneMind Dogs Coach Niki Drage and agility enthusiasts Cornelia Kluck and Stacy Richards practiced running a course first with their virtual dogs and then with their actual dogs. You can see how they did on the video!


What is a virtual dog?

Many of us had imaginary friends when we were kids. Virtual dog is your imaginary dog that will help you practice running the course before you bring your actual dog into the game! Simply put: imagine a dog that you are handling during the walkthrough. You should be able to see your virtual dog proceeding on the course, know when he takes off and lands from jumps, enters and exits the tunnels etc. Can you see him?


Handling the virtual dog

Now you can focus on your part of the course performance - the handling. Make sure you have the three Cs - Connection, Commitment and Cue - between every two obstacles on the course. If you don’t have connection with your virtual dog, it’s very likely that you will be missing the connection with your actual dog, too. Your virtual dog needs to be committed to obstacles before you start your cue, otherwise he’ll get a refusal! Before you know it, timing of the cues will feel much easier.

Practicing with your virtual dog gives you an idea of where you will actually be on the course in relation to your dog and how much time you will have, you’ll end up making better and more realistic handling plans as a result!


What’s the challenge?

  1. Build a course or a short sequence, any course will do.
  2. Practice walking the course with your virtual dog.
  3. Once you feel you’ve got it, film your performance with your virtual dog.
  4. Run the same course with your actual dog and film your performance.
  5. Compare your runs. You can time them and see how far apart your performances are. Time your virtual dog’s run the same way you time your own dog: from the moment his nose goes over the first bar until his nose goes over the last bar.
  6. Share your own video and your lightbulb moments on the virtual dog topic!


Have fun training!


Continue to learn online!


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Jacqui Anguslast year

I always do this before training something new and walk all my competition courses with my virtual dog Fido

Amy Galperinlast year

This is a great idea. So simple yet I am sure it will make a great impact on me.

Jenni Leino2 years ago

Thank you so much Niki, Cornelia and Stacy for sharing your thoughts on what you learned! You all did really well :-)

Niki Drage2 years ago

I love this exercise!! I learned that I don't see my virtual dog commit before I cue but I do with my real dog, as a result my real dog feels slower and I got to places with my real dog that I didn't think I would when running my virtual dog as I had more time. When we trained on this course after this exercise I realised I had time to fit in more handling and to get to better handling points to make the course easier for my dog to read (for example I did a Front Cross before the A-frame in the re-run). So now I know that my virtual dog also needs to commit to obstacles before I can cue, and that I need to trust my virtual dog and get to my running points like I do with my real dog!

Cornelia Kluck or Connie2 years ago

Yeah, this was a great learning experience!?My real dog rose to the distance challenge and layering of a double backside across the weaves, just as well as my virtual dog, but he got the better of me and the virtual dog in the complex jumping challenge! I needed to move through that much faster to time my Front Cross onto the A-frame! But because the virtual dog was too slow, I was just too hazy and nearly got run over by the real dog! Isn't he pushy?😄❤️🐼

Stacy Richards2 years ago

This was a great experience! I learnt that I am slower and more controlled with my virtual dog. I keep good connection in both. I trust my dogs contacts when running her but not my virtual dogs contacts.