General Training

Late Commands

Videotaping is a good tool for ramming home the fact that your commands are late. Not only videotaping yourself, but videotaping others' runs, then turning the sound off, and practicing at what point you should give the command. Late commands are a UNIVERSAL problem, and particularly one that is common to people who are relatively new to the sport. Obedience people, in particular are used to having an infinite amount of time to get their commands out and have a great deal of difficulty learning to think ahead.

Late commands are a bugaboo of many in agility, regardless of experience. One good method is to have someone call out the commands while you run a mock course. That way you have instant feed-back on how you're doing. And *why* the dog did what it did!

Another good method is to use a radio headset which offers feedback in the same way. Radio Shack has an inexpensive set that works well. You can hear yourself while you watch your dog run. Video tapes offer an after-the-fact critique of the run, but are also invaluable in training for future use. (Katie Greer)

Another issue here is that as one progresses the speed at which the dog gets round the circuit just about doubles. When you start getting clear rounds you may well find that you are out of time; when you start getting high places you will be going round in roughly half of the time limit! So you have to run twice as fast, think twice as fast, and speak or point twice as fast - for many handlers, the first tends to preclude speaking so just point most of the time . This means that you have a lot less time to get the command in at the correct time - PLUS - if you do make a small error, it is magnified because the dog is travelling so much faster. Remember, it's not just the dog that needs to learn how to 'do' agility. (Tony Dickinson)

Often it is not the fact that the commands are late that is the problem. So many times you will see handlers in the ring gushing words at the dogs, only to have the dogs shut out all the chatter. Most dogs follow body language to a much greater extent than the verbal anyway. When handlers try to rely on the verbal (it's easier to get out the command than to be sure that we are using our bodies properly and are in the proper place on the course to handle the situation), it often results in the dog "making a mistake". Yet, an instant replay of the situation would reveal that the dog was following the body language, not the verbal language. And the handler's body language was wrong. Don't forget that this is a team sport. You and your partner, your canine companion. You owe it to your partner to communicate the course to them. Often, this means working your body position.

Generally, once dogs have learned to do the obstacles, they will do whatever obstacle is in front of them. If you don't want them to do the obstacle in front, use a directional and a body language cue to turn the dog's direction. Dropping all the excess commands will often drastically improve the team's performance -- the handler's because she must concentrate on body language, and the dog's because the handler's directions are much clearer and timely. (Billie Rosen)


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