General Training


Sequencing is the most important aspect of agility training. It involves putting all of the equipment training together and running the obstacles one after another. Proper sequencing makes a qualifying round. If the dog is constantly looking back to the handler for reassurance or running out on obstacles because he isn't looking for the next one, precious seconds can be lost getting him back on course. Those seconds can cause the team to go over time (time faults!). Sequencing is also the part of agility that makes the game so much fun for dogs and handlers alike. It pays to give this part of your training program serious attention.

Begin sequencing obstacles as soon as the dog is comfortable with his first few pieces of equipment; Tunnel, A-frame and Chute. The A-frame can still be at a lowered height, but he should be able to perform a run-by on a straight pipe tunnel and a chute laid out at full length as well as the lowered A-frame. You should be able to signal and command the obstacle and he will run to it and perform it completely. If he can do this, you are ready to begin.

Begin with these first three obstacles laid out in a straight line approximately 15 feet apart for medium sized dogs. The Pipe Tunnel first to the A-frame and finish with the chute. Exuberant praise should follow at the completion of the entire set. By popular vote dogs love both types of tunnels and they are the easiest of the obstacles to begin with. Keep in mind that excitement can cause him to miss contact zones. Concentrate on keeping him on both the up and down contacts with a delayed pause on the downside before releasing him to continue on to the chute. Don't develop any bad contact habits while working on sequencing. Be sure to work your dog on both heel side and off side. In this game you don't want your dog to prefer to work with you on any particular side, he should be happy no matter your position to her.

The next thing to work on is sequencing jumps. Put up 3 jumps in a straight line. A partner is a great help in this lesson. Station your partner loaded with a goodie at the finish of the three jumps. The dog should be aware that this partner has a goodie in hand. When you are ready, signal and give your jump command for each jump as you run along beside them. The dog usually focuses on the goodie-laden assistant ahead and will perform each obstacle in his way in order to get to it. Enthusiastic praise should be lavished upon him when you reach the end, as well as a much deserved goodie. The real reward should come from you so make sure he feels you are very appreciative of his good work. The assistant should later begin to reward your dog randomly, waiting instead for you to come running up and reward him yourself. Your partner should also be backing up farther and farther away from the last jump. This should make the jumps, rather than the helper, the focal point. You will find that once the bait is out far enough he'll begin to look to you for her reward, you're closer!

Once these two exercises have been learned, put the two together and add a gentle curve to the line up of obstacles. A giant circle if you have the space or a horse shoe shape works fine. Alternate jumps between the other obstacles and usually by this time you have added the Tire, lowered Dog Walk and Table to the dog's growing list of obstacles. Additional obstacles can be fitted into your sequencing pattern as he's ready for them. Remember he needs to be happy and confident with each obstacle individually before you add them to the sequencing lesson.

The main focus during these exercises should be to keep the dog happy and confident. He understands the obstacles individually and most importantly to sequence each after another and to keep looking for the next obstacle. Then the next stage follows. (Katie Greer)


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