How can I teach my dog to ‘go out’? I trained him to have a good ‘heel’ on either side, because I like it when he stays near me while we’re walking, but now in agility that’s where he sticks, like glue! What should I do?
- Unglue your dog! You’ve trained him that being near you is rewarding, and that’s not a bad thing, by the way. Now you have to teach him that distance can be rewarding too! There’s a few ways you can do this.
- Use Wings This is the simplest fix, but it also gives you the least distance. Not a bad place to start, though! A wing is added to an obstacle so the dog must move away from the handler’s side to complete it. Throw the treat (if you’re in grass, I suggest using chunks of cheese- they show up great and your dog can smell them easily) ahead of your dog so that after moving away from your side to complete the obstacle, they keep going, not come in for reward. If your dog likes toys, now is a great time to use that!
- Run Fast Take advantage of the .3 seconds your dog is in that tunnel and book it! Get ahead and send your dog to an obstacle, and again, throw the treat or toy!
- Throw Things I’ve touched on this, but it’s worth saying again. By throwing a toy or treat ahead of your dog, you’ve removed his reward zone from your side, to out in the wide world. For a glued dog, that’s a big deal! Soon they’ll look beyond your immediate area for their reward, which is your goal here – to get the dog to move out and away, thus giving them a speed advantage, and yourself a handling advantage.
- Use a Target Targets can be useful to unglue your dog – provided the dog doesn’t then glue to the target! Train your dog to target, first in your hand and then on the floor, and then practice sending them a few feet to a target before asking them to find a target. Reward liberally, but do be aware that in some instances, dogs will search for targets and be restless until they find them.