Dog Agility Obstacle Names For Competing

03-2013-sub1There are many differences in training dog agility when it comes to the age of the dog.  And while a young dog cannot do jumps or raised contact obstacles they certainly can start learning object names.  For older dogs and the timid pup, you should hold off on name association until the dog is successful with the obstacle and no longer “afraid” of it.  This way the dog will not associate the name with the fearful event, but rather with the positive, confident experiences.  You will then incorporate the name into the command as well as the praise.  And because we are using names it is a good time to point out that you do not want to use your dog’s name during agility practice as it tends to draw the dog to you.  So your commands and praise should sound something like, “Go, Tunnel!”  “Good Tunnel,”  “What a great Tunnel!” and so on.

So what to call it.  There are many commands you need in place on the flat as well as for the obstacles.  You need commands to tell the dog to move away from you, toward you, ahead of you, even to turn left and right.  There is “Go” or “Out” for the dog to move out ahead of the handler that will be paired with obstacle and/or directional commands like “Go Round,” “Go Right” or “Go Tunnel.” Some use “By Me” or “Here” to bring the dog close and “Get” or “Out” to move the dog away.  Each command does best if it is a single syllable as well.

So pick your commands wisely.  Use names that sort of come natural to you and your thinking, but are easy to say and won’t get confused by your dog with another obstacle or command he is used to.  Use commands that don’t sound like your dog’s name or, if you have reprimanded your dog, words that sound like scolding.  Then be consistent in using the words for each obstacle.  We suggest you print this list and highlight your choice of call words.    Here are the most common suggestions:

Bar Type Jump:  Jump, Over, Up, Hup, Get Up
Tire Jump:  Tire, Hoop, Ring, Through
Weave Poles:  Weave, Poles, Snake, Wiggle, Zip-Zag, In-Out
Tunnel:  Tunnel, Through, Zoom
Closed Tunnel:  Chute, Tunnel, Zoom, Push, Through, Gogogo
Pause Table:  Table, Up, Box, Get On, Load-Up, Place, Rest
Teeter Totter:  Teeter, See-Saw, Tip-It
Dog Walk: Walk it, Plank, Dogwalk, Walk On, Climb
A-frame:  Scramble, Climb, Mountain, Charge, Frame, Wall,
Contact Zones:   Wait, Easy, Get It, Bottom, Spot, Touch

Should you use a different command for the open and closed tunnel?  While there is some conflict as to whether or not these two similar obstacles should share a command or not, we suggest that you do.  Yes, they look similar, but so do the teeter and Dog Walk.  The dog can see the collapsed part of the chute and a separate command will not only solidify your control on the course, it will forewarn the dog of what to expect so he can make adjustments.  Just like the teeter will require different handling by the dog so will the chute.  The dog needs to enter and complete the chute on a straight line to avoid getting tangled and hung up on exit.  The Tunnel may require one or more turns that the dog will have to negotiate while running the obstacle.

But again, it has to make sense to the handler.  Whatever you decide to call the obstacles, be consistent.  Once you start adding it to the training it will need to say in place so make it work for you and your dog.  Remember, you have a lot to think about when you are running a course.  You want the commands to be the least of your worries so you can go out there not thinking about them and having a great time with your dog.

If you are just getting started in dog agility and have more questions, be sure to check out our Introduction to Agility page where you can learn more about the obstacles, organizations and glean more training tips.

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4 Comments on “Dog Agility Obstacle Names For Competing

  1. Great article! I always tell my students though that the name is one of the least important aspects to handling. Body language, shoulder angle, footwork, and handling in general are far more important. Names are definitely necessary for distance work and obstacle discrimination, but as I tell my students, if all your body language is telling the dog to take the tunnel in front of him and you accidentally say “tire”, the dog will still take the tunnel. Not something we want to get in the habit of, but not as important as most “newbies” think.
    Thanks!

    • Thank you so much for that very important factor as many times under stress our body and words do not align forcing our dogs to follow the cue they trust most. All too often it is our body language that causes them to go off course. They are amazing creatures!

  2. Also think about how the commands work with each other. For example, how hard will it be to remember which “t” command you’re looking for- “tunnel, I mean tire, I mean teeter, ugh TABLE!” I don’t know how my dog puts up with me, lol! I really wish I had picked different words but I personally couldn’t change them now…

    • So, very true! Like a parent that gives their kids the same sounding names. Some days they resort to “Hey, You!” That doesn’t work out too well on the agility field…