How to Add Layering to Your Dog Agility Course

dog agility layering
When approached for number 14, the dog walk is layered in front of the tunnel entry.

Once you enter the Open divisions you will most likely see layering in your competition courses, so don’t wait until thn to start working on this helpful and necessary skill. Layering is when the course design puts an obstacle between you and your dog. They can be tricky and will most likely be a trap for your dog if they do not understand a send out.

There are many ways to take on this skill such as starting with wings on your jumps. For the Velcro dog, a wing can throw a real wrench in their iron works. You can further your “distance” skills with gates or barrels, sending your dog around them. Start with a short distance and build slowly until your dog will “send out” around with confidence at any distance. Getting your “push” signaled correctly and your dog confident in working away from your side are two key elements in gaining control in layering.

You also need speed/drive along with your distance control in order to master this skill. Another way to teach layering and keep your dog’s drive up is to  back-chain the sequence your dog will be handling. Once your dog patterns the sequence, you can move yourself away from him and get in a nice layered run.

One of our subscribers detailed how she and her dog started on layering, Flying Bichon explains:  “Well, it really helped that Mulligan is fast and driven. When we were first training Mulligan any obstacle I then started teaching him small sends. When I could start sending him ten feet or more (away from her) to an obstacle I would add a jump between us and the obstacle. At first the jump was perpendicular to the other obstacle, I hope this makes sense. So instead of a five foot bar between us it was just a few feet. It also helped take the layering obstacle out of play because it was turned. Then I slowly turned the jump so it was parallel so you would have all five feet of the jump between you. You definitely need a strong push out. You should have a push trained before trying to do this or some dogs may melt. You want them to be successful. If my body language for a push is weak at this point Mulligan will take the obstacle closest to me. At this point we can layer jumps, tunnels, and DW. We are currently training sending to and layer the teeter. It seems like there are more and more teeters in the gambles. I think we really need a good independent teeter to be successful in USDAA.

Another great point she made was, “Layering also makes getting around the course so much easier. The dog goes and does his job so you can get to the next control point before your dog does. Some people can run their dogs from driving from behind and that is great. But for those of us who have dogs who will make their own courses up if they are not behind the handler, layering is a great tool.” Well said.