Using Ladders to Teach the Dogwalk
Sometimes the scariest obstacle on a dog agility course is the dogwalk. One bad step can send your dog careening over the edge at any point on the walk. The larger or faster your dog the scarier it can be unless you have done the prep exercises to help your dog get sure footed.
The planks your dog will be negotiating are 12 inches wide and require foot dexterity in order to navigate across them safely. As we said, the larger of faster your dog the more dexterity your dog will need. Teaching your dog early in their agility career how to keep their feet under control and under their body the better. You can start with puppies long before they set one foot on a contact obstacle.
One way to start your dog or puppy with body awareness for contacts is by using a plank on the ground. It can be a short board, just something long enough that they can travel with all four feet and 12 inches wide to simulate the dogwalk plank. Or a contact trainer like ours is great if you don’t have much room to practice.
Working the ladder is another great way to teach you dog foot awareness. Lay the ladder flat on the ground and coax or shape your dog to walk it. When they trot along the length of the ladder confidently, flip it onto its legs and ask the dog to walk through it raised up. They will have to lift each foot high, like a football player. Once they are confident in navigating it at the walk you can try the trot. Do not run your dog through the ladder as they will not be able to place their feet correctly and will fall.
The ladder teaches your dog to be aware of their feet while walking a long, narrow length, much the same as the dogwalk. These body awareness exercises helps your dog learn where their feet are and how to negotiate a dogwalk beam long before setting foot on a regulation dogwalk.