Removing the Velcro from Your Agility Dog

dog agility wing jump

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?

First of all, well done on your heeling as you have made being next to you a very happy place for your dog. But, even in obedience, your dog needs to learn to work independently. You do have an advantage for dog agility in that your dog has a solid understanding of coming back to your side. Right now you need to teach your dog a new cue that allows him to move away from you. To make this happen, you have to make distance work a bit more rewarding than staying by your side.

  • Throw Things To start, you can take your dog’s favorite toy, ball, or treats and toss them forward for your dog to go get. Be excited, make it a game so your dog will venture away from your side. Toss them a short distance at first, say a couple feet in front of you. If your dog won’t leave to get it, you run to get it then turn and play with your dog. What you are trying to achieve is to broaden their reward zone. When you are working with equipment, toss the toy over the obstacle and hang back so your dog goes over the obstacle, away from you, to retrieve the toy.
  • Use a Target Targets are great for teaching a dog to move away from you. You want to teach your dog how to target by teaching them to touch your hand with their nose. Then you can replace your hand with a small lid or paper plate. Then place the treat on the plate and send your dog to the target. You can put it at the end of a line of jumps, the other side of the tunnel, or on the downside of contact equipment. You can do the same thing with the dog’s toy. Remember, the lesson is to teach them to move away from you to work an obstacle, fade the target as soon as you can as you don’t want your dog becoming obsessed with the target.
  • Use Wings When your dog is more comfortable with moving away from you, you can try using wing jumps to help move your dog away from you when working a jump line. Stand at the wing and send your dog through the wings just like you did with the target or toy. When your dog will send out over the jump start moving with the dog and do several in a line. Keep your momentum going as your  dog feeds off your energy. Do not pull your dog into you to treat and reward, toss it out after the last jump so the dog drives away from you for the reward.
  • Run Fast Using the tunnel to help with distance work by takeing 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!

When your dog figures out it is ok to move away and that you want them to move off from you, they will be happy to do so. Keep sessions short, upbeat, and happy. Make it the best game ever and it won’t take much time at all.