Proofing Your Agility Dog’s Obstacle Entries
At some point in your training you will be thinking about competing, whether you interest is only in local matches or in World competition you will need to make your dog solid on their obstacle entries so you can send them to an obstacle and not worry if they know how to execute it correctly. There are some obstacles that demand only straight on entries such as the broad jump and the chute, while contact obstacles may demand an angled entry it is important they maintain straightness on the exit.
First off you must teach the obstacle and your dog must be proficient at that obstacle before you start proofing it. Proofing is not where you start in your training, proofing is when you test the dog’s training beyond what might be encountered or required in the ring. It means you have to set your dog up for anything and everything they might encounter at the competition so they are comfortable and not surprised in a run.
So once your dog will perform an obstacle consistently with you near them you can begin the proofing exercises. You will want to proof your entries by slowing sending your dog ahead of you on the straight entry. Then you can add slight angles off both arms into the obstacle, like the rays off the sun or hours of the clock. Stay at one angle until the dog has mastered that angle and if they baulk, make the angle smaller until you find an angle the dog is comfortable with.
Once your dog is confident on angled entries you can start adding rear crosses and turns. You will want to start back on your close, straight entry making the cross or turn as the dog commits to the obstacle. You can then slowly add distance from you and the dog and obstacle. When the dog is comfortable with the straight entry crosses you can start adding angles to the entry with the crosses. Remember, if at any point your dog makes a mistake or becomes confused you need to go back to the point where the dog was confident and make the changes smaller.
When your dog is confident with these entries you can start adding distractions such as a favorite toy near the entry or other obstacles they have to negotiate around or next to such as tunnel entries next to the a-frame entry. Next you will want to add moving distractions such as carrying their toy and tossing it away from the entry. Take it slow and easy so as not to overwhelm your dog. You are trying to build confidence not mistakes.
Be creative, get course maps and take actual lines to work on from them. It is your job to find the best lines for the course and be able to set your dog up to take those lines. This is what proofing is all about, getting your dog to perform all kinds of entries under as many distractions as you can think of so they will not succumb to them in the competition ring. And don’t forget to have fun!