Dog Agility Drills to Help the Handler

Practice your handling skills for a more fluid run.
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After many hours working with your dog to teach him agility, he's mastered the basics but he's still far from perfect. Don't concentrate so hard on the dog that you fail to hone your skills as the handler.

A Team Sport

Agility is a team sport -- you and your dog. The line of communication between you and your canine partner has to be clear. To determine how much guidance your dog needs, start by sending him to a single jump. Direct him to the jump and watch to see whether he looks for you to be by his side or goes to the jump independently, waiting for direction from you once he's jumped it. Tailor your pace, position and cues to the level of communication he needs.

Jump Exercise

Set up a single jump and two jumps side by side several feet beyond it in an "L" shape. Practice sending your dog through the two jumps in a direct line as you run with him from both ends. Then send him to the jumps and practice your cue for turning him to the third jump. Do this as you work at different speeds to get a sense of how your dog works best. Does he need more or less direction from you? Adjust your handling accordingly.

Crossing Lines

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Most agility courses require the handler to cross behind or in front of the dog at various points. Decide what type of cross you should do according to how fast your dog moves. Set up a course shaped in an "S" to practice crossing in the middle. Place an obstacle such as a jump in the middle to make your cross behind the dog. Alternate with a slower obstacle in the middle to practice front crosses.

Practice for Mistakes

Mistakes on course are going to happen. Be aware of what you do and say when you make an error on course. Don't use the same word you would use when your dog makes a mistake. Your dog will think he made the error, and it will confuse him. Practice your reaction when you or the dog makes an error.

Avoid choppy restarts on course by practicing more than one obstacle when the dog goofs. If he misses the tunnel, back up a step and do the obstacle before the tunnel so the tunnel approach is smooth and your cues are seamless.

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