In the Utility class of obedience, your dog must be able to follow a direction of travel for both the directed jumping and the directed retrieve exercises. Taking a line of travel as directed by the handler is a basic foundation skill, and can be taught completely independent of the retrieve (for the directed retrieve) or the jumping portion of directed jumping.
To start, your dog will need to understand how to go to a place. You can do this with a foot target, a nose target, a mat, platform, cones, etc. I tend to teach a variety of options, depending on the tendencies of the dog and what trial conditions I am most likely to encounter.
This blog will start with the assumption that your dog can “go”away at least eight or ten feet on cue to a place. In the first video, you’ll see that I’ve set up three foot targets – two are 180 degrees away from each other, and the final target is down a hallway. In this manner, I can stand in one spot and pivot to any of the options, but Brito cannot see a “wrong” option when he is facing the correct option. This makes it extremely likely that he will have plenty of success while he learns what I am looking for. Then I start making it slightly harder by starting his send closer to an incorrect target. I finish by sending him to the target down the hall behind the line of the other two targets – so he can see them both on his way to the correct ones. This video was taken on the third or fourth day of these lessons and includes our errors:
After you’ve mastered the basic exercise (pivoting and sending in different directions), you’ll want to begin proofing the work by making it more and more possible to select an incorrect target. Initially, make sure that the correct one is much closer than the incorrect one to set your dog up for success. With time, you’ll want to reverse that so that your dog has to go past the incorrect choice while heading to the correct one. Cheerfully call your dog back from incorrect choices and stay silent with correct ones. Remember, silence tells the dog that he is correct. (Watch for that in this video; there are several errors included):
If your interest is the go-out for directed jumping then the next step is to significantly lengthen the distance that your dog needs to go in order to reach one target – ignoring other visible targets on the way. Eventually those other visible targets will become jumps. If your interest in the glove exercise, then replace targets, one at at time, with gloves. You can alternate doing sends to targets with sends to retrieve gloves. When your dog is ready, take the show on the road. Bring only one target and work in close. When your dog is confident, go ahead and add your additional targets.
Use your imagination as you added incrementally more interesting challenges for your dog to ignore on his way to the platform. Have fun with this – you’ll find many uses for this exercise if you give it some thought and even the youngest puppy can master this in a short period of time.