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Keep your Obedience Dog Moving!

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One of the easiest ways to suck the joy out of your obedience is to incorporate a lot of stays into your work.

It looks like this:

Want to practice recalls?  Leave your dog on a stay – walk 50 feet away, and call your dog.

Now let’s practice the broad jump.  Like this.

Set up in a stay.  Leave your dog.  Send your dog. Repeat.

How about a novice stand for exam?  Leave your dog and formally return to your dog each time.  While your dog stays.

If this is how you practice obedience, then 80% of your dog’s time is spent sitting.  Waiting.  Waiting for you to cross the ring.  Waiting for you to call.  Waiting for you to do something.  And 20% of your dog’s time is spent moving.  Since moving is the part that generates flow and energy, and sitting teaches the dog to chill, are you sure this is a good choice for your dog?  If your dog is just bubbling over with love for the sport, then you’re probably ok.  But if you’ve been complaining about lack of enthusiasm….it might be time to take another look at this practice.

I’m not saying don’t practice stays – definitely practice them.  A lot!  As an isolated exercise.  But when you want to work on an exercise like the broad jump, recall or stand for exam, SEND your dog (movement!) to the spot.  Now YOU get to wait and your dog gets to move; what a deal! Hopefully your dog zips right out so it’s not as tedious for you to watch your dog walking away as it is for your dog to watch as you leave.

There are three easy ways to send your dog.

  1.  Throw a cookie.  If you throw out a cookie, then when the dog turns back you can do whatever you want – just throw it to the starting spot.  If you want some formality, ask the dog to sit after eating the cookie.  Now it looks nice and formal.  But a lot less waiting.
  2. Send to a foot target or platform.  This is even easier since most dogs are trained to stop on their target – now do whatever exercise you had in mind; the dog is already stopped.
  3. Send around an object.  Same basic idea – dog is sent around an object at the starting spot and you proceed with whatever you had in mind from there.

If you train this way, you will be a whole lot more efficient because dogs move much faster than we do.  You will learn to think fast, because the entire pace of training will edge up and you will have no choice but to pay attention and be ready.  And finally, your dog will have a better time, which means when you do the exercise in a formal fashion – complete with leaving your dog – they’ll be more likely to stay engaged.  And if they do go to sleep on the formal stay then there are games for that too, but not for this blog post.

Here’s a video of Raika practicing the broad jump two ways; the first is with a folded stanchion to circle – that’s the fun way!  The second is a formal broad jump.

Raika – circle an object

and here’s a video of Brito practicing his broad jump to a full platform, to a cookie toss and to a cookie toss with a sit (not something we do, so that threw him a bit):

Brito platform or cookie toss


About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

4 responses »

  1. Interesting about the recall – I get my dog to hold a stay for a recall as an alternative to the “restraint recall” game – if I don’t have someone to restrain her and release her, I make her restrain herself (by holding a stay), act like I’m super fun and show off how I have a bunch of treats, run off, then use my recall command. I can’t say I’ve noticed that this wanes her enthusiasm (recall is her favourite) so I think this works OK for us but would you say in general for most dogs it’s not doing what I imagine it’s doing? (e.g. building up anticipation and excitement for the recall is what I _thought_ I was doing, but maybe It’s more what you’re saying: Boring stays with 10 seconds of fun movement = not really that great.)

    Sorry if my question is confusing… I tried to edit & re-phrase to make it clear it but it’s just kind of a mess 😛

    • I think what you are describing is building drive for informal recalls as opposed to practicing “formal” skills for competition. No issues there but really a different concept.

  2. Oh, how timely! A FDSA friend sent me this yesterday. I have been working on the broad jump. My dog can do the broad jump from a standing start….but will he? I’ve been leaving him in a sit-stay and there was the problem. I tried this yesterday – send to a target, wrap a cone, take the BJ, wrap a cone a stride in front, come back and go through my legs, turn and face a bar jump, throw the db, go over get it and come back over the jump, wrap the cone, do the BJ and have a party. I varied that today encorporating a send to the target 35′ away, DOR to front to finish and then more BJ, send to target and try signals (they worked at 20′ for the first time ever). Consider me a movement convert! Sometimes, I get way too focused on formality!


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