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#1 Frogs & Dogs

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 01:07 AM

Kit's been doing remarkably well in trials recently, and I feel that one of the last big obstacles holding us back is distance. She is not a clingy dog, but I'm young enough and fit enough that I'm usually not TOO far behind her, so she's never really learned that she can do it without me. We could keep going like this, but we'll never do very well in NADAC chances without more distance.

Anyone have tips on how to increase the distance away from me at which my dog will work? How does one train this? I don't really know where to start.

#2 Pam Wolf

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 08:58 AM

I like alligator pits myself. Basically place a pvc pole on the ground a little farther from the obstacles than you usually get with her-the trick is to keep you behind the pole -or the alligators will get you! but the dog is too fast so the alligators cannot get her. Gradually make the pit bigger and bigger-essentially this is a physical barrier to remind YOU to stay wider and gradually let the dog work wider by doing so.
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#3 SecretBC

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:27 PM

Inch by inch.

Is your dog toy motivated? I find distance work to be SO MUCH EASIER to train with a toy motivated dog -- because it's easier to reward them when they are away from you by throwing the toy.

That's not to say it can't be done with food. Kaiser has been a food dog since day one and he's got amazing distance skills -- too much so sometimes, as I seem to have installed a space bubble in him and now he doesn't like me to be too close to him...

With him it was a matter of teaching him to send or "go on." We did lateral sends, forward sends, etc. Obstacle focus is big with distance training -- because if you have a dog who is looking into you for direction, that dog is going to go right where they are looking. To you. So you need to work on keeping the focus on the equipment. Again, easier with toys because they aren't looking at coming back into you for the reward. Some people will use Manners Minders with the foody dogs.

There are no magical exercises, it's just a matter of being mindful of the goal. Always work to increase lateral distance, as that's the easiest. If the only time you ever even think about distance is during Chances, you will fail. You need to incorporate at least *some* distance wherever you can.

Here is one "drill" I used to increase Secret's confidence working away from me -- It's a simple arc of jumps (I also will use nothing but hoops to work on ground speed). Really, you can throw anything into the sequence that you want, the point is for the dog to find the path and stay on it while you stay on the inside. Generally I try not to cross the plane of the first & last obstacles.



Much of it is also in your body language -- Your body has to support the dog's path. My cousin's green dog, Rascal, will work at a distance for me because my body is still telling him what to do. With my cousin, who is a green handler, he is always coming in to her looking for direction because he can't tell what she wants. I have let her run my dog, Luke (who has "bonus line" distance skills) to let her get a feel for it --- if you ever have the opportunity to run a dog with really good distance skills, I think it's very educational and eye opening.
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#4 gcv-border

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 03:00 PM

What they said ^^^^

Take small steps (not literally, I mean to increase distance in small steps) and the placement of the reward is important. It you ask the dog to come back to you each time you reward, he will tend not to want to get out, and stay out, as far as a dog that was rewarded with toys thrown at a distance - in general.

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#5 SecretBC

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 03:08 PM

More thoughts -- You MUST have verbal commands for directionals to succeed in Chances. If you are talented enough to train a left/right (I'm not, it takes too much thought) then that is great and will come in handy.

My choice is Switch. It's not rocket science -- EVERY SINGLE TIME you do a rear cross, say your word. Eventually the dog will start to associate this word with turning away from you (of course we use motion cues as well, but the verbal is important in NADAC-land where you end up 40' away from your dog). When your dog starts to understand your turn-away cue, start doing rear crosses but NOT fully crossing behind the dog (ie: adding distance). This is how you begin to teach your dog to turn away at a distance -- again, little by little. If you can throw a toy, it helps get the turn.

I have a friend who cannot for the life of him wrap his brain around saying something while he does a rear cross. Guess what, his dogs can't turn away... His "handling move" is to say their name as he crosses behind them to tell them the new direction. Well, he also says their name to get them to turn into him, so which is it? The dogs don't know, either.

So.... Have a special word for turn-aways/rear crosses.
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#6 mickif

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:02 PM

As I think that verbals can be important, at the same time, if your verbal is not supporting your body language, you are then asking your dog to ignore one or the other, and then there's a good chance one or the other will degrade over time. Yes, for distance, a verbal can really help reinforce your body cue, or can help if your dog is in a tunnel in distance and needs to come out going away from you, but I am not sure a verbal is necessary to direct on a rear cross in general. I believe it much better to train you (most important :)) and your partner what body language your rear cross cue is.

I agree, when teaching distance skills, throw the reward away, along the line that that dog is traveling. If one uses only treats, I have found string cheese to be an excellent reward... easy to throw and easy for the dog to see.

#7 SecretBC

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 04:14 PM

The point of attaching the verbal to the rear cross cue is to teach the dog to associate the verbal with the action. Once the verbal is understood, the dog no longer needs the action of you crossing behind him --- Which, in NADAC Chances courses, is generally required. Once my dog knows "Switch" I drop the verbal cue if my motion is supporting the request and save the verbal for when I can't be there.

The skills needed to succeed in Chances are more or less contradictory to the skills required to succeed in every other agility organization -- Which is why so many people seem to have problems with NADAC.
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#8 mickif

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 05:40 PM

Ok, that makes more sense, I was reading it literally to mean rear crosses in general... and just for the sake of conversation, if training "switch" or right or left or, I am not getting why this would apply only to rear crosses, when it could apply to any handling cue... basically meaning change direction, or away from me or? Am I missing something? It is Monday after all :).

I agree, I actually think that NADAC chances does no real favors to handling for anything else... but it's fun!

#9 Jumpin Boots

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 11:11 PM

Ok, that makes more sense, I was reading it literally to mean rear crosses in general... and just for the sake of conversation, if training "switch" or right or left or, I am not getting why this would apply only to rear crosses, when it could apply to any handling cue... basically meaning change direction, or away from me or? Am I missing something? It is Monday after all :).

I agree, I actually think that NADAC chances does no real favors to handling for anything else... but it's fun!


I use 'left/right' for my directional command; in the beginning, it was like a 'switch' command, meaning to change leads, thus turning away from me. As Boots became more fluid w/ his directionals I realized that when I would give the incorrect directional, he would wrap the obstacle toward me, thus not changing leads and turning in. This was purely accidental teaching and I don't naturally use 'left/right' to ask him to turn into me typically, although I have w/ bonus line jumpers and chances. When handling a tighter course and wanting him to turn into me, I use either here, or his name (this comes in if there's an obstacle of higher value ahead of him). I believe people often use 'tight or turn' to cue their dog to turn toward them while 'switch' would always cue their dog to switch leads and turn away.

When I started working distance I worked obstacles my dog naturally drove to first, like a slightly curved tunnel w/ a jump or two at each end. Then as he got use to driving out to the tunnel and keeping with the line of jumps after I would slowly step further and further away. Then eventually replace the tunnel w/ jumps/weaves, moving myself back close in and then slowly retreating away again.

Directionals are definately helpful for distance.

Always reward where your dog was doing the distance work at, even if it means running out to them and tugging or treating there.

When working lateral distance make sure that you are not moving your body too fast, often peope will turn to quickly and get their shoulders out of line with the dog, thus drawing it back in to them.

Hopefully these ramblings make a little sense...

#10 Frogs & Dogs

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:24 AM

Thanks for all the replies!

I am blessed with a dog who is motivated by everything. I generally use food, as it keeps her from going over threshold better than toys. She is more food motivated than any dog I know, and will happily work for kibble and cheerios. But on the rare occasion that I break out a toy, blue/orange rubber chuckit balls being the favorite, she goes crazy. I never thought of throwing toys as rewards when doing distance work specifically. What a great idea!

I do not have directionals, but I have a very solid turn away command (I use "turn"). I find it comes in extremely handy, and it has been the key to the few Q's that we have earned in chances. I used it last weekend to turn her away from me into a set of weave polls...the first set of 12 she's ever seen in a trial. It worked like a charm. Our discriminations are also generally pretty good, and have not caused us to lose many Q's in the past. In general, I think our biggest challenge is simply comfort level with physical distance between us. When I stay far away, Kit gets suspicious (there must be a reason!?) and comes closer to find out why.

The skills needed to succeed in Chances are more or less contradictory to the skills required to succeed in every other agility organization -- Which is why so many people seem to have problems with NADAC.


Hmm, very interesting. I've only ever done NADAC, so I'm not really sure what you mean by this. Can you elaborate?

#11 SecretBC

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 09:26 AM

NADAC handlers, by and large, cannot use any of the popular "handling systems" being taught today. Whether you subscribe to the teachings of Derrett or Mecklenberg, if you want to succeed in NADAC you have to break their "rules." There are times in Chances where you will specifically ask your dog to ignore your motion cues (or lack thereof) and go out to find obstacles on their own. Granted, this isn't ideal handling, but sometimes you get stuck at the line and it happens.

I know a couple of people who try to follow Mecklenberg's handling system and they say it all goes out the window when they come to NADAC trials. They find this frustrating enough that they do talk about quitting NADAC altogether.

I don't follow any particular system and as such I can't really elaborate any more than that because I am not intimately familiar with the "rules" of each.
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#12 Northof49

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 11:53 AM

As I think that verbals can be important, at the same time, if your verbal is not supporting your body language, you are then asking your dog to ignore one or the other, and then there's a good chance one or the other will degrade over time. Yes, for distance, a verbal can really help reinforce your body cue, or can help if your dog is in a tunnel in distance and needs to come out going away from you, but I am not sure a verbal is necessary to direct on a rear cross in general. I believe it much better to train you (most important :)) and your partner what body language your rear cross cue is.

I agree, when teaching distance skills, throw the reward away, along the line that that dog is traveling. If one uses only treats, I have found string cheese to be an excellent reward... easy to throw and easy for the dog to see.


I don't agree with the verbal skills degrading your body language if it isn't followed up with your body language. Since we are big on Gamblers and Snooker up here in Western Canada, we teach a lot of distance work, and at a young age. My friend and I sit in chairs and use verbals for distance work. When we start calling our directionals, the dogs understand to work off of our voice commands alone. In over 20 years, neither my body language or verbal cues have ever degraded. My verbal cues can be accompanied by body language, but not necessarily, particularly in Gamblers and Snooker.

We start to teach distance as soon as the dog starts to learn an obstacle. Once the dog knows what a jump is, the dog has to go and do that one single jump no matter where it is. Since we want the dog to drive out the drive AND drive back to us just as fast, they get rewarded when they come back to us. With a bar on the ground, our 6 month old puppies could easily go out 100 feet to do a jump, tunnel, tire sitting on the ground and a 6" table. It is also the start of obstacle discrimination. At least we still teach that. If I name an obstacle, you go do that obstacle, no matter what I am doing.

#13 mickif

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:29 PM

I don't agree with the verbal skills degrading your body language if it isn't followed up with your body language. Since we are big on Gamblers and Snooker up here in Western Canada, we teach a lot of distance work, and at a young age. My friend and I sit in chairs and use verbals for distance work. When we start calling our directionals, the dogs understand to work off of our voice commands alone. In over 20 years, neither my body language or verbal cues have ever degraded. My verbal cues can be accompanied by body language, but not necessarily, particularly in Gamblers and Snooker.

We start to teach distance as soon as the dog starts to learn an obstacle. Once the dog knows what a jump is, the dog has to go and do that one single jump no matter where it is. Since we want the dog to drive out the drive AND drive back to us just as fast, they get rewarded when they come back to us. With a bar on the ground, our 6 month old puppies could easily go out 100 feet to do a jump, tunnel, tire sitting on the ground and a 6" table. It is also the start of obstacle discrimination. At least we still teach that. If I name an obstacle, you go do that obstacle, no matter what I am doing.


I do not think that there is one way to train agility, and your puppies must be darling as they learn your verbals while you sit in a chair :), I love it!

My belief about possible degradation of body cues and verbals is based on what I see often in our area... handler's body is doing one thing while yelling a verbal command that says do something else. For example, dog takes off for a jump thinking, based on handler's body, that he/she is going straight in extension, only to have the handler yell "left", or "right" or whatever verbals are used..., as the dog is taking off to jump (or worse, as the dog is over the jump), over time something has to give. But, I am not just talking distance, which this thread is actually about. Personally, I "attempt" to use the same handling for all, distance or not.

I believe the first rule is to be consistent in however one trains and runs, and I prefer to see body language and verbals support one another. That's all :).

#14 Root Beer

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 02:53 PM

I know a couple of people who try to follow Mecklenberg's handling system and they say it all goes out the window when they come to NADAC trials. They find this frustrating enough that they do talk about quitting NADAC altogether.


The place that I train teaches Mecklenberg's system, and I enjoy using it.

Thus far in NADAC I haven't run into a problem using it, but I haven't gotten too far in NADAC yet. It will be interesting to see what happens as we progress.

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#15 alligande

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 06:45 PM

From my observation of NADAC chances and bonus lines, there are a few handlers who understand and use well, limited body motion, in other words they are still drawing the path of the dog with their motion, but within a very small area, incorporate good verbals and you have an amazing team, when it comes together I am always very impressed. The problem is that most handlers do not have nor have trained those skills and you get confused dogs, some times very confused dogs. I have watched so many dogs been yelled at to go "on" "switch" etc with complete blank looks, and after what seems like an eternity the handler crosses the line and helps.
I made a promise to my young dog, that we would enter chances and if I thought we had the skill set for that course we would try, if not it was a training run, and I would never stand on the line and yell at him. Basically what I did my first year of trialing with the older one.

In regard to handling in NADAC I have found the following: I do not follow any particular handling style but I am drawn to the Linda Mecklenberg concepts as they make sense to me, and in summer I train with a women who is not a devotee but uses the same style. I found running a slower dog, (we made time if he was focused) I had no problems with the courses, now running my young monster, he is fast and I am fitter and faster as well, and now I often find myself in bad place on the course and find it very hard to apply the principles when I have got behind. On USDAA courses and in the tight courses we train on I rarely have this problem.

#16 Northof49

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 09:50 PM

[/quote] I do not think that there is one way to train agility, and your puppies must be darling as they learn your verbals while you sit in a chair :), I love it[/quote]


Most definitely there is more than one way to train agility, but some "systems" are restrictive and do not go well with distance work, and gamblers classes.
Our dogs learne their verbal skills on the flat and are refined and worked into our distance work by our "lawn chair" agility.

[/quote] My belief about possible degradation of body cues and verbals is based on what I see often in our area... handler's body is doing one thing while yelling a verbal command that says do something else. For example, dog takes off for a jump thinking, based on handler's body, that he/she is going straight in extension, only to have the handler yell "left", or "right" or whatever verbals are used..., as the dog is taking off to jump (or worse, as the dog is over the jump), over time something has to give.[/quote]

That is just simply really crappy handling. When I am judging someone like that I just want to go over and smack the handler LOL. It has nothing to do with asking the dog to work on verbal skills alone.
I know that if I design a real handling gamble in certain areas of the country,where the handler is really limited to hardly any body language, the dogs verbal skills aren't actually there to do the gamble. Just like obstacle discrimination - not a lot of people bother with teaching discrimination and it sure helps in gamblers and snooker.

I am working with a couple of dogs right now. They supposedly have "awesome" verbal skills according to their handlers, but they don't. They have no idea what right or left is, without the body language, so we are starting from scratch to develop actual verbal skills.

It really comes down to what skills any particular person wants to put on their dog and what skills they will need to successfully run courses.
But, I am not just talking distance, which this thread is actually about.

[/quote]I believe the first rule is to be consistent in however one trains and runs,[/quote]
I agree. Unfortunately a lot of people out there are trying to marry "systems" and it simply doesn't work, and the dogs are really confused.

#17 zenotri

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Posted 29 February 2012 - 10:05 PM

Personally, I "attempt" to use the same handling for all, distance or not.

I believe the first rule is to be consistent in however one trains and runs, and I prefer to see body language and verbals support one another. That's all :).


Totally agree!

Although I follow a system, I see too many people getting caught up in the technical side of things. I had a student ask me a question recently at a trial "according to the system....blah blah blah"

What she was asking was how far she needed to run into one section and how much distance was ideal...according to "the system"

My answer was this: "forget the system! You run as far as you need to run to commit the dog to the line!". She won :)

Agility to me is all about recognizing commitment, once you have it, you are free to move on to the next section of the course. I like to focus on setting the line correctly going into a distance challenge. It the line is correct and my handling continues to support it, hopefully the distance that I am from my dog is incidental.
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#18 Rave

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Posted 01 March 2012 - 08:12 AM

When I am judging someone like that I just want to go over and smack the handler LOL.


:D :D :D

I so wish that was allowed!

#19 GabbyandAthena

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:26 PM

I am not sure what ind of disatnce you want to get with your dog. Just in general running with your dog, but at a distance or like the bonus lines in NADAC. With my girl Athena (she just turned 2 years old yesterday) we train for bonus lines. Where you send the dog away from you to work on it own. It is all about baby steps and building confidence. You don't want to push your dog to fast because you will lose speed. Slowly start increasing the distance so you will still have the fast speed. Soon your dog will start getting more and more confident in what you want him/her to do. If you want the distance you always reward out at a distance. Try and throw the reward away from you so the dog is always driving forward. Here is a few videos of my little girl training.



Here is a chances course when the 'switch' command came in handy.


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#20 GabbyandAthena

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 03:27 PM

And one more video. :)


Gabby & Athena
"He doesn't ask for reasons. If he has learned a task, he will work because he knows that he gives you great pleasure." -- Jan Kaldenbach (describing the character of a working dog)

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