The First Agility Skill I Teach a Dog
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I have an ambition with my agility dog to teach independent performance. That ethic is taught early to the dog in a simple exercise… a send around a barrel.
The Accelerating Step
It’s a mistake to think that “distance” work with a dog has anything to do with standing still. Indeed the movement of the handler continues to speak to the dog. The Laws of a Dog in Motion are constant.
A basic discipline of the distance handler is the timing and placement of an “accelerating step”. It is a last moment step that establishes direction and motive to the dog. I say last moment to mean that in the moment after the step the rear of the dog is addressing the handler. And, as we all know, that is not the end of the dog with the eyes. So the dog mightn’t immediately know that the handler isn’t coming with.
It’s important to understand something important about the physical anatomy of the dog (aside from understanding which end has the eyes)… A dog’s field of vision is roughly 270°. This means that the dog feels the movement and antics of the handler even when the handler is slightly behind and to the side.
A human person has a field of vision of approximately 180°. You can test this: hold your arms at shoulder level straight out to your sides, and then fan your hands. In your peripheral vision you can just feel the movement on either side. If you were a dog the handler would feel the movement if you folded the arms back another 45° on either side.
A basic skill of the distance handler is the accelerating step. The following recording on YouTube provides a bit of illustration of testing the accelerating step:
The testing might have been better served by giving the dog a greater runway of movement. In the recorded example the handler had only a short approach to the send.
Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston
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