- Finding out about the Utility Dog title
- Understanding the link between drives and exercises
- The Signal exercise
- The Scent Discrimination exercises
- The Directed Retrieve exercise
- The Moving Stand with Examination exercise
- The Directed Jumping exercise
After your dog obtains the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Companion Dog Excellent title (see Chapter The Companion Dog Excellent Title
), you’re eligible to enter the Utility class, which is intended to be the most difficult and challenging class. Curiously, what makes this class difficult isn’t the exercises, but the order in which they’re done. Each year the AKC awards approximately 10,000 Companion Dog titles, 3,000 Companion Dog Excellent titles, and 600 Utility Dog titles. This chapter fills you in on what to expect.
The Utility Class: What’s Expected from You and Buddy
The Utility class consists of six exercises, each with a specific point value (see Table 17-1). For a qualifying score, you and Buddy have to earn more than 50 percent of the available points for each exercise and a final score of at least 170 out of a possible 200.
Table 17-1 The Utility Class
Exercise 1: Signal
Exercise 2: Scent Discrimination, Article No. 1
Exercise 3: Scent Discrimination, Article No. 2
Exercise 4: Directed Retrieve
Exercise 5: Moving Stand with Examination
Exercise 6: Directed Jumping
Maximum Total Score
Not All Exercises Are Created Equal
We characterize the exercises the dogs are required to do in two categories:
Action exercises tend to be motivational for the dog — something he enjoys. Examples of action exercises are Heeling, Retrieving, Jumping, and Coming. Control exercises are demotivational — not something that is fun and exciting. Examples of control exercises are the Sit and Down-Stay, the drop for the Drop on Recall, and the Stand for Examination. The Front and the Finish can be either, depending on the dog’s perception.
With that in mind, take a look at Table 17-2, which lists each category that the various exercises for the Utility class fall into.
Table 17-2 Drives and Categories for the Utility Class Exercises
Dog stands at heel
Dog lies down on signal
Dog sits on signal
Dog comes on signal
Dog selects by scent one article out of eight
Control (that is, more control than action because the article is placed rather than thrown, and the dog has to discriminate)
Dog retrieves and brings it back to handler
Dog is sent out
Dog retrieves one of three articles
Moving Stand with Examination:
Dog stands on command
Judge examines dog
Dog goes to heel
Dog leaves handler
You can see from Table 17-2 that the potentially most devastating impact on the dog’s motivation comes from the Signal exercise, which is immediately followed by another control exercise. It’s not until the Directed Retrieve that the dog starts to have any real fun.
To maintain your dog’s enthusiasm in practice sessions, alternate as much as possible between action and control exercises.
Obviously, the dog can learn the Signal exercise and even do it with some degree of verve, provided that you don’t turn him off in the teaching and practicing phases. When you see that an exercise has a dampening effect on your dog, immediately follow it with something he likes, such as a Retrieve. You may have to split up the Signal exercise into its component parts to keep your dog motivated and only once or twice a week practice it the way it’s supposed to be done.
Your dog doesn’t look at all exercises in the same light. Some he considers more fun than others. By observing the impact an exercise has on your dog’s psyche, you can keep him enthusiastic and motivated.
The Signal Exercise
For the Signal exercise, you dog needs to respond to the “Heel,” “Stand,” “Stay,” “Drop,” “Sit,” and “Come” signals. The exercise starts with a regular heeling pattern. Then the judge says, “Stand your dog.” At that point, you come to a halt and signal your dog to stand at the Heel position. The position is the same as the Automatic Sit at Heel except the dog has to stand at heel. The judge then tells you, “Leave your dog,” and you give the “Stay” signal and go to the other side of the ring and face your dog. The judge then signals you to Drop, Sit, Call, and Finish your dog. You’re not allowed to use verbal commands. The entire sequence is done without any verbal commands.
Giving the hand signal to heel
You give the hand signal to heel with your left hand, which moves from left to right, palm down, in front of the dog’s eyes (see Figure 17-1). First, give the signal together with the command. After several repetitions, eliminate the command.
Getting Buddy to stand at heel on signal
You give the signal with your left hand, from right to left. Your palm is down and parallel to the ground, above and ahead of the dog’s eyes.
The Stand isn’t a very exciting or motivating exercise for your dog, so we don’t recommend practicing it more than five times during a session. And always follow it with something your dog likes.
Figure 17-1: Signaling your dog to heel.
Introducing Buddy to the “Stand” signal Your Sequence 1 goal is to introduce your dog to the “Stand” signal:
2. Put the thumb of your right hand through the collar under the dog’s chin.
3. Stand your dog with the command and signal.
4. Make sure that his front feet remain in place.
5. Praise and release.
6. Repeat this sequence ten times, not necessarily at one session.
Getting Buddy to stand at heel from motion
Your Sequence 2 goal is to teach your dog to stand at heel from motion:
1. With Buddy off leash, in Heel position, say “Let’s go” and start walking.
2. As you come to a halt, and before you’ve brought your feet together, place your right hand against your dog’s chest, give the signal with your left hand, and say “Stand.”
Concentrate on putting your right hand against his chest so that Buddy can’t advance past Heel position.
Also, make sure that you stop him standing in Heel position. If necessary, prevent him from sitting by placing your left hand against his right thigh.
3. Praise and release with a treat.
4. Repeat this sequence five times per session over the course of several sessions.
After each Stand, praise and release enthusiastically with a treat. The object is to have Buddy stand at heel without any tension on the leash.
Getting Buddy to stand out of turns
Sequence 3’s goal? To teach the stand out of turns:
Repeat Sequence 2 after a right turn, an about-turn, and a left turn.
Getting Buddy to stand from a fast pace
Sequence 4’s goal is to teach the Stand from a fast pace:
Teach Buddy Sequence 2 from a fast pace. Although not absolutely necessary, standing him from a fast pace is a good indicator of how well he knows the stand at heel from motion. It’s also a fun way to practice.
Getting Buddy to drop from a Stand and Sit from a Down
Use the same signal that you use for the Drop on Recall (see Chapter The Companion Dog Excellent Title
) by bringing your right arm straight up above your shoulder as though you’re reaching for the ceiling.
Getting Buddy to drop from a Stand
Sequence 1’s goal is to teach your dog to drop from a Stand:
1. Stand your dog at heel, on leash.
2. Neatly fold the leash into your left hand.
3. Say “Stay” and step in front of your dog.
4. Kneel down and place two fingers of your left hand, palm facing down, through his collar, under his chin.
5. Signal with the right hand and say “Down,” at the same time lightly pushing against his chest with your left hand. (See Figure 17-2.)
If necessary, apply a little downward pressure on his collar. (You can use either arm. For the sake of simplicity, we assume it’s the right.) The purpose of the pressure against his chest is to prevent Buddy from moving his feet forward as he drops — the natural tendency for most dogs. You want to teach him to collapse in place because that’s what the Obedience Regulations require. Look at his feet as you drop him. With pressure against his chest, they don’t move forward.
The downward pressure on the collar reinforces the drop. Be careful that you don’t inadvertently pull him toward you because that would make him move his feet forward. Practice until he lies down in place without any pressure on his collar — and with the signal only.
6. Say “Stay,” stand up, praise, and release with a treat.
Figure 17-2: Using the “Down” signal.
Getting Buddy to sit from a Down
Sequence 2’s goal? To teach your dog to sit from a Down.
With your right arm hanging naturally at your side, the back of the hand facing the dog, turn your hand so the palm faces your dog. Then bring your arm out and away from your body, no higher than your waist, keeping your elbow locked. The object is to train your dog to respond to the turning of your hand. In the teaching phase, the arm moves in front of your body so you can lure Buddy into a Sit with a treat:
1. On leash, down your dog from a Stand as in Sequence 1.
2. Say “Stay” and stand up.
3. Put your left hand, which holds the leash, against your right hip.
4. Have a treat in your right hand, held naturally at your side, and make sure that the back of your hand is toward the dog.
5. Say “Sit,” turn your right hand so that the palm faces your dog, and lure your dog into a Sit with the treat.
Bring the treat to a point directly above his head so that your dog sits straight up by bringing his front feet under him rather than moving forward. Practice this maneuver until the dog sits as soon as you turn your right hand. That’s what you want, so be sure you reward that response with a treat.
6. Praise and release backward.
Play a game of Sit from a Down and Down from a Sit. Hold the treat in your signal hand and randomly reward correct responses. Be sure to count to five after every change in position so that your dog can focus on what you want. Play only as long as Buddy is an enthusiastic participant.
Reinforcing the Sit
Sequence 3’s goal is to teach the reinforcement of the Sit:
1. Start as in Sequence 2 but without a treat in your hand.
2. Give the command and signal and — at the same time — give a little check with your right hand on the leash straight up, palm up, to a point directly above your dog’s head.
3. Bring your hand back to your side.
4. Praise and release with a treat.
This is the review progression for this exercise. Alternate on a random basis between using a treat and a little check. Then eliminate the command and practice until your dog responds reliably to the signal.
Increasing your distance
Sequence 4’s goal? To increase the distance:
1. Down and Sit your dog from three feet in front — on leash.
2. As you give the signal, take a step toward Buddy with your right foot, keeping your left leg in place.
The step toward your dog reinforces the response by keeping your dog in place and stops him from moving forward. Note that as you increase the distance, you may need to reinforce the Sit with a little check.
3. Bring your leg and arm back to their original positions.
4. Praise and give him a treat for every correct response.
After Buddy masters this exercise from three feet, increase the distance to six feet. As you increase the distance, continuing with the step is important. Remember, Buddy’s natural tendency is to come to you, and you want him to drop and sit in place.
At this point in the training, introduce distractions, beginning with first degree (see Chapter Getting Ready to Compete
for info on the degrees). The distracter stands ten feet from the dog at a 45-degree angle. After you leave Buddy in a Stand, the distracter approaches in a nonthreatening, benign manner to within two feet of him. Give the “Drop” signal, with the step toward your dog. If he does drop, praise and enthusiastically release. If he doesn’t drop, slowly go to him and reinforce the Down by putting two fingers of your left
hand (not the one that gave the signal) through his collar, under his chin, and placing him down. When he does it correctly, praise, release with a treat, stop, and go on to something else.
Carefully work your way through the three levels of distractions from six feet in front, on leash. After that, take the leash off and gradually increase the distance until Buddy does the exercise with you standing 40 feet in front of him.
Giving the “Come” and “Finish” signals
Time to wrap up this whole Signal exercise:
1. Leave your dog in a Sit-Stay and go to the end of the leash.
2. With your left hand holding the leash at your left side, say “Come” and give the signal by bringing your right arm shoulder high and then to the center of your chest.
3. Praise and release.
Note that at this point — when you release your dog — there is no Front or Finish.
4. Do five repetitions of Steps 1 through 3 — not necessarily in a row or during the same session.
5. Now go through it again but eliminate the command; then praise and release.
If Buddy doesn’t respond to the signal, give him a little tug on the leash.
Be sure to practice without the command until your dog responds reliably to the signal.
6. Now try the exercise off leash from six feet in front; then praise and release (see Figure 17-2).
From six feet away you can’t expect much speed. There’s little motivation to come quickly for such a short distance. As soon as you increase the distance, though, Buddy will pick up speed. Keep making it exciting for him by using a treat and the Release.
7. For the Finish, use the same signal that you use for the Novice class and Open class.
Remember, you don’t want to front or finish the dog every time he comes to you. Use the Release as an alternative.
The Scent Discrimination
Maybe you’ve already taught your dog the Find Mine trick with dollar bills (see Chapter Ten (or So) Tricks for Fun and Gains
). If so, this exercise should go quickly. The only difference between the two is that you perform the Scent Discrimination exercise with metal and leather articles, usually dumbbells, five of each. Buddy is first required to retrieve one, either metal or leather, and then the other, which you have scented, from among the remaining four leather and four metal.
When teaching your dog the Scent Discrimination exercise, avoid the “he should know better” pitfall if your dog brings back the wrong article. Under no circumstances do you want to second-guess your dog. He obviously thought he retrieved the right one.
Getting Buddy to retrieve leather and metal articles
Your Sequence 1 goal is to teach your dog to retrieve leather and metal articles:
You may have to review the teaching progressions for the “Retrieve” command (see Chapter Retrieving
), depending on how your dog responds. Leather items are rarely a problem, but metal items can be. Your dog must retrieve either kind reliably before you can go on.
Getting Buddy to use his nose
Sequence 2’s goal is to teach Buddy to use his nose:
First, you need to introduce him to the game of Find. For example, when training outside, hide the article around a corner. Let him see you take the article and return. Send him with “Find it.” When he brings it back, release backward with great enthusiasm and reward him with a treat. Note that the first time you try this game, you may have to show him where you put the article.
As Buddy catches on, increase the difficulty so that he has to use his nose to find the article.
Introducing Buddy to the articles
Your Sequence 3 goal is to introduce Buddy to the articles:
For this purpose, use a scent board, a piece of pegboard commensurate with the size of your dog and large enough to accommodate all eight articles placed six inches apart. Get Buddy accustomed to walking on the board by heeling him over it several times and having him sit on it. Then have him retrieve an article from the board — first by throwing it on the board and then by placing it on the board. Release backward and reward. Note: You want your dog to be comfortable retrieving from the board before you begin to add other articles.
Prepare the board for the next sequence by tying one of each article on the board, with the tie underneath. Let the board air out for 24 hours so it has little, if any, of your scent on it.
Tying an article to a board prevents the dog from picking up the incorrect article and encourages him to keep looking for the right one. You can also tie the articles to a piece of carpeting, although some of the larger dogs sometimes bring back the entire piece of carpeting. If that happens to you, use a board.
Teaching Buddy Scent Discrimination
Sequence 4’s goal is to teach your dog Scent Discrimination:
1. Make sure that your hands are clean and free from chemicals and perfumes.
2. With you and Buddy facing the board from ten feet away, scent a metal article by slowly rubbing the bar of the dumbbell for 20 seconds and briefly let him hold the article.
3. Take the article out of his mouth, say “Stay,” and place the article on the board, letting him watch you place it on the board.
4. Go back to heel and send him with “Find it.”
5. If Buddy tries to pick up an incorrect article, encourage him to keep looking by saying, “You can do it!” in an excited tone of voice — or anything other than the original command.
6. When he picks up the correct one, quietly say “That’s it” with a big smile on your face.
7. Release backward and reward.
Repeat the sequence by placing the scented leather article in a different location on the board until you’re sure that Buddy is using his nose to find the correct article. At the same time, gradually increase the distance you stand from the board to 20 feet. During this sequence, stop the praise for picking up the correct article but continue to smile. You don’t want Buddy to become dependent on praise and wait for it before he returns, so eliminate it as soon as you can. Release and reward Buddy after he has returned. Stop after two successive successful responses — one metal and one leather.
Tie two more articles on the board and let the board air out for about two hours before the next round. After each successful round, tie two more articles on the board until all eight articles are tied on the board, letting the board air out after each addition of articles.
Getting Buddy to discriminate between your scent and someone else’s
Sequence 5’s goal is to teach your dog discrimination between your scent and another person’s. Up until now, Buddy has learned only to find your article among unscented ones. The object of this exercise is to teach him to find your article among those that someone else has touched.
Before you send your dog, have a helper briefly touch the articles on the board. Then place yours. You and Buddy are still facing the board.
Some handlers make an effort to give the dog their scent by briefly holding their hand in front of the dog’s nose. We feel that by now your dog should know your scent and consider the effort superfluous. It also loads up the dog’s nose with scent just when you want his nose to be clear.
Some dogs catch on quickly, and others need to go back to the beginning with two articles tied down. You’ll have to experiment with Buddy to see how he does. Try it with all eight articles tied down. If he gets hopelessly confused, start at the beginning.
When your dog is reliable at this step, introduce distractions the same way that you do for the Retrieve.
Weaning Buddy off the board
Your Sequence 6 goal is to wean your dog off the board:
Reverse the procedure and untie two articles. After each successful round, stop. Over the course of several sessions, repeat until all the articles are loose on the board. If he comes back with the wrong article, slowly approach him, take the article out of his mouth, take him back to the starting position, and send him again. Don’t do anything that might discourage your dog.
Teaching your dog the Scent Discrimination exercise mainly involves building his confidence. You want to encourage him and not discourage him.
Doing this exercise on the board and doing it on any other surface isn’t the same. Begin to wean Buddy from the board by placing the scented article on the floor/ground in front of the board. When he is successful, using ordinary kitchen tongs, place two unscented articles on the floor/ground in front of the board, along with the scented one. When he’s steady retrieving the correct article, place the remainder of the articles, two at a time, on the floor/ground in front of the board. After he is reliable with all the articles on the floor/ground, eliminate the board.
Right after it looks like Buddy has finally gotten the hang of it, he may go through one or more regressions, meaning that he may give the appearance of not having the foggiest idea of what this exercise is all about. You can recognize it by the number of successive incorrect responses: He brings back the wrong article, you send him again, and he brings back another incorrect article, and so on. This situation is normal, and you should expect it. The best advice we can give you is to put him back on the board for several days as a form of review.
Teaching Buddy the Turn and Send
Sequence 7’s goal is to teach your dog the Turn and Send:
1. For the finished product, you and Buddy will have your backs turned to the eight articles as the judge places the article that you scented among the unscented articles.
The judge then says, “Send your dog.”
2. You can then make a right about-turn in place, at the same time sending your dog, or you can have him Sit at Heel and then send him.
3. With Buddy in Heel position, show him the article, give the command “Find it,” make an about-turn in place, and throw the article, letting him chase it.
4. Practice several times until Buddy catches on to the maneuver.
5. Put out your articles and repeat the procedure, only this time throwing the article into the pile.
6. Following a few repetitions of that maneuver, line up with Buddy in Heel position with your backs to the articles from about 20 feet away.
7. Tell him to stay, place your scented article in the pile, return to Buddy, and send him with “Find it” as you make an about-turn in place to the right.
Unless there’s a compelling reason to have your dog Sit at Heel, we suggest that you send him as you make the turn. It’s more motivational.
The Directed Retrieve
This particular exercise requires Buddy to retrieve one of three predominantly white gloves, such as white cotton gardening variety, which are placed at the unobstructed end of the ring about 15 feet apart. You’re required to give your dog the direction to the designated glove with a single motion of the left arm and hand and a verbal command.
The exercise starts with you and Buddy in the center of the ring with your backs to the gloves. The judge says something like “Glove number one,” which designates the glove behind you on your right. Glove number two is the one directly behind you, and number three is the one to your left.
Other than teaching Buddy how to retrieve a glove, the only new maneuver you have to teach Buddy is the turns in place, with the emphasis on place. When working on the turns in place, keep in mind that the more accurate your dog is on Heel position, the less likely he is to make a mistake.
The turns in place are the make-or-break maneuvers for the Directed Retrieve exercise.
All turns in place start with Buddy sitting at heel, leash in Control Position.
Teaching a right turn in place
You can teach this turn in three progressions — first placing your right leg, and then taking a step on the right leg, and then making the turn in place by turning your right foot at a 90-degree angle to the left, heel to heel to the left:
– Progression 1: Place your right foot at a 90-degree angle one large step to the right. With “Buddy, heel,” close with your left foot and guide your dog into Heel position. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times.
– Progression 2: Say “Buddy, heel,” take a step to the right, close with the left, and guide your dog into Heel position. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times.
– Progression 3: Say “Buddy, heel” and turn in place to the right, closing with the left. Praise and release.
Teaching a right about-turn in place
Here’s what you need to do:
– Progression 1: Say “Buddy, heel,” take two steps forward, turn around to your right (keeping your feet together), take two steps forward, and guide your dog into Heel position. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times.
– Progression 2: Say “Buddy, heel,” take one step forward, turn around, take one step forward, and guide your dog into Heel position. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times.
– Progression 3: Say “Buddy, heel,” make two right turns in place, and guide your dog into Heel position. Praise and release.
Teaching a left turn in place
Here are your progressions:
– Progression 1: Place your left foot directly in front of your dog’s front feet. Say “Buddy, heel,” take a large step with your right foot (past the left), and close with the left, guiding your dog into Heel position with slight backward pressure on the leash. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times over the course of several sessions.
– Progression 2: Place your left foot directly in front of your dog’s front feet. Say “Buddy, heel,” take a small step with your right foot (past the left), and close with the left, guiding your dog into Heel position with slight backward pressure on the leash. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times over the course of several sessions.
– Progression 3: Say “Buddy, heel,” put your right foot at a 90-degree angle directly in front of your left (in a T position), and guide your dog into Heel position with slight backward pressure on the leash. Praise and release. Repeat 25 times over the course of several sessions.
– Progression 4: Say “Buddy, heel” and make two left turns in place, guiding your dog into Heel position with slight backward pressure on the leash. Praise and release.
Teaching how to retrieve the gloves
Give the direction by holding your left arm at the side of the dog’s head, and your fingers pointing straight to the glove. Immediately following, say “Take it.” What you may not do is give your dog the direction and then pump your left arm as you send him for the glove.
Although the Obedience Regulations permit you to send your dog as you give the direction, the regulations also permit you to first point in the direction of the glove, called marking, immediately followed by the command “Take it.”
For the center glove, your arm is stretched out so that your elbow is in line with the dog’s nose, which gives him a better mark. You may bend your body and knees to the extent necessary in giving the direction to your dog. When giving the direction, make sure that your fingers are indeed pointing at the designated glove.
Before you start on this exercise, you may want to review the “Retrieve” command with a glove.
Here’s what you do:
– Progression 1: With your dog sitting at heel and a glove in your left hand (held between your thumb and fingers), get your dog excited about the glove. Throw the glove, holding your arm as you would if you were to mark the glove, and say “Take it.” After he picks it up, praise and release. If he doesn’t retrieve, review teaching him to retrieve the glove (see Chapter Retrieving for retrieving).
– Progression 2: After your dog retrieves the glove and you’ve introduced him to the direction, place a glove 15 feet to your right, 15 feet to your left, and 15 feet in front of you. Say “Buddy, heel” and make a right turn in place. Buddy now faces the glove on your right. Mark the direction with your left arm. You may have to hold on to your dog by placing two fingers of your right hand through his collar. Send your dog with “Take it.” Praise and release after he has picked up the glove.
Repeat for the glove on the left and the center glove. After three successful repetitions, move the gloves on your right and left two feet straight ahead and start all over. After each set of three successful repetitions, move the gloves on your right and left two feet straight ahead until they’re in line with the center glove. Send your dog to different gloves in a random pattern.
What if he goes to the wrong glove? Let him try to work it out for himself by maintaining the signal. For example, suppose that Buddy goes to number two rather than number one. Hold the signal facing number one. When Buddy returns to you, he immediately notices that something is wrong: You’re not standing up straight but are still pointing to the glove. He may try to do one of several things, like
- Insist on giving you the glove, which you don’t take.
- Give up and do nothing.
- Go for another glove, probably the correct one.
If he retrieves the correct glove, stand up, praise, and release. If he does nothing, approach the number one glove while still holding the signal and get him to pick it up — preferably just by pointing at it and without an extra command. When he does, praise and release. If he doesn’t, reinforce the Retrieve.
Every time you help your dog, you’re assuming the responsibility for his behavior. You want him to learn that it’s his responsibility to make the right decision. To do that, you have to give him a chance to work things out for himself.
After Buddy has learned the direction portion of the exercise, you can introduce the Turn and Send. Remember that Buddy won’t see the gloves being placed; he’ll have his back to them in the ring. The Obedience Regulations permit you to turn either to the left or to the right when making the turn in place to face the designated glove. You need to experiment to discover which is best for you and your dog.
The Moving Stand with Examination
For this exercise, you’re required to heel your dog for about ten feet when the judge tells you to “Stand your dog.” Without pausing or breaking your stride, you give the command and/or signal to stand and continue walking 10 to 12 feet. Then you turn and face your dog. The judge examines your dog, a little more thoroughly than he does in the Novice class, and then he says, “Call your dog to heel.” You then give the command and/or signal for Buddy to go directly to heel.
Here are the progressions:
– Progression 1: With your dog on leash and at heel, say “Let’s go” and start walking. After several steps, give the signal to stand, say “Stay,” and continue walking. When you get to the end of the leash, turn and face your dog. Tell him what a clever fellow he is, count to five, and release. Practice ten times over the course of several sessions.
For the Moving Stand, the dog must Stand and Stay on command without taking any steps forward while you keep walking.
If Buddy needs help, use the same technique you use to teach a Stand at Heel (see Chapter The Companion Dog Title).
Now try it off leash.
– Progression 2: Start again with your dog on leash. Take several steps, stand your dog, go to the end of the leash, and face him. Count to five, signal, and say “Buddy, heel,” guiding him into Heel position. Praise and release. The Obedience Regulations permit you to give both the signal to heel and the command for this exercise.
When Buddy correctly goes to Heel On Leash, try it off leash. Then gradually increase the distance you leave him in a Stand until you can go about 10 to 12 feet, as required by the regulations, before you turn and face him.
– Progression 3: Finally, you need to practice the examination part of the exercise with a helper.
The Directed Jumping
For this exercise, your dog has to go — on command — from one end of the ring to the other, between the bar and the high jump. The bar and the high jump are in the center of the ring about 18 feet apart. You then give your dog the command and/or signal for one of the jumps, after which he has to front and then finish. The entire procedure is then repeated for the other jump.
The “Go-Out” command takes a little time to teach because the dog can see absolutely no rhyme nor reason for this exercise.
We approach this exercise in three parts: the Go-Out, the jumps, and putting the two together. When Buddy has learned the Go-Out and the Directed Jumping parts, put them together.
Teaching Buddy the “Go-Out” command
For Progression 1 and to teach Buddy to leave, use food or an object, like a stick or a toy. To teach him where to go, use a box, made from PVC pipe, that’s commensurate to the size of the dog. Then put the box in front of a barrier, such as a section of fencing or the side of a house.
1. Get your dog used to the box by heeling him into the box and then calling him into it.
3. With Buddy on leash, show him a treat and say “Out” as both of you go into the box.
4. Place the treat on the target and let him pick it up. Praise, encourage him to turn around in the box, and release backward.
5. Repeat until Buddy is comfortable with going into and turning in the box.
6. Leave Buddy in a Sit-Stay ten feet in front of the target, let him see you place a treat on the target, go back to Heel position, and send him with “Buddy, out.”
You may signal him at the same time with your left hand in the direction you want him to go.
7. When he gets to the target, let him take the treat, praise, and call him back.
With each successive repetition, increase the distance to the target by two feet until you’re 75 feet from the target. Repeat at that distance 50 times over the course of several sessions.
Teaching the Go-Out is pure target training with the addition of the box so that the dog knows where to sit.
Now you’re ready for Progression 2:
1. Remove the target.
2. Leave Buddy in a Sit-Stay ten feet from the barrier, go into the box, face your dog, point to the ground, and go back to Heel position.
3. Send your dog and, after he has left, quietly follow him so that when he gets to the spot you indicated, you’re in front of the box.
4. Say “Buddy, sit,” using the “Sit” hand signal and a step forward to make him sit in place.
5. Reward him with a treat, held in the hand that gave the signal.
From now on, Buddy is only rewarded for going to the designated spot, and he has to learn that the reward comes from you. If your dog has difficulty catching on, don’t hesitate to reintroduce the target on a random basis.
With each successive repetition, increase the distance to the target by two feet until you’re 75 feet from the target. Repeat at that distance 50 times over the course of several sessions.
The Obedience Regulations don’t specify the commands you have to use, and the commands don’t have to be in English. But excessively loud commands, as in yelling at the dog, aren’t permitted.
During this progression, Buddy learns to turn and sit in the box. Continue to follow him and use the step and signal so he understands that you want him to turn and sit immediately. The step and signal prevent him from getting into the habit of taking several steps toward you, which you don’t want.
So what do you do if Buddy doesn’t leave or only goes part of the way? Without saying anything, slowly approach him, put two fingers of your left hand through the collar (back to front, palm facing you, at the side of his neck), and take him to the spot you indicated. Reinforce with “Sit,” let go, give him a treat, and release. Send him again.
Now for Progression 3 — sending your dog two times in a row:
1. Leave Buddy in a Sit-Stay, go into the box, point to the spot, and go back to Heel position.
2. Send him and, when he gets to the spot, say “Buddy, sit.”
3. Praise, count to five, release, and call him back to you.
4. Line him up at Heel position and send him again.
5. When he gets there, have him sit; then go to him, praise, reward, and release.
Repeat this sequence 50 times.
If he doesn’t leave you or doesn’t go to the designated spot, show him where you want him to go. To keep your dog motivated, frequently reintroduce the target with a treat.
Introduce distractions as you have for previous exercises by having the distracter first stand midway between you and the designated spot, two feet from Buddy’s line of travel and then two feet from the designated spot. Work your way through first, second, and third degree distractions. If Buddy veers away from the distracter, use two distracters, starting at eight feet apart, and teach him to go straight through.
Teaching Buddy Directed Jumping
Progression 1 is to introduce your dog to the bar jump:
1. Set the bar jump at teaching height (the height of your dog at the elbows).
2. Walk your dog up to the jump, on leash (dead ring), and touch the bar with your left hand.
3. Let him investigate the jump.
4. Start from ten feet away, say “Bar,” and briskly walk toward the jump.
5. Let him jump as you go over with him or around the jump.
Repeat until he jumps without any hesitation.
Progression 2 is to introduce your dog to direction:
1. Set up the high and the bar jumps at teaching height, 18 feet apart.
2. Place your target ten feet from the center of the high jump.
3. Leave your dog in a Sit-Stay facing the high jump.
4. Go over the jump to the target and place a treat on the target.
5. Stand two feet behind the target facing your dog.
6. Say “Jump” and give the signal by bringing your arm up from your side, shoulder height, pointed toward the jump.
Buddy should go over the jump to reach the target and his treat.
7. Praise and release.
8. Repeat the exercise for the bar jump, saying “Bar.”
You can now begin to work your way to the center position — 20 feet from the jumps and centered between them. Position Buddy facing the stanchion of the high/bar jump. Go over the jump and position yourself facing the same stanchion from the other side. Send Buddy to the target, praise, and release.
Gradually work your way back and to the center until both you and Buddy are 20 feet from the jumps, facing each other at opposite ends in the center. You always need to be in the mirror position to Buddy. Always step over the jump and place your treat. Then test Buddy’s understanding by eliminating the target.
Begin raising the jumps in two- or four-inch increments, depending on your dog’s size. Difficulties with jumping are never disciplinary. If your dog is having a problem with a jump, he’s trying to tell you something. Listen to him.
Putting it all together
You’re ready to combine the Go-Out with Directed Jumping:
1. Put your box in front of the fence.
2. Leave Buddy midway between the two jumps.
3. Go to the box and point to the spot where you want him to go.
4. Return to Heel position, send him to the box, and tell him to sit and stay.
Buddy remains in the box for the Sit-Stay.
5. Go back to the spot from which you are ultimately going to send him, that is, 20 feet from the centerline between the jumps.
6. Give the command and signal to jump.
7. Praise as he lands and release.
Repeat the exercise for the other jump.
Now start with Buddy at Heel position, two feet back from the centerline between the jumps, and follow the same procedure. Repeat in two-foot increments until you stand at the appropriate spot for the exercise before sending your dog. This procedure is a precaution for the first few times you put the Go-Out together with the Directed Jumping. It should prevent Buddy from coming up with the idea (as he otherwise might) that he has to jump on the way out.
After every two Go-Outs, reinforce that exercise with five repetitions into the box. Reward the first, third, and fifth with a treat.
Give your dog a chance to work out on his own what it is you want. Before you jump in to help him, see what he does. He may surprise you. Be patient and keep your mouth shut.
What if Buddy makes a mistake and goes over the wrong jump? Try letting him work it out. Maintain your signal and wait. The response you want to see is Buddy going back into or near the box without any help or command from you. When he does, lower your arm, tell him to sit, and repeat the signal.
Suppose that Buddy does nothing and just sits in front of you not knowing what to do. Give him a chance until you’re absolutely certain that he has stopped trying. Then take him back to where he started, leave him, return, and send him again.
Seeing a dog have the Aha! response — Buddy shows you that the penny has dropped and he’s figured out what you want — is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of dog training. To get there, you must never discourage your dog from trying, even if the response is incorrect. Permit and encourage your dog to solve these training problems, and you’ll have a motivated student.
by Jack and Wendy Volhard