Agility Class: Obstacle Discrimination

By Jeff | Oct. 26, 2014

This past Friday, we took Nova to a new agility class and had a great time! Since it was at a new location, we didn’t have very high hopes for Nova so we set the bar low for what we would consider a success. Nova did better than we could ever expect. She only ran away once, but she was very confused about what was being asked and she was caught quickly by another trainer.

The class was kind of large so it was split into two groups: a “beginner” intermediate section and “advanced” intermediate section. I was all ready to move over to the beginner section, but the instructor told us to stay on the advanced section since Nova already knew most of the obstacles.

Our focus this week was on “obstacle discrimination” and specifically when the obstacles are very close together. The course diagram above shows the first three obstacles and then the three “options” a dog might have for the fourth obstacle. Descriptions of how we tackled each option as well as video from the course after the break!

Option 1: Far side tunnel entry

The first option at the end is the tunnel entry just past the dog walk. The idea behind this one is to keep moving forward so your dog doesn’t pull away before the tunnel. Fortunately for us (and everyone else in the class), all our dogs love tunnels so this one was pretty easy. Nova had only seen a triple-jump a few times before though so she kept pulling off of it and I had to make extra sure she was committed.

Far side tunnel entry

Option 2: Other tunnel entry

Getting to the other side of the tunnel was a bit tricker. One option is to pull away early enough from the jump that your dog turns and passes the dog walk. Since your dog is on your right, you use your left hand to signal the dog into the tunnel. This last part is crucial because you don’t want your dog to learn to “flick” off of you since this can cause confusion if you ever use your right hand to send your dog forward.

Another option is to do a front cross and then send your dog into the tunnel from your left. The tricky part here for Nova was that I had to be close enough to the triple-jump that she took it, but far enough forward to signal the front cross in time. You can see in the video I’m not entirely successful which is why she veers off in the opposite direction for a moment.

Other tunnel entry

Option 3: Dog Walk

The hardest obstacle choice by far for the whole class was getting our dogs to take the dog walk. To help our dogs not rush through to the tunnel, we slowed down before the triple-jump to help the dog collect to make a turn. Since everybody was still having dogs go to the tunnel, we eventually closed off that entrance, but Nova still wasn’t quite sure what to do. The dog walk is another obstacle she hasn’t seen very much, but I’m sure she’ll get it eventually.

One tip on this option we learned was to make sure to treat your dog as soon as they got on the dog walk to reward choosing the dog walk and not just the completing the dog walk itself. Of course, this only works if your dog notices the treat in front of her instead of just running along the walk.

Dog walk

What do you guys think? Do you have a favorite way of taking any of the options above or any tips that helped with your dog?