Listo Distance Part 2

Welcome to the second installment of this topic!  Today I will be discussing directional commands.  I decided to test Listo’s understanding of what he knows about his directionals.  What I found out is that they still need work!  Especially when flow sent him directly to a very enticing obstacle.  For Listo this is weave poles or a tunnel.  I guess you would say we are in the proofing stage of his understanding.

When I say directional I am referring to commands such as Left, Right, Get Out, Here and Go On.  Specifically what I was working was his willingness to override momentum and listen to a right or a left.  When we practiced without a course helping his momentum he was fine.  Often you hear handlers say that they practice perfectly or even just better at home.  Often this is because the momentum of a course isn’t involved.  Another reason is that the trial factor has been removed.  I only mention this because the factors are real.  I am not intending to go into that in this post.

The commands that I listed are ones that I use frequently.  There are of course others that can be taught or used.  I will address Left and Right today.  When I teach these commands I keep it as easy as possible for the dog.  I set up so that they want to automatically turn in a specific direction back to me.  I keep the bar low so I can do lots of reps without a lot of physical impact.  I repeat the same turn several times before switching.  Whenever I switch I make sure that I try to set up so the dog clearly thinks about coming back in my direction.  I will also do this when I have just finished challenging the dog’s understanding.  The reason for that is that I want my dog to offer a new turn and not think he is just being challenged to still perform the last turn executed.

The verbal is introduced when you know the dog is going to commit to turning back to you.  This is usually at the landing point.  I use the clicker for this!!  I attempt to make sure I click the proper turn as well as a clean jump.  As my dog learns to commit to turning I will start to say the directional command earlier and earlier.  My command is usually Left or Right plus “Hup”.  Ideally I want to get my timing of this command so that it is said during the stride before they set to take off.  Slightly earlier if possible.  I will at some point drop the “Hup” command.

Once you have applied Left and Right to jumps and your dog begins to understand, (you can say the command and the dog responds with the proper turn) you can apply the directionals to contacts and tunnels!

And we are now at the point where it is applied to course running.  You  want to use the commands when you are using your physical cues.  This will help you learn to say them!  I know a lot of people say they are so bad at left and right commands.  I was too!!  But the more I used it the more successful I was in implementing them correctly on course.  During your course walk through you can say the turns in your mind so that you are actively thinking about them.  Doesn’t matter if you are intending to use them or not!!  As always when you are teaching verbals make sure you are not always set up the same way.  This way the dog doesn’t associate the verbal with a particular body position that you use.  My next post will be about the “Get Out” and “Here” command.  This post will not only talk about those commands but how our dogs respond to pressure on their path.