In the video Listo is showing his understanding of his distance training. Here are some of the skills that he is demonstrating. Obstacle independence, obstacle discrimination, attention to my position, attention to my cues, knowledge of the “get out” command, directional commands and directive jumping. All my students have an opportunity to train their dogs to this level of competency. I say that because all the skills mentioned are included in all my classes. The trick to having a good distance dog is to have confidence in both your own skills and your dog’s. I will break down the skills Listo is exhibiting in a future post. What I want to examine in this post is my handling error. Before I get to that I want to say that having a dog get to the point where doing obstacles is self-rewarding is important when you try to practice distance skills. Also important is to have a created a dog who has a drive to learn and keep trying. That said, as a handler and trainer, I have to be able to notice when my dog needs his ultimate reward. This will encourage that drive my dog has to keep going.
My mistake. If you watch the video without sound you will not notice the mistake. With the sound on you might notice that I actually ask Listo to take the jump. A prime example how important our body language is to the dogs vs. verbal commands. Verbal commands are useful for sure. They are used in abundance in this session. However, position and movement will override verbal almost every time! My point here is that Listo did exactly what I asked him to do based on body language. I did not let this phase me that he didn’t take the jump. Instead I kept him going into the second part of the exercise.
This handling error on my part actually exhibits just how important it is to support the dog’s path through position. When handling distance make sure you are in a position where the dog can either see or sense your location. Dog’s have more than one way to locate you. They can use their sight as well as hearing and smell. Also important to note is that dogs have a wide range of peripheral vision. You can use all these things to your advantage and if you want to be successful at distance handling then this is one very key point!!