Breaking Down The
Obedience Exercise
by - Dianne Thomas

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Each exercise should be broken down into mini exercises and worked separately until the dog performs each one well, then you are ready to put it all together.

For instance, never add a front finish too your recall exercise, until the dog fully understands a front and a finish. Be sure to do lots of motivational recalls without fronts to keep speed in the recall.

Lets analyze the retrieve on the flat from the open level as an example. The dog goes out smartly, does a nice pick up, comes back smartly, but does a poor front. Your first reaction will probably be to correct the front. What about the rest of the exercise that the dog did so well?

The dog doesnít know which part of the exercise displeased you. He is probably thinking, I ran out and picked up the dumbbell as fast as I could and brought it back so why is he/she annoyed with me?

Has your dog ever gone out to the dumbbell and stood there looking at you, or picked it up and seemed confused as to what to do next? There may very well be a reason for this behavior, a problem created by you the handler.

When I think of this particular exercise, 7 mini exercises come to mind.

1. The wait until handler sends the dog upon judges instruction.
2. Go smartly to the dumbbell.
3. A nice fast pickup.
4. Return smartly to handler with dumbbell
5. A front.
6. Release dumbbell to handler on command without dropping it.
7.A finish.

As each mini exercise is worked, the dog can be praised or corrected accordingly. If my dog did this exercise well, but when coming in to front, it looked like it was going to be crooked, I would break off the exercise before the dog sat, and praise for a job well done. Then work fronts with dumbbell in the mouth separately.

I had a call recently from a lady I met in Niagara Falls at the Rainbow Classic in 1991. She also trains Shih Tzu and we have kept in touch since that time.

She is training one of her dogs for Canadian utility. She lives in the United States and some of their utility exercises are quite different from ours. She was having a problem with the seek back exercise so she called me for help. I asked her what she was doing. She said she heels around with the dog and drops the glove, but the dog doesnít look for it and doesnít seem to understand what he is supposed to do.

First, she should start by teaching the dog to hold the glove in its mouth. The next step is to toss the glove and have the dog retrieve it. Just because the dog knows how to retrieve a dumbbell, doesnít mean he knows how to retrieve a glove. If the dog is retrieving the glove from a toss with no problems, have someone put the glove 8 to 10 feet in front of the dog and when heís not looking, then send the dog. If he doesnít know what to do, show him by walking out with him and showing him the glove. When you are ready to put some heeling to this exercise, drop the glove a few feet from the point which you will be sending the dog. Gradually start to drop it farther from the sending point, then in the corners and close to the jumps. Donít forget to practice some fronts with the glove in the dogs mouth.

Remember when teaching an exercise, break it down into mini exercises. If you are having a problem after you put the whole exercise together, donít be afraid to go back and work the mini exercises separately.


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