Teaching handler-dog distance
David is competing in his first FAST (Fifteen and Send Time) class with his 4-year-old dog, Katie. He runs the first half of the course flawlessly, Katie taking each obstacle as cued. When he approaches the Send line, David cues her to "Go Jump, Go, Go, Go," being mindful not to cross the handler line. Katie starts to leave David's side and then abruptly jams on the brakes as she realizes he's no longer next to her. She turns back toward David who emphatically cues "Go, Get Out" and gestures to the obstacles now behind Katie. Katie stands her ground, looks at him quizzically, and starts barking. David yells louder, his gestures becoming increasingly frenetic. Katie looks to the left and to the right, trying to interpret what he wants. Finally almost as if in desperation, she flings herself over a jump just a couple of feet away from David. He throws his hands in the air, exasperated.
Several things could be hampering David's attempts to get Katie to work away from him. The most obvious is that David may not have invested additional training in teaching Katie clear cues to work at a distance. But it could also be one of these:
Conflicts with foundation training. When distance is not trained as a foundation skill, it can be difficult to teach dogs later that it's okay to work at a distance.
The dog's lack of confidence. Some dogs are less bold than others and take more encouragement and training to work away from us. Without extra focus on distance training, these dogs becoming "Velcro dogs."
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