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From the Ground Up: Agility Foundation Training for Puppies and Beginner Dogs - Part 2

The second of a multi-part series featuring a chapter from the book, "From the Ground Up: Agility Foundation Training for Puppies and Beginner Dogs."


Swing and Around

You can use these two commands to move your dog from one side to your other side. It comes in so handy in many situations. Here are a few:

  • Start line: Use "swing" or "around" to line the dog up on the start line. How many times have you watched handlers moving all over the place to try to get the dog lined up? In the end they resort to physically placing the dog in the position. With the "swing" or "around" commands, the handler can stand still and the dog can line himself up with no messing around. It is neat, tidy and avoids adding pre-run stress to dog or handler.

  • Snooker: Wouldn't you love to be able to move the dog from one side to the other at a full run when you are trying to get them in between equipment? Use the "swing" or "around" in snooker to help keep the dog focused on you and off the wrong equipment!

  • In place of a blind cross: Use this at the end of contacts or weave poles to have the dog change sides. Rather than running in front of the dog doing a blind cross at the end of the contacts or poles, have the dog do the work and move to the other side of you while you continue running.

  • Line up for contact equipment: I use "swing" or "around" to help my small dogs have a straight approach to the contact equipment after a tunnel. You can cue the dog verbally inside the tunnel to come around you as a post, lining them up for the contact obstacle.

When you teach swing and around think of an obedience finish.

When you teach swing and around think of an obedience finish. The only difference is that the dog will be able to do it in both directions. I use "around" for my dog to move from my right side to my left side, and "swing" to move the dog from my left to my right side.

Stage One: Lure Method

1. Start with your dog in front of you. Put food or toys in both hands.

2. Lure the dog around your right side with your right hand.

3. When the dog is behind your back, show him the food or toy in your left hand and bring him into a sit on your left side, facing the same way you are.

4. Use the lure three times only, and then try without the lure.

Alternate Stage One: Hand Target Method

1. If you have a good hand target, you can put out one hand beside you and slightly back and wait for the nose touch.

2. Drop the other hand beside and slightly behind you and have the dog continue around for the second touch and a cookie.

Stage Two: Name It

1. When you're able to drop the second lure or hand target, add the "around" command.

2. Gradually fade the signal until the dog can do it on a verbal command only.

Stage Three: Train the Other Side

1. Follow the steps in Stages One and Two, only start with the left hand, so the dog passes your left side and ends up on your right side.

2. Name this your "swing" side change.

Stage Four: Side to Side

1. Work until you have your dog doing both "swing" and "around" on a verbal cue, with no body cues or signals.

2. Now, start the dog at your side instead of in front of you. The dog should start in heel position on one side and move behind you to your other side.

Stage Five: Add Motion

1. Walk forward, pause and give your "swing" or "around" command, then walk forward again. Reinforce with food or a tug toy close to you.

2. Walk forward while you give the command to change sides.

3. Try it at a jog.

4. Have the dog do it at a full run.

5. Have the dog change sides in the middle of a full course of the dog's favorite equipment!

6. Once the dog can easily switch back and forth while you run through his favorite equipment without trying to take the equipment, start to release the dog to a piece of equipment now and then. Then use your "close" command to bring the dog back and switch sides again.

This helps the dog learn to transition from handler focus to obstacle focus and back to handler focus quickly and happily. Another end result of teaching these commands is that the dog learns that working in close and not taking equipment can be just as fun and reinforcing as taking equipment. This will eliminate the "my dog wants to work 15 feet away from me all the time" syndrome.

If you're working on this stage with a puppy, do a lot of playing close to you. Then randomize your work by sending him out to a toy and then ask him to stay close for a toy. You could also send out to a tunnel. The puppy will learn early in his training that going out to do the tunnel is fun but so is coming in! Once you name swing and around, never use a hand signal for them. This will become confusing later when you are running with your dog. Always use a verbal cue only.

To read additional parts in this series go to:

This chapter is reprinted with kind permission of Dogwise Publications. Dogwise has provided a discount code for USDAA! Use code USDAA for 10% of this book and others.

Kim Collins has lived with dogs all her life and has been training dogs professionally since 1992. After starting with competitive obedience, Kim quickly discovered the growing sport of agility in 1995. Kim went on to win the 2000 USDAA National Agility Championship with her Shetland Sheepdog, Piper, and three Canadian National Agility Championships, two with Piper and one with her Border Collie, Feyd. Kim has also won seven Regional Agility Championships with three different dogs. Kim and her two Border Collies, Bryn and Feyd, were members of the Agility Association of Canada's 2004 IFCS Canadian World Team and traveled to Valencia, Spain to compete.

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