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Teaching Peek

Take a peek at this handy skill! By Brenna Fender


Have you seen a handler go to the start line and ask her dog to go between her legs and sit facing the agility course? Then the handler walks away to lead out, or even just stands next to the dog to start the run. What's that all about?

That is a cue often known as "peek." Peek offers a handler an easy way to line up a dog precisely at the start of an agility run. There's no wiggling or trying to get the dog to move over a little one way or the other. The handler stands in a way that directs the dog down the exact line that provides the best start for the course and then cues the dog to move into that position.

Peek is also a good behavior to use when warming up a dog or keeping him busy while waiting to go in the ring. Plus, it has applications in other dog sports. Fortunately, it's an easy behavior to teach and dogs seem to like it.


Brenna and Tessa demonstrate "Peek".

Your dog must sit on cue in order to teach peek, although you could modify the behavior so that your dog stands between your legs if for any reason you do not wish to have your dog sit at the start line. The dog could also down in the peek position. 

Get Started

Have your dog stay while you walk just a foot away; then center yourself in front of him with your legs spread about shoulder width apart, adjusting for the size of your dog. If your dog cannot stay on cue at all, get a helper to hold him.

With a treat in your hand, reach through your legs and show your dog that you have something yummy. Move your hands so that your dog comes through your legs as he is following the treat. Feed him when he reaches the right place, with his head just through your legs.

Don't ask your dog to sit or stay at first. Just get him comfortable and happy moving into position. Peek should be fun, so keep things light and happy. It's important to have a stress-free start line behavior.

If your dog already knows how to sit, after a few repetitions, ask your dog to sit in position before giving the treat. Use your release word to allow him to get up. Don't keep him sitting very long at first and don't try to move away from him at this point. If your dog doesn't understand how to sit in this position, help him by luring his nose up with the treat, which will very likely cause his rear to drop into a sitting position.

After your dog is moving into the peek position comfortably, it's time to fade the lure. That means that you will slowly remove the food from the picture so that your dog will peek without the food in front of his nose.

My method of fading a lure is to begin by hiding the food in the hand that I've been using to offer the treat. Usually dogs will follow the hand with the treat in it even if they don't see it (if your dog doesn't, show only a small amount of food through your fingers and gradually show less until your dog follows your fist without seeing any food at all). When the dog follows the closed fist several times, without warning, I lure without any treat in that fist. It will smell like food and the dog will likely follow it. As the dog follows my hand into place, I reward from the other hand. Then I move my hand more quickly and hold it farther away from my dog's nose.

At this point, as the lure is being faded, it's a good time to add a verbal cue and/or hand signal. Start giving your dog the peek cue (you can say "peek" or some other word and/or use a hand signal) before you lure. The lure can be faded and the cue will be all that's needed to get the dog to peek.

There are other ways to teach peek as well, but this way is simple, speedy and has worked well for me in the past.

After teaching your dog to peek with you just in front of him, step slightly to the side. You might need to bring back the lure to help him get into position, but fade it quickly. Ideally, your dog will eventually be able to come into the peek position no matter where he is in relation to your body, and do so from either side. This makes the best use of this handy skill!

Brenna Fender is a freelance writer and is Associate Managing Editor and Special Projects Assistant at Clean Run. She lives in Florida with her husband, two children, three dogs, two rabbits, and a ridiculous number of guppies. You can read her blog (http://laughingattherain.blogspot.com/), buy her stuff (http://www.zazzle.com/0brenna0) or contact her at brennafender@gmail.com.

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