If you are taking Agility seriously beyond playing in the back yard, then you know that directional cues are needed to help you and your dog attain clean, smooth runs at trials. A directional cue is a command that tells the dog where to go including right, left, out and more. The first step may be easier if you focus on your rights and lefts.
Directing your dog right could bring him back on course if he goes a little too far, or help guide him to the next obstacle. While it may sound difficult to teach a dog his left from his right, it’s actually a quickly learned and easy to train command. If you have ever used a lure in training obsticales, then working on directions will be familiar!
Starting in a low distraction environment, a handful of treats and your dog in front of you, lure him with your right hand to spin him to his left. Once he is facing you, he gets the treat! You don’t need to add a verbal command just yet, first let him get the hang of turning with the lure. As you fade out the lure, using only your empty right hand and providing the treat with your left you can add in “Left!” or whatever verbal command you want. However, when you run an agility course remember that you hand signals sometimes speak louder than your voice!
Teaching the left is just as basic! However, you will lure with your left hand and turn him into his right side. When the lure is faded, you will treat with your right hand while still guiding him with your left. You can work on both directions in the same, short sessions if you like!
As your dog gets more comfortable turning, adding in a small obstacle to the directional training can better proof your dog’s ability to understand what you want from him. Using a cone is easiest, but if you do not have access to one use an object in the same size range. Stand with the between you and the cone. Your dog should be on your left, and on his left stands the cone. Use your left hand to direct him to the left around the cone. Treat him when he circles around it! Repeat going the other way for the right command.
Practice Practice Practice!
Agility is about more than just speed. It is also about precision. Directional cues are just as important to learn as the obstacles themselves. The more you practice and proof your directional commands, the better you and your dog will perform as a team in the ring!