The Agility Dogwalk: How to Train
This is not one of the hardest to train. That is not to say there aren’t components that can cause some difficulty.
To puppy, the toughest aspect to conquer in training this, is to develop in him the confidence necessary to cross the plank. Sure, you can try to muscle him, dragging him kicking and screaming (literally or figuratively) across the plank, but really is that the way you want to go? You may win that battle, but as far as most would be concerned, you lost the war. Plus it should be apparent that by stressing out your puppy, he is hardly going to want to play any agility games at all. And who could blame him?
Fortunately, there is a gentler method that is good for puppy and good for you. What better item to use to create confidence and motivation than food?
First, lower the plank. To ask puppy to walk over empty space in mid-air, on a board, is hardly a natural action. This would stress me out, (I hate heights) why would it not scare puppy?
Now, with the plank nice and low, put some of puppy’s favorite (tiny little) treats in a nice closely spaced line across the board, like you were leaving a trail, (which you are) but it is for puppy to follow. And follow he should, but if he gets spooked and scared and wants to quit and get off the plank, don’t push him. Let him quit. You can always try again, or if he is really scared, let him chill and go back later. Like people, any positive little steps to conquer a fear, will eventually bring you to the place you want to be. So don’t rush him. You have nothing to win and plenty to lose by pushing the envelope.
Now of course we have to get the plank up higher, and higher we will. But as with all training, raising is done in small slices, not big chunks. And of course we are not going to skimp out on our trail of treats as the board gets higher. Actually, if you can up the ante to a high value treat as we get higher, that would be a good idea.
What is going to happen next is something you are going to have to decide. It should not be a tough decision. You need to recognize when puppy is ready to lose some of his bribe. Up to now, the treats have been lined up and close together, which served a purpose. It was to keep puppy’s head down and focused on something other than where he was. But now we are going to be stretching those treats out along that line, so that now puppy needs to walk a few steps on his own to get to the next treat. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how far to space the treats. I don’t know puppy’s confidence level or if puppy is a Toy Poodle or a Shepard. But common sense should prevail in making that decision. Just keep spreading them out farther and farther until there is only one treat left at the end, and that treat you click, treat, and praise.
In a previous article on training the teeter board, I did discuss a couple of strategies to help eliminate the nasty problem of the yellow (or whatever color). May I suggest that you go over that article if you feel that contact zones are an issue, in need of addressing?
As a side note, I will have in the near future an entire article, dedicated to beating those nasty contact zones.