Do You Teach Sequencing?

Jet at the Beach
Jet at the Beach
Jet at the Beach

I am just curious. I’ve heard it time and time again. When teaching a new dog agility, don’t teach sequencing. Start on short sequences not more than about six jumps (or obstacles) in a row.

I don’t understand this and I’ll tell you why. Chase, my BC, is great at short sequences of about six to eight jumps. After that, I lose him.  I can’t keep up with him and my brain starts getting fried.  So all the time I spent in his foundation training just doing very short sequences has, I think, hurt my handling with him.

Plus, I want a dog to realize that when we do agility, we do a long sequence of obstacles. With Tatum… she now starts to poop out on me after about obstacle 8 or 9.  I have been giving her treats as a reward about half way through the course, then we go on. I’ll keep extending the number of obstacles we do slowly, so eventually she’ll just get rewarded at the end of a 12 or 14 obstacle (novice) course.

I understand that when you start any new training skills, like crosses or serpentines, you’ll want to start with short sequences.  So you can give the dog the information he needs in order to learn the skill.  I definitely do that.  But once they understand the skill, I want to put that skill into a longer sequence so they understand that they come up in a long line of obstacles. The skill is not just an isolated event.

Jet has just about gotten his obstacles down. I’m still proofing them, and will do that with short sequences, or the obstacles alone.  But I want to start to compete with him next spring.  And I want him to understand that agility means you do a long line of obstacles in a row, with certain turns and skills stuck in the middle. I want him to learn forward focus for a course-length worth of obstacles.  I don’t want to get stuck with Jet like I have gotten with Chase, unable to really go beyond an 8 or 9 obstacle course!

I know I’m unorthodox in my training. I don’t train a dog to be frantically high for flyball. I teach them to think about that box, get their rear feet up.  I believe that if the dog can learn to do it slow, they can learn to do it fast.  The speed will come later.  Maybe Chase has just corrupted me.  I’ve had to work extra hard to get his focus and attention. To get him to think and listen.  Instead of be so high that he just barrels through courses and knocks bars and doesn’t understand that this really IS a team sport, and he has to listen to me too.

I also think one of the most difficult part of agility is the spaces between the obstacles.  The silence between the notes… I don’t remember where I heard that.  🙂  But handling between obstacles is important too. And putting them in sequence is, for me, a very important skill that I want to get going here pretty soon with Jet.  I don’t want to only practice 6 or 8 obstacle sequences then throw him in a trial that has twice that many.

Oh, and another picture from the beach on this snowy day. LOL

7 thoughts on “Do You Teach Sequencing?”

  1. I will preface my comment by saying I have no idea what I am doing with my dog training. I am on my 1st two dogs and have a buttload to learn.

    But I read all the time that one shouldn’t be doing this or shouldn’t be doing that with young puppies. Heaven forbid if you have a puppy running through jump standards even without a bar on the ground, or start running contacts, and if your pup knows a whole bunch of tricks at a young age you must be skipping out on all the foundation work! Clearly there is no time for anything else if you are spending your time wisely on crate games, recalls, and more crate games!

    In all seriousness, I watch Silvia Trkman working with her young dogs and I am amazed. Great foundational skills and her 6 month old is having a blast doing way more than 5 obstacles. It’s all about making it a game and teaching the dogs that running is fun. I don’t think that most dogs will have a problem if they don’t start sequencing until they are older, so yay for having a weido! But how can it not help the dog to do everything that’s not intensely physical demanding at a young age? Puppies just learn so quickly. If you use playtime as training and dinner as training then I would get bored by imposing a limit on our teamwork to only shadow handling.

    I started longer sequences with Vito earlier on. Not out of any specific plan, just as an inevitabliity as we moved up classes. We’ve done so much shaping that he got things quick and easily learned to follow my body. I would still reward him often on tougher courses, but we also did plenty of longer sequences without a problem. Clearly we are not an ideal model to follow, I screwup on many things as we go along, but I don’t regret starting him on courses pretty early on.

    1. Hi Laura! Your dogs look great from your videos! 🙂 I consider Jet my 3rd dog (I don’t really consider Tatum a full bore agility dog. LOL. We just have fun so she doesn’t count) and with each dog I get a little bit better in training… or so I hope. 🙂

      I love doing lots of puppy work too. I started working with Jet the day I got him (well maybe the week…) He has a ton of foundation work and I think that is so important! My rescue dogs I got as adults missed out on that and it does show. Even though I love them and they still do a great job.

      I haven’t looked at much Silvia Tirkman but I should see what she’s got. I don’t tend to follow just one system. I take what I like from various systems.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I always think it’s good to know what works for you and your pup. While most methods of training have some benefit, not all work for people or dogs. I have seen this of for sure in the reactive training I do with Maizey. And sometimes it is only a part of a method that works.

    So I’m not much help with to sequence or not to sequence, but I think we all have to be “unorthodox trainers” sometimes.LOL

    1. Thanks Katie! Yup I agree, it’s good to do what is best for your dog. I tend to bend to too much peer pressure and think I should do what other people say. LOL. I need to follow my own gut!

  3. Maybe balance in all things is good? I think because I want to really make sure that my dogs have a lot of value and really pay attention and learn signals that is easier to do with shortsequences so that they can be rewarded RIGHT away when they read something really well, and they understand the part that is messing up if they are just not understanding….say if they do a really nice serp, or pinwheel, then go on to some other skill and have trouble then you never get the opportunity to say great job and build confidence by doing an amazing pinwheel because now we have to try to fix the messed up part after the amazing pin wheel. I do try to make sure to throw in some longer speed circles or easier lines to tunnels or tables to insure some good success and get them used to longer areas……I am hoping that using more small sequences where we can really get super fast speed, then when she starts doing longer and longer things she has already learned to do them confidently and fast, although I really think the speed circles with just easy obstacles help. ANYWAY, that is just the theory I am working on now, so we will say what I think in a couple of months!!! And I dont think it takes very long to be working the small sequences I am finding that it is going so fast that I dont think it will be long at all until we are putting them all together, way faster then I would have thought. BUT like I said this is my first dog I am totally following my own plan…so we will see how it all works when we are talking real life and not theory!!!!

    1. PS, sorry to be so long winded but you got me thinking and when I trained Breeze our trainer JUST did VERY short sequences and not many different ones of those, she was my fast dog and she was very ticked because I would not go out and trial, but I kept trying to explain that with a dog twice as fast as any other dog I had, I just did not have any idea how to get in places for sequences…even if I knew how to handle the places once I got there. It took going to other classes where we did longer sequences for me to feel ok because I was still having trouble even visualizing handling a whole course and how does that all work??? LOL, so like Katie says…..I guess a lot depends too on what each trainer/handler/dog team needs at that particular time….I was really ticked only getting short sequences and being told that is all I needed last time for sure, now I really feel that I have different needs…..and I am sure as we go on what needs we have might change a lot too,…….GREAT sUbJECT inspiring a lot of thought on my part, LOL, so sorry for the long windedness but you really made me think!!!

      1. Kathy, thanks for your reply! Yeah I found frustration in classes too where I couldn’t run sequences. The instructor only ran small little drills. Even when my dog was ready to trial. But you have to know how a dog is going to do in a full course before you put them into a trial! 🙂

        I do think balance is good. And I do what you said too. I work parts of courses, and if we have a problem with something, we work on that little bit for a while, then put it back in the full course.

        I had tons of problems with Chase, my BC, running full courses because he was so fast, and after just running short sequences, I had no idea how to get myself into position for the rest of the course. That still hurts us, I think!

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