Friday, January 6, 2012


When it comes to training, I'm not big on using a lot of gadgets. They're handy to an extent but A) it's easy to become so dependent on them you can't function if you forget to take them to your training session and B) you eventually have to wean the dog off them.

But there is an exception to every rule and this is it. Keep in mind this is remedial work. If I'd bothered to teach a nice, tight return on retrieves in the first place, I wouldn't be trying to fix it now. Another lesson learned.

In this video, I'm using a small PVC hurdle to work that nice tight turn after the pick up. Phoenix has to jump the hurdle going out to get his glove AND returning to me with the glove. It prevents those big loopy herding dog turns after he picks up the glove, which in turn should make it easier for him to get a nice front.

I initially shaped the over and back behavior by sending him after pieces of cheese. He likes to jump and it didn't take long for him to figure out if he jumped back over the hurdle to me he got another piece of cheese. If he went around it, no cheese. I didn't give him any command at that point. It's like the retrieve over the high but at that point it was NOT a retrieve - it was a jumping and cheese-eating game. 

We'd played this over and back game with a full-sized high jump when he was young so that probably helped him pick up on this version so quickly. You could use full-sized jumps if you wanted to but the little hurdles are handier and can be made out of PVC scraps. There's no magic size, just whatever fits your dog.

I'll keep the hurdles out there for a long time as we work gloves in training. Right now, they're about 2 feet from the glove. As Phoenix shows me he is starting to turn tightly after the pick up, I plan to gradually move the hurdles further and further away from the gloves (closer to me), so their presence isn't such a factor in determining the turn.

Like anything else you re-train, it may take a while for the desired behavior to transfer to the ring. In the meantime, this allows us to practice perfect tight turns every time.

Thanks Michele, for making me a hurdle for each glove! And BIG thanks to Joanne Brettschneider for the initial idea!


  1. I don't know that it would help you at all or not, but since tight turns are a major part of training flyball, I thought I would share one of the methods we have for training the dogs to turn tightly back in line with the jumps (which in flyball means turning in mid air while coming off the jump to land back into the 2' wide lane). It helps dogs that turn wide to use a gutter (just a white vinyl downspout from the hardware store) to whichever side they turn wide towards. It gently suggests to them to move over a bit, and normally works quite well and needs very little effort to fade out. Like I said though, not sure it would work in your situation with obedience or not.

  2. K-Koira - thanks for the idea! I use a similar method (guides) when putting the sit into the go-out. That would be effective w/gloves, too. Phoenix loves to jump (anything!) so the hurdles are kind of a built-in reward for him, as well as ensuring he comes back on a straight line.

  3. I do a direct send for articles, my dog bows a little to wide for my taste as she leaves me. Would either of those work, do you think, to tighten up that turn?

  4. The gutters might be very helpful in getting a tighter turn.

    I send Phoenix directly, also, and the thing that helped him get a nice tight wrap was putting a cookie in the pile, usually at about the 2 o'clock position. He would wrap tight and race out to find his cookie. I used something big and obvious so he didn't have to obsess about finding it before he worked his articles. If there's no cookie, it's obviously not there and he gets right to work on scenting. I probably still put a cookie in the pile 50% of the time.