“There’s so much you can and should do beyond the agility field”, says Jessica Vanden Langenberg, an agility trainer and competitor from the U.S. She teaches under the name PYRWILD and she’s worked with online students from all over the world. This is, of course, good news for those who don’t have easy access to an agility field.
Build foundations with fun games
By agility beyond the field, Jesi refers to foundation training and proofing skills away from equipment. These are mostly general dog training skills which also play into agility foundations, building engagement and the relationship between a dog and a handler, and as we could read in Martina Mangoli Klimesova’s interview, that is what makes all the difference. As a bonus, you also get a dog which is easy and nice to live with.
Jesi lists the skills that she finds especially important to train and reinforce outside the field:
Left & right turns
“I think these basic skills are very important for any dog and especially important for agility dogs. I practice these skills and play little games with my dogs because they really help them generalise and have powerful basic skills. Agility then puts these skills and games together.”
Incorporate training games to your everyday life
Jesi thinks it’s easiest to just incorporate training games as a part of your everyday life. “It’s somewhat of a way to be a ‘lazy trainer’ when you’re just having fun with your dogs without a formal training session, by doing quick tricks before their meals, games and engagement on your walks, and so on. I like to bring a pocketful of kibble with me on my walks to always reward my dogs’ efforts.”
In addition, training throughout the day, not only in formal training sessions, really builds the relationship between you and your dogs. “It’s all about making games for practicing skills with engagement and obedience fun for the dog.”
Remember to generalise and challenge your dog’s skills to strengthen them
Jesi talks a lot about generalisation: “I like to practice the same things a lot but in different environments, situations and arousal levels. Without generalisation, one ends up in a situation where a dog masters the skills at home, but not outdoors, in a training hall, and so on.”
Jesi encourages handlers to challenge their dog’s skills, step by step of course, so that their self confidence won’t get hurt: “I don’t practice impulse control by babysitting my dog. For a startline stay, for example, I get my dog super excited, stomp my feet, use exciting tones and run away. I know my dog will stay because we’ve practiced this. This kind of training builds impulse control and also drive by making the down-stay very exciting for the dog. It’s like shaping. If it’s hard for the dog, make sure he stays confident and reward his efforts first and add challenge step by step.”
“For engagement, reward the little things and add some energy yourself into your training and play. The biggest tip for this is to have fun! Set your dog up for success and understanding. I think practicing skills so the dog is confident and you are confident is important- making training, agility and life in general more fun for both the dog and handler.”
Training notes, videos and course maps in one place
It’s so great to actually see the development in dog training. By adding all your training notes, videos and course maps in AgiNotes, it’s easy to find also old training data, compare to the current performance and really see what has changed. And the bonus is all the data it gives you.