“Sequencing” means completing two or more obstacles in a row. The term “run-through” is used for a practice run on a full course. Helping your dog learn the fine points and particulars of running an agility course is done by designing specific sequences to expose the dog to all of the tricky elements, two at a time, three at a time and so on, gradually putting it all together.
Sequencing helps build confidence, stamina and mental sharpness. For beginner dogs, sequences are the building blocks of course running. For experienced dogs, sequencing is the best way to set up specific challenges for extra practice.
Start dogs sequencing early in their agility training. As your dog’s ability develops with individual agility obstacles, sooner or later he’ll be ready to go from one obstacle to another before being rewarded. Don’t wait until your dog is able to do all obstacles at regulation difficulty before beginning sequencing.
Begin with two of his favorite pieces of agility equipment, keeping it simple at first. You could use a lowered A-frame and dog walk, for example. Design initial sequences that will introduce your dog to the feeling of completing one obstacle after another without his having to think about whether he can handle any particular obstacle you include.
A good first sequence consists of an open tunnel followed by a low jump. Since your dog expects you to play with him when he exits the tunnel, he may trip you up as you move on to the jump, he may slow down before the jump or he may appear to be refusing the jump. It’s different from the pattern he’s used to, so don’t be upset if he balks. Coaxing your dog to continue on to the jump and using a strong reward upon completion of sequencing will be all it takes to accustom him to this new idea.
Once he understands, he will speed up through the tunnel because to him the jump will now represent completion of the task. That’s the kind of thinking you want in agility. Next move up to three obstacles by running a sequence of jump, tunnel, jump; reward him big after the last jump. Once your dog understands the idea of sequencing, his performance will accelerate as long as you remain cheerful regardless of mistakes. When your dog realizes that the second obstacle, not the first, marks the completion of the task, he will rush to perform it. Soon he will be a sequencing master, running through three and four obstacles, then five and six, etc. You are on your way!
Excerpt from the book Enjoying Dog Agility by Julie Daniels with permission from its publisher, Kennel Club Books, an imprint of BowTie Press. Purchase Enjoying Dog Agility here.