Hannah offers these tips for adding distance to a behavior:
- Use Pre-measured Visual Markers. Outdoors, I like to use landscaping flags (as used for tracking, since I don’t really do anything resembling landscaping around here!). Washers with a bit of bright colored landscape tape tied on work, too. A friend uses brightly colored clothespins in the same way. Indoors, you can use tape or stickers. Mats often come with really helpful seams or lines that can act as visual markers, but I find that adding a few pieces of tape as insurance helps keep me honest. Before you get your dog out, measure whatever increments are relevant and mark those. Don’t forget to mark where your dog will be (if you are walking away from the dog) or where your target will be (if you are sending the dog away from you).
- Decide What Counts as a Success. Define the behavior. What does a successful rep look like? What does an unsuccessful rep look like? Consider factors like latency and speed. Will you count a rep that is slower or more hesitant than usual as successful? (Hint: The answer here should be no.)
- Keep Good Records! If my goal is to add distance to my dog’s signals and go-outs systematically, I need to know exactly how far we practiced in the previous sessions. That data informs my training plan for the current session. Having that information in one place and at-a-glance is critical. I created a little checklist to help me keep track! The idea is simply to decide in advance what distances each rep will be (I like to alternate easy/hard/easy). Then I get my dog out and do them, checking off if we were successful at each distance. My checklist has a little space for notes so I can jot down anything relevant, especially any specific errors I noticed.
For more great training from Hannah, check out Awesome Obedience: A Positive Training Plan for Competition Success and the new portable companion Awesome Obedience: The Field Guide!