There’s no time for discussion or debate.
All your information must say the same thing!
Your dog, the canine athlete “star of the show”, moves about an agility course at a rapid pace and needs clear information in a timely manner in order to get on to the ‘next thing’ safely and efficiently. Your job as the navigator is to offer that information in such a way that it’s EASY for your dog to understand what’s supposed to be next.
All too often we hear from a handler coming out of the ring “Why did they do THAT when I told them THIS?” and the answer is almost universally something to do with saying one thing in the verbal cue and showing something completely different with their body language. What you say in the agility ring and what you do while on course cannot be in conflict. That will cause your dog to either stop and question you (“Are you SURE you want me to do that?” is the message conveyed while they spin and bark) … or they’ll simply take it upon themselves to do what you SHOWED them, because dogs communicate visually – not so much with words.
We communicate with our dogs in seven ways. READ MORE HERE.
So if you want your dog to easily move about the course, be clear, consistent, and precise with your body! No mixed messages, no misunderstandings.
Here’s an exercise to demonstrate this principle. When your dog is across the room, across the yard or somewhere far enough away use your verbal recall cue. As they turn toward you and start to come at you, reinforce the verbal recall cue while stepping toward the dog bending in to them, and extending the palm of your hand as if to show them “stop”. Does your dog keep coming unfailingly or do they pull up and hesitate? Most dogs will react to the visual rather than continuing to charge at you.
Handle your dog with great body language that all supports what you want to “tell” them – just as if you are handling without ANY verbal cues!