The trick to teaching Utility is breaking each exercise into lots of little parts until the dog gains understanding, then slowly start combining them to minimize the number of pieces.
Directed Jumping, for example, can be broken up into 1) the go-out, 2) the turn-and-sit, 3) taking verbal direction, 4) taking direction by signal, 5) jumping, and 6) the fronts and finishes. If you tackle these things one at a time, directed jumping as a whole becomes much less daunting to the green dog (and to the handler with a green dog!).
Diesel has been doing just that. Now that he has a decent understanding of these exercises, about once a week we put some of the pieces together and and instead of practicing the six parts of directed jumping, we use the six exercises to work on directed jumping.
There are benefits to approaching the exercise in these two ways. Practicing the pieces together allows Diesel to see how each piece is essential in the big picture. It also lets me see how he is progressing in the training. Practicing the pieces separately lets him perfect all the components of the exercise for a stronger and more reliable finished product.
Below is a video of our most recent attempt at working with fewer pieces. The angle is a little odd, but at least he stays in-frame for the whole video.
After reviewing this test, we can create a working list for our Directed Jumping pieces.
1) The Go-Out. He is almost at full distance, but he needs the reinforcement of a completed retrieve often to keep him going straight. This will go away with more practice.
2) The Turn-and-Sit. This is our least practiced piece, and you can tell because my timing sucks and I sat him after he got a target twice in the video. He does sit when asked, but doesn’t turn all the way around to sit straight which would be nice. Needs more practice.
3&4) Taking Direction. We have not separated the verbal and signal cues and he is pretty far from us doing so. Once he will take direction with both cues with me standing in the middle of the two jumps and not running… then we will re-teach with one then the other.
5) Jumping. He is jumping 26″ inches now and needs a ground pole to prevent ticking the jump. I am hoping with more experience he will better gauge the jump and stop ticking it when there is no ground pole present. Full height for him will be 28″ so he has 2 more inches to go before being at ring height.
6) Fronts & Finishes. When will we be finished working on fronts and finishes? Never.