Week 1 of the Agility Course

Forward Focus

In week 1 we kick off by introducing some of the key equipment and commands by training some straight runs over jumps and tunnels

Plus, settle dogs  down in their new surroundings using Place Boards for your sit-stays to get a valuable head start at the start line and optimum angle onto the jumps!

The first lesson plan is designed to start with straight lines to teach your dog to be confident approaching the key equipment, but also so your dog learns the default is to take an obstacle if it’s in front of them and not go around (or under if it’s a jump!).

This builds independence, gains you time, and saves you breath as you only have to give verbal cues for the steering and equipment as your agility progresses!


Doggy Dictionary: 

In our first class, we will be teaching the following cues: 

  • "Go" = Run out ahead.
  • "Tunnel" = Go in the tunnel entrance and all the way through.
  • "Place" = Go onto the platform and into a sit.
  • "OK" = Release cue (can get up out of a sit).


How week 1’s session works:

A detailed breakdown for those who want one. (Homework at the end)


Week 1 Infographic how we introduce the jumps and train the GO cue
  • With 2 jump wings 5-10 paces apart, poles start on the ground so the dog can get a successful rehearsal of running a straight line.
  • Wing 2 is the first we raise into a jump, so that the dog can get a run up, followed by wing 1 so your dog is now jumping two hurdles.
  • Being slowly raised avoids your dog ducking under, learning to dodge jumps and going the long way around plus gently conditions muscles for the exercise.
  • Saying “go” as you release the dog down the line teaches them that when they hear you say that it is a cue for them to run straight, and ahead of you.
  • A valuable cue to learn to get them over the finish line of an agility course as they often end with a straight sprint!

     ADW's dog Thea jumping down the line



    Week 1 infographic, how we introduce the tunnel

    • I will concertina the tunnel making it shorter to build confidence and extend it progressively with each success.
    • Even if your dog is happy running it, these stages are deliberately layered progressively to get the foundations right. 
    • We want your dog to learn a word that means go to the entrance and all the way through (even from a distance or angle). Saying “tunnel” as you release them through, teaches them this.


    Start Line Sit-Stay

    With a ratio of up to 5 dogs to 1 trainer attendees are given plenty of agility time and advice; while you wait, you will be given stages of an obedience exercise as I introduce training Platforms, called Place Boards using our signature T.A.R.G.E.T method to practice. 

    Woodford’s Mum described it as running like clockwork when she left this lovely review

     Woodford's Review

    This is him in action 👇

    Woodford the red Labrador jumping


    Combining skills

    We will finish as a group running a short sequence pulling all that you've learnt together. 


    How to practice dog agility at home: 

    While not everyone has an agility setup at home, there are certainly elements that can be practiced in between class:

    Firstly, because in agility you will handle your dog on your left and right, this week on their walks, have them on both sides. I find the easiest way to naturally integrate this into my walks, is to walk my dog on the inside, away from the traffic and as I cross a road, pop her on the other side.

    The T.A.R.G.E.T steps you have been introduced to don’t have to just be repeated on a Place Board, it is effective to use a mat as well. You can get a free resource to remind you of the 6 stages of this training here:


    To add “go” practice to your T.A.R.G.E.T work, you can walk out, put a bowl down 5 paces in front of your dog, return to their side, say “go”; this drill reinforces that when your dog hears go, that means run out straight from your side.

    Join the Pack: 

    If you haven’t already, you might like to join our other training members in the Private Facebook Group for Anglian Dog Works. 

    Along with general updates, I will also be using this group to share any photos taken during sessions and would love for you to share your success in the form of stories, photos and videos too. Posts are only visible to other members of the group (The Training Team & I love to see them too!).


    Bonus material: 

    If you want to get started with Place Board training, or, are interested in getting some new ideas have a listen to a conversation I had with Ellen from The Urban Herder (a Collie & Herding Breed Specialist) packed with useful tips and inspiration about Place Board uses!

    Members can access this bonus audio inside the private Facebook group [GO TO GROUP]

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    About the author: Hi 👋 I’m Emma, accredited as a professional dog trainer by the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT). I help owners of energetic dogs achieve the dog-owning life they envisioned by providing robust obedience & agility training for dogs across my two venues in Balsham and Barton, near Cambridge.

    Disclaimer: The content of this article does not include personalised advice and is for information purposes only. If you need individual advice or other enquiries please click here to get in contact or if you're not local to Anglian Dog Works, you can find a trainer in your area by going to the IMDT website: https://www.imdt.uk.com/find-a-qualified-imdt-trainer

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