Backyard Training – Keep it Simple!
Many of us have some amount of usable space to practice small exercises at home with our dogs. Even with a number of indoor agility training facilities in our area, I can't emphasize enough how supplementing your “formal” training time with practice at home is so important. The more you can focus on small things (isolating and reinforcing individual skills such as stays, call to heel/hand, timing and placement of cues, etc), the stronger your teamwork will be with your dog. The shorter the exercise, the more often your dog will get reinforced, too! Also, I enjoy the challenge of working small sequences and practicing every single handling option.
It isn't about quantity, but quality. Too often I see a small area just jam-packed with equipment. Is it really necessary to have every single piece of equipment out at once? Even though it is not a backyard, there is a small training facility where I often teach lessons and I have to get there to take off half of the equipment in order to have some breathing room. If you are setting up a training exercise, keep it more realistic to what you might have in competition, even if that means you only have space for 3-4 obstacles. This last weekend at a USDAA trial, we frequently had up to 30′ between some obstacles. Not something we normally practiced in training, but need to.
With that in mind, here is a little drill that fits nicely into a pretty small space. Look at each sequence and figure out how you can work it with all front crosses, all rear crosses or a combination thereof with serps and blind crosses. Also, mirror the sequence so you are balancing the skills off both your left and right side. Even if you have the luxury of a lot more space, don't be tempted to add to this drill. Enjoy the simplicity of it!