When training an exercise for competition obedience you must keep the end goal in mind. If you train haphazardly or in a manner that does not work toward the end goal you may find yourself retraining the whole exercise or repairing the broken parts.
Think through the exercise and break it down into pieces so that it is more easily trained. You can work on several elements of the exercise at the same time bringing them all together once the dog understands each part. Do not teach the dog an element that does not fit the end goal which could cause confusion in the dog or possibly make the dog unreliable on the finished product.
Let’s take the directed jumping as an example of breaking an exercise into pieces. The exercise requires the dog to:
A- Focus on a point across the ring.
B- Go to that point at a fast trot or gallop, when commanded, without stopping or slowing down.
C- Turn toward the handler on command and sit without moving forward.
D- Follow direction to the proper jump.
E- Jump the correct jump and return to the handler.
This would be a basic breakdown of the exercise. You could work on each element during a training session without asking the dog to do the exercise in whole. A training session may look like this:
A- Teaching the dog to “mark” a target: Have a helper, if available, place a treat or toy where you want the dog to “mark”. At first this will only be a couple of feet away (you can set the mark yourself if your dog knows the stay or wait command or by tossing the toy or treat several feet in front of you then give your dog the mark). Give the dog the signal and verbal “mark” command as the helper is placing the treat or toy (the helper can attract the dogs attention to the mark by making a noise). Once the dog is looking at the treat or toy release the dog with a “get it” type command. This allows the dog to run to the target to eat the treat or grab the toy. Do this 3-5 times then move to another element.
B- Turn and Sit. Place the dog in a “stand, wait” command and step behind the dog (you will be very close to her rear). Hold your lead in the hand closest to the direction you will be turning the dog (right hand if turning her right, left hand if turning her left). Call the dogs name as you turn the dog towards you then command “sit” as you apply a little upwards pressure on the lead. You will be turning the dog in a tight arc so the dog learns to turn in place and sitting the dog once she is turned 180*. The upwards pressure on the lead reminds the dog to sit and restrains forward motion. Work 3-5 turns and move to the next element.
C- Taking verbal/signal direction to the proper jump: Place the jumps fairly close together (about 2-3 feet apart). Place the dog on a “sit/wait” at a point that is centered between and approximately 6 feet back from the jumps (the dog should be on a long line or flexi for this exercise). Go to the opposite side of the jumps and face the dog (decide which jump the dog will take first and pass your leash over that jump as you move to the far side). Using a lot of body english and your hand signal lean toward the correct jump and command the dog over. Guide the dog towards the correct jump with the lead. Once the dog is over the jump you can either release or call front. Praise the dog then take her back to her sit/wait spot and repeat the exercise using the other jump. I do not send the dog over the same jump twice as this will never be done in the ring so don’t get your dog thinking it may happen. Remember to train with the end goal in mind! You can repeat this sequence 2 or 3 times.
All this training happens in one session. I am teaching the different elements I will need for the total exercise all at the same time. If the dog does not know the basic commands that are needed for the different elements of the exercise make sure you teach those first (sit, wait, sit front on recall etc).