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Unleashing the Velcro Dog

 Training your agility dog to love working at a distance

By Jane Simmons-Moake
Reviewed by Rosie Cavill

Description: The book aims to help you train your dog to work away from you rather than just running at your ankle. The title suggests that the book is aimed at those dogs who are already competing and already trained to do all the equipment, but it is equally applicable to those with a puppy that they want to train to work away from the outset.

      Chapters include:-

  • Tools & Concepts

  • Tunnels at a Distance

  • Jumps at a Distance

  • Contact Obstacles at a Distance

  • The Pause Table at a Distance

  • Weave Poles at a Distance

  • Sequencing Using Lateral Distance

  • Learning to Love Layering

  • Lateral Distance Through Circle Training

  • Lateral Pushing Through the Out Command

  • Again at a Distance

  • Contact/Tunnel Flips at a Distance

  • More Fun With Concentric Circles

  • Linear-Distance Skills

  • Combining Flips & Layering

  • Distance Racetracks

  • Pinwheels at a Distance

  • Getting the Opposite End of the Tunnel at a Distance

  • Driving Ahead After Tunnels

  • Putting It All Together.

Best Features: The first dog I trained loves to work with me and is reluctant to do anything without me. Whilst usually I can get in front of her, I wanted to develop her to be confident to be able to go away from me. There are also people whom I train with who are having problems with quick dogs lacking the confidence to work away and I felt that I had a good opportunity to put the book to the test.  Once I had the book I realised that as well as working alongside the dogs who know all the equipment I could use it with a puppy class and set good confident foundations for young dogs to learn to work away.

The book provides a structured approach to developing distance handling. The first few chapters cover the basics from introduction to equipment and terminology to starting out exercises with 1 jump and tunnel and logically progressing through with each chapter providing the next step up to the final chapter called Putting it all together.'

I found that the structure of the book was extremely useful Ė there was a clear progression through on a chapter by chapter basis Ė a training session could incorporate one or two chapters depending on the dog and to keep a variety in the training.  There were plenty of diagrams and photographs to assist with understanding the aims and directions for each sequence. There were plenty of diagrams and photographs to assist with understanding the aims and directions for each sequence. 

The book focused on positive training methods and use of encouragement to give the dog confidence to work away from you.

Could be improved: Although the title of the book implied that the aim was to encourage the 'clingy' dog to work away I did feel that perhaps the emphasis more suited initial training with young dogs.

Format: There were plenty of plans and layouts which illustrated the dog and handler path and were extremely clear and  useful.  These were interspersed with short paragraphs explaining the exercise and provided greater clarity and understanding. Hardback 224 pages. 185 x 250mm.

Overall Rating: Overall I would rate the book as 7/ 10.  Many of the exercises are those that experienced agility handlers would already train and some of it was stating in print what I have already come across with other trainers. For a less experienced competitor or a person who has limited access to outside training wanting to encourage a dog to work ahead and needing some assistance, it is a really useful and informative book.

Price: £19.99 plus P&P. Available from Agility Warehouse

Value for Money: I do think that the book represents value of money as for less than the price of a training workshop with a top handler - usually £25 or more - you can get good advice on some structure and foundations to encourage your dog to work away from you.


About the Author
Jane Simmons-Moake is one of the world's foremost agility trainers. A top-winning competitor, veteran judge and award-winning author, she runs of the most successful agility training organisations in The States, FlashPaws ATC in Houston, Texas.

A popular seminar leader in the USA and abroad, Jane has also competed internationally as a member of the 1996 and 1997 US World Championship Agility Teams.

Her unique background combines over 15 years of competitive dog training success in a wide variety of dog sports with M.S. and Ed. S.  degrees in Instructional Technology - the study of designing training programs that really work.


About The Reviewer
Rosie Cavill has been involved in agility since 2003 when she discovered that small dogs could do agility, too!  As most people do, she started with one dog, caught the bug, introduced her husband to it, and now they run five dogs between them. She handles three cocker spaniels including Ellie, the tiniest spaniel in the world, at Grade 6, Spice, who qualified for the Europeans in 2008, at Grade 7 and her older Medium boy Charlie at Grade 5. She has just started to run her husbandís kelpie, Miah, at Grade 3 which has introduced me to the world of big dogs!

Outside of agility - is there life outside agility - she is a 'boring old accountant' in the NHS but she fill almost all her time walking, training agility in South Wales and being trained as, when and where she can find it!


DogWorld (July 2008) review...
The name Jane Simmons-Moake is virtually synonymous with agility training as is her legendary FlashPaws Training Center. A former member of the US World Championship Agility Team, she possesses credentials that speak for themselves. Her latest offering is a treasure trove of tricks and techniques to perfect your dogís distance work. Most dogs love agility, and with a little training, almost any dog can manage a respectable performance. Creating a superstar is another story. As the old saying goes, the devil is in the details.

Simmons-Moake points out that distance handling is required for a few classes, but thatís the exception rather than the rule. On the other hand, it can provide a decisive competitive advantage on almost any course. It alleviates the problem of handlers trying to keep pace with their dogs Ė one of the most common reasons for slow times. It also allows far more creative ring strategy, something that isnít possible if your dog will only run or take direction when you are three inches away. She also presents some great homemade training tools. In addition to being clever, they are simple and economical to make. I immediately thought of millions of other training situations where they would prove quite handy.

Although she stresses the importance of foundation training, she has plenty of advice on revising bad habits and teaching reluctant dogs to work ahead of their handlers. Abundant photos, diagrams, and notations accompany each chapter.  Beginning with the tunnel, she gives step-by-step instructions on sending a dog to each obstacle from any angle. This material may not be easily accessible to novices, but itís an excellent reference for serious competitors. And thatís precisely how the book is designed, with plenty of room in the margins for notes and a sturdy binding that will stand up to years of rereading.