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Wing work is a hugely important part of foundation training as it teaches dogs to turn tightly. The ability to decelerate, bend around a wing, and then accelerate to the next obstacle allows for fast, fluid movement which will save precious time on an agility course. In an exclusive extract, Connie Sellers, author of Foundation Fun & Games, focuses on wing wraps and associated handling moves.

Long before you start tackling equipment or running courses, you can take the vital first steps to launch your dog’s agility career. If you get it right from day one, shaping his mental attitude and honing his skills, you could be nurturing the star of tomorrow.

The temptation is to practise wing wraps on jumps at low height, as this appears to be low impact in terms of physical demands on a young puppy. But this involves two different skills – turning and jumping – so in terms of physical impact, and mental pressure, it is best to focus on wing work as a separate skill before introducing the element of jumping.

As a guideline, wing work can be introduced on an occasional basis when a pup is around 8-10 months of age and increased gradually as he matures. The combination of jumping and wing wrapping should be introduced from around 14 months.

Getting started
To teach wings wraps you can use a jump wing, a barrel a cone, or any other object your dog can wrap around. In the following games, I will refer to jump wings. For safety’s sake, make sure you remove jump cups before using the wings.

When I start training wraps, I use treats which allows for better control and understanding, and then move on to using a toy as a reward when learning is established.

Introducing the obstacle
When I introduce wing work, I start with a front cross and use a mixture of luring and shaping.2

How to play

  1. The handler starts with the dog on the left hand-side, standing in front of the jump wing.
  2. The handler waits for the dog to offer a move in the direction of the wing.
  3. If the dog takes a step towards the wing, the handler rewards him by dropping a treat (from the right hand) on the right side of the wing, which encourages him to move in a clockwise direction around the wing.
  4. Work on this, with the handler dropping treats further round the jump wing until the dog is confidently wrapping around it. At this stage the handler can introduce a verbal cue, such as "check".
  5. Repeat, with the dog on the right side, wrapping round the wing in an anti-clockwise direction. You can use the same verbal cue – "check" – as the dog is still wrapping round a wing, or you may prefer to introduce a different cue for an anti-clockwise wrap, e.g. 'wrap.'

Send the dog round the wing in a clockwise direction.

Place the reward at the wing for the dog to find
as he completes his wing wrap.

You are now ready to introduce the toy as a reward, which will increase speed. Remember to reward from your right hand for anti-clockwise wraps as you complete the front cross so you are not luring the dog around the wing with his toy.

For this game, it works best if you work on both sides – left and right – in the first session. This keeps it even in terms of the dog’s physicality, and ensures that he does not favour one side over another.

At a distance
You are now ready to increase the distance you are sending your dog to wrap around the wing. Do this gradually so your dog learns to find the wing independently.

How to play

  1. The handler sets up the dog on the left side, half a metre (less than 2ft) from the jump wing.
  2. Using the left drive arm, and the verbal cue "check", the handler sends the dog to the wing and starts to rotate to the left.
  1. As soon as the dog has completed the wrap, the handler picks him up on the right and throws the toy to reward him at the wing.
  2. The handler can increase the distance from the jump wing by half a metre each time the dog completes the move successfully.
  3. To assist learning, the handler can take one step in with the left leg to mark the obstacle, and use the left drive arm.
  4. Turn the wing around, and repeat. This time the dog is on the right side. The handler uses the right drive arm, picks up on the left and rewards at the wing.

Do not be in too much of a hurry to increase distance. You want your dog to be confident and successful as he works away from you. This will pay great dividends later on when you are on an agility course.

Moving off
This game teaches your dog to commit to the wing even though you are moving off. This is invaluable as it means you can leave your dog to complete a tight turn while you head off to the next obstacle on the course.

How to play

  1. Starting with the dog (D) on the left side, the handler (H) sends him to the wing, with the verbal cue "check".
  2. As the dog heads off, the handler rotates to the left, and completes the turn before running off to pick up the dog on the right, and giving the reward (R).
  1. The handler can mix up the reward, sometimes rewarding from the hand, and sometimes throwing it back for the dog to pick up as he comes in on the right side.
  2. Repeat on the other side. The handler uses the right drive arm, picks up on the left and rewards at the wing.

WHAT IF... your dog is distracted by your movement and wants to follow you rather than complete his wing wrap?

  1. Decrease the distance you are moving off.
  2. Slow your pace – to a walk if necessary – until your dog gains a fuller understanding.

Making it harder
Imagine a clock face and place the jump wing in the centre.

How to play

  1. The handler (H) stands at 6 o’clock, with the dog (D) on the left, and sends the dog to the wing, with the verbal cue "check".
  2. As the dog heads for the wing, the handler heads for the gap between 9 o’clock and 10 o’clock and gives the reward (R) from the right hand.
  3. Repeat on the other side. The handler (H) stands at 6 o’clock, with the dog (D) on the right side.
  4. The handler sends the dog and heads for the gap between 2 o’clock and 3 o’clock and gives the reward (R) from the left hand.
  5. Remember to vary the reward, sometimes rewarding back at the wing to give it value.

When the dog fully understands his job you can leave him to wrap the wing while you run off to the next handling point.

Note the acceleration as the dog completes a clockwise
wing wrap and drives to the handler – and his reward.

Performance Dog

Foundation Fun & Games is available from Performance Dog

  • Size: 210mmA x 168mm

  • Extent: 176 pages

  •  Binding: Softback with flaps

  • Over 100 photos and diagrams

  • Bonus section of courses

  • Price: £16.99 - post free

About the author...
Connie Sellers
is an agility instructor, a Grade 7 and a Crufts and Olympia finalist. She teaches students at all levels, but especially enjoys working with new partnerships,  young dogs and their handlers to get started in their agility careers.

First published 27th August 2019


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