Similar to training the A-frame. Contacts should be taught from down side first, progressing backwards on the obstacle until the dog is at the beginning of the obstacle. Start with 12" hinged white boards on one of the box frames. This should pose no problem for most dogs. Those accepting this well can move onto the next stage. The crossover with the "table" portion resting on a barrel works as a good next step. Dogs should be shown the down side first working backwards toward the "table" then the up side. It's easier on the dogs if they see where they've been and that there is an end before they see the entire obstacle. (Katie Greer)
Teach the dog walk by doing only the down ramp first; what you can do is set one ramp on an 18" table and another on the 30". Have the dog jump onto the table (not using the "table" command) and walk down. If all goes well with 18", then try the 30". Small dogs can be lifted onto the table if needed. Target the bottom rung and spot both sides. After the dogs are pretty good going down, add another ramp going up. (Usually around the 3rd week). (Barbara Demascio)
To train the dogwalk with a large dog:
Week 1: Dog walks on a dog walk plank laid on the ground with ring gates on either side to keep them from walking off of it. Or use a ladder.
Week 2: Dog walks down a dog walk plank resting against the pause table. Since there is no way to affix the plank to the table, it's very important to have the spotter keep the plank from sliding off the table. Ring gates on both sides of the plank discourage dogs from jumping off the sides. After they master going down (and you should use the targeting method - food on a plate, far enough away from the end of the plank so that the dog stops with its front feet on the floor and its back feet on the plank), have them go up (again to a target on the table).
Week 3: Set up the dog walk using low training legs so that if the dogs fall off, it's less than 2 feet. Start out with the ring gates along the entire width of the dog walk. First, help the dogs onto the down plank; for large dogs, use the pause table as a step. Then, they walk down the plank to the target. Once a dog has mastered getting down, it is placed on the flat part and allowed to go part-way across and own. Keep back-chaining like this until the dog is traversing the entire dog walk on its own. Some dogs master this quickly; some take a little more time.
Week 4: Set up the dog walk at the AKC height and use ring gates only on the up and down. Try to get rid of the ring gates ASAP once a dog is to this point to prevent them from learning to rely on them too much.
Week 5: Dog walk at AKC height, no ring gates or ring gates only for the problem spots.
Week 6: The last week of beginners class, a *very* simple, U-shaped course is run, incorporating the dog walk. Any dog not able to negotiate it is asked to skip it (practice it before running the "course").
This works fine for small dogs, too. And use of ring gates would allow a pooky dog the room it needs while still encouraging it to stay on the equipment.
Teach the down plank of the dog walk first as it is easier to convince a dog to happily get on the equipment if he knows there's an end in sight. This complies nicely with backchaining schemes too. For little dogs this is simple... pick them and put them on the down plank.
With the big dogs the picking up part is not so simple and you have the complicating factor that their hips are as wide as or wider than the planks and dogs don't seem to have a natural reason for knowing/caring where their rear feet are.
With a dog that is very big and obviously foot unsure, lay a dog walk plank flat on the ground and instruct the handler to heel the dog along the plank 2-3 times. The instructor walks on the other side so that the obvious path to the dog is the plank. You can do this with the small dogs too as it only takes a minute or two per dog. The goal is not necessarily to keep the dog on the plank. It may be slightly better for the dog to wander off and on the plank as this provides better tactile feedback as to where his back feet are and it makes the handler fuss less with the dog.
Now you're ready to 'pick' the dog up and put it on the down plank. But since this is not so simple for very big dogs, take the pause table and rest the dog walk planks on it. Command the dog onto the table (which has been previously introduced - if not, it is certainly much easier to put a big dog onto a nice big surface like that rather than a narrow plank). Walk the dog down the plank, instructor/spotter on one side, student on the other. After doing this once or twice, ask the dog to ascend the other plank to the table and then descend the familiar one.
Most dogs will immediately make the transition to the real dog walk within the same lesson from this setup, but if they are especially large or reluctant put the pause table immediately next to the dog walk plank at the point at which the pause table is level with the plank. Then have the dog start on the table, step over to the plank and descend the dog walk plank. After doing this a couple of times (perhaps even having the dog ascend to the pause table if that still seems to be a necessary confidence builder) try the real dog walk with the dog.
In spotting the planks with a big dog, it is more important to spot the rear than the front, and your hip slightly touching the dog's hip is better than your hands, though obviously hands have to be used once the elevation reaches a certain level. This helps the dog gauge better where his rear feet are which, with a very big dog, seems to be the primary point of difficulty with the obstacle.
If you have access to an adjustable dog walk, you need no longer bother with the table except to set it immediately next to the dog walk as described before.
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