Teaching the Tire

During the years I've practiced and taught agility I have heard about, seen and tried many ways to teach the tire - some with a better result than others. One method is to cover the space between tire and frame. Another method is to lure the dog through the tire with treats. But common to all these methods have been that they never really pleased me.

I'm a big fan of shaping, so why not shape the tire? It's simple, the dog will know what to do to get the reward and you build a lot of value for the obstacle. As an additional bonus this method satisfies my three main criteria when choosing a dog training method:

  • Simplicity
    Keep it simple. No fancy tools to guide the dog that you need to fade later on.
  • Independence
    The dog will clear the obstacle without asking questions or with any help from the handler
  • Accuracy
    Through training and proofing the dog has a solid understanding of how to clear the obstacle

If you shape it right you will get a dog that won't even consider jumping through the space between the frame and tire. Below you'll find some videos of my tire training. Notice that in less than two minutes the dogs has a clear understanding of what they have to do to earn their reward.

This is Bob's first session. I start out by clicking him for looking at the tire and then I raise my criteria. I lure him through the tire twice. Never lure more than tree times! This is important. In the words of Bob Bailey 'Get the behavior'. If you keep luring the dog it will become dependent of your guidance.

Bob is a beautiful example of dogs trained by shaping; he(usually) never fails. At some points he looks through the frame but then, independently, chooses to jump through the tire - clever dog.

This is also Zap's first session. Unlike Bob, Zap tries to jump through the frame, which, of course, didn't pay off. This doesn't add positively to your rate of success but it does help the dog to understand the limits of the required behavior. Placement of reward is important aswell - don't make the mistake of rewarding your dog through the frame.

The next step with Zap and Bob will be raising the tire. I like to do this incrementally, but the tires in Denmark are usually fix at two heights; one for small and medium dogs and one for large dogs. This makes it a bit more challenging to keep the rate of success high as you can see in the video below.

When the tire is raised to the height your dog will be competing at, it is time add to the challenge. Proof the behavior with lead outs, sends, serps and run-bys and add the verbal cue of your choice.