For those following the lessons, maybe it would help to see a trained dog putting some of these cues to action?
Below are some clips of Verona on a recent canicross run. Here she’ll demonstrate her directionals with a couple of left turns. She also responds to an ‘easy’ cue – though my expectations are a little different in canicross than in sledding, which is what she was trained for, I think you’ll see the value. Easy is a ‘gear down’ command. I use it to cue a speed change to a slower pace. Verona’s not a big fan of slowing down, so she barks when she does it, but you’ll be able to see a noticeable pace change and in canicross, I actually want her to reduce her pulling to accomodate this pace change. You’ll be able to see that most easily in the last clip as we are making our way down a steep, icy hill. In the video, you can’t get a great perspective on how steep the hill is, but just know that I am basically scuffling my feet to make it down there and any pulling at that point would have resulted with me on my face (I do keep one hand on the line at this point so that I can moderate any pulling that may occur). While one could theoretically just unhook a dog on a hill like that, especially if you are canicrossing with a well trained, reliable dog in a safe area, that isn’t always possible or legal in all cirumstances. Having your dog know a solid ‘easy’ cue is very handy. We’ll get into the ‘how’ of teaching that in a lesson soon.
At the conclusion of the slow, steep hill, I ask Verona for a line-out, and then we quickly speed off to finish our run. She is well conditioned to know that speed is a reward and you’ll see that she is quiet and happy while she’s pulling hard and we’re moving a little faster (even if ‘faster’ is a very relative term). The trail on this day was very punchy and though Verona stayed up on the fast top surface, I was punching through to ankle depth making it pretty hard to get any momentum. However, the dogs can feel and hear the effort their human team mate puts in, so even when running wasn’t physically possible, just moving my feet faster provides a little pickup and serves as a reward for following a specific cue.
If you are skijorring or kicksledding, or using some other form of transportation other than your own two feet, you may find that speed is an even easier reward to provide. Try to avoid the urge to cheer your dog on continuously or they’ll opt to tune out your voice, but encouragement when they are getting tired, need to work harder (as on an uphill grade) or as a reward for following another cue, are all appropriate times for a little chit chat and if you pair that with the speed reward, you soon will have a dog that picks up their pace when they hear your voice.