Intro to Distance – Cones 

In Part 1 of the Commitment to Distance series, I will be talking about cone work and why I feel it plays a big part in distance training.

What is cone work? 

I start all of my foundation work with either cones or gates. I started many years ago with gates and I still use them to this day.  One of the main reason I started using cones is they are easier to get (as opposed to making gates), easier to pack around and travel with, and when I want to start teaching my dogs Tight or working on tight lines, the cones work a little better for that.

I do still use the gates in a lot of my training and switch between gates and cones quite frequently during training.

I will use cones throughout this article, but don’t forgot you can use gates also!

I like using cones as they give me and my dogs a stepping stone between foundation/ground work and obstacle work. I will use the cones as “markers” when I start incorporating more obstacle work and harder sequencing into my training.

Starting cone work

I start with a single cone, my main goal in the beginning of my training is to create value for the cone. I want my dog to really want to find the cone and work with it.

I start nice and close to the cone, you can use a clicker to mark them interacting with the cone or I use a verbal marker such as “yes”.

I want to mark any interaction with the cone, with my end goal being that my dog will go around the cone. So I will mark baby steps to get there. Sniffing the cone, touching the cone, driving or looking at the cone, etc.  I want to really shape the dog to want to go to the cone, we want to build value for that cone.

Once I have my dog going around the cone, I can start incorporating body language and directional cues.  I can work on my “Go” with the cone, “Out”, “Here”, “Tight” and “Switch” can all be worked on with this cone.

I will also start to bring in more cones so I can work on increasing speed and distance, as well as work on my timing and handling cues.

One big component that I love about starting my dogs with cone work is that I can build their confidence. Building your dogs confidence is crucial to any kind of distance work. We want our dogs to be confident in their skills and confident in our handling cues.

Using Cones as Markers 

Once I feel that my dog understands all of my various handling cues and we are ready to move on to sequencing and incorporating other obstacles I will use the cones as “Markers”.

I will use the cones next to the other pieces of equipment as kind of a stepping stone between the foundation work and sequencing work. I want my dog to really drive towards the jump for example, so I will place the cone next the the jump as a marker. Because we have spent so much time with the foundation work and building value for the cone, my dog will see the cone and drive to the cone, which will also drive them to the jump.

I will also use cones in-between my discrimination obstacles. So for example, I can place the cones (i use about three) in between a aframe/tunnel discrimination. So when I cue my dog to go Out, they will see the cones and go to the outside of the cone, which will put them in the tunnel. And I can easily fade the cones by removing them one at a time as the dogs gets more proficient with their discrimination skills.


Teaching Discriminations

When I begin teaching my dog’s their discrimination I use cones as “markers” to help show my dogs the “ins and outs” of discrimination work. 😀

In the diagram below I show where I place the cones, in this example I am using an Aframe and a Tunnel. But I will use a variety of discrimination’s, such as two tunnels, two jumps, a jump and a tunnel, tunnel and weave poles, etc, etc.
I will place the cones (I use about three cones) in-between the two obstacles, these cones act as a marker for my dogs to “see” the Out vs. the Here. Because of all the foundation work I have done with the cones (please see the Intro to Distance post) my dogs know that when I say Out they go to the outside of the cone and when I say Here they come to the inside of the cone.

I will continue to work multiple kinds of discrimination’s and various degrees of distance before I start to remove the cones.
Have questions or comments? Want to learn more? Come learn with Amanda in the Fluid Motion Patreon group!
Or comment below! 

Intro to Distance

I use cones to help build confidence and speed while I am working on their distance skills. Confidence is a huge part of distance work and in my opinion the most important!  When I want to start teaching my dogs any distance skills, the main thing I am looking for is to build their confidence, and using cones and flatwork helps boost that confidence before we start incorporating distance with obstacles.

My six week Intro to Distance class is available on the Fluid Motion Patreon group, more information can be found at this link:

Below is an intro video to how I use cones to start teaching distance skills!

The Choice

Those who have attended seminars with me have heard me say this time and time again;

“If you want distance, your dog must have confidence”


I love distance handling; I love the feeling of having that connection with my dog from 40 or more feet away. But the key to that kind of distance work is, and always will be confidence.

I train with confidence in mind from the very beginning, from the time I bring that little eight-week-old puppy home, I train them with confidence in mind.

Part of building that confidence in my dog is letting them have a choice. My dogs always have a choice from day one, they choose what “kind” of agility they wish to do.  I never force distance upon my dogs, if that is a path they wish to take, I will support them in my training and my handling.

By giving my dogs a choice they have freedom.  Freedom to be who they want, to run at the speed they want, and by letting them choose their path in agility we will connect as a team; and that is more important to me than any distance between us.

Climbing the Mountain!

I had the chance to film some of my Functional Fitness workouts with Ally that I did a few days ago. In the clips below, Ally is climbing Infinity Mountain with the Toto Fit equipment.

I am in love with Toto Fit’s equipment! The quality is outstanding and all of my dog’s are very stable and confident on it.

And check out Toto Fit’s website for information on all of their equipment:

APF Pro and the reasons I love it!

I have been using Advanced Protection Formula (APF Pro) from Auburn Labs for quite some time, I have always really liked it and through the years, I have used it on and off. Early last year I started using it with all my dogs consistently and I saw an amazing difference in my dogs as soon as a week after I started feeding it.

For Try, at almost 13 years old, she started moving better, running around like a  4 year old puppy again. And not only that, her hair coat got shinier and  her eyes brighter.

Nargles was the biggest difference, she has always had lots of anxiety, and tends to always be nervous. She also can be hyper and over reactive at agility trials, she would get so over the top that she couldn’t process anything while we were running.

After APF Pro for about 2 weeks she completely turned around, she calmed down, she became less nervous and anxious while traveling.  Her performance in the ring improved ten fold, she could focus and lost much of her hyperactive tendencies.

What made me a firm believer in how much APF Pro helped Nargles was at an agility trial last summer. I forgot to bring an extra bottle with me, and I ran out of APF Pro on Saturday of the trial. During Friday and Saturday, Nargles was amazing. During Sunday she started getting overreactive and lost all focus. Once I got home and started her back on APF Pro, she was 100% focused and “On” for the next trial on the following weekend.

I am a huge believer of APF Pro and all four of my dogs get it every day, even my young dogs. During a trial weekend, I will usually give them a bit more, a dose in the morning and another at night.

So what is APF Pro? 

APF Pro is the most advanced adaptogenic herbal formula for use in canine athletes. APF Pro combines the proven nutritional technology of the original APF (Advanced Protection Formula) with the muscle-building power of 20-hydroxyecdysone (20E). 20E is a safe and natural plant extract found in Rhaponticum carthamoides. 20E is one of the most widely researched nutrients used by top athletes and body builders for its remarkable ability to safely increase lean muscle mass during strength training. None of the adverse effects of anabolic steroids are found with 20E.

APF Pro is unequalled in its protection of both the immune system and cellular metabolism. APF Pro gives your dog all the stress protection unique to our original formula, plus the added gastric health benefit of Aralia mandschurica. Veterinary researchers have found Aralia can have important protective benefits against stomach upset caused by stress.

APF Pro combines APF – the only natural herbal formula backed by university-level research- with advanced muscle-building and gastric health benefits to deliver the most effective nutritional formula to support your dog’s health and performance.

  • Improved formula provides powerful anti-catabolic action to help build and maintain skeletal muscle
  • Increased resistance to stress induced gastric upset
  • Protects the immune system from long-term or intense stress
  • Optimizes glucose uptake and utlization in muscle cells
  • Promotes higher levels of ATP and CP in muscle cells
  • Improves utilization of lipids (fats) for long-term energy production
  • Improves and protects mitochondrial efficiency
  • Delays the onset of fatigue during exercise
  • Improves recovery from physical exertion
  • Protects digestive function by providing sustained energy to the GI tract
  • Delivers powerful anti-oxidant activity to protect against free radical damage
  • Protects against the damaging effects of intense or chronic stress



Eleutherococcus senticosus,Rhodiola rosea, Schizandra chinensis, Aralia mandschurica, Rhaponticum carthamoides in a water-alcohol extract

Intro to Distance Training

In the below video I discuss the foundation work for teaching my dogs distance skills. I will be teaching an Intro to Distance Online Class through Fenzi Dog Sports starting on April 1st.

The Run

The Run. Something every person who competes in agility wants. The amazing feeling of complete connection with your dog, a feeling that every team chases weekend after weekend.

So what is The Run?

The Run is a time where you feel completely connected to your dog, you are both so completely in sync that your don’t think about the course, your cues, or what you should do next, you just do it. Everything flows, your cues just happen, no thinking, just action.  And at the end of the course you wonder if you forgot a portion of it because it went by so fast. That is The Run. That is complete connection.

So how do you get there? How do you get to a place where The Run happens?

I have found after teaching for many years and traveling across the country, handlers want The Run to happen NOW. They want that connection and that feeling right out of the gate.

In my experience The Run usually doesn’t happen until the dog is around 5-7, for me it has happened with my dogs between 6-7. (this isn’t an exact timeframe, just a general range I have noticed)

Sometimes I think handlers try to rush that feeling, that connection with their dogs. In my experience  this leads to that connected feeling taking longer, the dog can feel that pressure as well as the handler and it can delay that connected feeling.

The Run with Nargles 

Getting to The Run is what creates that feeling, that connection. All the time spent training, and trialing, learning how your dog reacts to your movements and your cues, all of that together is what creates The Run.  It can’t be rushed, it can’t be forced. It is something that happens when you least expect it.

My Run with Try, bobble and all, this was it, The Run can have bobbles, it can have mistakes, none of that matters. It is about connection. 

Enjoy the journey that gets you to The Ride, don’t rush, don’t force, just let it happen and enjoy every second of it.

Amanda Nelson

Back to Shaping!

I have been doing lots of traveling this year, which has been amazing! I love going around the country, meeting new people, and working with a huge variety of dogs, it has been a great year!

I have really taken a step back this year and focused on my training methods and how I handle my dogs. I had a bit of a light bulb moment a few weeks ago when I realized that we as handlers (myself included!) always want the newest and best thing when it comes to training methods. We tend to go with what the new fad is, or we will change our training/handling because we saw someone successful at a trial using method A, etc, etc. 396109_4337131745240_1920488830_n

The lightbulb happened when I was feeling sentimental about Try being retired and looking back on some of her old training videos and past trial runs. When I realized how much of a thinking dog she is, how strong her directionals are, and the confidence she has at a distance, I went back through how I taught all her agility and life skills, she was taught completely through shaping (free shaping and luring) and targets.

When I started training Nargles I traded a lot of my shaping and targets for newer methods that were the “in” thing, she in turn, isn’t as strong in her skills, and I didn’t devote as much time as I should have in her base skills.

What it boils down to is this, (in my mind) you as the handler have to really like how you are training your dog, doesn’t matter the method, YOU have to want to go out there and work with you dog, train them, and be their teammate. If you aren’t happy with how you are training your dog, your dog isn’t going to learn that behavior as strong, and they won’t be as happy.

Your method has to work for your dog also! Just because method A works for Bob at class, doesn’t mean it is going to work for you. You may be able to take bits and pieces and form them into a method that you and your dog likes, but sometimes the whole thing just doesn’t work for every dog. Each dog is different and needs to have a method that is tailored to them!

For me, this means I will be going back to my roots of shaping obstacle skills and targeting for distance skills and sequencing. I love shaping, I love using a clicker, I always have! In the past years I have moved away from it, but I am taking it back to the beginning, back to where I LOVE to go out and work with my dog, because we both love the way it is being taught. 🙂


Feeding the Best

I have been getting quite a few emails about what I am feeding my dogs and some people asking for ideas on what they can add to their dog’s food for variety in their meals.

I am currently rotating my dogs between Fromm, Taste of the Wild as well as I and Love and You. (not a fan of that name. lol) I also add some of I and Love and You’s freeze dried raw food every now and again.  Along with the kibble and freeze dried I will add some fresh meat, veggies, grains (oh no! not grains!) along with cottage cheese, eggs, and some yogurt.

Mind you, I do not feed all of the above every single day or even every week for that
matter, I rotate between them, adding variety and whatever I happen to feel like throwing in their bowl that day.

Most of the time their meals consist of commercial (the freeze dried or kibble) in the morning and then some meat, veggies and dairy in the evening.

But sometimes they may get nothing but my homemade food, it may be raw, it may be cooked. And sometimes (this past week, for example) they may only get kibble.  A lot of what I feed them depends on how busy I am and how much money I have. Because lets be honest, money plays a pretty big factor in what we feed our dogs, and sometimes I just don’t have over $80 to spend on a box of dehydrated or freeze-dried food.

I feel good about what I feed my dogs, I think they look healthy, they are happy and they Winter Break love their meals. I like giving them a variety of different food options from commercial to homemade, kibble to dehydrated. It makes me happy and it makes them happy.

One of the very sad things I see happening in the dog world is what I like to call “food shaming”. For instance, if you don’t feed raw you aren’t doing the best by your dog, or if you don’t feed brand XYZ then you aren’t giving your dog the best. I think we are all trying to do the best we can for our dogs, we feed them the best we can with the money we have
and the time we have.

I have done just about every kind of dog food method there is, I have fed cooked, I have fed raw, I have fed only kibble, freeze dried, and dehydrated. I personally think there are some dog food brands that are overrated for what they are and I don’t think we need to break the bank every month to give our dogs the best.

Which is why I feed a variety, I feed what works for me, my travel schedule and my pocket book. My dogs are happy and I am happy, and in the end, that’s what matters.Nargles


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