Please read the INTRODUCTION before you start working. Be sure your dog has passed the Level One behavioursLevel Two behavioursLevel Three behaviours, and Level Four behaviours before starting Level Five.

This colour indicates behaviours that are mandatory.

This colour indicates behaviours that must be done without food, clicker or other training aid, in a ring or similar.

This colour indicates behaviours that are optional. In Level Five, a dog must pass 8 of the 11optional behaviours. Pick your optional behaviours with an eye to what sports you’re aiming your dog for, or whatever looks like it would be a fun and interesting behaviour to teach your dog.


The dog does a full Novice Recall – Sit-Stay, 40’, one cue, Front, Finish, appropriate cues. This behaviour must be done with no food or clicker anywhere in the room or area. DISCUSSION: Now we’re starting to put behaviours together into a chain. There are few distractions at this level, but the dog must give you the entire chain with no rewards in evidence.

EASY BEGINNINGS: Be sure that you have ALL the pieces of this chain JUST the way you want them before you put them together into a chain of behaviours. The dog is responsive to the Sit cue. Your SitStay is firm, not only close up but as you walk 40′ away and turn around to face the dog. Your Come command is terrific no matter what else is going on. Your Fronts aren’t where you need them yet, though. You’ve worked on the Bullseye and Front Rays, but you’ll probably have to do a bit more work to be sure your Front is as good as you want it to be for the Recall. If you’re planning on entering Obedience Trials looking for a qualifying score, your Front is probably as good right now as you need it to be. If, on the other hand, you’re looking for scores in the 190s, you’ll want to spend a lot more time making sure you have perfect fronts before you add them to the Recall mix. Feel free to try the whole Recall TWICE just to see where you are. If you want really great Fronts and Finishes, you might only practise the whole Recall chain less than ten times before you test it for this Level, then go on working hard to perfect the Front and Finish for trials.

Put three behaviours together. You’ve already done the Sit and SitStay while you walk 40′ away, so you shouldn’t need to work much on those two. Try putting the SitStay and Come together call your dog out of the SitStay. If your Fronts aren’t where you want them yet, that’s OK, you can kneel down to greet her as she comes in, or turn sideways to meet her (don’t always turn to the same side) rather than asking for a Front. Then put four behaviours together Sit, Stay, Come, Front. Or, if you’re having a little trouble with your SitStay, you could call her from general living and, with your body language, ask for a Front and then a Finish. Play around with it a bit until she’s ready to give you the whole thing.

PROBLEM SOLVING: AS SOON AS I PUT THE CHAIN TOGETHER, HER FRONT FELL APART! Sure, that’s normal. You put it together a little too fast. Maybe you were practicing Fronts from no further away than 3′, and suddenly you’re asking for 20′ Fronts. Back up, and for Heaven’s sake, TAKE THE CHAIN APART. Go back to working your Front Ray and Bullseye patterns again. When she remembers them, put some distance on them which you can do by tossing the treats further away. Work your distance out until she’s really good at the Front again, and then try calling her once FROM VERY CLOSE maybe 5′ away while standing in the same spot you were previously working the pattern from. If she comes and doesn’t hit a reasonable Front, stand still and wait for it as you would do if you were working the pattern. Build it back up, and when she’s ready, plug it back into a short chain.

SHE TRIES TO KNOCK ME DOWN WHEN SHE COMES! Isn’t that SPESHUL! What’s the problem here? All Come, all the time. No Front. Take the chain apart, and work your Front diagrams a LOT more, then put the Come and Front together in VERY short distances. Be VERY careful that you do NOTHING to reward the Freight-Train Recall no jumping around, no squealing, no batting at her, no smiling, no laughing, no yelling. Just step out of the way and go into another room for two minutes. Then work a lot more Fronts.

SHE ANTICIPATES THE FINISH AFTER THE FRONT! Yes, of course she does. This has been the bugaboo of obedience trainers since the dawn of competition. The funny thing is, it’s really easy to fix. Think of it as Finish Zen. When you’re playing Hand Zen, she doesn’t get the treat in the hand by going for it, she gets it by staying away from it. What happens with the Finish is that most dogs find it rewarding in itself, or because it clearly marks the end of the Recall chain, signaling a treat or a release, so they want to get to it as quickly as possible.

The other problem with the Recall chain is Ailsby’s Principle Of Laziness, which says that corners will be cut if possible. This works for us on the Retrieve, but against us in the Recall chain, so we have to pay attention. When the dog starts cutting out parts of the chain such as the Front or remaining IN the Front until cued to Finish you need to first go back and take the chain apart. Put some more effort into rewarding the part she missed the Front. Make it a great thing to be able to Front. Make it a wonderful thing to be allowed to practise duration Fronts. When you’ve put more importance on that, plug it back into the chain, and DO NOT ALLOW THE CHAIN TO CONTINUE IF SHE BREAKS IT!

In Agility, for instance, if you lead out and the dog breaks the Stay at the start line, you do NOT run the course, you walk away. Staying at the start line gets to play Agility, breaking the line doesn’t. Start Line Zen. In Finish Zen, if she breaks the Front Stay, she doesn’t GET to Finish, because the Finish disappears. You turn away, go retie your shoes or get a drink of water or something. Try again. She makes the mistake once, she didn’t get to do the Finish. She makes the same mistake twice, you’re rewarding the Front as soon as she gives it to you. She makes the same mistake three times, bang, it’s out of the chain and you’re working Front durations again.

ADDING A CUE: There’s no new cue here. This is an easy chain, as each part except the Front has its own specific voice cue. Sit. Stay. Come. Finish. Some people use a different cue (“Front”) when they want a Front, but I’ve never bothered. If I’m walking along holding my hand out, the dog will come and nose-target my hand. If I’m holding two hands down, she’ll come into my hands for a schnoogie. If I’m standing up straight with my arms at my sides (Front position), she’ll come Front. I just let my body language cue what I want. If you want a separate cue, though, it’s no big deal, because you were using the different cue right from the beginning when you first starting using a cue for Fronts.

CONTINUING EDUCATION: More distance, more distractions, straighter Fronts, snappier, straighter Finishes. You’ll naturally lose some speed on the Recall as the dog starts to think about the control necessary to hit a good Front. How to get the speed back? Take it out of the chain and work on it. That’s the glory of recognizing the situation as a chain chains come with links, and you improve each link separately.


Dog does an appropriate jump, then commits to/walks a board, performs down contact, appropriate cues. Contact behaviour must be announced prior to testing. This is an optional behaviour. DISCUSSION: And now we’re putting it together into the start of a course, so she has to be thinking of making a good entry onto the board, even after having done something else. Distance isn’t called for here, but the further away you can be when the dog is performing, the better.


Dog enters the crate on one cue, remains quietly for 5 minutes with the door closed. DISCUSSION: Now you’ll see whether or not your initial criteria was specific enough. Does she really know that she needs to relax in the crate? You should be finding her asleep when you go to let her out.


Dog goes over a jump 10’ away from the handler in the same manner as going around a post. Appropriate cues.This is an optional behaviour. DISCUSSION: In Level Five Distance and Retrieving, for the first time, we’re asking the dog to go away from us a real distance to do a job. You’ll be using one upright of the jump as your regular pole, with the jump on the other side of the upright. In order to “go around the pole”, she has to jump.


The dog Downs from Stand on a hand signal only. This is an optional behaviour. DISCUSSION: This behaviour SHOULD be easier than getting the Down with a voice cue. On the other hand, you’ve just spent a lot of time teaching the voice cue. Good practise for you in switching cues on a learned behaviour!


Dog Downs and stays for one minute with the handler out of sight. Appropriate cues. DISCUSSION: Out of sight! This is a biggie! Notice that as we raised the difficulty of the behaviour, we significantly lowered the amount of time required. A word of warning: use a mirror, use a hole in the wall, use a snitch – whatever you do, don’t click the dog for remaining down with you out of sight unless you’re SURE she’s actually still down!


Dog performs half-point Finish 3 out of 3 times. DISCUSSION: Here we require a full swing Finish, almost perfect – a slight crookedness allowed.


Dog hits a half-point-off front three times, three tries only, appropriate cues. This is an optional behaviour.

A perfect Front has the dog sitting very close to you but not touching you, spine and entire body perfectly in front of you so that you can look straight down the dog’s body from nose to tail. Dog’s front feet are very close to yours. Any part of the dog’s body that deviates from this straight line – say, the butt out of alignment by maybe 2″ – or if the dog is 6″ further away from you than “very close but not touching” – or if the dog bumps you with his nose as he comes to the Sit – would be a half-point deduction in an obedience trial. In Rally, it would be no deduction, so if it’s a “perfect” Front in Rally, it’s good here. A worse (and not acceptable for purposes of passing this Level behaviour) Front would be TWO parts of the dog’s body off-centre, for instance, the dog sitting square but over 2″ so that both his shoulders and his hips are slightly off absolute centre, or the dog, say, 12″ away from you, or maintaining a nose-touch.

DISCUSSION: As you work the Ray and Circle diagrams, the dog will start blurring them in her mind, combining the two requirements (straight, and close) into one straight, close Front.


Dog goes to his mat, bed, or pause table from 20’ away and remains down for 5 minutes. Appropriate cues. DISCUSSION: The behaviour is starting to look like it will when it’s finished. Try doing the dishes or other chores while you’re working through the five minutes.


Dog stays on a pause table for 30 seconds with the handler 10’ away. Appropriate cues. DISCUSSION: A giveaway – a behaviour your dog can already do. This is the Go To Mat moved to a low table. Remember to make the time and distance easier as you get the dog comfortable going to the table.


About turn, 10’ straight, about turn with contact, 1 distraction. This behaviour must be done with no food or clicker anywhere in the room or area. DISCUSSION: Before we get more than 20′ of Heeling, we’re going to start explaining that the reward may be hidden, so that doesn’t come as a nasty surprise later.


Handler lists, in writing, the three effective ways of getting behaviour, and list five behaviours that might be best suited for each.


The dog jumps 2 boards from 4′ back with handler 5′ away. Dogs under 18 months may jump 1 board from 5′ back with handler 5′ away. This is an optional behaviour. DISCUSSION: We’re gradually building the distance the dog must jump. Unless you’re practicing dozens and dozens of jumps every day, or have a very heavy breed, I don’t see a problem with a puppy in good shape jumping two boards, but if you’re concerned about it, teach the behaviour with one board unti the dog’s growth plates have closed.

There’s more to Level FIVE – click HERE for the rest.