In preface to this article I would like to say that this is a long and involved explanation of how to teach a voraus. It is important to realize that behind these basic tips are good methods the handler/trainer can use for all other exercises in schutzhund.
The voraus, also known as the 'send out' or 'go out', is a 10-point routine in the obedience phase of schutzhund. The routine consists of basically 5 small parts.
Walking 10 to 15 paces
Sending the dog away 30 paces
Commanding the dog to platz
Going to the dog and sitting the dog
To get the total 10 points:
The basic position at the beginning needs to be straight and correct.
The handler needs to correctly fuss with the dog between 10 and 15.
When the correct number of paces has been taken, the handler takes his arm and points forward while at the same time stopping and saying 'voraus'.
The dog immediately runs quickly ahead in a straight line and at judge's discretion the handler is told to platz the dog. (Some judges will not tell the handler to platz the dog so the handler must make sure that they platz the dog over 30 paces away.)
The dog must immediately platz for full points.
After the dog platz at the end of the field, the judge tells the handler when to approach the dog.
The handler then goes to the fuss position beside the dog.
When the judge again gives the signal the handler asks the dog to sit. The dog must sit quickly and in correct position.
Training the voraus.
Teaching the voraus should be a very rewarding and fun exercise that only builds drive and desire. The target should always be a 'safe zone'. If done correctly, it can also be used as a reward after the dumbbell routine. Only when the dog knows all of his obedience correctly, does the handler add obedience to the voraus. I say this because there are two incorrect voraus styles seen typically in schutzhund: The dog that is slow and hesitant and platz quickly or the dog that is like a bullet, but has a hard time platzing. This is important to understand. In other words this means one of two things, either the dog isn't enjoying running platz the field or the obedience is not solid. So if the dog enjoys running down the field and he knows what the command "platz" means, then the dog should always score well. So these are the two basic components to the voraus.
There are many ways to teach a dog to do a correct voraus. The dog and handler's abilities determine the method that works best for the team. If a dog has good food drive then the handler can use food. If the dog likes the juteroll (bitewurst) or the ball or the ball on a string or Frisbee, etc., the handler can use these toys. (If the handler can train the voraus like a blind search (voran/revier) then that method is very good, also.)
When first training to do a voraus the dog does not need any obedience. The handler can do this with a young dog or puppy, but that isn't totally necessary for a good voraus. Some important things to remember are:
When teaching the dog/puppy make sure the target for the voraus doesn't move from the original placement and when the handler needs to be farther away from the target the handler moves the dog back.
Set targets at the end of the training fields.
Make sure the voraus is fast and straight before adding obedience.
Make sure the obedience is solid.
Following are pictures of some good tools that the handler can have made or find that are good for the voraus.
The voraus poles or targets should be narrow and hard for the dog to see. If I use the metal upside down L shaped target, I always face the target top slightly pointing away and above the dogs head so there is no chance of the dog running into the target. The handler needs to put the toy at the end of the metal pole so the dog doesnt tear the whole thing down and drag it back to them. If the handler can hang a clip on the end, that would be the easiest and safest release. Safety of the dog and handler is the top priority. My favorite tool is taking a PVC pipe about an inch in diameter and about 2 and ½ feet long and a pencil. I stick the pencil in the ground and put the PVC pipe around the pencil to hold up the pipe. I then put the food or ball at the base of the pipe. It is hard for the dog to see, which is good, but if you are not careful in the training the dog will start sniffing on the way down the field.
In the beginning the handler doesnt want to use any obedience with the dog while teaching the voraus. A typical scenario is to put out the desired target at the end of the field first and then go and get the young dog and put him on leash. Put the toy or food in a pocket. (I do all training with a long line, but use what is comfortable. Long lines are occasionally hard for people to work with, so a shorter leash might be preferred. The handler does not want the puppy/dog running away or around the field after he gets the toy or food. The handler can have a second toy to bring the dog back to him.)
Take the dog and go to the target and let him sniff it if the dog desires. If the trainer uses food, let the dog know by letting him smell or eat some of the food before placing it on the target. If the handler is using a toy, then build drive with the dog for the toy. After the dog is showing a lot of drive for the toy/food place it on the target while holding the dog back by his collar. The dog is only a few feet from the target at most.
Soon as the handler places the food/toy on the target say voraus and have the dog get the reward. It is important the handler teases the dog as he places it on the target. After the dog understands where the toy has been placed, the trainer can say things like you want it? or where is it? or good boy before he sends the dog. The handler can pat the dogs side or chest to create more drive. Depending on the aptitude of the dog and the age of the dog it should take only one session to get the dog to understand that the target is a desired place to be. As the dog understands the handler can drag the dog backwards from the target trying to keep him facing the target and let him go at more distance with a voraus command.
Now here comes the part that is the most difficult. This is the part of timing and correctly reading the dog that this magazine article cant teach. If the handler drags the dog back harshly or if the dog has to fight with the handler, the dog might start spinning and losing direct sight of the target or he might start avoiding the voraus because of the ineptness of the handler. If the handler is able to read the dog and let him go at the height of his excitement they are going to add greatly to the speed and direction of the voraus. If the handler starts adding too much obedience too soon to this exercise he will decrease the dogs drive. As the dog builds drive and understanding the handler can add some obedience. As an example, after the trainer has the dog running 10 paces or more to the target with speed he can start fussing the dog directly away from the target. So as the handler holds the dogs collar and places the toy on the stand he can ask the dog to sit. The handler then gets into basic position and fusses to the left away from the target. (Dont ask the dog to come and fuss into basic position this is asking for too much.) After the trainer gets the number of paces away from the dog, that he feels is right for the dog in his training, he can turn around and stop and grab the dogs collar and excite him and send him to the target. But the handler can only add obedience if the obedience is correct and solid. This is extremely important because if the handler doesnt have a solid fuss the dog will not be in correct position and he will either be rewarded for incorrect obedience by letting him voraus anyway to the target or the handler will have to do some training before the dog is sent and that might discourage the dog from leaving. If the handler has correct obedience then he can have a win/win situation because he can reward the dog for good obedience with the voraus. Until the voraus is a 100% do not ask for a platz. If the dog refuses to platz the handler must stop the voraus training and teach the platz correctly and separately.
Now this is another part of timing and the ability of the handler. The handler must develop a program where he lets the dog build drive enough for the voraus, but have enough control for the platz. Maybe the dog needs to do 10 voraus with little obedience to every one voraus with some type of obedience to make the perfect picture. There might be a time where the trainer has to chase the dog down the field yelling voraus and pointing down the field, because the dog doesnt think the toy or food is out there. The handler has to be careful if he uses any type of compulsion, to make sure he builds the dog back up.
Ending any obedience training with the voraus is a good way of creating drive in the voraus. If the handler has to add any pressure to the dog in training he can end the session by doing a voraus by holding the dogs collar and sending him. No matter the age or the title of a dog the handler should do this occasionally. Again, it is up to the handler to read his dog correctly to know what is needed. Maybe building the dog up for the voraus and dragging him off the field would be the best for the occasion.
If the handler has a solid platz, then he can platz the dog before the dog gets to the target and then when the handler goes to basic position and sits the dog he can send the dog on for the reward. This helps maintain a down that is facing the target. The handler must have a perfect platz or the dog will actually be rewarded for not platzing by being able to get the reward. This will just make it harder for the handler to platz the dog the next time.
Some trainers have successfully trained a puppy or young dog to go out and actually platz at the tree, bush or sign that is on home field. But obviously, off of the dogs home field, this method falls apart.
Proofing the dog is important by going to strange fields and training the voraus in all types of weather and under different distractions and in different directions. The handler, when proofing the dog, should start with a close voraus so the dog is successful.
After the dog is going out correctly because he sees the toy or saw the handler take it out on the field at some point, the handler must have a buddy sneak it out occasionally so the dog realizes that it will just appear. The handler can also sneak it out on the field themselves before bringing the dog out.
During the actual trial there are two teams on the field for obedience at one time. Before the voraus, the other team on the long down is instructed by the judge to go and get their dog. This gives the handler, who is about to do the voraus, a short time to prepare their dog. With some experimentation before the trial, the handler can find the best way to prepare their dog for the voraus. Two ways come to mind that have been successful in the past:
Get into basic position ready to begin the voraus and pet the dog and say you want to go. Then step a pace or two away from the dog and wait until it is time to go. Then step back to the dog and wait until the judges signal to begin.
Face the dog the opposite way he is to do the voraus a few paces behind the start position and ask the dog do you want to go and excite the dog. Facing the dog away can sometimes build drive in the dog, if he is correctly trained, by having the dog get excited that the handler is facing him the wrong way.
Problems that typically occur and ways to fix them:
The dog is slow:
If obedience has been applied, the dog needs to have the obedience taken away from the exercise until his drive is built back up.
The dog needs to have drive created in him by making him hungrier or more interested in the toy. The handler can go back to holding the dog by the collar closer to the target.
If the dog doesnt platz:
The handler must go back and create a solid platz separately from the go out. A platz that is respected by the dog should happen anytime and anyplace and even on Sunday.
If the dog sniffs the ground on the way down the field:
At some point during training the handler might have moved the target away from the dog instead of moving the dog away from the target.
Sometimes when people put the food or ball on the ground the dog is trying to find it with his nose instead of running full out. Start hanging the toy or putting the food on some type of pedestal.
When the dog truly understands, the handler can see that the dog will go quickly down the field not knowing if the target is out there or not. Then partway down the field the handler can see that the dog has spotted the target. That means the dog is trusting the trainer and going on faith.
Forging on the build-up:
If the dog forges on the build-up the handler will want to correct that one of several ways.
Every time the dog forges on the build-up the handler can make a small circle away from the target and not until the dog is in correct position will he be sent .Even if this takes awhile to accomplish.
The trainer can just teach the dog that there will be at least one small circle before he is sent on the voraus, but on trial day the team does not circle.
The handler can use an appropriate correction to make sure the dog stays in the proper position. If the dog loses drive then separate the fussing and make it correct.
The handler can use a combination of the above.
When the handler puts their hand up and points for the voraus they should keep their arm up while the dog is running. If the dog looks back or if he is confused it might help him keep going without an extra voice command.
The handler should keep their arm up while they say platz. It can be construed as double handling if the handler says platz at the same time as they drop their arm.
The handler should walk straight to the dog to take up fuss position. If the handler is wide approaching the dog and then comes into fuss position they might get a deduction depending on how wide they are.