Confidence Course: The Playground for Higher Learning

A clinic group explores the Playground for Higher Learning

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the benefits of slow mindful movement exercises using the Confidence Course.
  • Identify several elements that may be used in the configuration of a Confidence Course.
  • Understand the purpose of the momentary stop or pause while leading a dog through the Confidence Course.
  • Demonstrate leading a dog through a Confidence Course.




Mindful groundwork is cornerstone to the Tellington TTouch Method, for horses, dogs and a few other animals. Fundamental components of this groundwork are the “Playground for Higher Learning” for dogs.


At first glance one may be forgiven for thinking of them as just simple obstacle courses designed to promote cooperation and willingness from our animals however their significance goes much deeper. The “Playground for Higher Learning” for dogs, could be most accurately described as “Awareness Courses” for both the dogs and the humans involved, with mindfulness being a key focus.


Benefits of the “Playground for Higher Learning”


  • Promotes fun; which enhances learning.
  • Encourages focus for all parties.
  • Slows the process down requiring the nervous system to pay more attention.
  • Requires non-habitual movement
  • Increases coordination and balance (mental, emotional and physical)
  • Helps animals become successful which improves confidence.
  • Handlers become more clear with their signals as they navigate, improving communication and cooperation.
  • Slow movement develops muscle at a deeper level than fast movement


Whenever we take an animal through the exercises the most important aspect is how they are able to navigate the elements, not just that they are willing to do it.


Is the animal balanced physically?

Do they rush through the exercise?

Is their posture functional?

Do they seem relaxed?


Being conscious of these questions will ensure that the exercises are being used to their full potential.

Pressure and good timing can push an animal through just about anything, but it does not mean that they have learned the exercise or feel comfortable with it.

A key tenant to all of the exercises is the ability to “chunk down” the exercise, meaning that one can make it as easy as it needs to be for the animal to be successful and maintain a low level of stress.