Thursday Night Fun Run

One of our favorite activities here at Country Dream is the Thursday Night Fun Run. It’s my opportunity to put up a challenging course or sequence for the most enthusiastic of my students. Oh yes, winter in Ohio will measure the enthusiasm mettle of the agility fan. Our training building is unheated. In the fall when temperatures are mild and accommodating we have a pretty good crowd on hand. But this time of year it’s down to the hard-core few with true grit.

It all starts at 6:30 pm with a warm up exercises. This is followed by running the feature course or sequence, or playing a challenge game. And then we wrap up the night with break-down analysis of the course and a rerun to test what we might have learned by practicing the challenging bits.

It’s supposed to be a fun-run. That means I don’t spend a lot of time teaching. Between you and me and the wall, I just can’t help myself. The interesting thing about this format is that it allows me to be nearly Socratic in my approach. Rather than overtly pushing a training point I simply introduce concept in discussion to draw the players into participation and practice.

The Warm-Up Sequence

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The real difficult bit in this sequence will be the approach to the weave poles. The transition from jump #7 to the weave poles is short. And it becomes an awful nearly perpendicular approach from the entry side.

You’ll note that a number of handlers will gratuitously do a Back Cross at the #3 pipe tunnel. If the dog is fast chances are he’ll come firing out of the pipe tunnel with not much productive to do until the handler manages to run out around the A-frame. If the dog is slow the handler probably can get into the picture as the dog comes out of the pipe tunnel… but if the dog is slow, why is the handler using fast dog handling anyhow? The best opening might be a lead-out dog-on-right into a Front Cross to get the dog into the pipe tunnel.

We ran this warm-up several times. It did help us get warmed up in the cold training building. And it allowed me to show a serpentine Front Cross to shape the entry to the weave poles for dogs that truly need a shaping of the approach.

The Challenge Sequence

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To tell you the darned truth this sequence is a study of the 270° turn. In a there and back again design the handler and dog are twice faced with the shaped approach puzzle presented by the 270°; first in the opening, #2 through #4; and then again in the closing #9 through #11. .

A little analysis shows the two 270° challenges to be quite different in nature. In the opening the dog is faced with wrong-course options after jump #3 and again after the tire at #4. What we tend to see in this kind of technical challenge is a lot of over-handling and micromanagement of the dog’s path. Meddling doesn’t actually improve our chances for success.

In the closing there are no true options. And, if we really look at the closing sequence of four obstacles it might be treated overall as a serpentine… since it is, actually, a serpentine.

A couple handling notes

Should I ever offer a handling plan it is not to suggest that it is the one true way. I believe nothing of the sort. Anything that actually works is true enough.

After commenting on the gratuitous use of the Back Cross in the warm-up sequence I show the handler starting with dog on left to the tire using the Back Cross to draw the dog in sharply thereby solving the discrimination to the A-frame.

In the closing I suggest racing the dog from the dismount of the weave poles to the end of sequence. This is where the handler steals seconds from his competition. Rather than handling and playing to survive the handler puts it into another gear, and races to the finish. The handling I like here is Front Cross after jump #9, and a series of Blind Crosses as the handler weaves in and out of the serpentine of jumps.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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