A Bender

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This was our Thursday evening fun run course. It was quite a ripper. There were three bits that caused relative consternation.

1.      The opening – Most folks will do a bending opening here, basically leading out dog on right, and bending the dog into the turn to jump #2. It’s not a bad strategy, though there are certain mechanics that need to be attended for it to actually be successful.

The propensity of some handlers to square their dogs to the first jump rather defeats this opening. The dog should be set at an aggressive slant to the first jump while the handler views the opening as pretty much a straight line. That takes a lot of the drama out of the turn from jump #1 to jump #2.

I’ll also find myself reminding handlers-especially on the approach to jump #2-that they point more surely with their feet than they do with their hands. Some handlers will flap their arms at the second jump while their feet show no real interest in it at all. So it’s problematic whether the dog will actually get to the jump under these conditions.

Note too that Bending is a rather weak cue, rather like a Blind Cross. The handler’s position should be well forward of the dog and calculated to avoid any collision with the dog.

2.      The approach to the weave poles – The inviting jump after the pipe tunnel will draw dogs with powerful obstacle focus a bit wider than might be desirable for the rather tight turn back to the weave poles. And since this is the entry side of the weave poles dogs who mightn’t otherwise miss an entry will be invited to do exactly that if drawn in too perpendicular a fashion.

Frankly the handler should consider shaping the approach (the moment calls for a thing I call a serpentine Front Cross – which is more truly a combination movement, Front Cross and Post Turn).

3.      The approach to the A-frame – This is probably an excellent opportunity for a layered Front Cross… particularly if the handler can get some lateral distance while the dog is engaged in the performance of the tire.

The pipe tunnel might be a powerful draw to the dog coming over jump #8. If the handler has a clutching flaw in his Front Cross the approach to the A-frame will surely be spoiled.

Warm Up Exercise

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You know, my boy Bogie got his first Master Gambler title in the USDAA many years ago at Fair Hill in Maryland on a course designed by Kenneth Tatsch that looked pretty much like #4 through #6 in this drawing. So while we were doing the handling exercise everybody got to give the distance challenge a try.

My girl Hazard pretty much nailed it first time out. The transition from the pipe tunnel to the weave poles isn’t really all that easy at a distance. As the dog comes out of the tunnel the handler should face away from the weave poles so that the dog turns sharply back. Initial movement toward the weave poles could cause the turn back to the weave poles to go too wide, and the approach too perpendicular.

Old Dogs

You know, I come back into the house after working my two young dogs Hazard and Blue. My old retired boys don’t go out any more for practice. While their minds might be willing; their bodies are old and cranky, and their eyes clouded. Birdie sleeps on his mat about 20 hours a day. He’s indifferent and doesn’t really care as long as he gets his meals on time. But you know Bogie knows what I’m doing out there. I might be anthropomorphizing… but I do think there’s a sad longing in his spirit. And he bounces around me for awhile as though saying “Put me in coach. Put me in.”

For so many years Bogie was my boy in practice and competition. He’s the smartest dog I’ve ever owned. And I miss our work together so much.

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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