Serp

The training retreat week at Country Dream is going along marvelously. They train with me for four hours and pretty much direct themselves for the rest of the day. They have the run of the property and full access to the training building. Yesterday evening we had a bit of a weather event which was pretty exciting. Today is cool and a bit damp. Nearly perfect training weather for this time of year.

I’ll share with you the training exercise we worked through this morning.

If a handler endeavors to direct his dog through a serpentine of jumps from one side then the dog probably needs to be trained to do the serpentine as though it were a single obstacle with multiple elements. I didn’t at first explain to them that this was what we were up to. But note the subtle rotation of jumps between repetitions.

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We always begin with the entertainment round. This sequence begins with a strategically placed Front Cross in the transition from jump #3 to #4. And then a bit of a race with the dog in a long straight line from #7 through #9. This really allows me to tweak the mechanics of the Front Cross as many handlers cannot do an efficient Cross to give their dogs timely information.

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This is a great opening for the lateral path Lead Out. While it is an unusual variation of the lead out it is highly effective for giving the handler an advantage in real estate in the true direction of the challenge which is to the lateral of the dog’s opening line.

I have to work with handlers to understand their movement in this Lead Out. The first rule is that the handler should never stop after leaving the dog. He moves promptly to the lateral line, establishes a path forward by movement, and then releases the dog. Most dogs understand perfectly that they should work in a path parallel to the handler’s path.

Note that this gives the handler with a huge advantage in real estate, which makes directing the dog into the pipe tunnel a nearly leisurely act.

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As we give the jumps another subtle rotation we begin to lose the squareness of the presentation of the three jumps. What I want the handler to learn to do as we teach the dog the serpentine is to take a bending step towards jump #2 from the lateral path.

Frankly I’m very intentionally working at a broad lateral distance from the line of jumps as I want the dog to demonstrate that he will seek out the jumps in the line without the handler stepping in to do a lot of overt handling.

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As the jumps are ultimately brought around into a true serpentine the handler continues to work at a lateral distance. Note that out of the bending step the handler continues to apply pressure to keep the dog out for the last jump in the serpentine.

Through the development of the exercise we have a bit of patterning working for us. The dogs have become accustomed to seeking out the jumps in front of them and won’t have much difficulty doing so even in the serpentine. But the dog’s trainer should be aware that a lot of this success comes from the patterning of the sequence. The performance should be generalized by approaching the serpentine in different contexts and different locations.

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We end with an interesting riddle that ultimately might change the handling options we were practicing for the serpentine. Note that unless the handler introduces the serpentine with a V-set the angle of approach to jump #3 will surely introduce a wobble that won’t straighten out right away in the performance of the serpentine.

I would share with you some of the discussion of how this was solved. But I really should leave something to the imagination.

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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