Mixed Group Work

I’m charged with preparing for today’s mini-clinic with the observation that we probably have too many dogs. So my mission is to split the class into to two separate drill groups and have dogs running simultaneously on the floor. I know this is not allowed at some training center or at the very least a barrier will be constructed between the two working areas. But I have always trained this way because it is a realistic preparation for the world in which most dogs may compete. There will be exciting distractions in the surrounding world. If you don’t attend to this distraction training where you train… where are you going to do it?

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The set of the floor is adapted from an old lesson plan that was originally published in the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #20. I have adapted it for our equipment and floorspace. I have not indicated where people will sit and crate their dogs when not working. But I have considered this and have made it a part of the working plan even though it’s not indicated here.

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At Dogwood every lesson plan was accompanied by a “Game of the Week” for our ongoing League Play. The game on that week was a nested Gamblers judged under USDAA rules of play. Here is the adapted layout.

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The real trick to designing for group-work in which two dogs might be working at once is finding a barrier line between the two separate areas of the floor. I treat this barrier line with even more caution that I would treat a ring barrier in the course design for a trial. And I treat the ring barrier as though it were a brick wall. Mostly the consideration is that the dog’s path may not overlap a dog’s path in the adjacent working set even if the dog were to be very very wide in turning.

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When I designed lesson plans for Dogwood I was writing to an audience of instructors who were charged with leading a group of students. Our hard rule was that there would be no more than six dogs per working group. But we were able to have a class of 12 dogs on the floor at the same time by splitting the floor into separate areas.

Following is a sample of the text that I wrote for the original lesson plan:

Black Numbers – It will be too easy for the handler to be caught out of position in this sequence. Downfield handling considerations will influence a successful solution of the overall sequence. For example, the handler will probably want jump #3 to be on left in order to be in position for the turn to jump #4; though it’s not out of the question to begin with the dog on left for the first three jumps using a Back Cross or Tandem to effect the turn from #3 to #4.

Watch for the tightened turn on the landing side of jump #4. This would probably be a good place for an RFP to keep the dog off the wrong-course A‑frame.

The transition #7 through #9 is a bit of a conundrum. A simple Post Turn might be too soft a handling signal to keep the dog off the wrong-course jump #4. A Front Cross indicates a Back Cross at jump #8.

White Numbers – Have we done this one already? These endless convolutions of course possibilities will be a real test for your students’ ability to keep it all straight. We should occasionally sit back to appreciate the high entertainment value of the sport.

The handler is charged with giving the dog a square presentation of the weave poles at #2. There’s no real substitute for the dog actually understanding the entry to the poles. Out of the weave poles the handler might just make a run for it with dog on right. Though there’s a real possibility the dog will run around jump #3 for having too narrow a presentation. Another approach would be to do a Front Cross out of the weave poles, though jump #4 is still a problem. So you might challenge your students to find a good place to make the Cross. Remember that the dog turns when the handler turns.

Life on a Treadmill

I probably have a bunch to share with you. I’ve just finished three weeks of camp work… and have camp this week and the following week as well. I ran up to Columbus for one day of a USDAA trial and ran back home for our four-hour Sunday mini-clinic. Next weekend or the following I’m heading up to Rondout Valley, NY for a handling clinic with some of my favorite folks! As you can see I’m just as busy as can be (as an old football coach I had would put it “I’m running around like a blind dog in a meat house!)

I’ll catch you all up sometime this week as I get breathing space. For now I have a bunch of work to do preparing for the day.

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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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