Speaking of Mecklenburg…

Since Linda commented on my yesterday blog… I really should respond to her in an open forum rather than burying my response in a “reply” to a “comment”. It’s like being at one of my seminars… if you raise your hand, you’re up next; (I see Sue Sternberg over in the corner telling those around her after I’ve asked a question to the group “Don’t raise your hand! Don’t raise your hand!”)

Linda, I was saddened to hear that Awesome is gone. He was a sweet, talented and wonderful dog. And he was my friend.

Just so everyone knows Linda Mecklenburg is probably one of the true dog agility training geniuses in our sport. I’ve known her for many years; and I’m well aware of both her accomplishments and her methodologies. She has forged the way for many of us in terms of methods and practices. There are many “top players” in the field who stand on the shoulders of the true innovators in our sport and have never actually contributed to the body of knowledge themselves. And Linda has broad shoulders.

As a player “at the top” Linda’s accomplishments are probably without peer. She’s won multiple national championships and in international competition has represented for the US of A with distinction and honors (and only the occasional faux pas).



What drives me really nuts these days is people who subscribe to “The Mecklenburg Handling System” and don’t even come close to understanding it. I can watch handlers in the ring only one time and pretty much tell if they get it at all. And a whole bunch of them just don’t get it. Between you & me and the wall, Leanne Baird gets it perfectly. She’s great out there!

I was kidding with Linda once at a trial I was judging that she was about the only one in the class that included a bunch of her students who understood how to create the corner in a technical handling moment. She said “They’re just being lazy.” No Linda, they just don’t get it.

The important thing, as an instructor, is to understand that it really takes awhile for people to learn a thing. Heck, it takes me about two years to teach a handler to do a perfect Front Cross. I’m pretty sure I could teach it in about 20 minutes with a shock collar. But I’m compelled to take the long view in these matters. In any case, imagine how long it really takes to learn a complex handling system that’s based on about 25 years of experience; not to mention the development of amazing extemporaneous instinct!

NEWS FLASH… it will take more than a single generation of dogs.

The part that drives me nuts, then, is the handler/student who is resistant to learning a simple bone-headed obvious skill because they subscribe to a system they don’t come close to understanding. It’s almost impossible to teach these people.

We also have out in the world seminarists who teach The Mecklenburg Handling System. And I say “Why don’t you get Mecklenburg?” And they say “She’s too expensive.” Here’s the fun irony. I’ve seen them in competition. For the most part they don’t get Mecklenburg at all.

It’s hard to get it from Linda’s Clean Run articles. You need to do sentence diagramming to figure out what she’s saying; (you’ve always needed a good editor Linda). I joke out in the world that when I write an article for Clean Run they edit me for political correctness (imagine that). They don’t even edit Linda for readability. I guess they’re afraid of her.

There’s only one thing that Linda’s ardent disciples and imitators really manage to get right and practice with true perfection: Never lifting a hand to help at an agility trial. And it’s a goddamn shame that this is the only thing that large numbers of handlers really manage to get right in their imitation of Linda.

Important Observations

When I speak of a BC handler who runs back to slam the dog in a crate after a run… I’m not talking about Linda. I know Linda and have seen her with her dogs. She has real affection and devotion to all of them; and any dog in Mecklenburg’s house will live a wonderful active life with lots of loving care.

You can’t really get Mecklenburg or her “handling system” without understanding her principles of dog training; which, as far as I can tell she doesn’t really teach with the same ardent attention that she teaches handling skills. I heard Mike Ditka, speaking of the quality of Jim Harbaugh as a tough coach, say “There’s an old saying in life… you get what you tolerate.” This describes Linda in a nutshell. As a dog trainer Linda is very clear on what she will tolerate and holds to her criteria for behavior and performance with unflinching diligence. Further, she does so without being abusive and harsh with her dogs.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


One Response to “Speaking of Mecklenburg…”

  1. Jean Magee Says:

    Hi Bud I haven’t studied Linda Mecklenburg’s system at all apart from when it was compared to the Derrett system on Clean Run. I bought Greg Derrett’s three DVD’s and trained on my field as often as I could with my standard poodle. Unfortunately I was never able to practice it in the ring as I was never near enough to her to do an FC or almost anything else that he taught. He doesn’t advocate layering or working away.
    I do think his system is really good though- basic, simple, clear concise rules, easy to understand and if I could keep up with my dog that is the system I would use.
    As far as I could understand from Clean Run Linda doesn’t advocate working away either and you do. She also seemed to have a penchant for blind crosses whereas the Derrett system’s first rule is ‘always keep your eye on your dog’ which I try to follow.
    From what I understand from Clean Run the Derrett System is very big in the US almost on a par with the Mecklenburg System.
    What do you think? Have you glanced at the Derrett System at all and what system would you advocate for someone who runs like a snail and gasps for breath after 10 seconds?

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