As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d stay away. –Hughes Mearns (from “The Psychoed”)
Box Threadles & 270s
The first hint of a blind approach in our agility culture came from the onset of the 270 turn. I recall at one time these weren’t legal in the AKC. But I believe they came to the realization that a challenge that is common in FCI play needs to be set up for practice in the U.S. if our players are going to compete in Europe… so the ban on the 270 was lifted.
I’ve addressed the 270 a number of times in my blog. I posted the following a couple years ago, as I was practicing some of the challenges in the Alphabet Drills authored by Nancy Gyes: http://wp.me/pmSZZ-Qf
Another common form of the blind approach is a thing we call the threadle (a blind approach requiring two changes of direction).
These exercises are courtesy of the letter “A” (box threadles left; 270s right).
The blind approach always requires for the handler to shape the approach because it is not a natural or intuitive flow. In other words, the dog cannot be released to work. And more to the point, the course designer is demanding micro-management of the dog.
The most common error in the 270, to be sure, is a handling error. The handler fails to step outside the box to shape the turn, and so the dog cuts inside, earning a refusal on the second jump.
Have this at the back of your mind… the blind approach always demands micro-management.
The Blind or Managed Approach in Competition
This AAC Jumpers course contains a transition between two jumps that is commonly known as a blind approach or a managed approach. The blind approach occurs in the transition between jumps #5 and #6.
What the handler has to do here is be in position in the gap between the #6 jump and the #15 jump to draw the dog around for an approach to jump #6. If the handler’s a long-legged kid, he can probably sprint down to be in position… forward of the dog. Getting behind the dog is a big problem because any dog with a lot of obstacle focus and a good work ethic will likely take the #6 jump in the wrong direction if the handler is out of position.
Later in the course, mind you, is a hard wrap at jump #15. Again, the course requires the handler’s presence to manage the wrap. Note that the judge has put a gratuitous dummy jump beyond jump #15. So, unless the handler can outrun the dog he had better have taught the dog some magnificent distance skills to give direction from #7 through #14.
Making a Case for Training
The real question that occurs to me … can the blind approach be taught to the dog as a performance option. Be very clear on what this means. I’d like to be able to point out a jump and tell my dog “go around that jump, and come back to me over the jump.” All good training begins with a solid statement of objective.
I’ve got a video to share. It’s not actually my video but something I stumbled upon in my odd quest for interesting studies. This is evidently from Portugal:
This young man is running a course that features no fewer than four blind approaches (and a threadle to the weave poles thrown in for good measure). Please note that on one of the blind approach challenges he sent his dog forward to get it done (jump #13, following the U-shaped pipe tunnel). The dog, Jack, dropped the bar on this jump which we might blame on the dog not giving himself enough room on the un-managed approach; but then again, the handler stepped in to bend Jack away sharply after the jump which could have been the culprit in the fault.
Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.