Agility League March Course

This is a discussion of the technical elements of the Top Dog Secretary’s Choice for March, 2015.

Any course or sequence is a unique riddle and will reveal over time the handling challenges that were in the mind of the designer. And occasionally a riddle will be revealed that wasn’t imagined at all by the designer.

In my instruction I will almost never specify handling of a sequence. We’ll begin with the Entertainment Round in which each student will demonstrate their own instinctive solution to the sequence. My job is to improve the handler’s instinct.

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The first thing we see in this course is that it is very short, only having ten obstacles. This is the course designer having fun with the preconception of a rational standard. It is a non-stop handler’s course that challenges the handler in virtually every transition.

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The opening of this course has all to do with the handler being in position to handle the transition from jump #3 into the weave poles at #4. The handler will probably want a modest lead-out. And so the key handling bit will be in Bending the dog into the turn from jump #1 to jump #2. Bending is the reciprocal of the Post turn. The handler is on the side away from the turn.

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The transition from jump #3 into the weave poles is a threadle, pure and simple. Even though there is ample room for the handler to work, it is a complicated riddle for the handler. First of all the handler wants to cue to the dog into an efficient turn off the jump, and then draw the dog around for an entry to the weave poles.

The approach to the weave poles is really the make or break moment in this course. If the handler must shape the dog’s approach into the weave poles he’ll surely sacrifice a second or more to his competition. On the other hand, if the handler hasn’t trained the dog to gain the entry, then a bold approach would be foolhardy.

Sometimes the homework just writes itself.

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The transition from jump #5 to the counter-side pipe tunnel is a bit ham-handed; but a very real challenge on this course. The first thing the dog sees after the turn from the jump is the wrong-course entry to the pipe tunnel. So it’s not enough to turn the dog. He needs to keep turning until his nose comes to line with the correct entry to the tunnel.

The handler must be aware that he needs to be in position on the next approach to the weave poles. But almost anything the handler does to solve this sequence gives the handler a two second advantage in time and space over the dog… because the dog needs to do the tunnel.

There are a lot of possibilities for a handling solution here. The handler might use a Front Cross, or an RFP. I like to teach a Flip (Ketchker) here just to have some fun with the handler communicating with his dog through movement.

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The transition from jump #7 to the weave poles is also a threadle, though not nearly as obvious as our first approach. Every point I made about the first threadle and approach applies here as well.

Note that jump #7 can be taken for granted by the handler who will view the dog’s approach as a matter of obviousness. If a dog is going to run past a jump on this course… it will be jump #7.

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The closing of the course is a bit bloody minded. But don’t you know it’s the kind of basic skill that the grown-ups are studying. The approach to jump #9 is a back-side, exacerbated by a pull-through/approach.

I initially drew the pull-through out of the weave poles to go between jumps #9 and #10. Even though a lot of people will try it that way… I want to give my dog better flow.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.

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