Archive for the ‘Linda Mecklenburg’ Category

Internationalization pt 3 ~ Ketschker

March 7, 2013

Okay this movement is all the rage right now. It can be defined as a combination movement: Front Cross followed by a Blind Cross. I’ve been teaching it for about 15years. I originally called it the Mitchell Flip; because the first time I ever saw it was by a student of mine during an RFP[1] exercise. He did this thing that clearly was not an RFP. Though what he did worked in the exercise. Being one never to dismiss a thing that works, I began to study the movement, and then to teach it.

Mitchell went on to train with a smart aleck in the sport who forbade him from using this movement. And so I’ve pretty much trimmed the “Mitchell” from the description of the term and in my own writing now call it the Flip. With some irony I note that the “smart aleck” now, some 15 years later, has incorporate the Flip in her own handling repertoire because she has observed it winning in competition.

I looked back to find where the Flip might have first appeared in my own writing. On my web store, by the way, I have something like five years of unique weekly lesson plans; for three training levels and nested with a weekly league play game. These are documented in the pages of the JFF Agility Notebook; available at: Notebook. Anyhow, here’s a PDF sample page from the October 2000 Notebook: Sample.

About eight years or so ago I got a note from Pati Mah; after she read something I’d written on the Flip to tell me that she had been using the movement for a couple years. So, we really shouldn’t give everything over to the Europeans as the onliest innovators in agility. We’re just slow to adopt in this country.

In the same time period I got a note from somebody in Europe who told me this was a movement they were playing with in Europe, where they call it the Ketschker.

The set of equipment I typically use to teach the Ketschker comes from the opening sequence of a course once used at the AKC Nationals. Correct me if I’m wrong I think it was 1999 or 2000; and I’m pretty sure it was round 4.


 Do you remember this sequence? Animal Planet covered the event. They showed this bit with Elicia Calhoun and her dog Soni… earning a refusal at the #2 tire. They played that bit over and over again; and she made the same mistake every time. To be fair, she was approaching the riddle as a Vee-Set. Soni went into the fourth round leading the pack. Had Elicia pulled this off, she very likely would have won that year.

The handler starts the Front Cross as the dog commits up through the tire. The handler must pull the dog in the perpendicular transitional line and then commit to the Blind Cross before the dog can actually catch him. The amazing thing about teaching this… most people are successful the first time they every try it. And yet, a big number of them fail when using their default handling plan. Of some 350 masters dogs and their handlers, about 25% of the field failed on this opening.

Only two dogs got to see a Flip to solve this opening at the AKC Nationals that year. And both of them were successful. I even remember the names of the two dogs[2] after all these years.


This YouTube video demonstrates the Ketschker that is used simply to tighten the dog’s turning radius: [Chip, handled by Rosie Ison.]. Note that the handler might simply have drawn the dog on Post. But she gambled, effectively, on the notion that the Post is a softer cue and the dog’s turn might have been much wider than necessary.

Here’s a video complete with schmaltzy music that gives the movement a real workout

Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day

If I were pressed to define what it means I’m not too sure I could come to a definition agreeable to everyone. If you craft a good one, I’ll put it on the Glossary of Agility Terms.

I was going to do a full rant on Internationalization. Indeed, this is third is a series I’ve been working on in anticipation of the Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day Internationalization topic. The first two I wrote were: Part 1; and Part 2.

In a broad sense Internationalization is two-fold: Course challenges, and handling skills. If I sound like I object to the course challenge side of the coin; It is not the challenge itself that I object to. It is the course designer’s bloody-minded approach to placement. Many movements require control position by the handler. That means the handler needs to be right there with his dog to get it done. So imagine that the course designer puts a control position challenge in the upper-right corner of the course map; followed by a diagonal speed building run to the lower-left corner of the ring. Now we’ve created a scenario in which only fast long-legged kids can race from corner to corner keeping pace with their Border Collies. Us old folks are left pitifully out of position just wishing we were there.

Challenge Course

Here’s a very short and interesting course that several clubs are running (under the aegis of Top Dog Agility Players) over the next couple weeks. We’d be delighted if you would join us. Please note… all scores will be aggregated as a single competition. If you want to play drop me a line at I’ll send you a score-sheet and give you a heads-up to rules for performance and faults.


A More Fulsome Grind

This is not a Top Dog course (but could be!) I included this just to make it a more full-length course.


Course Design College ~ Understanding the Dog’s Path

I’ve been reviewing a lot of courses the past few days. I would very much like to address the course designer’s responsibility for engineering a square and safe approach to contact obstacles.


This is the kind of thing I’ve been seeing (and way too much of it). Taking the picture at face value you must be thinking “What’s the big deal?” The dog’s path looks perfectly straight and safe for the approach to the dogwalk.

Here’s the problem… the line was drawn by the Clean Run Course Designer. And what you must know is that CRCD is an idiot robot. Note that the corner of approach is out modestly on the left of the jump labeled #2. In truth, there is no corner of approach at all to the jump… you should draw a straight line out of the pipe tunnel through the jump to truly understand the dog’s path.


This is the dog’s path, more truly rendered. Most dogs will actually manage the up-ramp of the dogwalk just fine. But a dog working at any real speed will get on the ramp out of square and will dump off the ramp, losing footing, about half-way up.

This was not the dog’s fault nor truly the handler’s fault. It was the fault of the course designer.

Most challenges on course are essentially the course designer’s riddle. What is never an appropriate riddle to the competitor is… do you know how to do this without hurting your dog?


  The problem of approach is really easy enough to fix. The course designer might move the jump more to the south (down); or could rotate the dogwalk in anticipation of the dog’s turning radius.


All the foregoing being said, this is a perfectly acceptable on-course challenge. The placement of the pipe tunnel will surely protect the dog from too perpendicular an approach from the left side. And now the riddle is a valid one… do you know how to do this without earning the wrong course fault?

And you must know that the dog’s true path favors the wrong course.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

[1] The RFP, don’t you know, can be defined as a combination movement: Front Cross followed by a second Front Cross.

[2] Bogie and Birdie

Speaking of Mecklenburg…

October 31, 2011

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 The Country Dream web store is up and running. 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.