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Friday, February 13, 2009

Learn By Watching

While there are many things I like about judging, watching the dog & handler teams work their way through the course is by far my favorite.  I always come back from shows with tips, hints and some "don't ever do" thoughts.

Today's Excellent Standard course had 2 interesting challenges that I'll be bringing back to practice.  

The first sequence was #1 & #2 on the course which was a fairly straight tunnel to the weaves.  Of course I should mention there was an off-course dog walk straight ahead of the tunnel that pulled many a dog despite desperate calls from their handler.  What incorrectly signaled the majority of the dogs was the handler's motion.  While handlers were intent on moving toward the poles, they didn't realize that the dog's line of site was the dog walk.  Many handlers were surprised, and some not so happy, when their dog understandably went up the ramp that was staring them in the face.

I want to try this sequence 2 ways:
  1. Using the assumption I have a stay at the start so that I can do a lead out past the tunnel.
  2. Next, using the assumption I don't have a stay at the start so I'm starting with my dog.
You might be wondering "Why?"  Simply put, I ultimately expect my dogs to be able to perform each obstacle regardless of where I am. I also like to train using both motion & verbal cues. After all, sometimes I'm with the dog, sometimes ahead of the dog and sometimes behind the dog.  In any of these situations, I need my dog to take responsibility for the obstacle performance because sometimes I can't be there and sometimes I need to be else where on the course preparing for the next challenge.

The next sequence was 2 jumps and a table.  The sequence was #10 jump to #11 jump, wrap back to the #10 jump (which is now #12) and then wrap to the table.  Think figure 8's with the jumps.

I was very interested to see how this section would run since practicing wraps & crosses (front & rear) using a figure 8 pattern is a basic skill that every dog & handler has probably practiced a dozen or so times.  The trick to this section was that the dog was coming into this sequence with quite a bit of speed.  Keeping that in mind, I designed this section with 21 feet to any off course option, leaving plenty of room for dogs to turn and handlers to manage.

Here's were watching really came into play.
  1. It was VERY interesting to see the difference between well-timed rear crosses and the not so timely ones.  Watching something being done right helps me to capture a visual picture that I can play in my mind, like a mental practice session. This helps me to be more timely in the real world when I'm running my own dogs.  There were some beautiful rear crosses!
  2. Some handlers were very successful using the opposite arm to signal collection over a jump which resulted in a front cross.  What I learned from those that executed this move smoothly was that it was clear they'd practiced this with their dog often and it was natural to them.  Oh yeah, and the obvious - they were in front of their dog .  While on first appearance, the arm may appear to be the cue, I couldn't help but notice that MOTION (slowing down or a lack of motion) was also key. Those that tried to race their dog to get in front only encouraged the dog's forward momentum when in collection and a turn was soon needed.  Another component was the direction a person's shoulders faced (straight ahead signals run and turning in to face the dog is another collection signal).
I'll work to get the course up on my website so you'll have a visual of what I'm referring to.  In the meantime, I have homework to do as I'd like to do some basic work to start preparing my young dog for these types of ques.  Coal and I had the cues down perfectly, but Ru is a different dog with a different body type.  When I eventually get back home, I'll let you know how it goes!


  1. Hey, if you are going to NQ, I say it's best to do it at the beginning of the course .... Pressure off... relax, have fun and practice with your dog!! This course was clearly designed with that objective in mind !! LOL.... I

    love the course analyses ... More please!!! :-)

  2. I'm off to Columbus, OH to judge for the weekend so I should have more course analyses for you soon!

    Thanks for the input and glad you're enjoying them : )