Banner - 2o2o Contact Training DVD

Monday, March 16, 2009

Creating Straight Lines in a Curve

This sequence is from yesterday's Blog & the Exc. Std. course from Pasco, WA on 3-15-09.

Review of Yesterday

Yesterday I gave an overview of the path (in green) that most handlers used and the resulting dog path (also in green).  I also shared a suggested path for handlers (in red) and the resulting dog path (also in red) and the "why" of the path in red.  Now I'd like to focus on the "how-to's" to accomplish this path.

One of the items I mentioned yesterday was creating straight lines which would allow you and your dog to RUN. Today, I'd also like to focus & add on the details on how a handler's shoulders & hand signals come into play, especially on a sequence like the one here. Hopefully this note will help to tie all of the thoughts together.

The Assumptions

OK, let's go through some basics so that we're all on the same page.
  • We're going to focus on body language as the main means of communication between the dog & handler in this exercise.
  • Next, since we're using body language, we're going to concentrate mainly on our shoulders. This will include our arms & hands since they are attached and can arguably be called an extension of our shoulders .
  • Speaking of shoulder placement - if both you and the dog are parallel & facing straight ahead, I call that Open Shoulders which cues RUNNING or a straight line. If I turn into my dog to face them, this cues collection and the dog should come in to me (think of the beginnings of a front cross, you turn into the dog and they should collect their stride and come in toward you). For this exercise, we're going to work on a shoulder position which is in the middle of these two examples.
  • Physical Movement, or a lack of our physical movement plays a significant part in communicating with our dog on an Agility course. To go further, the direction of our movement can be just as important. Motion can be as sensitive as shifting your weight to one leg or the other (think about that detail - it can be a very powerful statement to the dog).
Putting it all Together - Creating the Handler's Straight Lines

We're going to use Shoulders & Arms as well as Physical Movement to create 2 straight lines in our curved sequence. The first step is to have the handler push up into the top of the curve to create the first straight line and then "pull" back down to create the second straight line. 

Rather than a traditional rounded pinwheel where the handler hangs out in the middle, I'd like to challenge you to think of a whip or the effect that occurs when a dog hits the end of a leash - there is an instant pull-back. That's what our goal will be, except our dog will be paying attention, reading our movement & body language and won't end up on it's butt! 

Here are the steps:
  1. Start - The dog and handler start out parallel, with the dog in front of the chute. Handlers need to be aware of their position and work the 1st obstacle - don't take it for granted. 
  2. First Handler Straight Line & Movement - The plan is that the handler's line will be from the chute up in a slight diagonal toward the middle area between the chute exit & the #2 jump (for smaller dogs, the handler may need to go a bit closer toward the front area of the #2 jump). Depending on your dog's speed will determine where the handler starts & when the handler begins movement. Ultimately, the goal is to be pushing your dog to the top of the handler line as it exits the chute. Handlers will need to time it so that they are moving with the dog to this point.
  3. Handler Shoulders - As the dog is exiting the chute & the handler is moving on their line, the handler's shoulders should be squarely facing the middle of jump #2 (indicating the next obstacle the dog should take), AND the hand and foot closest to the dog (in this case on the right) are also extended to support the jump as well. 
  4. Handler Shifting of Weight - I keep my feet spread while pushing to the top obstacle and keep my weight on my front foot (in this case the right foot).  In preparation for the next step, my back leg (in this case the left leg) is ready and pointing down in the direction I want to go to next.
  5. Executing the Pull - To begin the second straight line or the "pull", my physical movement begins when I simply shift my weight to my back leg (in this case the left leg), while keeping my shoulders & hand out and continue to point to the top of the line where I just came other words, your shoulder & arm placement doesn't change (fight the urge to swing your shoulder & arm around in the direction you'll now be moving). In summary, you're only incorporating movement of your lower body, which cues the dog as to the direction you're now going. 
  6. Practice the Send & Pull - To practice this step, send your dog to the #2 jump, be sure your supporting with your right leg & arm and shift your weight forward to the right leg. Either before or as the dog takes the jump, keep your shoulders and arm the same and shift your weight to the back leg - your dog should pull into you.
  7. Second Handler Straight Line Movement - By keeping your shoulders & arm stationary, it allows you to stay ahead of your dog, look back over your right shoulder and "pull" your dog on the path of the second straight line. Again, resist the urge to turn your shoulders forward in the direction of your movement. Think of yourself as being in the start of a front cross except your outside arm (in this case your left arm) isn't coming around to pick up the dog.
Practice - Remembering the Finer Points

Ok, I'm the first to admit that a purely verbal approach to teaching this handling maneuver isn't my first choice. I'm a visual learner and I'll bet most of you are too. Short of having me come do a seminar, joining one of my classes or doing a private lesson, I can understand you may have some challenges while figuring this out. That's to be expected.

Here are some tips to help:
  • Break the sequence down into small, manageable parts so that both you and your dog can be successful.
  • Small parts will also help you pinpoint where things might be going astray.
  • Remember to focus on 1 obstacle at a time.
  • After pushing to the #2 jump, if you find your dog heading toward the dog walk or the #11 jump, I'd guess that you're turning your shoulders & opening them up to indicate a Run motion. Remember, your hand should be pointing to where you came from and your shoulders should be facing the dog's path - it's a semi-collection cue.
  • Another possibility is that you're inadvertently moving more like the handling path found on the green line and pushing toward the dog walk or #11 with your physical movement. Remember, it's a straight line up and a straight line down - no rounding, but more of a whip effect.
  • Trust your dog! If you're at the Excellent level, chances are you've taught your dog some great points and the two of you have to figure out this new handling item. Give it time and go into it with a sense of humor. Allow you and your dog to make mistakes and if you have to, break it down even more than you had planned.
  • Remember, this is a tool to have in your handlers' tool box. It's always nice to have additional skills. Another benefit of this skill is that it allows you to do less running and keeps you ahead of your dog.
Lastly, I recognize I've given a lot of detail. If you need help, have questions or want to make a comment, please do so.  I like interactive! : )

No comments:

Post a Comment