Jump to content
BC Boards

Valuable agility lessons I have learned


Recommended Posts

Some of which I have yet to put into practice. The last dog of my own I had to train from scratch was nearly 9 years ago and I've learned a lot since then.

 

Be consistent and never accept anything less from the dog. If you want a dog to understand what is required you have to be prepared to throw runs if it breaks a wait or blows a contact.

 

Be clear in your objectives from Day 1.Think long game not short term.

 

Run from the hips, not from the knees. I've never been a sporty person and am now middle aged verging on elderly and way overweight but even I can cover the ground if I do that.

 

Don't wait for the dog. If you slow down or stop the dog will too.

 

A fast dog is easier to run than a slow one even for a slow handler.

 

Don't panic - you have more time than you think.

 

Foundation work is more important than obstacle work.

 

And don't be too eager to jump on the current training / handling bandwagon. Fashions come and go, and sometimes come back again. Be selective.

 

I'm sure I can think of more but what can you add?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the list... I am transitioning into agility from herding for years so this was very beneficial for me.

 

What does perplex me is the part about a fast dog being easier to run. Could you explain? My dog is so fast I feel I can't think sometimes.

 

Demographically, I think I am similar to you... an "adult" as I like to describe it, as opposed to some of the young willow-o-wisps I see floating along with their dogs.

Link to post
Share on other sites

These are some of mine. They are unique to me and some are outside the box a bit. :)

 

Treasure every run. Every single one. In retrospect, the blips may be some of the best Agility memories of all!

 

If I, or the dog, make a mistake, move on and enjoy the heck out of the rest of the run. Then take the issue back to training and grow from it.

 

Approach Agility as something to enhance the quality of the dog's life, and to build rapport between dog and handler, not as something to "win" for myself.

 

Some of the greatest accomplishments aren't measured by Q's, placements, or titles.

 

You don't have to be a good athlete to enjoy Agility.

 

Setbacks happen. Be patient and know that they can be overcome with a good approach.

 

Success happens - savor it! Celebrate the great runs with my dog in some special way.

 

A good instructor, who can help solve handler handling issues, and will always respect the wishes of the handler regarding the training of the dog, is worth her weight in gold! (Or, of course, his, if that is the case!)

 

A noise phobic dog can enjoy Agility, although making that happen requires a lot of patience, learning, time, and commitment

 

Find the venue that best suits yourself and your dog, if you have choices in your area.

 

And . . . the biggest lessons I've learned from my own individual dogs:

 

An Agility run can be like a dance. An incredible sense of give and take and teamwork between dog and handler, and a showcase of the beauty in the dog. (Thank you, Maddie Lynn!)

 

An Agility run can be an adventure. Sometimes creativity, enthusiasm, and a ton of fun are better than fitting inside anyone's box. (Thank you, Dean Dog)

 

Take risks out there. Push the envelope. Put the Q on the line and let it all fly out there. That's the way we will become as good as we can be and love every moment of this experience together. (Thank you, Miss Tessa)

 

Finally, after a reasonable try, if it's not the right sport for an individual dog, find something else to do. Some dogs really are not suited for Agility for very good reasons, and if that's the case, it's better to pursue something else together. (Thank you, Speedy Barishnacov, my best ever dance partner)

Link to post
Share on other sites

What does perplex me is the part about a fast dog being easier to run. Could you explain? My dog is so fast I feel I can't think sometimes.

 

Hi Grizel,

 

A faster dog, once trained and you know how to handle in a way your dog can read, can be sent out ahead, or can work at a distance laterally to you. You don't have to run nearly as much.

 

My first Agility dog, Maddie, was what they call a "velcro dog". That meant I always had to work near her. So pretty much every step of the course, I had to run. It was a lot of running.

 

Tessa, the dog I am running now, will run ahead of me, or work laterally to me, or I can send her out a bit and cut corners and things, so I don't have to run nearly as much.

 

I would say, though, that some handlers will have a harder time learning handling with a faster dog, and training distance work will be a challenge for some.

 

But the actual running of a course - yeah, way easier with a faster dog!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I can see that. From our herding days I can send him to an obstacle from half way across the room and I can move far away from him when he is in the weave poles to position for the next obstacle, so that gives me an advantage.

 

But trying to get in a front cross with my slow step-by-step speed while he is rocketing ahead like bullet is scary! I am trying hard to get better - he has so much more fun when I can get it right.

 

The thing I am starting to understand about agility is that it is very experience-driven. You have to do it and think about it to put all the pieces together.

Link to post
Share on other sites

But trying to get in a front cross with my slow step-by-step speed while he is rocketing ahead like bullet is scary! I am trying hard to get better - he has so much more fun when I can get it right.

 

The thing I am starting to understand about agility is that it is very experience-driven. You have to do it and think about it to put all the pieces together.

 

Yeah, I know what you mean. Dean runs like that at class, and there are times I end up just standing there while he is half a ring away and we've lost the connection.

 

But when I do get it right, it is absolutely exhilarating!

 

For me, learning to handle well is the hardest part. I can train my dogs to jump and go through tunnels and tip a teeter, etc. But I've found that learning to be where I need to be and have the right body language, and to place my turning cues and stuff properly has been very, very challenging.

 

And it has been a long work in progress that has included: winging it because I know I don't have the skills, going out there to run conservative because I know the skills but I'm not all that adept at them yet, and now I'm finally to the point where some of the skills are there and I am ready to really try using them at speed in real time. Oh, and throw in there, basically learning it all over again with a completely different dog who has a different style, which I have found to be more of a challenge than I ever anticipated.

 

And this is on my third Agility dog! It has taken me that long, taking classes every single week, and competing on a fairly consistent basis, to get to this point with this dog (Tessa).

 

And rear crosses are still my nemesis. I simply don't have a good concept of their execution (on my part). My dog can have all the foundation in the world, but if I don't push on his or her line at the right point, the cross won't happen. I'm really struggling with that because the execution of rear crosses doesn't make intuitive sense to me like fronts and blinds do.

 

I guess what I'm saying is that it's a work in progress for all of us. And yes, experience does help you put the pieces together. And there is no substitute for that experience - you just have to go out, get the experience, and find out what you have to work on from there.

 

At least that has been my experience . . . LOL!!!

Link to post
Share on other sites

That is good to hear, because I like being involved in something you can never master (that was very much how herding is). And I have been told that in agility everything shifts when you start a new dog.

 

Yes, it does.

 

And if you are working with a new dog after the death of a long time Agility partner, there is the emotional side of that, as well as the practical.

 

But even when that isn't the case, every dog is different, and what works with one, handling-wise, doesn't always work with another, so starting with a new dog can require the acquisition of almost a whole new set of handling skills!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree, fast dogs are easier.

 

Meg was a slow dog (and a distracted dog) and I had a very difficult time learning handling skills. I felt most of the time like I was dragging her around the course and it was very difficult. But something clicked for her and now she's a bit faster (though not super fast) and its easier for both of us. I have to run to keep up (instead of encouraging her to keep up) and I can focus more on me being in the right position and less on her falling behind and getting distracted. We're both having more fun now.

 

My trainer wanted to give me a different experience than I had with Meg and let me run a dog that will help improve my handling. She's letting me train one of her young Papillons. She's a high drive pup and LOVES agility. It's been a lot of learning for me because I've never worked with a small dog or a dog that sees agility as the greatest thing on earth. We're having a lot of fun and she's helping me become a better handler (and I get a discount for Meg's classes) :) .

 

I think you learn to be a much better handler when you work with more than one dog. Each dog is different and what works for one dog may not work for another. Working multiple dogs forces you to think about your movement, cues, and placement a bit more.

 

I struggle with front crosses. Meg doesn't like them and I thinks its my fault because I struggle with the foot work and she ends up briefly confused as to where to go next. We have a good rear cross though which we both like better.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mum24dog.. I agree with everything on your list... especially "Be clear in your objectives from Day 1.Think long game not short term"

 

I don't trial very often but I spent the first year of Rievaulxs career training in the ring, or leaving the ring depending on the venue I had watched to many dogs with sloppy contacts and non-exisistant start lines. I am planning on a long career together so I would except the E and repeat the start line, redo the contact, a few times it took a lot of will power when the contact was the second last obstacle and everything else was good!... last year I kept getting a little frustrated as it was always fun but we would knock a bar, miss a contact... but we were always very fast. Our first trial this year last weekend it all came together 3 Qs 3 firsts out of 4 and the 4th he was perfect, I was a little fuzzy on the first run and started repeating part of the course....

 

As for it being easier to run a fast dog... it is still hard but for me way more fun, its an adrenaline rush... I could not learn how to handle well because with Brody I was a cheer leader, and there was no need for accuracy because nothing was going to go really wrong if I was late, but is was mentally exhausting and half the time I felt like I was running backwards cheering him on.

That is not to say it is easy to run a fast dog.. its not, Rievaulx and I really train human handling.. its about me learning how to get the front cross right, in the right place etc getting the muscle memory right, and for him its about learning what the human is going to do. Learning to run a very fast dog, also taught me to be a better handler for the slower one, there was no doubts which made him more confident. I tell people at this stage of our career its not dog training but human training, my dog will do anything I ask I just have to ask in the right way...

Link to post
Share on other sites

Run from the hips, not from the knees -- that sounds good, and I think I know what it means, but if you could expound on that a bit, it would help me understand better. My dog wants me to get faster :~) and I am open to any and all tips.

 

One lesson that I am still trying to 'learn' is -- Do not speak to the dog in midair over the jump.

My dog is quite responsive and will do his best to adjust - usually resulting in a dropped bar.

 

Another lesson: Learn your dog's commitment point. This goes hand-in-hand with the above. One of the reasons I speak to my dog in mid-air is because he is very fast and often gets to his commitment point before my brain has processed it and then I am late with my verbal. I try to use mostly body movement to direct my dog around a course, but sometimes I feel I need a verbal too.

 

I am also on the same page with the last paragraph of alligande's post.

 

Jovi

Link to post
Share on other sites

Run from the hips, not from the knees -- that sounds good, and I think I know what it means, but if you could expound on that a bit, it would help me understand better. My dog wants me to get faster :~) and I am open to any and all tips.

 

 

Jovi

 

If you watch handlers with a short tight and stuttery motion they don't extend their stride from the hip. For a natural runner I'm sure it's obvious that lengthening the stride from the hip is going to lead to more ground covered and a smoother action, but for the non athletic amongst us it doesn't necessarily come naturally.

 

Sorry I can't explain it better, not being a biomechanician.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I never realized how much running is a learned skill, untill I started to run for fitness. 2.5 years ago I started a program called couch to 5k when I realized I was never going to be able to compete in agility like I wanted to. It still amazes me that by careful and slow progress I have gone from gasping for breath after a minute and some one who hated running, to completing a half marathon. The more you do you learn the mechanism of how to power your body. It is similar to when I used to swim for fitness, I had good form and could cover a lot of distance easily, versus other fitness swimmers who did not have a swim coach for a friend, running though is something you can figure out on your own.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Another question - does rising the jump heights slow the dog down? I have wondered if that would be a good strategy.

 

Personally I wouldn't really use that as a strategy to slow the dog down. The dog should jump at the height that is most comfortable for him and/or the height required in the competition venue in which you choose to compete.

 

I wouldn't raise heights to the point where it slowed the dog down significantly enough to make him easier to handle! I would focus on learning to handle smarter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I jump 26" in USDAA and 20" in NADAC and it is easier for me to handle at 26". At 20" my partner flattens out and has less "hang" time for me to put a front cross etc in. I train at 26" as USDAA is my favorite venue, although I do more NADAC (due to local availability ) The advice I would give is to train at the height you will compete at, I do vary heights as there is such a big variation for us, I will also mix jump heights in a training sequence just to keep him thinking.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Love your dog for who she or he is, not what your ego aspires to turn the dog into. Accept their indivdiuality - they are their own being, not an extension of a person's ego. Too many people now can only feed their egos at the expense of their dog's mental and physical capabilities. Their dogs have now just become a means to an end.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Another question - does rising the jump heights slow the dog down? I have wondered if that would be a good strategy.

 

Greg Derrett has said that one of his dogs runs 3-4 secs faster over 55cm than over 65 cm (26in) so yes, in general the more rounded trajectory over a higher jump will probably slow a dog down over the jump itself. On the other hand, it may save time by turning tighter.

 

GD created UKA and included a 55cm jump height because people asked for it but although his dogs measure into that category he won't use it himself because he doesn't want them going too fast and landing with front legs extended which can bring an increased risk of shoulder and carpal injury.

 

More than that, he actually sometimes trains his dogs over our old height of around 75cm which he never meets in competition so I wouldn't rule it out if a dog I had needed it. I wouldn't do it so I could keep up though.

 

I take the view that if you want success you don't just train for what you are going to meet in competition, you train for a greater level of difficulty both for handler and dog. In theory when you get to competition it will be relatively easy. We want our Grade 1 dogs to be ready for several grades above that so they won't struggle when they get there.

 

Training over higher jumps than necessary doesn't seem to have slowed his dogs up in competition -

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...