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Agility common sense at last


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www.agilitynet.com

 

I can't post a direct link to the article but it's middle top on the home page entitled "What's wrong with European Handling".

 

Echoes everything I've always thought about the unquestioning following of the latest handling fashion.

 

I've been around long enough to see blind crosses good, blind crosses bad, and back to blind crosses good again.

 

Still don't like them for myself because I am too slow and so often see people like me getting in their dogs' way but they work when appropriately exercised by the right handler with the right dog.

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He makes sense.

 

I have tried to learn many different techniques to see which work best for my team (myself and Torque) and to have more 'tools in the toolbox' for the times when I run up against a novel challenge (usually at a trial).

 

Blind Xs/front Xs/rear Xs - I started with a lot of rears since I was a beginning handler and Torque was a speed demon. He was always ahead of me since I was clueless as to how to get in position many times. As we have come along, I find that I can get in more fronts and blinds. For me, the blind makes more sense - the footwork is much easier for me. Regardless of whether or not I use a front or a blind, the most important thing for me is getting into position in time - that is the key.

 

When I started, my instructor was a strict proponent of the Derrett/Garrett handling system. Again, because of my dog's speed, I found that I had to layer certain obstacles depending on the course path. Since my dog likes distance, we had no problem with layering, but I certainly remember a lot of "That's not how you should run the course." from the instructor. IIRC, I have heard that Derrett is now seeing the advantages of layering since he is a little older and slower - which I have been since I started agility. :)

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I'll keep my eyes open for what Greg Derrett is doing now. I haven't noticed any changes but I'm not the most observant of people and haven't been paying attention.

 

I have no idea how I'm likely to end up handling my pup. It's a very long time since I started a dog of my own from scratch. I do know a lot more than I did last time though so it will be fun figuring out what works best. One thing is sure and that's that I won't be able to get away with the way I (and lots of other people) used to handle.

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I have personally never understood a handling system. The first time someone used that term in talking to me I thought what the heck is a handling system? Then someone explained it to me and I thought how can that possibly work?

 

My instructor has always been a proponent of learning all the tools and using them when they're appropriate for me and my dog as a team. I'm old, short and fat. I can't run nearly as fast as my dog therefore I use distance. I use mostly rear crosses and if I use a front it's because I've sent her ahead of me and slipped across with the course doubling back. I focus on a venue that works for us. Neither one of us particularly likes tight and twisty so we don't go there. I don't like asking my dog to jump into my space and she doesn't like doing it.

 

Be who you want to be. I wasn't one of the cool kids in High School and didn't care then. I sure as heck don't care now.

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I have personally never understood a handling system. The first time someone used that term in talking to me I thought what the heck is a handling system? Then someone explained it to me and I thought how can that possibly work?

 

My instructor has always been a proponent of learning all the tools and using them when they're appropriate for me and my dog as a team. I'm old, short and fat. I can't run nearly as fast as my dog therefore I use distance. I use mostly rear crosses and if I use a front it's because I've sent her ahead of me and slipped across with the course doubling back. I focus on a venue that works for us. Neither one of us particularly likes tight and twisty so we don't go there. I don't like asking my dog to jump into my space and she doesn't like doing it.

 

Be who you want to be. I wasn't one of the cool kids in High School and didn't care then. I sure as heck don't care now.

 

While I don't follow a handling system strictly, my instructor has been almost exclusively teaching the Mecklenberg system since close to the end of Maddie's career, and guess what? It works a heck of a lot better for me than anything I would slap together with bits of this and bits of that. I don't stick to it strictly like I'm going to die or something if I deviate from it and some Freestyle ends up in there from time to time :P , but by and large, when I follow the system, Tessa does exactly what I need her to do.

 

So, it's been a good thing for me, and for Tessa. It would have worked well with Maddie, too, had we gotten into it a lot sooner.

 

I don't consider myself "cool" for it, nor any less myself.

 

Now they are getting into One Mind stuff and I don't think it is going to work all that well for Tessa, at least not as I understand it so far.

 

I'm not opposed to learning handling systems, though. I've found that learning handling systems is a great structure to learn new handling skills. I'll try the new handling. And if it doesn't work, I'll stick with the Mecklenberg stuff. Why buck it just because it's someone else's system?

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A system is just the language you have developed between you and your dog, that you have a certain consistent way of asking him to do a certain thing, so he can be confident of what you're asking and you can be confident that he'll respond in a predictable way to a particular cue. I follow quite a bit of Mecklenburg's system as she didn't just go out and make it up, but actually looked at how dogs naturally react to certain handler movements - more like learning the dog's system. I continue to experiment with it - "if I do X, what does my dog do, and does she do it every time?". If I find a cue that gets a predictable response, then every time I want that response I know that cue is one way to get it. So then that cue has become a piece of my system. If it doesn't work, find out what does. No one, no matter how successful or " big name" knows everything. An example with my dog - deceleration should make the dog collect. Does not consistently work for my dog - I do get a turn but not necessarily a good one. I was told to train my dog to respond better to that cue. However I found a cue that she responds quite naturally to, which is instead of just slowing myself down, I dramatically shorten my stride (almost like a stutter step) and then I get extreme and instant collection every time. So now that stutter step is a new piece of my system. The beauty of this - because I learned it from my dog (instead of me teaching it to her) it works on all my other dogs too, with no training needed. So yes, some of the more training based systems (like Derrett) with all kinds of "never do X" rules, I totally don't get. But a system truly based on the dog's natural tendencies makes total sense to me.

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It's the label "system" that is the problem. It implies a rigidity of approach in that a system is a closed concept.

 

If flexibility is allowed or even encouraged then that isn't a system, it's just a general approach.

 

Greg Derrett is the only UK trainer I can think of who has ever claimed ownership of a "system", not surprising with his US connections. You just don't hear handlers here talking about this or that system. Anyone who does is likely to be considered as taking them self way too seriously.

 

All people here want to know is if a particular trainer suits them and their dog. Those who insist on sticking to their way can be a turn off.

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I guess I think of a handling system as more of a recipe. It's a way to do things that one person (or maybe a group of people) developed that generally works to get the job done. The elements of the system can be explained and taught and replicated more or less universally.

 

But, as many of us do with recipes, modifications can be made where appropriate. My husband and I rarely follow a recipe without making some modification (leaving out walnuts because I don't like them in my baked goods, adding spinach to a soup because we both love it, etc.). I know there are purists out there that vehemently oppose making modifications to a recipe, but tons of people do it and end up with excellent food.

 

The recipe itself is the universal that can be taught and shared and discussed. But modification can be made according to need or preference.

 

And although there are people who can figure out how to make a lot of things without a recipe, I'm not one of them. I need the general base line of how to do it. From there I can modify, as appropriate. Still, I need that recipe - that general guideline that says, "following these steps will get this result". Without that, what I make will flop as often as not. :D Handling systems do the same thing for me in Agility.

 

There are people here in the US, too, who get squiffy if you start talking about learning or using a handling system. I caused quite a bru ha ha on a Facebook list one time when I asked if an Agility instructor for an online class that I was considering for Bandit followed a particular handling system. I really just wanted the information because it was information that is relevant to me personally and I wanted to make an informed decision as to whether or not the class would be of value to me as I start him on his Agility foundation. Basically, I want to continue to use the skills I have already honed with Tessa, as much as possible, and I am not looking to take classes with someone with whom I would need to reinvent the wheel to work with. The question was not asked in a combative or accusatory way. I said, "does anyone know if the instructor teaches according to a certain handling system?" The question triggered some very emotional responses, which surprised the heck out of me. I elected not to take the class. I expect to be able to find out if an Agility instructor teaches according to a handling system (and the answer "no" to that question is perfectly acceptable if that is the case) just as much as I would expect to be able to find out if a cooking instructor is going to provide recipes in a set of cooking classes.

 

Apparently it's an emotional subject. Which is interesting to me because it just isn't something I get emotional about. I think I insulted a lot of people just by asking the question. All righty then . . .

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I agree with what he has to say. As most of you know I am currently in Mallorca, and much of what the members of my club have learned are from YouTube videos and the occasional clinician. The consequence is that they have no idea why a particular manoveur works, and try and train it completely ass backwards. They also horrendously over complicate sequences with particular overuse of ketschkers, I have run the same sequence with a lead out and front cross, to their 3 different crosses. And if I am asked I will give input, but I spend a lot of time biting my tongue. I think one of the issues for them is that the majority of the material is in English.

I like Diane A, use a lot of the concepts of Linda M, it works well for me as I find the concept of my motion and body positioning works well, and I don't have to speak much, I am incapable of remembering my left from my right, and I do run with my dog so any speaking has to be really needed! I do like blind crosses, they work for us in a number of situations it gives us a much smoother line, but it is just one of many tools.

I am intrigued by one mind dogs, but I think really it is development of motion based handling, I have been taught a couple of their turns, but realistically they are not new but a way of connecting our existing skills, and that makes me think more about how you can handle a sequence to get the best and tightest turns, along with a really smooth line while utilizing in different ways the basic skills we already possess.

One of thinks that fascinates me about agility is how it works, I don't just want to know what a front cross is, but why it works, I love the complicated dance we can have with out dogs, I long ago realized that my dog is more talented and is far more advanced, and it is my skills that constantly need to improve and the greater understanding I have the better I can do justice to my partner.

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