Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Checking In - Agility

I want my dog to constantly be checking in with me. When we run the best, we are continually checking in with each and adjusting to each other. Checking in, to me, is different from stopping and turning back to me. When that happens, I have not given Wyatt a cue in time. That is not desirable.

The NADAC folks that do bonus lines (they run the whole course basically from behind the start/finish line), usually teach their dogs to keep running in a "straight" line unless directed otherwise. That can work too, but then you need to be able to change directions with a verbal or physical command or both. They usually run the course "in miniature" from behind the line, but in theory the dog would keep going in a straight line no matter what they are doing. There is a very good team that trained this way but the dog does not always check in and runs its own course frequently and the handler complains that the dog did not check in with her. Anyway, what I want is a continual checkin using peripheral vision. That does mean I have to leave space to move in the desired direction when working behind a gamble line. It's a real challenge to shorten one's stride when one is used to trying to run WITH a fast whippet. But it does work.

Also, in a previous post I talked about the OUT command and that a lot of people pump their hands screaming OUT, which brings your dog in to you (the hand pumping.) Note that is it possible to just use a verbal to discriminate 2 side by side obstacles at distance. However, it is going to be much easier and less stressful to find out the physical cues your dog naturally needs to discriminate at the distance.

It is going to be helpful if you run NADAC or other venues with challenging gambles to have an OUT and GO ON command. However, they are typically going to be mostly physical cues. In my experience, this is something that needs to be studied and worked on when you get to the larger distances. I see a lot of really bad distance handling because people have not really worked on it or studied it. Again, typically you see this when people pump their arms and scream OUT to the dog, often from a stationary position. What they should be doing is leaving space behind the gamble line to be heading in the right direction, painting a line with their hand/finger a few feet ahead of the dog, keeping there arm out and level and (not high up or pumping), and supporting the dog with a verbal OUT. When I do OUT, I push out an open hand against the dog's line and lean into the dog's line. Some people keep painting the line. Also, if I need to do a contact/'tunnel or other discrimination at a distance, I push perpendicular to the dog's line at a point 1/3 of the way from the first obstacle. I was taught to go 1/2 way but I found with Wyatt that that was too late.

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