Follow up on EGC workshop and handling the path vs. the obstacles

I had so much fun, I forgot to video tape some runs at the EGC workshop as I had planned.  So all I have is a description.  What a great group of people and dogs.  It was so much fun to watch everyone run and to run my own dogs… and we all had some good some when I sent Lil out AROUND a barrel and instead of going around the barrel she raced out another 20 feet and ran through a yellow tunnel… 3 times in a row.  HA HA HA.   Apparently she did not recognize Lynn’s larger red and white barrels as being something to go AROUND.   Jake, on the other hand, saw the barrel as something to go AROUND and ran around it… the wrong way but WHO CARES!  🙂

We had  a very diverse group of dogs: 1 Border Collie, 1 Aussie Shep, 1 Pug,  1 Border Terrier, 1 Golden Retrieve, 2 Australian Terriers (mine), and 3 Mixed Breed dogs.  It was really fun to see dogs taking advantage of opportunities to let loose and RUN while also meeting the challenges Lynn presented us with.

Lynn saved the best for last… Extreme Hoopers.  Looking at the set up, you’d  think it would be extremely difficult but dogs seem to GET it without any formal training. Below is a video of Amanda Nelson running Extreme Hoopers since I can’t possibly describe this game with words.  🙂

Yesterday showed us all how great EGC obstacles can be for pointing out flaws in our handling.  This is because well-trained, experienced dogs will cut handlers quite a bit of slack if they KNOW the obstacles.  So by using new obstacles,  handlers had to be very clear in “showing the path” or their dogs did not seek out the new/ unfamiliar obstacles.

The two most popular 🙂 handling flaws were sending a dog towards an obstacle with an arm flick followed by a drop of that arm, and ceasing forward motion once the dog was out in front of the handler.   These techniques tend to work OK most of the time with experienced dogs and familiar obstacles but it was great to see how sensitive ALL the dogs were to what the handler was doing (or not doing).. .even when the handler was directly behind the dog.

I’ve been working on breaking both of those habits as part of the goal I set for myself in terms of handling which is: To speak to my dogs in the language they understand best …..MOTION and to use verbals as a secondary form of support.

The concept of handling “the path” vs. “the obstacles” can sound strange to people who are unfamiliar with the terminology… but I think this concept lies at the core of every handling system out there, and works equally well on every style of agility course yet it is often lacking in terms of actual handling.  I think we’ve all seen handlers doing all the right moves but if they are not also supporting their dogs’ path, their dogs lack fluidity, drop a bar or two, pull off an obstacle,  or run slower.  I find it so interesting  that the inventors of the most popular “systems” in the USA are great at supporting the path with their personal handling.  Perhaps this is something that needs to be learned from the “inside out,” or maybe it is just too difficult to communicate through videos and books in a way that people are able to implement it, or maybe it is because people cannot SEE how other people are or are not supporting the path until they know what they are looking for.

I think a great way to train your eye to SEE handling better is to watch videos.. but instead of focusing on the handler, focus on the dog and watch the video a couple of times.  Make a note of every time the dog looks at a WC obstacle, knocks a bar, adds an extra stride, or head checks.  Then go back and watch the handler in the moments leading up to each bobble.  I find this method of watching videos to be very enlightening in terms of SEEING what is really happening, including how well the handler is supporting her dog’s path.

On a final note, for the past year I’ve been focusing on letting my dogs know it is OK and even  GREAT for them to race ahead of me when I send them to GO ON.  Yesterday Jake and Lil definitely “won the race” every time I sent them ahead, while I continued to support their paths with motion even if I was just walking.

5 thoughts on “Follow up on EGC workshop and handling the path vs. the obstacles

  1. Wow.Wow.Wow. I continued on to watch some more of the videos with the same dog “Try” . Amazing! Ridiculously so!

  2. Pingback: A funny realization about Jake’s GO ON out the ring exit and back in the entrance | ArtAndDogBlog

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