Extreme Game Challenge Workshop with Lynn Smitley

I joined Skyline Agility Club last week and at the meeting I learned that members can organize seminars.  The new Skyline facility is amazing.  The agility ring is in a HUGE horse barn that is only used for agility (so no horse poop) and the footing is great.  Both of my dogs run incredibly fast and confidently on it.

There happened to be an open weekend March 16-17, so I offered to organize a NADAC EGC workshop with Lynn Smitley followed by EGC run thrus.  The board acted swiftly and approved my proposal, which totally impressed me because I have worked with volunteer-based organizations (in the arts) in the past and there always seems to be at least one person on every board whose mission in life is to put a stop to all good things.  Apparently there is no such person on the board at Skyline.  WHOO HOO!

My experience interacting with Skyline board members has been spectacular and as a result of everyone’s ability to act swiftly, the morning workshop is already half full which is great since  information about the workshop was just posted on various dog agility sites yesterday afternoon.

If you’ve never heard of EGC, below is a video of one of Jake and Lil’s  first sessions running around a barrel, which is one of the obstacles found on EGC courses.  This session took place in my kitchen and living room since my backyard was covered with melting ice and snow.   

What I’ve learned about barrels so far is they can be handled like C-shaped tunnels in that there are 2 entrances/ directions.  However, barrels are different from tunnels in that there are an infinite number of exits 🙂 so barrels are great for practicing pre-cueing “the path” after the barrel, before the dog runs behind the barrel and   loses sight of the handler for a moment (like they do while in a tunnel).   Due to limited space in my house, I only worked on wraps in this session but once I am able to move the barrels outdoors, I will be mixing in GET OUTs, GO ONs, and WRAPS to practice the body language necessary to show my dogs the continuation of “the path” before they run behind the barrel.

The main reason I am using a manners minder (or a tossed toy in other sessions) instead of rewarding from my hand, is to encourage forward focus.  About a year ago, I realized I had spent way too much time training my dogs to come to my hand and not enough time balancing that with GO Ons.

ABOUT EGC: Contrary to popular belief, EGC is not about Extreme Distance…. although it can be.  I am finding EGC obstacles are great for practicing my timing and handling  without having to worry about contacts, weave poles, or jumping plus they seem ideal for increasing my dogs’ abilities to work at greater distances.

Basically, EGC tests the handler’s ability to give directional cues to the dog, and the dog’s ability to respond to those cues, while the dog is running at full speed.  Since EGC courses are comprised solely of ground obstacles, dogs get to run as fast as they want to, which makes EGC Extremely FUN for both dogs and humans!

EGC is comprised of four classes: Barrel Racing, Chances, Gaters, and Hoopers.  Handlers have the opportunity to test their skills on fast and flowing courses consisting of tunnels, barrels, hoops and gates.  Since no jumping is involved, EGC games are perfect for practicing handling skills and timing with minimal wear and tear on dogs.

Below is a video of Jake and Lil running through hoops, which are found on EGC courses as well as some NADAC courses.

It’s funny because I have overheard people complaining that “hoops are not fun for their dogs.”   I don’t think it is an issue with the inherent “fun factor”of hoops but rather that most dogs have not seen nearly as many hoops as they have seen jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and contact obstacles.   I used to think Jake didn’t like hoops, but that was before I started substituting hoops in place of jumps when practicing handling.  Jake appears to like hoops very much now that he has seen them a bit more.  Plus I love that I can practice handling without asking my dogs to JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP!  🙂

I can’t remember who said this, but it rang true for me:  “Dogs have only so many jumps in them so use them wisely.”

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Improving my handling mechanics for GET OUTS and TURNS

The snow finally melted on my doggie luge, so I got to see how well Jake and Lil understand my new ways of handling GET OUTS and TURNS.

Above is a video from Day 1.

This following text is from an email I sent to a friend who has been helping me understand how and why NADAC-style handling and training differs from USDAA / AKC-style handling.  I’m finding it all very interesting and fun to incorporate.  Plus  Jake and Lil are responding beautifully and quickly to my new way of doing things, which makes me think this style of handling is easy and natural for dogs to follow.

I am starting to get the feel for using more dramatic body movements, like stepping forward to push my dog’s line, or pulling my dog towards me by rotating my body and  shoulders away and stepping away from the line to increase the strength of the pull when necessary for discriminations.   Its starting to feel a lot more natural and I can see how well it works for pre-cueing TURNs and GET OUTs when my dogs are out in front of me with forward sends.

Lil seems to have totally figured out when I  pre-cue a turn before she gets to the obstacle, it no longer means to turn NOW but rather to turn after taking the next obstacle.. and to not necessarily turn tight.. but to base the tightness of the turn on my motion…. and to look for the next obstacle in the direction I am supporting.   Jake is also figuring all of this out… but not quite as fast as Lil is, which is totally fine with me.  The biggest improvements I’ve seen with Jake since adding hoops to the Doggie Luge this season, is that he is driving well though hoops and rarely  jumps them like they are 8″ jumps anymore.   GO JAKE!

Above is a video from Day 2:  I think both dogs are doing a super job running through various hoop sequences without snow barriers to help them stay on course.

In my opinion, the biggest difference between NADAC-style handling and USDAA / AKC style handling (and training) is that in NADAC you want to be able to pre-cue much earlier, especially when working at a distance. And earlier cues appear to increase a dog’s speed and fluidity of motion since the dog know where he/she is going with enough time to take more gradual turns, which has to be easier on a dog’s body.  I think it was pretty clear when I was late with a couple of cues, that my dogs changed directions abruptly rather than turning in a natural and fluid manner.

I think this year’s addition of hoops to the doggie luge really helped with training both dogs (and the human) by allowing me to pre-cue earlier than I knew I could without pulling my dogs off the next obstacle…while the dogs continued running on the grass path towards the next hoop.  It didn’t take long for them to begin to shift from what they were originally trained to do, which was when I cue a turn, to turn NOW.  That was a necessary skill to have for USDAA and AKC courses, since what looks to be the next logical obstacle to the dog is often NOT the correct obstacle. Plus the ability of a dog to turn NOW comes in very handy for playing Snooker, since success is often based on a dog’s ability to bypass numerous obstacles while running fast.

Below is a link to the January 19 post with a video of Jake and Lil running the 2013 Doggie Luge:

https://artanddogblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/jake-and-lil-running-the-doggie-luge-2013/

A note to subscribers: WordPress emails no longer contain links to videos for some strange reason.  Click on the Title to go to the blog site if you want to watch the videos.