A funny realization about Jake’s GO ON out the ring exit and back in the entrance

At our recent NADAC trial,  I was a bit baffled by the fact that Jake ran out of the ring after a perfectly smooth and fast Chances run.  I love having video tapes of runs because often they show me something I was unaware of in the moment.  On the video tape, I heard myself say GO ON while Jake was ahead of me when he ran through the last hoop so  the last thing he saw was me running behind him with my arm supporting a GO ON.   At the time I thought the moral of the story was to make sure I give a turning cue when the last obstacle is facing the exit.  However, after watching the video a couple of times and chewing on a few random thoughts that passed through my mind that day, I think there were more forces at play than I realized.

When Jake left the ring, it came as a total surprise to me because he did not appear to be stressed.  As a matter of fact he seemed totally connected and confident from the moment he left his crate to the start line where he had a great start line stay, and then he ran fast and confidently throughout the course without even a single little bobble.

So why did he leave the ring?

The first clue emerged while I was course building after Jake’s run.   I remember looking back towards the ring exit and saying to a fellow course builder:  “The exit looks very exit-ee” but I didn’t think much about it at the time.  What looked “exit-ee” about it was the ring fencing constructed white lattice, was very visible against the dark background of the barn.   Whereas the exit consisted of a wide mesh natural wood baby gate, set an an angle so there was a very dark and visible gap, especially in contrast to the white fencing.   BTW–Ring exits are typically invisible from inside the ring due to overlapping fencing that creates a channel that dogs exit through.  This ring was not set up that way.

A second clue emerged later in the day when a fellow competitor said to me: “This ring fencing would make great NADAC Gates.”  My response was they were a little too short but yes, they did look like NADAC Gates.  But I still didn’t put it together.

A third clue emerged when I randomly thought about how much fun we had at the EGC workshop the previous weekend, which was held at the same site as the trial.

The next day, the 3 clues merged to form a highly probable hypothesis:  The white ring fencing with visible gaps looked like the set up for Extreme Hoopers, so when I said GO ON, Jake WENT ON through the visible gap, then ran OUT and AROUND the “Gates” and back in at the next visible gap, which was the entrance to the ring.  I’m smiling as I type this.  If you don’t know what Extreme Hoopers looks like, I posted a video of that game last week:


I think this hypothesis makes perfect sense because Jake seemed so proud of himself when he came running back to me.  I believe he thought he was being an outstanding dog.   I am sooooo very happy that we had a big party after that run and I was happy and smiling vs. acting disappointed.    I think Jake is such a fun and great little dog!  I totally love and adore him.


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.”