Notes: Handling Clinic with Melanie Hart May 5-6, 2012

I spent this weekend at an agility handling clinic. I had paid for a working spot however due to Bear’s recent injury we gave our spot up and attended as an auditor. The purpose of the clinic was to work on the  Greg Derrett handling system buy working on a number of sequences.

Saturday was the novice dog day ( the one we were supposed to run in). Sunday was for advanced dogs. Both days began with some review of the Greg Derrett video and then proceeded with a series of sequences that provided an opportunity to work on the concepts discussed.

In many ways, not having to worry about a dog was nice, it meant I could really spend 100% of the time watching dogs and handlers. The downside is that I have no idea how Bear would work through sequences so I may start working sequences and then get stuck if he does something no other dog at the clinic did. That being said, a few common things emerged over the weekend that I plan on working on with Bear.

  1. Start Line Stays.I’ll need to write a a whole separate blog post about them. Suffice it to say that the challenge with the start line stay is the dog understanding his job and being confident enough to stay while the handler walks away.
  2. Acceleration/Deceleration to signify change of direction. This is new to me but it makes sense as a great way to indicate changes of direction to dogs.  With a large dog that has a long stride, I’m going to need to make sure this is a concept he understands. I think he does, but I’m not sure.
  3. Lead Out Pivots.  This is a great way to gain ground. Most importantly  though, I learned the position of the handler during the LOP is critical to communicating deceleration and a change of direction to the dog. With a large dog that moves quickly, communication is critical – I’m going to need this skill and I’m going to need a good lead out on various obstacles from various distances and not always in a perfectly straight line.
  4. Tunnel Calls– Again this is a way to communicate turns out of tunnels with any dog but fast moving ones in particular. A call in the tunnel with let the dog know where the handler is so that he can collect himself and exit on the correct side.
  5. Independent 180 and 270 turns.when dogs that do not need handlers to babysit these obstacles handlers have less running to do. I’m all about running less.
  6. Rear Crosses.I can’t say we’ve ever worked on these. The good thing about this is that we don’t have any bad habits to fix. The bad part is, we’re starting from scratch.
  7. Goal Setting. We also spent a few minutes discussing training plans and goals and the importance of not confusing goals (staying connected with your dog throughout the course) with outcomes (earning a title). This is a really important distinction and something that I understand, likely because I have experience teaching and planning how to teach for dog training classes. The challenge for novice handlers in any sport is being able to know what you are doing wrong, what you need to do to fix it and how you are going to go about doing it.

The fortunate thing about all of these items is that, with the exception of Goal Setting, they are about teaching and learning) communication skills, they can be done on the flat (without the jumps) or using jump standards with a bar on the ground between them.

I am really looking forward to Bear’s return to agility so we can work on some of these things!

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