Monday, September 13, 2010

The 15-Point Bonus Line

I started keeping an agility diary of sorts back in 2007.  The entries were pretty sporadic until this spring when I started adding video entries to my diary.  My Aussie, Belle, completed her NATCH, in February of this year.  This was my first championship title from any venue after seven years or so of competing with four different dogs.  The difference:  Belle's innate desire to work and all the years of training I've had from many different instructors both face-to-face and through books, magazines and the Net.

I currently live where the closest agility training is 70 miles away.  Since I compete primarily in NADAC, I'm interested in speed and distance.  Extreme distance training is something that can be hard to find even when you live in an area where there are several training centers offering agility, so I thought I would share my experiences in training for the 15-point bonus line.  Not every post will be about extreme distance, but many will be.

I have made several unsuccessful attempts at the 15-point bonus in Regular since we are much more consistent in this class compared to Jumpers and Chances.  None of my attempts were successful and all resulted in an NQ or an E--I just wasn't quick enough to rush in and save the run.  We have great lateral distance skills, but bonus distance...not so much.

Last month, I attended one day of a two-day seminar given by Cynthia Ernat at the Quad City Dog Center, Davenport, Iowa.  When we had finished for the day, one of the other handlers and I were attempting the last exercise Cynthia had set up using an imaginary bonus line.  The OH had a fast, drivey, Border Collie who had no trouble making the run to the tunnel.  But trying to get the obstacle discrimination that was on the return run, that was another story.  Belle and I had no problem with the discrimination even though it was at a pretty far distance.  But sending Belle to the tunnel was a BIG problem.

This is an approximation of the course we were trying to do.  The cross-hatching 
represents a physical barrier made from gates--think ring barrier gating.

Lightbulb moment:   Send Distance is not the same thing as Lateral Distance.  When I'm laterally distant from Belle, she can see me and I can "run" a handling path that parallels the one I would literally "run" if I were closer to her.  

Another huge difference is that with normal lateral distance you may layer an obstacle here and there.  When attempting bonus line distance, you will sometimes have five or six obstacles between you and your dog.  The two obstacles closest to you may be a non-issue, but those back three make it decidedly harder to direct your dog to the correct obstacle.  At least, that's been my experience so far.

Run fast, run clean.

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