Monday, September 20, 2010

Extreme Games Challenge

This summer, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting Sharon Nelson, the founder of NADAC, when she came to the Quad Cities Dog Center in Davenport, IA.  On Friday, August 8th, Belle and I attended a three hour seminar that introduced us to Extreme Games.  On Saturday and Sunday, August 9th and 10th, the first ever Extreme Games Trial was held at the QCDC.

I dislike Hoopers as a class—I enter only when it is part of a package deal.  But when hoops and gates combine to form Extreme Hoopers, wowy, kazowy, what a blast!  Twenty gates are used to form a circle.  At four spots in the circle’s circumference, a hoop is inserted to allow the dogs to enter or leave the circle.  On the outside of the circle are two wings made of two gates and a hoop.  Gates are made of PVC lattice and are four feet wide and about 35” tall.  There is a short lead-in sequence to the circle composed of hoops, and a short ending sequence that is also composed of hoops.

The first time I saw a course map for the Extreme Hoopers, I knew I wanted to play, so I made six gates for my dogs.  After actually playing Extreme Hoopers, I can’t wait to play again.  (I considered making enough gates so I could play at home, but my field is just too windy.  I would have to stake the gates, and even then they wouldn't necessarily stay up.  The wind is the reason I don't usually bother setting up my winged jumps.) 

There are two other extreme games:  Extreme Tunnelers and Extreme Chances.   Only gates and tunnels are found in Extreme Tunnelers, and in Extreme Chances, there are gates, hoops, tunnels and a distance line.
Extreme Games are designed to test your handling ability and your dog’s ability to follow your handling.  These games are about speed and distance.  With no jumps, contacts or weave poles,  there are no obstacle performance criterion to worry about—no dropped bars, missed contacts, etc.  If you remember to not correct the off-courses and just keep going, your dog will learn to trust your handling more and more.  Remember, chances are pretty good it’s your fault when your dog takes the wrong obstacle.  If you quibble over off-courses or missed obstacles, your dog will come to doubt your handling or his ability to figure out where you want him to go. 

Scoring is based on time plus faults.  You can have two faults and still qualify and earn from 10 to 1 points.  (03/20/11:  Scoring is done differently, but the same principles apply.)  This means if a team makes a mistake, it is best to ignore it and keep moving forward.  Mistakes can’t be fixed; trying to fix them just uses up precious seconds that could make the difference between a run that garners all available 10 points and one that earns only 5 points or less.

These games are wonderful for training distance and improving your handling and timing.  They should improve your timing on "real" courses where your dog will have to contend with obstacle performance.  Additionally, your dog's speed on "real" courses should increase as he develops more confidence in your handling.

My advice, if you ever have the chance, be sure to give the Extreme Games a try.

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