Many handlers have difficulty coping when "their dog makes a mistake." I put quotes around those five words because 99.9% of the time, the handler is responsible for any mistakes that are made. But what about when the dog jumps a contact zone? Knocks a bar? Has the zoomies? Yep, even then--chances are mistakes are either the result of handling errors or training shortfalls. Believe me, I know. Running my Airedale was usually an exercise in futility, and I dismissed him as being impossible to work with. However, in moments of rationality, away from agility equipment, I realized even back then that I was responsible for his mistakes. If I had been a better trainer, Max would have run agility with more focus and we would have been a much better team.
When a mistake is made on course, many handlers will just bring the run to a grinding halt and go back to where the mistake was made. Patti Mah likens it to being taken to the principal's office. In my distance training with Belle, I usually break off the exercise, call her to me and play for a second or two and then restart in a logical spot. In trials, I try to ignore any course mistakes and just keep going. Another way to handle mistakes, one advocated by both Patti Mah and Allison Bryant, is to loop back to a logical spot on the course, taking a few obstacles along the way to maintain a sense of course flow, and try again. The goal being that your dog never realizes a mistake was made.
Last night, I went to the Quad Cities to play Extreme Hoopers. I thought I was being pretty good in training to not make Belle feel like she was being taken to the principal's office when I messed up. However, last night caused me to re-think that big time. The first course ran pretty well, except that I wanted to try handling the circle with significantly more distance than was needed and got some rather unexpected results. I included an approximation of my line in the course map below. (As indicated by the red dashed lines, the handler is not allowed to go on the other side of either wing of the circle .)
I didn't know what to think since I felt my handling was indicating I wanted a turn away from me, but obviously Belle was not getting the message. So either I was not doing a good job handling or there is a major gap in Belle's training in regard to what my turn cues mean.