I originally wrote this article in 2005, and I am choosing to leave it written in the present tense. I deleted much of the description of my handling of the different sequences and made a few minor editing changes from the original. RK
My second agility dog is a small (18.5 inch) Australian Shepherd who made her trial debut in October, 2004. I quickly discovered that a straight line of obstacles builds enough speed in my young girl that is difficult to get her to turn if there is an off-course obstacle that will allow her to continue on that straight line.
My agility area is somewhat limited (60 x 70) and it is impossible to set up a complete NADAC course with enough distance between obstacles to encourage Libby to develop the speed she runs with in a trial setting. I came up with the course below which employs only six jumps and two tunnels and utilizes as little as 30 x 50 feet.
My goals were:
- Teach Libby the obvious obstacle is not the next obstacle when Mom is indicating a change of direction.
- Make a course that could be simplified enough and interesting enough that we could do a little doggy NASCAR to build speed which would enable us to work on communication at trial speeds.
- To sharpen my ability to communicate change of direction so that Libby would have sufficient information in time to take the next obstacle in a sequence. This course turned out to be really good for this because I could position myself as Libby went into a tunnel and concentrate on where she ended up when she failed to pick up my signal. (See Course 4.)
- To increase the distance from which Libby can read my signals – This entails both improving my timing and her awareness of increasingly subtle signals.
I first pattern trained Libby to run the outside loop in both directions at top speed as shown at the side. This helped us work on increasing speed and having a good time. To us humans, this looks like a circle, for the dog it is basically a straight line since the curves come in at the tunnels and there are no changes of direction. To keep this a game, I would call Libby randomly to play tug or chase her favorite toy, a soccer ball.
Then I introduced the pinwheel and serpentine options:
I used a curved tunnel to build speed before hitting the pinwheel. If your partner is new to pinwheels and has tendency to build up to warp drive, you could start at 4 or 5 instead and move back your start back to 3, then 2, then 1, as your dog gets the idea of a pinwheel.
In working this pattern, I had to go into the pocket of the pinwheel at first, but my aim was to be able to stay on the tunnel side of the first and third jumps of the pinwheel for both the pinwheel and the 11 thru 13 progression.
After doing the pinwheel in both directions, there are a multitude of options, two of which are shown. After taking tunnel 11, either of the jumps labeled 12 could be selected to vary the course.
Try working the serpentine from both sides. Strive to get from the serpentine to #12 as efficiently and quickly as you can.
Here is another variation that allows you to test your team's skills on a fast serpentine.
Here are a few more sequences that I used with this set-up.
In this sequence, the dog/handler team has the opportunity to run a three-jump slice sequence and a tunnel-jump-tunnel slice, as well as the pinwheel.
How many ways can you think of to handle the change of sides called for between 7 thru 9? You can spice this one up by picking a different jump 13 each time you run.
In this exercise, we use the pinwheel at 8, 9, 10. Coming out of tunnel 11, there is an option of the three-jump slice (12 thru 14) or a quick run thru another tunnel (the black 13).
A 13-obstacle that offers the chance to build some speed before doing a serpentine followed by a pinwheel and a 180. As your team’s speed increases on this course, you’ll know that your dog truly understands that the next obstacle is not always the obvious one.
Here are two final variations for you to play with.