Belle, Dusty and I traveled to the Quad Cities for a NADAC trial this weekend. Here is an analysis of Saturday's Chances courses.
In Elite and Open the challenges are basically the same, the only difference is the distance from which they have to be performed.
Right off the bat, the handler is faced with a tunnel/A-frame discrimination. The correct obstacle is further from the line. In Novice, this challenge is minimized, but it definitely still exists. If the handler is forced to move to the left before her dog is committed to the A-frame, it is almost certain her dog will take the tunnel.
One way to decide on how you would like to handle a discrimination, is to decide what you would do to direct your dog to the obstacle you don't want him to take. If I wanted the tunnel and not the A-frame, I would be pulling away from the line and calling my dog's name. If possible, I would also try to angle my dog at the start line so that he is looking through the hoop at the tunnel.
But the obstacle of choice is the A-frame, so I don't want to do any of the above. If possible, I want to angle my dog at the start line so that he is looking at the A-frame. I want to lead out to a position that will allow me to put pressure on my dog's line when I release him from the start line. For some dogs, just being far enough to the side so that the line doesn't force you to move to the left as you move forward and a verbal "A-frame" with an outstretched arm may be enough. For others, you may have to make certain you're far enough to the left that you can move toward the tunnel and A-frame as you move forward.
This is a very common challenge in NADAC. However, tunnel/A-frame and tunnel/dogwalk discriminations exist in every venue. If you can handle them with a little distance, it frees you up to get where you have to be in order to handle whatever may be coming up next.
The second challenge is sending your dog out to #4. If you fail to slow your pace as your dog is performing the A-frame, you may reach the handler's line before your dog is committed to #4 and your dog will stop and/or spin as you come to a halt. There were a couple of handlers who are able to successfully redirect their dogs after being forced to stop at the line. This takes training--training which I think is worth the effort since miscalculations do occur and you may find yourself hugging the line. However, although a verbal redirect may work here, if you're still up against the line and forced to rely on another verbal to turn your dog to the tunnel after #5, there is a very high probability of failure.
As I just mentioned, the next challenge is turning your dog away from you to the tunnel. If you're up against the line, this is almost impossible to do. And the more you use your arms to try and accomplish the turn away, the more your dog will look at you and not the tunnel. At this point, most of the dogs whose handlers were stuck at the line decided the weaves must be the correct choice.
The final challenge is the off-course jump after the tunnel. It was a real Q-killer in Elite. The jump is very close to the tunnel. I positioned myself even with the first pole of the weaves, but Belle was half way to the off-course jump before I called her. The lone successful Elite handler positioned herself much further to the right and caught her dog's attention as she exited the tunnel. As I was editing the clips for the video, I noticed that all the handlers who were successful did the same thing. They moved to the right while their dogs were in the tunnel so that they could see them exiting and move toward the weaves, taking the off-course jump out of the picture for their dogs.
Here are the Q results:
15 Elite runs - 1 Q
17 Open Runs - 2 Q's
21 Novice Runs - 2 Q's