Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Random Thoughts on a Standard Course

I began my agility journey in NADAC and did not trial in any other venue for the first year or two.  Therefore, the idea of refusals was rather alien to me.  Watching the Standard run at Sunday's trial while sitting directly across the ring from the weave poles, I once again had to ask myself what was so bad about a refusal that it warranted being elevated to the distinction of being a disqualifying fault in Excellent (AKC) and Masters (USDAA)?

Perhaps as many as 20% of the dogs running this course turned toward the chute after #7.  But there is no penalty for that kind of mistake in any venue that I'm aware of.  Along the same line, it's okay for your dog to spin upon landing, but not before taking off.  I, for one, really appreciate the fact that NADAC doesn't expressly penalize any of these scenarios except for the loss of time they incur.
I generally subscribe to the KISS school of handling.  In the case of this course, I really felt the easiest way to handle 2-4 was to be ahead of your dog as he exits the chute.  You could easily manage this with a long lead out to (63,-20), or if you are fleet of foot, a considerable shorter lead out.  I was surprised by the number of people who made the approach to the tunnel harder than it had to be by executing a front cross after the chute and running with dog on right over #3.  Theoretically, a rear cross at #4 should have pulled them to the tunnel, but it didn't always work and some of the dogs ended up on the dogwalk!
I try to always keep moving when I'm running with Belle.  I may not be running fast, but I do try to keep moving.  To that end, I wish I had  gone closer to the #5 tunnel than I did.  I felt like I stood rooted to the astroturf for an eternity while waiting for Belle to emerge and begin our run to the weaves.  However, I did myself proud at the A-frame by executing a front cross on the upside.

This kept me constantly in motion and resulted in a less sticky A-frame (which is a training issue that I've never been able to solve with Belle).  Only one other handler did a front cross here--a terrific handler whose whole run just flowed so smoothly.  There was one other option for remaining in motion and that was to run from table to teeter with dog on left and do a rear cross at #13 to turn the dog to the A-frame.  One person did it and it worked quite well.  I thought about it since we had practiced a similar sequence at the QCDC, but I decided against it because of the angle of the jump to the A-frame.  I also wanted to handle #16 from the landing side and I felt I had a better chance of getting there using a front cross.

After watching everyone run, I think the last three jumps ran a little smoother when the handler worked from the take-off side of #16.  However, even if I had gone with that option, it still wouldn't have given me the courage to try the rear cross.

Everyone else chose to handle the A-frame by hanging back as the dog jumped #13 and executing a post turn.  By and large it worked, although a few dogs did go off-course to the dummy jump.  But it just lacked something--just like standing rooted to the turf waiting for Belle to emerge from the tunnel did.  I guess if I had to put a name to that "something," it would be "connection."  By stopping, it's as if an invisible line tying handler to dog is broken.

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