I tripped across a top agility competitor/instructor in England a couple of weeks ago while browsing the web. Her name is Dawn Weaver, and I thought she had a lot of interesting things to say, so I ordered her book, Knowledge Equals Speed. Although not everything she has to say meshes with how I handle Dusty and Belle, there is a lot in Dawn's book to think about.
I took the title to mean that if you let your dog know where he is going on course in a timely manner, he will get there ever so much quicker. Indeed, the book is largely about handling, but it also addresses obstacle training and attitude. When I take a step back and look at the larger picture, I can see where knowledge also applies to obstacle performance. A dog who knows how to perform an obstacle can do it a lot faster than one who has to look to his handler for input. For example, does the dog know to drive to the end of his contacts, or does his handler have to be there and cue the 2o2o behavior?
Additionally, Dawn continually emphasizes that "no" has no place in training. Better the dog make a mistake at speed than do everything correctly at a trot.
I plan to test out some of the sequences Dawn has in her book over the next few weeks, and see if I can incorporate some of her ideas into my handling.