Clean Run - August 2012 - (Page 5)

Editorializing… On Insanity By Elaine Coupé Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein In the world of agility, we often think “we must be nuts.” We spend tons of money to train our dogs and then spend tons more to take them to trials and insure they have all the comforts of home while there. And although agility falls under the “avocation” category for most of us, when we trial we do have some expectation that our dog will get the occasional Q. After all, that is our reward: the Qs that lead to titles that indicate how accomplished our dogs are. They’re no longer just pets, they’re champions! Most of us also recognize that if we train our dog one way and it doesn’t work, we ought to try another way. My first agility dog, Shadow, was trained to weave by the “weave pole dance” method: I step in, he steps in, I step out, he steps out. It worked, but he was slow in the weaves. So for my next dog, I found a different method. As I learned different methods to train all the obstacles, I stumbled on a truth: if my dogs know how to do the obstacles, when I step to the start line all I need to concentrate on is my handling. My dog will do his job, and I will do mine. His job is correct performance of the obstacles, mine is being in the right place to direct him to the correct obstacle. This puts the emphasis on foundation work: teaching the dog that all 12 weaves are always done with a correct entry; that contacts must be performed in a certain fashion; that jumps mean leaving the bars up and taking them from the correct side; that tunnels have one entry and one exit; that you always go through tires, not under, over, or around; and so on. Once dogs have this foundation, you no longer need to manage runs to address weaknesses in training. You get to handle. And yet... I go to a trial with a friend who says, “I just want to have fun with my dog,” but she is disappointed when she doesn’t get a single Q all weekend. And when my friend who said at the beginning of the weekend, “I just want my dog to run fast and have fun” has the same result—no Q all weekend—she is also disappointed. When I point out to her that the dog did indeed run fast and have fun, she now says, “but we didn’t Q.” Nope, neither one earned a Q; they were too busy managing the things they hadn’t bothered to train. And yet... many of these handlers are on their second, third, or even fourth agility dog and they have changed nothing. They still teach weaves the same way. Their start-line stay is nonexistent. Their contacts are 50-50. The dogs are having fun, but the humans feel they are missing out. These handlers still have not learned that putting a solid foundation on a dog insures success, whatever your definition of success. Are they insane? Well, by Einstein’s definition... you make the call. The excuses are always the same, too: I had to work; It’s been raining; I’m not a professional trainer; I don’t have the equipment in my yard; I didn’t write it down; It’s too much work. And of course my favorite: I have other stuff to do than just train my dog all day. But most “professional” handlers and trainers will tell you they’re lucky if they train their dogs 10 minutes a day. Who among us truly cannot spare 10 minutes a day for our best friends? What the professionals do differently than us is make those 10 minutes count. Maybe earlier in the day, on their lunch hour, while running errands, or on a break, they made a plan: I’m going to work on weave entries today. I’m going to use this many poles. I’m going to work them from my right/left. I’m going to work on this approach. Then they spend their precious 10 minutes with their dog doing exactly that! It seems the handlers who really do not care if their dogs Q are... wait for it... the ones who actually train their dogs. I have a friend who is not very competitive. I know, it’s hard to imagine, but it’s true! She is, however, a great trainer. If she is training her dog to weave, I can guarantee her dog will weave. Does she always Q? Not at all; but often, it is because she was trying something with her handling. She will frequently say something along the lines of, “we didn’t Q but I tried that weave entry while I was layering and she nailed it!” And my friend is truly happy with that result. Yes, she needs Qs too. We all do. As I said earlier, that is our reward. But other successes, such as nailing that weave pole entry, count as well. To eschew insanity, we need to do things differently. Learn a different method. Use our resources. Write it down. Plan ahead. And don’t forget to take advantage of all training opportunities. If you truly don’t care about the Q, if you truly just go to trials to visit with your friends and run your dog a bit and enjoy the atmosphere, good for you. If, however, you’re not having fun with your avocation, reject insanity and try something different. Train your dog. Elaine Coupé Elaine Coupé has been competing in agility since 1996 and been a USDAA judge since 2002. She lives in Oakland, Tennessee, with her husband Bob. They are owned by three Border Collies, ADCH PDCH Bounce, retired; ADCH PDCH Trip!; and young and crazy Kate. Brassy Beagle MAD, TM, RM, SM reluctantly resides with the Border Collies and occasionally competes, hoping to complete her ADCH before she retires. Contact Elaine through her web site: August 12 | Clean Run 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - August 2012

Clean Run - August 2012
Editorializing: On Insanity
Tip of the Month
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility…
Backyard Dogs
The Information Highway of Agility
Analyze This!
Footwork for Agility: Rear Crosses
Control Unleashed Solutions and Answers: The Bark Stops Here
Knowledge Equals Speed: Start-line Positioning & Lead-outs
Waiting for Your Turn in Agility Class
Agility Mind Gym: The Competition Mindset—Creating Power and Flow
Building Blocks: Weave Entries at Speed
From Hoof to Woof: What Riders Can Teach Handlers
Seesaw Training: The Bang Game and the Pre-Bang Game
But He’s Perfect at Home

Clean Run - August 2012