This week’s blog is part of the Dog Agility Blog Action Day on the new trend toward internationalization of agility. Here is a link find out what others have to say: Dog Agility Blog Action Day: Internationalization What does this mean to a dog and handler who can barely move out of Starters?
First off, the internationalization of agility courses has occurred in the USDAA with the introduction of the Masters Challenge Jumpers and Standard Biathlon. These courses provide an extra challenge to the dogs and handlers alike. The courses have tight turns that require the dog to have excellent collection skills as well as the handler being able to send the dog to take the backside of the jump. It also requires the dog to switch from running full-out in extension to collecting to take the tight twists and turns of the course. When I first tried to run one of these courses, the handling choices were intimidating, but once I understood how to give Jefferson the best information, we were able to run a Masters Challenge course successfully.
By my practicing Masters Challenge courses with backside jumps, blind crosses and the like, I have learned how to become a better handler and give Jefferson the information he needs to be successful. Also, I have increased my ability to work on my timing of the cues I give. For instance, in an international-style course, I have to react very quickly to the course and readily give Jefferson the information far in advance. While our goal is not to actually compete internationally, learning how to handle a more complex course makes running the Starters and Advanced levels much easier. It also helps me deal with the stress of deciding how to handle a particular course. The more techniques I have in my “handling” bag of tricks, the more options I have to use that my dog will be able to understand.
During the past weekend’s trial, Team J-Dawg earned a 1st place and Starters Standard Q and a Team Q (crazy!!!). I was very proud of our Standard run because Jefferson was MOVING and I was spot-on with my handling to provide him the important information.
Here is our great run:
Still, our Team Q was very unexpected for me. We did have 2 Masters level dogs on our team that did very well in the individual runs. Jefferson and I got eliminated from Jumpers and Standard – did okay in Gamblers despite his running off – but the biggest surprise was how well we did in DAM Team Relay. I was unaware that Team Relay counts for so much of the score. Our Team decided that Jefferson and I would run in “clean up” position (#3) and not worry about Q'ing, but about having a fun time running our dogs. The first dog ran clean, but a steady pace; the second dog ran clean, but slower; Jefferson was chomping at the bit to run and was so excited to run last! So, in a mad dash, we ran 3rd, aced our very difficult weave pole entrance, serpentine jump to tunnel after the weaves to finish clean! Our team earned a 2nd place, only missing 1st by a few seconds! I was so proud of our run and how my boy came through for me in the clutch.
So, if I had not been used to the added pressure of running a Masters Challenge course with success, who knows if I would have been able to come through for my team during our relay event.
Overall, the internationalization of agility courses is good for Team J-Dawg because it pushes me out my comfort zone and helps me be better prepared for any difficult challenge I may face.
"Actually, my name is Austin Powers. Danger is my middle name."
~ Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery