Small Dog Handling seminar

February 18, 2009

I wanted to put up the 2 layouts from last weekend’s small dog handling and motivation seminar in Stephentown.  This seminar went really well – my intent was to start wtih a “big dog” layout, and have everyone run a couple of short courses based on that layout, then do the same with a TDAA-sized layout.

We refined handling and worked on things using the big dog layout, because, as you’ll see  below, the TDAA layout had very similar elements of handling in it.  This way, once everyone figured out the  best way to handle the big dog challenges, they “just” had to adjust for the quicker reaction times needed for the same handling in tighter spacing.

                                                                                                                                                          On the circled sequence on the first course, for example, there’s a right turn after the first 3 jumps, with a tunnel staring at the dog if the handler isn’t careful.  So, we worked on timely turn signals for the dog on this sequence.  Look at the small dog version of this: on the circled numbers course, after #4 there’s a right turn with a tunnel in sight, this time not 17′ away but 10′ away.  In working through the timing of the first sequence, the second became much easier; a combination of pulling to the right (moving laterally away from the dog), plus slowing down and starting to turn to the right, the dogs turned nicely.
                                                                                                                                                       And, on the same course, the turn to the tunnel under the A-frame without taking either the first tunnel entrance or not turning at all and taking the next straight ahead jump again required lateral handling and deceleration.
                                                                                                                                                          On the squared numbered big dog course, there was a tricky serpentine section in the back which followed a pull to the right end of tunnel #6.  First, the pull to the right end of the tunnel was accomplished by laterally moving to the right while still running ahead confidently towards the correct tunnel entrance.  After that, the handler could either stay on the back end and handle using push-pull moves, or do a front cross after jump #7, giving the dog a tight line (almost a straight line) over the #8 and #9 jumps. 
                                                                                                                                                      Now, look at the small dog version of this section (boxed numbers) – very tricky indeed!  I ended up running Raini, a Boston Terrier; we worked on fast dog techniques in this section and I needed to demonstrate that a front cross after the #4 jump was not the only way to handle it.  This alternate handling choice was to pull laterally sharply to the right as soon as the dog was committed to jump #4, then send on to #5 and cross behind.  The tricky part here was, of course, the tight spacing, but what ended up being the biggest issue was the timing of the rear cross at #5.  Too late and the dog never was directed at jump #5; too early and the dog pulled off of the jump.  Look at my lovely color pictures of handler and dog.                      
At blue – very sharp lateral pull to the right, handler almost runs into jump #8 (teacup equipment is close together, sometimes almost a tripping hazard!).
At red – handler has hung back enough so she has room to push forward and to the left to signal a smooth rear cross, is giving a jump signal to dog in front of her body and almost is not moving at all, is preparing to cross behind.
At green – handler has just crossed behind, is running for the tunnel and is giving signal now with right hand.
It looks so simple on paper, but those that were there know that it was indeed a superior level TDAA challenge!
In conclusion – the seminar went great, I think everyone learned a lot and hopefully will use crisp handling both on big dog and small dog courses; even though we all know that small dog handlers can “get away” with sloppy handling on big dog courses, isn’t it better to give your dog the clearest handling possible?  In addition to turning in a faster course time, it’s more motivating for the dog to get timely commands from the handler.