Home > Agility > Some thoughts – or should I say “ranting”?

Some thoughts – or should I say “ranting”?

I subscribe to an agility related mailing list: “AgilCan”. This week a lady started a thread on the contact zone. She was having trouble with her dog leaping off the contact and missing the contact zone, and she suggested it would perhaps be better to just have a line who delimits the start of the contact zone, instead of a solid coloured zone. For example, a solid blue A-frame with a yellow line to indicate where the contact zone starts. That way, she thought there would be the possibility for a dog to jump over the line, as if it was jumping a jump, and land perfectly on the contact zone. And that would solve all her problems!

This is so wrong on so many levels!

I doubt this lady gave any thoughts of why her dog leaps off the contact. Did she analyze any of her training sessions/agility runs, to try and understand why her dog was leaping off the contact? She does not say, but it does not sound like it. Did she consider going back to square one? Do more training? Change training method? Due to the nature of her post, I seriously doubt it.

Some people in agility just go to trials, show clumsily to their dog the path through a run, and expect to succeed every single time. If they do not, it is of course the dog’s fault. Like in this case, it is the dog who is leaping off the contact. Far from them to understand that it is their job to help the dog. To teach it how to perform every single obstacle. To guide them through the meanders of an agility course. And to figure out why things are not working.

Changing the colour of the contact zone will not change the dog’s behaviour. That is just wishful thinking.

Dog agility is a complex sport. There are different obstacles who require great skill from the dog: single jump, double jump, spread, broad jump, tyre, tunnel (straight – U – S – etc.), chute, weaves (12 or 6 or two sets of 6), A-frame, teeter, dog walk, pause table. Then there is the variable of the approach to those obstacles, we have backsides of jumps, tight turns around one jump stanchion, collection parts, extension parts, slices, etc.And to all this we have to add our handling to direct the dog during an agility run. With body cues, verbal cues, or both. There is our dog’s physical shape. Is it well conditioned, is it sore, is it an anxious dog or a “working machine”? There is the trial venue. Have we been there before? Have we practiced there? Etc. The surface: grass, sand, astroturf, carpet, rubber. How deep is the sand? Is there dew on the grass? And so on. The weather (if outdoors): is it raining? Is it very hot and humid? Etc. There is our ability to memorize the course, make the right choices of handling for us and our dogs. And, last but not least, there is our own behaviour, e.g. whether we are “high”, “anxious”, “cool” and so on.  And I am sure I must have forgotten some important variables!

All of the above influences the outcome of every single agility run. To succeed we need to work on all those variables. We must train our dog so that it can perform every obstacle fluently. We must add to the obstacle performance our handling. If we can we should train on different surfaces to make our dog comfortable on all of them. We must work on our mental game so that when we are out there, at a trial, we are able to be on top of the game. And, we must be able to look at the outcome of a trial, dwell on it, and go back to training with some added knowledge on our strengths and weaknesses, to maintain/improve our strengths, and overcome our weaknesses.

So if our dog has issues with the A-frame and leaps off it before touching the contact zone, we must understand why, then we must go back and train the obstacle to solve the problem, eliminate the issue.

Suggesting re-painting of the contact zone to solve one’s, likely, training issue, shows a great deal of laziness, lack of understanding of this beautiful sport, and possibly lack of desire to work through some difficulties to achieve one’s goals.

Not only it is ludicrous. It is also sad.

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