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TheCuriousOne

What is agility? Directionals? Foundation.

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Im looking into getting into REAL agility with my next dog.
But directionals, fancy jump work has always baffled me to death. Terms like blind crosses, front crosses, and wraps from the front or backs of jumps...

Teaching a dog to go behind a jump and come in to you from the right wing... or the left wing? Then take a left or right towards an outward jump..
WHAT?

And Kip cap?! WHAT?
"Out doesn't just mean get outside of the jump, it can also get out past the jump."

How am I to teach a dog all this nonsense if I have no clue when people are trying to teach it to me? I am so confused. How does the dog know the difference?

I have always guided my dog by body language, obstacle names, and the occasional. "right" or "left", to have my dog moving right or left out of a tunnel or over a jump.

How do we teach the dog different sides of a tunnel? Does that not change when the dog takes it from different angles?

I need help.

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The beauty of most motion-based systems are that they work with the dog's natural tendencies. Half of the vocabulary we use is stuff that the dog will read with very little practice, and is more for the handler than the dog. Teaching a dog to bend around a wing is a pretty natural extension of teaching a send around a cone, and that can specialize into cik/cap/back pretty quickly. There's a lot of work you can do with a jump that you don't need to do with other obstacles - a tunnel can really only be taken one way, but a jump can be taken in collection, in extension, at a slice, or while bending. All of these options are useful in getting the fastest performance and giving your dog early information about what he's doing next.

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Can somebody break all this down for me? Or send me to somebody who will? Maybe a book or DVD?

How is a dog taught to come IN from behind a jump? From the left or right wing?
Things like this confuse me.

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I've gotten everything from my instructors and haven't found books or media super helpful.

 

To teach a wrap or backside of the jump, my foundation behavior is teaching a dog to go around a cone. When you can send around the cone in either direction, put the cone behind a wing, set the jump bar very low or on the ground, and send the dog around the wing and the cone. Work on each side in separate sessions, keeping the cone on the backside of the wing. They generalize very quickly from around a cone to around a wing. Then you can play with jump heights and where you're sending from- the easiest position is you right next to the wing, hardest is you sending across the face of the jump.

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See the problem is I am not wondering HOW to train these things so much as I am wondering WHAT the heck they even mean...
Cant focus on how to train a dog a blind cross, before you fully understand what it is and when it will be useful to use.

Know what I mean now?

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I would advice taking classes, if you don't have a good local instructor sign up to one of the really good online classes that are currently available. I have taken classes with Daisy Peel and she is a very good instructor. With the crosses, it is not so much teaching the dog, but teaching you, it is all about your motion and timing and understanding what you are trying to achieve. As an example my dog understood a blind cross with no training, but he had the foundation training where he understood my body language.

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You don't need to know the fancy terms people use - humans like labels, dogs don't care.

The problem is that what might be termed a blind cross or whatever can look different from another depending on context and you can spend a lot of time on analysis that doesn't really add much to the sum total of your handling skills which should be instinctive rather than over thought.

We have a top handler / instructor coming to teach a couple of classes regularly and she will work on ketschkers for a whole class without once using the term.

I know how to do a ketschker but how exactly to execute it in any given situation is what I need to know. Why rather than what. Rote learning of terms isn't much help in real life.

Where you need to be and what you need to do with your body is the only important issue.
Not everything has a name anyway. Foot a few inches one way or the other can make a lot of difference.

You need input from a good instructor rather than books or videos, although they can supplement what you are taught. On the other hand, my daughter has learned and is still learning her skills from watching good handlers in live competition. No one ever told her what moves are supposed to be called and it hasn't hampered her ability to complete the against the best in the country.

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if I want to be a major league baseball player, I don't wake up one morning and say "I think i'll go practice hitting major league fastballs". I start with little league or intermurals or whatever. you have to get the basics before you can even comprehend the lingo and the whys behind it. as stated above, find some classes. it is easier to watch a person do the moves and show you and correct you, rather than read about. I have thought about online classes but have not tried them. I do watch a bunch of dvds. they don't, obviously, give you any feedback as to whether you are doing something correctly, but they do allow access to many different training styles, enabling you to find the mesh that works best for you. there is no one true path. I like www.bowwowflix.com. membership is very reasonable and they have the latest training dvds.

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All the above contain good advice! I would also add that what works for one dog does not necessarily work for another because each dog is different (some prefer front crosses vs. rear crosses or prefer to work close vs. at a distance or...) and each handler is different (slower or faster or...). If you go to a trial, you will notice that there is no single, correct way to handle a course. Each team has its own strengths and weaknesses. Learn to handle in a manner that is best for you and your dog - regardless of what is popular right now. If it is working for you (i.e. you are getting the results you want and your dog is happy), then you are ahead of the game. I can understand wanting to improve which is where more training is helpful.

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I've gotten everything from my instructors and haven't found books or media super helpful.

 

 

Seconded. This isn't something you can pick up a book and study. I mean you can, but books are something that become helpful after you've got some real world experience. Before then, believe it or not, it's hard to know what you don't know. Yeah, you can learn what a blind cross is but when do you use it? When is using it better than using a front or blind cross? What sort of dog, handler, and sequence does it work best for? When walking the course, how do you decide which one to use?

 

There are some things you really need an instructor for, and IMO agility is one of those things. Learning what things mean, learning how to translate it onto the course and learning how to handle your individual dog (and heck yes gcv border is right on that!) really, really needs both really good foundations work, and practice with an experienced instructor. But mostly a lot of experience with your dog and whatever it takes to put the dog where it needs to be on the course.

 

You do not want to know how long it took me, in a class and doing sequences, to figure out what I was trying to accomplish with "Switch". It's obvious to me NOW, but like HECK I could figure it out, then. Had I tried to figure that out on my own, it never would have happened.

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Rufftie is right - learn to walk before you try to run.

 

My pup is nearly 15 wo and things we have done so far (in no particular order) are -

 

Very relaxed loose lead walking.

Lying down and staying while other dogs are working.

Sitting and waiting while I open the hall gate or the front door.

Rising from a down to a stand.

Walking backwards.

Walking backwards onto a wobble cushion.

Coming when called.

Spinning to right and left.

Running ahead of me into the house with a Go command.

Running ahead of me and turning back to right or left building on the spinning exercise and using the same cues.

Going out round a pole in both directions

Coming close to both sides from a distance using a Heel (left) and Side (right) cue.

Playing tug.

Fetching a ball and delivering it to hand.

Walking on both sides without cutting in front of me.

Swapping sides from behind to a hand cue.

Generally following my body language.

Oh - and house training.

 

Sounds a lot but not really as they are all (well mostly) games to him. Everyone plays with their puppy, right?

 

Using actual agility equipment is very far from my mind at present. Working on foundation skills first will make it so much easier when we do start training in earnest.

 

I'd like to do a bit of competitive Obedience with him too but I don't want to flatten his enthusiasm and independence by working on precision at this stage. That can come later.

 

If you're looking at books and / or videos concentrate on the ones that deal will foundation skills which are just as important, or even more important than the technical stuff that will come much later.

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It sounds like you need to know the 'why' of a behavior in order to fit it into your mental toolbox and commit to training it - I'm like that too, but a lot of other learners will be flooded by this approach. I ended up clicking with a trainer who's willing to map out the journey and approach things in a fairly scientific manner (we sometimes set up timers on a course and try it two ways to figure out which is fastest).

 

A good instructor for you should be able to illustrate the use of fancy skills rather than rote drilling - my instructor has set entire courses dedicated to working on a single cross, and I walked away from that 3-week series (front/rear/blind) with a much deeper understanding of what they were, how to execute them, and which situations lend themselves to each choice.

 

All the good handlers have absorbed information to the point that it is instinctive for them; there's a different skillset that makes someone a good instructor, tailoring information to a variety of learners in a class usually grouped by dog's ability or age rather than human's preferred learning style.

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If you're looking at books and / or videos concentrate on the ones that deal will foundation skills which are just as important, or even more important than the technical stuff that will come much later.

 

Building Blocks of Performance is a decent book in this regard.

 

And looking at the list of skills given above, I think it's a pretty danged good one. The only things I've added with my older puppy are targeting (I know we use those in my classes), 2o2o POSITION with a cue, and introduction to a shortened tunnel.

 

Well, that and a lot of fun stuff that have no real bearing on agility in particular but are good relationship builders. Mostly, though, at this stage it's STILL all about playing with my puppy and honestly will be for a good long while yet. She'll start a foundations class at 8 months old, but even that won't involve more than maybe a tunnel, some jumps without bars in, and a lot of play.

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A lot of great information here.
As for online classes, I was going to take silvia trkman puppy and then foundation classes later on.
But i have heard her classes are NOT for people who do not fully know all terms of agility. And for some reason, i have yet to grasp all these technicalities.

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Agree with mickif ^^^. Also, she just released her Puppy DVD - what to do with your puppy in the first 5 months. I haven't viewed the DVD, but I would bet that many of the exercises/training tips could also be applied to dogs of other ages. Sylvia T. also recommends learning tricks (and yes, she has 2 Tricks videos) because they help a dog build core strength, general coordination and also help the dog learn how to learn - so that agility will be easier down the road.

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I've never done agility, but we train on all the agility obstacles and some others, and we do lots of "orienting" exercises - as in, how to tell your dog you want her to do this sequence of obstacles in this order. If we where to do agility we would no doubt have much to learn but also we would already know how to comunicate lots of things.

 

I suppose it all comes down to having a solid basic obedience learned, and then developing a good comunication beyond that, meaning training a lot of other commands and understanding how your body position and movements affect how the dog understands you, so when for instance you want the dog to run past you and over the obstacle, so you can run behind her to the other side and tell her to turn in the right direction after the jump, it all goes smoothly, no matter what it's called.

 

This is probably a pretty simplistic way to put things, but it kind of works for us.

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Where are you located? You could probably get some recommendations for classes from this group. There really is nothing quite like having a live person work with you. An instructor can pick up on things that you might not notice and explain why and when you would use different moves.

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Find a good class. No substitute for an experienced eye to catch the details and explain how to do something correctly. As far as backside (go out and come back) vs front side of a jump - it's all in the line you set for the dog with your body language. A very helpful book is Linda Mecklenburg's handling book - it does a very thorough job of explaining all the cues and how to combine them to get the desired response from the dog.

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A lot of my friends have took her foundation class. they said "its not a handling class, you need to know what shes talking about".
Terms. I need to know terms, Like serpentines, threadles, back sides of jumps. "You need to fully grasp these terms to do best in her foundations class"?
Maybe I am wrong? Or maybe they don't want me to take her class :P.


Talked to an instructor today. She said "you push the dog out with your body language beside the correct side of the jump,

to get the dog to jump the backside."
This is not what I mean. I KNOW how to use my body language to guide a dog that's running beside me. Who doesn't?

Its VERBAL directional and crosses and such, that are tough for novice handlers to teach their dog and themselves about.

What I am interested is learning these terms and how they work. And how to correctly and safely teach to my dog.

For an example, I was going to teach my future dog how to find backside of jump himself.
Then while googling it, I came across this video that saved my life.
Now I know better, I am going to teach my dog "split", or avoidance of the jump, so I can guide him to the backside...
Hold on I will post the video.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehSBLE6UeZU

I need more videos like this explaining things like teaching "left and right" and also teaching wraps that go left and right".
Example, if I want my dog to turn right and head to a jump on his right. I do not want my dog to do a full wrap around the right wing of the jump he was at. Then he would be in the complete wrong direction...

That stuff confuses me.

I do not want to screw this dog up.

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CuriousOne, consider subscribing to Clean Run (both e-magazine and print edition) or something like OneMind training. Clean Run has speciality issues on foundation training or motivation, and I've been a subscriber for the past decade or more (not saying how much more...). They also sell a ton of books on agility. Anything by Linda Mecklenberg is worth buying (fair warning, her writing is pretty dense, and it really helps to work through her exercises to figure out what she is saying --- but she packs several tons of information in her books and none of it is outdated). "Agility right from the Start" is a pretty darn comprehensive book guide with lots of diagrams and pictures. If you want to do verbals and teach distance training, look at Kristy Netzer's website and buy her DVD -- hard to go wrong there.

And -- I taught my baby dog to do a backside in his foundation training, but the very large majority (18 out of 20 jumps or more) will be taken from the front. Meanwhile, the US of A and the rest of the world have very different perceptions of what should be encountered in a novice or open course. Don't need to know your exact location, but are you based in North America or elsewhere? Because in the US, you will encounter few backsides or threadles but definitely serpentines and 270 jumps.

Nothing beats a competent trainer however.....

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Curiousone, I am curious about your current involvement in agility, do you compete if so what venue?, have you taken lessons and seminars? I think we could all provide much better guidance if we knew what your current knowledge base is.

As an example a lot of us have mentioned motion based handling. Body language in agility can be complicated, so much of what my dog does is in response to my physical cues, there are many things he can do which I have never specifically trained but as he understands the cues he can handle the jump combinations. It is those cues that are the key to much of agility handling.

I would recommend Daisy Peel for online foundation work, she is a great teacher and very approachable.

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To the OP: based on your last post, I agree with other respondents that taking lessons, not just reading books and watching DVDs, should clear up much of your confusion.

 

Verbals are over-rated IMHO. In my mind, they are a great way to give your dog advance information about what to do next and where the path is, but they have to be backed up with your body cues. In my agility class, we will sometimes practice "running silent" to make us (the handlers) focus on body cues. You should read about OneMind agility (developed by some Finnish agility handlers). Their system developed because one of their most advanced dogs became deaf, and they experimented with body and motion cues to guide her around the course.

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I do not want to screw this dog up.

 

One sure way of screwing a dog up is to put too much pressure on it and on yourself.

 

Just relax and concentrate on helping your dog become a balanced and confident individual with a strong bond with you.

 

Your dog shouldn't be a tool for your own ambition.

 

We have high hopes of our new pup but if it doesn't pan out it won't be the end of the world.

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One of the beauties of a motion based system is you don't absolutely need all those extra verbals (or all the time spent training them). I teach my dogs the basic cues (much of it is actually natural and takes very little teaching) and I can combine and vary those cues to get the exact response I want. I can run the dog completely silent. I can run my youngsters on some very complex sequences (using wings in place of bars if dog is too young to jump) and they will read it all and perform well with very little training. Once I learned how to "speak dog" with my body, I have the basic alphabet needed to explain complex movements to my dog on the fly. It is so cool to see them master some fancy maneuver on the first try because the way it's communicated just makes sense to them. As far as telling the dog you want a quarter turn vs a full turn - the easiest way is you cue the direction of turn with body language and show the intended direction after the turn with your movement and location, and the dog connects the dots and does the turn needed to get from Point A to Point B.

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