Reminder: To increase the course size for viewing, simply double click on it.
Cliff Notes Version for Novice – Best Way to Handle the Course:
- Lead out between #1 and 2 with dog on right side going into tunnel.
- Do a front cross between #2 & 3 so dog is now on left side going up the dog walk and over #4.
- Do another front cross after #4 so the dog is on the right side through #6.
- Do either a front or rear cross (rear was clearer to the dogs) between #6 and the #7 tunnel so the dog is now on the left.
- Coming out of tunnel, dog remains on handler’s left side through the #9 double.
- A front cross should occur around the a-frame (either before or after) so the dog is now on the right for #10/11. There are lots of options and the best is dependent on you and your dog’s skill level. Read below for more details.
- Front-cross after #11 so now dog is on left to the #13 table.
- Front cross during the table count so dog is on right going into the #15 tunnel (note: be sure to drive down to the tunnel entrance).
- Coming out of the tunnel, the dog will be on your right and a cross needs to occur before or after the #17 chute so that the dog can be directed to the #18 jump. More details below.
Skills Challenge for Open – Training Suggestions To Get To The Next Level:
- Independent weave performance. More details below.
- Dog and handler have a GOOD understanding of front crosses (placement as well as a clear signal). More details below.
The Details for Excellent – What Worked and What Didn’t:
Let’s start at the beginning. Several handlers began their run (obstacles #1 & 2) with their dog on the left side (note under the Novice section I suggested starting with your dog on your right…), led out, faced the tunnel (which puts pressure on the dog), released their dog and the dog kindly chose not to invade their personal space and promptly went into the wrong side of the tunnel. Ouch! Not a fun way to start a run and several handlers were baffled and frustrated with a section of the course that they deemed easy.
I’ll be sure to write a blog article on the power of facing your dog to follow up on the above scenario. But back to the course…
After the tunnel, most handlers picked their dog up on their left side and took off running to meet/beat their dog down the dog walk. Interestingly, several dogs read the increased motion, but not necessarily the direction the handler was running and there were a few off-courses as dogs cut in behind the handlers to take either the #1 jump or the #14 tire. As an alternative, some handlers had the dog on their right side as they approached the dog walk which worked well to prevent the pre-dog walk off-course options and they simple did a front cross at the end of the dog walk to put themselves in a better position for the next sequence.
The next sequence looks a little scary on paper, but it ran well for the competitors. Most handlers did a front cross after the #4 jump so the dog was on their right side and then did a rear cross at the #7 tunnel to put the dog on their left side heading toward the weaves. Those handlers who attempted to keep the dog on their left over #4 & #5 found it difficult to ‘push’ the dog up toward the #6 double as the dog was certain they were going up the off-course a-frame.
The #6 – #8 sequence went smoothly and most dogs easily found the weave pole entrance. Here’s where having independent weaves was a handy skill set to have. By being able to leave the dogs to complete the weaves, handlers were able to take an efficient path toward the landing side of #9 to get in a front cross (so the dog was now on their right) which was beneficial as they entered the next sequence. Those without independent weaves had to stay behind, keep the dog on their left and do either a front or rear cross before #11.
Of all the areas on the course, #11 to the #12 teeter was the largest problem section with dogs heading directly to the off-course dog walk. At the end of the day, I concluded some of the reasons were:
- When doing a rear cross, handlers were either facing the dog walk or failed to signal the dog until AFTER the jump where they were going (by that time, the dog had already decided what their path was going to be).
- When doing a front cross, handlers were trying to ‘catch’ their dog on the landing side of the jump while still moving (usually toward the dog walk) or their dog didn’t honor the front cross signal by coming in for the side switch.
As I mentioned earlier, handlers took advantage of the dog being stationary at the table and did a front cross while they were in position so the dog was now on their right. Since the very last obstacles had a change in direction for the dog, one last side switch was needed somewhere. The options were:
- Prior to the chute, most folks did a front cross on the landing side of the #16 jump so the dog was on their left going in to the chute (this easily pulled the dog over the #18 jump with little effort and wasted yardage). Others did a rear cross as the dog was going into the chute which required the handler to really RUN to get down to the chute exit to avoid having the dog curl in too tight and by-pass #18.
- The other option was to redirect the dog after the chute. These handlers kept their dog on the right side as they entered the chute and rear crossed at the chute exit. While not always the most efficient in terms of yardage for the dog, this too worked very well and handlers successfully completed the course.
Getting Back to Those Front Crosses….
We can ALL use work on our front crosses, so I’m going to add a front cross section to my blog in the near future. Something simple, efficient, but effective. Stay tuned (although it maybe July/August since my schedule is amazingly hectic until then).