Too slow for your dog?
There was a discussion on Facebook recently, about the European style course that somebody posted, with tons of people commenting on how impossible the course is to run for 1. big dogs, 2. short handlers, 3. old handlers. It sounded like in order to get the World Champion, the best would be to measure the dogs&handlers and let the tallest handler with the smallest dog win as everybody seemed to think that big dogs can't turn tight and short handlers can't get to places.
I guess you guessed that I disagreed. 🙂
I've heard it a million times already: "I'm not fast enough for my dog!" And they were right: they were not fast enough - because they were not moving!!! The length of their legs and their age never had anything to do with it: no legs and no youth will help you be in time if you're not moving, but instead stare at the dog or follow some rules on only being allowed to turn after the dog lands... - Baby, by the time my dogs land, I'm not only turned, but already way ahead, probably at the next obstacle already! And no legs will help you catch me 🙂
So no, it's not about the length of the legs. It's about trusting your dog, teaching him a good commitment, sends and distance skills and then just showing him a jump, trusting them they will take it and RUN at the next spot you're needed. Landing is not your problem. If you saw your dog taking off, then don't worry: s/he will land, no dog ever got stuck in the air. Seeing your dog's take off point also tells you exactly where s/he will be landing, so there is really no reason to stay there and stare: landing is not your problem - take off is. So take care of that take off and then take off to help with the next take off - your job there is finished as soon as you see the dog is committed. At that point, he should also already know where the next obstacle after that one is, so you're really not needed there anymore.
It's also not about the youth. I was 15 years younger 15 years ago (go figure! 🙂 ) and was running slower dogs as I do today and on easier courses as today and yet I was never able to get anywhere. The picture below will show you why. But being addicted to learning, I've learned some important lessons in those almost-20 years I do agility - and they allow me to be faster every next year. I might be older, but I'm smarter 🙂
1994 Can you see the difference? 🙂 2010
When I started, we only knew rear crosses: we handled everything from behind. Handling from behind is still the easiest for me and I can handle everything from behind. But I handle 99% from in front now. - Because I learned that it's faster, clearer and more efficient that way. I saw my first front cross ever on my first World Championships in 1997, went home to set that exact situation at home and executed first front cross in Slovenia 🙂 Front crosses made me much faster as a rear cross automatically puts you behind the dog - and that's exactly why I don't like them.
Then, I learned about a blind cross and how bad it is - but then observed handlers in my seminars and learned it's just another myth as those who though that blind cross will take you to hell had more problems with having their dogs come to the correct hand after tunnels for example (you can do as many front crosses as you want when the dog is in a tunnel - he won't see you - so you can just do a blind cross 🙂 ) while those who were doing blind crosses too had dogs with much better understanding of hands and had less confusion. So we mastered the blind crosses too and guess what - it made me even faster! And even more: it taught me how much faster I can get to places if I don't need to circle my feet around and every since, I'm a big "no feet, just hand" fan and hey - it put me in a completely another gear again! You can't believe how much faster you can run if your feet are facing the right direction!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Together with teaching cik&cap and the commitment and distance skills that come with it, feet turned in the right direction all the time will definitely take you to places soon enough IF of course you trust your dog and run instead of stare. Oh, speaking of myths: never take your eyes off of a dog??? Yeah right. If you trust your dog enough and know where he will be landing and he knows where he is going next, you can of course take your eyes off of your dog! It's all a question of training your dog to the degree that you can trust him and knowing exactly where he is without staring at him. Staring and babysitting will never get you anywhere, no matter how long or not your legs are or how young or not you are.
Never take your eyes off the dog? Why not, I know exactly where she is landing on her ciks. And she knows exactly A-frame is her next obstacle to take. And I know she knows it.
And oh: big dogs can't turn tight??? 🙂 I won't even comment that as since you are on this website, I guess you saw enough of tall BCs and Malinois doing cik&cap to know that tightness has nothing to do with how big or small the dog is.
Bu, WC Lievin 2011, photo by Jaume Llibre Leon
Big dogs can't turn tight? Bu says: watch me 🙂 -
She is 53cm (almost 21") and is turning MUCH tighter as Le who is 37cm (14 1/2")
(And note my eyes are off her again: looks like I never watch my dogs after 1994 anymore! The more I trust them, the less I stare :))
To learn more about how to be fast enough for your dog, you're welcome to audit or take part in Handling classes - we have people of all ages there, doing a really great job on getting to places on MUCH more complicated courses as the one that started this debate was.
I have not read all the comments, but I wanted to address another side of this. I am very fast and fit. Spur is not super fast (yet, he sure is faster after learning a RDW, LOL!!). I am often way too far ahead of him and I end up not giving him the right information because of that. He runs so much better/faster if I can adjust my speed to stay with him. I am learning this with time. I do as many blind crosses with him as possible, too, because he doesn’t like me to face him or push him from behind. It’s a fine line I have had to learn, stay with him and manage my speed and trust him when I don’t watch him because of all the blind crosses I am doing.
So, I feel I am somewhat “handicapped” in that I am TOO fast for my dog. 😀 Does that make sense? If I can slow down some he will be faster!!!
I have a bit of the same thing with Leevi, but the thing is that if I slow down he slows down so I cannot allways use the most efficiant route through the course cause I’d have to wait for him and that is just poison for his enthusiasm. I have to “find things to do” on the course so he hever sees me slowing down 🙂 Now though when he is starting to gain more speed I have really had to hurry up! Have to rethink my whole handling now that I cannot /should not follow hi to every obstacle anymore 😀
I wish I had problems like most of you are talking about.
There’s no way I can trust or send Pepper forward! He’d much rather stand by my side and bark like crazy! I try hard and he did get somewhat better with practice, but I still have to take him from jump to jump and if I miss the timming and start running in another direction a fraction of a second too soon he’ll turn around, miss the jump and follow me.
And what makes things even worse is that he is my first agility dog so my timming is often wrong, and he’s also quite fast and I have trouble keeping up with him.
But he’s also the funniest and cutes dog in the world and I wouldn’t trade him for anything 🙂
Yeap, he sure is cute 🙂 And well, commitment and distance is much easier with some dogs as others… BCs in general are very good at it while small dogs, terriers in particular, are more handler focused… There is a huge difference between my PyrSheps and BCs when it comes to natural distance skills -- but everything can be trained!
HELLO SHARON I SAW YOUR PICTURE IN YOUR FACEBOOK OH BOY OH BOY I FALL IN LOVE YOUR DOG OH OH MY HEART MELT HE REMIND ME VERY MUCH OF MY OLD DOG IT S SO HARD TO FIND ONE LIKE YOURS
I appreciate this article. I’m often guilty of stopping and looking when I should be moving ahead. I wish I would have read this article when I first started training, because I was also told to ‘never’ take me eyes off my dog. This was drilled into me for years, and it’s now a hard habit to change. Recently I took a Kathy Sdao seminar where she talked about how things that we once believed to be true (regarding dogs and training) we later found to not be true. If I had used common sense I would have known that my dog’s responses where based on what I had trained, not based on someone’s rule. Sharon Yildiz, if you’re still reading this, I think you will find AKC courses to be very different than when you competed with Savvy years ago. Ive found them to be very tight and often challenging, but this can vary greatly per judge.
Yes, I think dog were not given enough credit in the past -- I think they are way smarter as people used to think. I think they are very smart -- and they still keep surprising me and show me they’re even smarter as that 🙂
I Keep re-reading this article as a sort of mantra… I’m an overweight person who has discovered the beauty of running with agility but as my former agility companion was a dachshund I tought better to choose another dog to prevent her from injury…To make a long story short I’ve started training whith my 10mth old whippet and enjoy it so much even if I’m way to slow for her, but we’ll succed, I know that for sure! It’s so fun to work with her, she is showing great attitude to work and we are training in obedience too! However, you should see how beautiful she is when she runs 🙂