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European Standard Course Analysis (UPDATED)

Emily Snider and Ellen Finch walk you through the first course run at the 2008 Cynosport World Games.


From Emily Snider:

European Standard was a nice course to run.  It had a few sections of very technical aspects, combined with sections built for speed--very European!
 

Simply getting to the tire (obstacle 5) clean proved difficult for many dogs.  Many earned refusals at #3, with dogs either pulling in too tight or swinging wide and nearly taking the tire.  Getting into the right end of the tunnel at #4 also proved a challenge for those that had problems between #2 and #3 and weren't able to get to the front cross to pull to the correct end of the tunnel.  Even those that were perfect through #3 weren't immune to the draw of the off course tunnel!
 
The section of #5-#8 was a nice area of the course where you could see many competitors "take a deep breath and relax" and prepare for the next set of tricks after the A-frame.  A good number of dogs took the off course #10 right after #8.  Many competitors opted to front cross between #8 and #9, and this provided a nice line, but also produced a very wide turn in some instances, with the dogs thinking they were heading to the weaves instead of into a 270.
 
If you were clean by the time you reached the dogwalk, you were in an elite group. 
 
The two predominant methods of getting from #11 to #13 were to a) use lateral distance on the dogwalk, pull to the tunnel entrance, and call the dog to #13, or b) front cross the end of the dogwalk, then either blind/front/rear to 13.  Many dogs whose handlers were behind the tunnel came out and looked to the right, then went back into the tunnel.  Many eliminations were earned at this tunnel! 
 
The front cross between #13 and #14 was an option if you were already behind the tunnel.  Otherwise you were found rear crossing the teeter.  Many dogs whose handlers opted to rear cross #16 to #17 ended up over #17 without taking #16!  The front cross from #15 to #16 was met with the most success, though even with that, some dogs swung wide and ended up in the weaves before they (or their handlers) knew what happened to them.
 
Most handlers opted to front cross the weave poles and pull to #20.  This resulted in many dogs faulting the broad jump.
 
With many tricks, traps, and tricky spots, you were in good company if you came away with faults, and even moreso if you were eliminated, unfortunately.  Those dogs that came away with no faults were few and far between, and took real teamwork. Any little mistake on this course could (and so often did) result in disaster!
 
Results for this event will be available soon.

Emily Snider has been involved with dogs since early childhood, where there was always a Golden Retriever by her side.  She now lives in the Dallas, Texas area with her two Border Collies and one Jack Russell "Terrorist".  Emily has been involved in dog agility since 2004 and funds her agility addiction by working as a Civil Engineer.

From Ellen Finch

In 90-degree noon heat, competitors walked the European Standard course. I didn't enter with my 22" Border Collie or my 26" Aussie Probably, but I walked the course to choose a likely handling scenario and then walked all four rings using the same handling to look for anomalies. I saw nothing that I felt would have made the course more challenging in any one ring, nor anything that might have led me to change my initial handling strategy.

Some people, however, felt that the turn into the weaves had different spacing among the rings, which probably wouldn't affect those who approached the weaves with the dogs on their left, but might have affected those who pushed or flipped the dogs into the weaves on their right, and possibly might have provided a different off-course possibility after the 8-9 sequence.

As to whether this European course varied significantly from typical American courses, opinions varied. Seems to me that small-dog handlers were less inclined to feel that it had unusual challenges. Big-dog handlers more often felt that the course was tighter than usual, not only between obstacles in flow, but also among off-course opportunities. U.S. courses don't usually have multiple 270-degree turns.

Almost all handlers started with a front cross between the #3 jump and the #4 tunnel, although a smattering chose to keep the dog on their left and pull into the tunnel. I didn't notice any off-courses into the wrong side of #4, or any other particular faults in the opening section.

From #4 to #5, my handling choice would have been a front cross, and a majority of handlers agreed. I was interested to see several blind crosses, with the remainder attempting to run straight up the left side of the #5 tire and then rear cross #6. The latter two methods made it easier for dogs to notice the dogwalk. Even though it map shows a straight line of sight from the tunnel exit to the tire, in reality most dogs who ran on the handler's right at least gave the dogwalk an intrigued look, and a small number gave in to temptation and got feet onto the contact zone for an off-course. We saw one dog sneak behind a handler doing a blind cross and hit the dogwalk.

The next problem area was the #8-#11 sequence, which provided many bonus off-course opportunities. Handlers seemed roughly evenly divided among rear-cross-9ers and front-cross-before-10ers. Both required excellent timing, clear communication, and keeping one's eyes on one's dog. Not so obvious from the map was the #8-#9-#17 off-course challenge, which seemed to be to be more common with the rear-cross-9ers. The distance between #8 and #9 encouraged dogs to open up their stride, so that they landed long after #9 with #17 staring them in the face. Some handlers whose dogs aimed for #17 managed to pull them off, only to lose them to an off-course into some part of the weaves.

Even after successfully negotiating the 270-degree turn into #10, dogs then followed a line that headed their noses directly towards the back side of #8, and quite a few dogs bought the farm on that one.

Most interesting to me was the dogwalk-tunnel-jump (#11-#13) sequence. I walked it once with a front cross from the dogwalk to the tunnel and then another really fast slide-front-cross after the tunnel, but was concerned about getting my knees disassembled if I misjudged the fast dog coming out of the tunnel. Only two people whom I spoke to identified that as their preferred handling path, but I decided that my preferred handling would be to send my dogs to the end of the dogwalk, run down the back side of the tunnel, and call like crazy to get a sharp turn to the left coming out of the tunnel, although I knew that at least my younger dog would have trouble turning left rather than right.

Every handler that I watched in Group H chose the same path that I did. Everyone knew that they had to be well along the tunnel's back side before the dog entered so the dog would know how to turn. The result was twofold: first, there were many more missed dogwalk contacts than usual, not just straight ahead but also off the side toward the tunnel. Second, maybe 9 of 10 dogs still turned right out of the tunnel, wasting time, with some number of those continuing back into the tunnel entrance for an off course.

The jump-jump-teeter sequence (#13-#15) didn't cause problems no matter how it was handled. Handling choices were based on whether the dog was likely to fly off the teeter or on what the handling was for #16-#18 (jump-270-jump-weaves). I saw greater variations in handling the 270 to the weaves. After the walkthrough, people seemed to identify that as the most difficult part of the course with missed weave entry as the biggest challenge. However, some dogs took the #16 straight to the wrong end of the weaves, or #17 to the back side of #9.

Handling strategies included handling the #16 from the landing side like a serpentine, front crossing before #16 and before #17, pushing the dog over #16, calling over #17, and turning the dog to the right to the weaves--and assorted combinations of all of those.

The last large question was how to handle the approach to the broad jump to avoid having the dog cut through the side. Most handlers front crossed after the weaves, including small dog handlers, although I saw a couple of small-dog folks rear cross the broad jump. I can attribute the success of that only to the fact that the length of the broad is so much less for the smallest dogs that the sides are easily distinguished from the front and back.

In all, it was an interesting and challenging warm-up for dogs and handlers to acclimatize to the surroundings.

Contributors to this article included Debbie Ogg, Sue Rush, Linda Van Dijk, Mardee and Raymond Jang, Steve with Rocky the miniature schnauzer, Channon Fosty, and JD

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