Posted Date: September 29, 2012
A close look at how this course was run. By Julie Daniels
This course opens with some tricky control work.
The dogs came flying off the start line on a bee line to #2 only to meet a threadle from #2 to #3 with a very inviting tunnel trap between them. The handlers were split about turning the dog left or right over #3 to get back to that tunnel at #4. Many faults and eliminations were incurred in the opening on this course. It was good to see so many talented and sportsmanlike handlers recover from a messy opening to turn in some fine work through the rest of this difficult course.
Following the #4 tunnel was a push out to the nonwinged single bar jump at #5, which did not draw the dogs' attention without help. Most handlers put a front cross (getting in front of the dog and turning in to him to signal a turn) on the landing side of the #6 jump. Some handlers were rushing to position for this cross and caused the dog to pull off of #5, but for the most part a front cross between #6 and #7 was the best choice. It was popular with the small dogs and Performance dogs for handlers to put the front cross out past #5, facilitating that push and putting the dogs on the right side of the handler for the arc from #6 to #9. Other handlers chose to keep dogs on the left for jumps #5 and #6 and then rear cross (crossing behind the dog) the takeoff side of the #7 jump. This was not a bad option either. It all just demanded attention.
At the #9 turn, nearly all small dogs were allowed to jump forward and turn left. They had little trouble handling the long jump properly from that position. But the big dogs had their problems here! Some handlers did a beautiful job of checking the dogs in for one stride toward them before releasing the dog to the long jump. Some handlers managed to turn their dogs to the right and wrap to a better long jump approach. This played well, provided that they were on the same page about the turn. It wasn't the decision to turn this way or that way that killed so many dogs there, it was the argument started by the handler when the dog didn't turn the way the handler wanted to go. As handlers stepped over to change the dog's line, there was often confusion and a back jump over #9. The successful handlers who had miscommunicated on the turn cue just kept going with the new line set by the dog. There was no time for an argument on that turn.
Going into the serpentine (an S-shaped path of obstacles) from #11 to #13, all sorts of handling choices could be successful. Or not! Some handlers put a front cross after the long jump. Some stayed on the landing side of #11 and pulled into the serpentine. Some chose to rear cross at the takeoff side of #11, and others chose to rear cross on the landing side of #11. And there were some blind crosses (where the handler gets in front of the dog and turns away, picking the dog up on the handlers opposite side) after the long jump, more in the small dog classes but a few were done with big dogs as well. There was more variety at this location than any other on the course. As you can imagine, if the handler was late or out of position, the dog often incurred a refusal, knocked a bar, or went off course, usually by missing #11 entirely and shooting straight ahead over the back side of #12. Best of all, there were some beautiful flowing lines enjoyed by many teams here, and that demonstrated one of the best things about this course: no one style of handling or one handler path proved more or less likely to succeed. It was a matter of knowing one's own dog and playing to one's own strengths without hesitation. The dog needed to be well trained and needed to trust his navigator. And there was a lot of that, which was beautiful to see.
Once through the serpentine, the weave entry at #14 was straightforward. The few weave problems were standard issue, but for most dogs this was the easy part. Some handlers did relax too much about the upcoming send to the #15 jump. It caused the occasional problem of missing that jump, but it was more likely to cause a problem coming back to #16. Coming in between the #15 and #16 jumps was a common problem with the smaller dogs, partly because of the generous spacing. The Championship classes had a triple jump at #15 which caused many of the big-strided jumpers to get #16 for free regardless of whether the handler was paying attention. But there were some surprised handlers here when their dogs came in short and incurred a refusal or even an elimination for a back jump at #16 if the handler didn't react quickly to change the path.
The #17 tunnel was another surprising problem area for many handlers. In both rings, in all jump heights, some dogs just did not see that tunnel. The expected mistake would be that the dog ran by, and that happened a lot. Many of the fast dogs who missed the first entrance then ducked into the off-course entrance. But some dogs poked their heads in at the nearer tunnel bag, between the bag and the correct tunnel itself. They were trying to go in and couldn't find the opening. Usually, when this happened, one could see that the dog was cued late or too close to the opening, or simply sent on a casual signal instead of a specific one directed at the opening. Some dogs simply guessed wrong as to where that opening was in space. As the day went on, the handlers saw the necessity for being very crisp about cueing that #17 tunnel.
A few handlers solved three problems at once by handling very differently after the weaves. They ran ahead of the dog in the weaves, ran forward into a wide front cross after #15, pushed to #16, cued the tunnel from the back side, and ran around the tunnel to pick the dog up on their left side. From there it was easy to pull the dog between the trap jumps before sending out on the closing arc over the #18 and #19 jumps. It was essential to be in position for this sequence, but leaving the dog in the weaves made getting there look easy.
The other elegant choice for handling the closing was to keep the dog on the right through the tunnel and run ahead between the trap jumps, cueing the dog to keep running straight to the handler. With the dog on that line, the handler executed a running front cross and smoothly continued the path over the last two jumps with dog on the left.
Other handlers successfully used a rear cross on the takeoff or landing side of #18, and some stayed on the outside and continued the dog to #19 on the right. Even the angle of the last jump caused its share of problems. If the handler was too far behind with dog on the right, the correct path was not always obvious to the dog. Some dogs turned in and took the long jump again. Others either missed #19 or backjumped it. Some beautiful runs were lost in the final two jumps.
Nothing could be taken for granted on this course. The challenges were simply relentless and they were coming fast! A handler who stopped doing his job for a second was apt to cause a fault or the dreaded whistle. We should all be setting up this course at home! It will be one of your best practice courses ever.
See this course in action! Run 1(small dog), run 2 (small dog), run 3 (large dog), run 4 (large dog).