Thursday, September 06, 2007

Powerpups Agility Clinic

I went back up to Windsor last weekend for an agility clinic with Alan at Powerpups. Though it went on all day I signed up for only one class focusing on line and crosses. Video of my runs and Dartfish analysis can be seen here. There are 3 runs to view and they take a bit of time to load. Run 1 is the white circles on the course map, Run 2 is the black and Run 3 is #9-12 of the black but using a post turn instead of a reverse flow pivot to get the threadle from #9-11. Surprisingly the post turn worked much better for both me and at least one other person with a fast, big strided dog.

This clinic was something of an eye opener for me as it contradicted much of what I'd learned at the Marco Mouwen seminar last spring. Marco's method involved setting the dog's path so you alternate wide/tight/wide/tight etc. from one set point (contact obstacle, tunnel, etc.) to the next. Alan's method was to try to set the tightest line possible everywhere. At first I was skeptical of this primarily because Alan runs a small, flexible border collie that can turn on a dime and bend its spine like a pretzel. However there were 3 of us there with relatively fast, big strided dogs and all of them managed the tight turns with no problem. Well, Cody didn't make the weave entry from #4 to #5 (white) but that's because I've never trained such an extreme entry. I was amazed at how close he came though with setting a straight line from the tunnel to the weaves. One and maybe both of the other big dogs actually made the entry. Trying to set a wider line and better approach to the weaves caused Cody to take the #8 (black) off course jump.

So now I'm confused about what method is best. I may try setting up smaller parts of these exercises at Biscuit Eaters and videotaping them to see what way works best for both dogs.


  1. I always get confused by all the different "methods" and "systems." Someone will say "never do X" or "always do Y" and then I see someone contradicting that advice beautifully in a trial. I really think that experience from trial and error give us each the best method, and it can differ between our dogs. I can run lines and crosses with Lucy that wouldn't work well with Mr. Gomez (although part of that is I just practice more with her than I do with him, so she knows her job better.) I think the biggest benefit of trying other people's dogma is that it makes us get out of our comfort area and think about new ways of doing things.

    That said, the "tightest line possible" just seems like it would always be faster ... if you and your your dog can manage it.

  2. I had web connection problems the other day & couldn't post. I always try to set the shortest line for everything for my dogs (and for me, too, for that matter). I've been pretty much talked out of the "shaping" strategy, too, where you bend the dog's path around you or otherwise move them out of a straight line to try to get a better approach and turn after the next obstacle. Tika's by no means a small bendable border collie, and the only reason she ever gets really competitive times in Jumpers in particular is because we usually know how to cover as little yardage as possible going around the course. And I think it gets her more excited, too.

  3. The video's gone now but for a time after Regionals last year Alan had a video up on his website showing 1st and 2nd place runs from the 26" Grand Prix Final overlaid. The winning dog won by just hundredths of a second and she ran a much wider course but her big strided dog was able to go faster and won over the dog that took a shorter, tighter path. However, that is just one example and it was so close. The winner was at the Marco Mouwen seminar this spring and it was interesting to see the paths she sets for her dog.

    I think both methods could be effective as long as you know what you're doing. The short path method is much simpler so might be better for me though I can still see certain instances where it pays to set a line, esp. to avoid an off course.

  4. Cedarfield8:11 AM

    I agree, it's very confusing to know which method is best for you and your dog. I spent years struggling with how to handle my very fast, hard headed, long-strided BC. Then I spent about 2-3 years learning and using the Greg Derrett method which has very clear "rules" about handling (also used by Susan Garrett, Mary Ellen Barry, Barb DeMascio and many others)until I felt I understood enough about the system to modify it into my own system. Now it's a matter of learning how to analyze courses using what I know about the way I handle and the way my dog runs to find the best way for *us* to run it. Once I figure that out all I have to do is execute it perfectly and I'm good to go :-D