“It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not”
International style courses - love them or hate them they're here. Personally I love them but I didn't always. When I first saw courses from overseas I thought, ugh, so glad I don't have to deal with that. Herky, jerky, trappy, de-motivating, why would anybody want to do that to themselves or their dog?
But then I started training those challenges in little bits and pieces. And I worked on training and timing collection cues. Plus a few more years of trialing, facing courses with the same old same old challenges and now I love the idea of something new. I love practicing the tricky stuff and it's a great feeling of accomplishment when I do make it through a crazy sequence. The courses aren't jerky or de-motivating at all if you have the skills to handle them. The key is training and getting over the myths and self-limiting beliefs about yourself and your dog.
Think you need to be fit, fast and young to kick butt on international style courses? Try telling that to this woman.
Think you need a Border Collie or herding breed? Plenty of non-BCs/non-herders in this video and they look plenty happy, fast and motivated. I train with someone who has an awesome poodle and you should see this dog's super tight turns, speed and enthusiasm.
Big dogs and inflexible dogs can't do tight turns? Back sides, threadles, etc. are demotivating? Try telling that to Silvia Trkman.
That last video is a trailer for a Foundations training program for crying out loud. Baby dogs of a variety of breeds and sizes easily, happily doing threadles and back sides and tight wraps, no problem. Again, it's all about training and attitude and breaking through those self-limiting beliefs.
Of course dogs need to be well conditioned and have a certain amount of athleticism and I don't think that's an unreasonable requirement. This is a sport and it's called agility, seems like being agile should be a prerequisite no matter what style of course the dog is doing. We have tight turns and wraps on our courses already, if a dog knows how to collect and the handler cues them properly for the turn it shouldn't be a problem and because of the collection they land lighter than if they were running flat out taking the jump in extension. In fact I see a lot of dogs on wide open courses (ie DOCNA) getting no timely turning cues, taking the jump in extension and grinding into the turn on the flat after the jump as the handler yells at them too late.
I'm not sure what the future holds for these types of courses here in the U.S. Locally we've exactly one UKI trial that was not very well attended which is a shame because it was so much fun. USDAA has opened up their Masters Challenge courses to anybody at any level and I hear AKC is experimenting with an international style class. I've seen a few backsides of jumps in DOCNA courses though not so much lately so I'm not sure where DOCNA is going. If these classes were required for the ADCH, MACH, etc it would provide the motivation for people to ramp up their training but I don't see that happening any time soon. Those titles are a great marketing tool, a way to get people hooked on spending their time and money on agility weekend after weekend and none of the agility organizations are going to risk driving away those $$$ never mind dealing with the uproar. As well it's going to take a while for instructors in the U.S. to ramp up their training programs though with online training these days the world is your classroom so anybody keen to learn has plenty of options. But until instructors start teaching these skills on a wider scale as part of a foundation program there's going to be a lot of fear and resistance to the new courses.
My plea here is to keep an open mind and don't let other people tell you who you're not, especially if you're new to agility. These courses are a kick in the pants and a fun way to push yourself if you're willing to learn the skills and embrace the notion that you and your dog can do it and that it's fun.
This post is a part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day. Click on this link to read more posts about Internationalization.