You go to agility class, you walk the course, you make your plan, you run the course, and the instructor gives you some feedback on what you could change, so you run the course again with their suggested changes, and it works! Yay!
What did you learn?
Did you learn why your dog responded to your plan the way they did? Did you learn why the suggested changes work better? Can you take that information and generalize on a completely new course with similar challenges, but not the exact same pattern?
If you answered yes to the questions above – super! You probably have a keen understanding of how your handling system works and why your dog reacts the way that they do.
If you answered no to the questions above, you likely haven't developed that keen understanding of the language you share between your dog. That can be frustrating, for all learners involved, to be learning a language and teaching that language at the same time.
Let me unpack that analogy a bit more for you.
Your agility instructor is teaching you a unique language that they would like you to share with your dog. Then, you are taking that lesson that you just started learning in that moment and teaching that language to your dog. Does that sound like an efficient way to learn a language? Or to teach a language?
I know people want to train their dogs – that's the fun part of dog agility. However, I believe that we need to slow down and learn the language for ourselves before we expect the dog to understand the language from us.
It's important to understand *why* does respond to our physical cues the way that they do. It's equally important that we use our physical cues with enough consistency that the dog can respond consistently.
With consistency in our cues and our dogs' responses, we can plan our handling strategies with a lot more confidence. Instead of
“trusting” our skills, we can have actual facts, backed by data, driving our decisions. Sure, there is still an element of trust, but trust is a whole lot easier when backed by data 😉
In my upcoming FDSA Class, Agility Handler Mechanics, we will unpack all of your physical cues, and how they combine to create handling techniques. We will focus on key movements that are common in agility handling, and how to combine those movements into techniques that we frequently use on course.
For example, where to look!
And, how where your chest points tells your dog so much about the present line to be on.
In the video above, can you name the handling techniques being demonstrated?
We will also practice footwork, so that you can always be moving in the correct direction, supporting the future, and being efficient with your steps!
And eventually, these movements come together to create handling techniques!
To read the full syllabus, be sure to check out the FDSA Page on Agility Handler Mechanics.