24 January 2012

Are judges testing us...??

...or are they just 'throwing courses together'??

I thought I had better get this post up before we have any more rounds in case someone thinks it is specifically about them................

I have been going over some international courses lately, and then having Lee Gibson here made me think about this some more. Lee put up a course of his own, or rather I was given a course plan to see that it was erected correctly. Now if anyone knows me when it comes to courses, I insist on PERFECTION. If I have a course (mine or anyone elses), I put it out to the "T". I check angles, I measure EVERYTHING, I pace out each gap, and I check every approach and get it just as the designer wants it..... It MUST be right!

Why?? Because a course designer is meant to TEST the handler and dog combination on various things! And the course designer puts obstacles in relation to other obstacles for a reason - to make them do certain things on the course.. whether it be layering, distance handling, or just to see if they can work a box or serpentine etc... Remember, like any other KUSA discipline, this is a TEST. It is not a bunch of obstacles laid out to go and toss your dog over and say that you do Agility... :)

Back to Lee Gibson...
He went on to explain WHY he did certain things in his course design! I love this! Every judge needs to be able to say WHY they did something!
For example, he encouraged a good lead out at the start by placing 2 jumps and then the weaves at a reasonably difficult angle, as well as a dogwalk in full view of the dog. He tested a good startline stay, he tested the length of the handler's leadout, the positioning chosen for the weaves, and the timing of the cue to get the dog straight into the weaves without looking at the dogwalk... and THEN to add some difficulty, he placed a tunnel to the side with an opposite side entry to test if the handler could LEAVE the dog in the weaves and be in position for a neat tunnel performance!! And the beauty of it all was that a dog properly trained (no matter what grade) could do this, and he could see the level of training in each dog running :)

Unfortunately, I have been on too many courses where the judge has put no thought into the placement of obstacles, they just plan a route and often don't even think in terms of the grade they are designing for, let alone what they are testing :(. Unfortunately this can get a little boring, especially those where you run up and down and have nothing to do other than say "over" and run forward....

So I guess the best I can do is keep at it, keep my own designs purposeful, and aim to test specific things,and I am always happy to explain my courses to anyone that would like to know why I placed obstacles where I did. The BIGGEST reward is seeing the well trained dogs negotiating things that I placed in areas to see that they can be "handled" and not just run. Thanks to all that give me this satisfaction :) :)