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Knowledge Equals Speed!

The Complete Guide to Dog Agility Training

By Dawn Weaver
Reviewed by
Lindy Margach

Description: This book by world class competitor, Dawn Weaver explains how to direct - without suppressing - a dog's enthusiasm, thus motivating him to use his own natural power and speed to navigate a course successfully. Her unique style of handling gives the dog clear, early and reliable information, so that he always knows what is coming next and has the confidence to run at top speed, perform with confidence and, most of all, enjoy agility.

Table of Contents:

  • First make your dog an agility addict

  • Waits and recall starts

  • Directional commands and cues

  • Rear, front and blind crosses, which to use and why

  • Contacts and weave poles, proofing

  • See-saws and tunnels

  • Wraps around wings

  • False turns

  • Obstacle discrimination

  • Boxes, snakes and stars

  • Layering

  • Pre-curving

  • Distance work

  • Knocking poles

  • Training – designing exercises, handling systems and choosing a trainer

  • Competing – walking courses, queuing and exercise areas

  • Postscript

What I liked about the book: I rushed to the letterbox when I heard the tell-tale thump that Dawn’s book had finally arrived and tore off the packaging. I pored over the preface and first chapter, then made a cup of coffee and settled down to the rest of it. That bit then took the best part of a week and several more cups of coffee. It’s a bit like training a dog, really.

Then I came to an overwhelming decision. I didn't actually want to review the book! Not because I wasn’t finding it well written, but simply because I wanted to keep it all for myself! I don't want everyone else in agility knowing just what a really valuable publication this is! I want to spend the winter months working on these exercises and bounce back into the ring next Easter fired up, ready to go, with an enthusiastic dog that has perfect contacts, perfect weaves, awesome turns and even greater drive. Now, I guess, everyone else who buys this book will be doing the same.

But if that improves the standards, it has to be a good thing which is why I decided I should review this book after all.

Dawn has called it Knowledge Equals Speed! The first thing you have to understand is that the knowledge she is talking about is not your knowledge. It's the dog's knowledge of what you are trying to convey through clear commands, good body language and perfect timing. Throughout the book, she does everything in her considerable power to explain and show exactly what she means – at every stage of handling. For me, it switched on a lot of lights and has shown me not just where I need to improve my handling, but how to do it.

Dawn’s methods are tried and tested and she has proved their success beyond doubt. Whether the rest of us can raise our game to her levels will depend on our desire to succeed and our levels of dedication.

Could be better: To be honest, it’s not an 'easy read'. You have to work a chapter at a time, think about it, build on what you have already read and then move on to the next bit. My advice to would-be buyers, however, would be... Don’t miss out on this one!

Design & format: The illustrations and literally hundreds of coloured diagrams throughout make the suggested training techniques really easy to understand. The care that's been taken throughout to link the text to the correct placement of the diagrams is superb and the care in actually producing the diagrams in the first place sets a standard that most other publications could seek to follow. Paperback 320 pages. Personally signed by Dawn.

Overall rating: Points out of 10 - just for once: 11. And I really mean it!

Price: £16.95 + P&P. Available direct from Dawn Weaver's web site, personally signed, or online from Agility Warehouse

Value for money: Absolutely – don’t know what you pay for a private lesson, but this gives you a whole range of private lessons in the privacy of your own home! It’s the best investment you can make.

About the author...
Dawn Weaver is one of today's top agility handlers, working seven dogs of varying breeds and sizes, including ABCs, collie-crosses and her fabulous miniature Poodle – all at the very top level of the sport. She was the only handler to qualify two dogs for the 2009 FCI World Championships.

Dawn, who has been training dogs for over 20 years, currently teaches both individual dog owners privately and group classes in Portland and at Tarrant Gunville in Dorset. She also runs training days for clubs at their venues on request.

About the reviewer...
Lindy Margach shares her home in Wallington, Surrey, with four Labradors – eight year old Shannon, four year old Bracken who has attained her Gold Warrant this season, two year old Ree and her recently rehomed youngster, Hobi.

She has been competing in agility for about five years, has been an agility judge for two years and has recently also passed her Agility Club Instructors exams.

Lindy is a journalist and PR consultant working mainly in the sectors of agriculture, equine and animal health.

First posted 08/11/09

Another View
From Richard Partridge

Recently we bought a new television. With it came a user's guide for setting up and operation. After an hour of trying to understand this document of complete gobbledygook, I threw it away and took the telly to my ten year old grandson who fiddled with a few knobs and buttons and handed it back to me. all working, with that scathing, patronising look that young people save for us oldies. 

Shortly after this my wife presented me with a book. She was very pleased with her purchase and told me that this will be the answer to all of my problems. Upon opening the package, I was horrified to see the word 'guide' in the sub-title.  'Here we go again,' I thought. I will have to submit myself to the ridicule of the youth of today once more. But upon opening it, I discovered a true revelation - a guide which is well written, easy to understand and put in such a way that an old fool like me could understand and even enjoy reading it.  I looked again at the front cover. I could now see it properly. My eye not drawn to that word 'guide.' The whole title is Knowledge Equals Speed, The Essential Guide to Dog Agility Training, written by Dawn Weaver. 

Dawn’s book is refreshingly written in an easy to read style with plenty of very clear diagrams to illustrate points of handling. Her step-by-step directions on how to approach different obstacles and sequences are clear to the point of being blindingly obvious, and you soon realise that by putting these into practice you will become a better handler, and almost certainly have a happier and more motivated dog. What I found particularly is that when this information is in a book rather than on a video it is possible to re-read sections to really understand them. Even I managed to get a fair proportion into my thick skull!

The topics follow a logical sequence, starting with simple things such as waits and recalls progressing through crosses and contacts to pre-curves and layering Yes, technical terms but well explained. Because I could take all of this in in my own time, sitting in comfort rather that in the hurly burly of a dirty old riding school with my dog pulling at the lead eager to play with the toys, I realised that I was finally learning what my hard pressed trainers had been trying to get through over the last few years.  This is not to detract from my long-suffering trainers, rather the opposite. I now feel a great deal of sympathy for them!

I did notice a couple of points though. Dawn explains that she only trains her dogs for ten minutes or so. I wondered at this. We have a usual hour long training session.  And in the section about behaviour in queues, she tells of getting somebody to mind her dogs until the last moment before they go into the ring. I realised that this is obviously the way demi-gods behave. They probably also have Ambrosia for breakfast, whereas we lesser mortals have to take our training when it's offered, generally hold our own dogs and make do with cornflakes.  Nonetheless, the points she makes are well made and give us something to aim for.

In summary I found Dawn's book a really useful guide, well written in an understandable and enjoyable way and should be on every Agility enthusiast's book-shelf. I will take this space to make one apology if I may. I assist with the training at one club I attend, and to my long suffering pupils may I ask that they bear with me if I keep saying 'according to Dawn Weaver... you do it this way.' If it gets too much mild harsh handling will be tolerated!