Should it be allowed?
Agilitynet wanted someone to write an article about a currently talking point in agility today - someone with flair, someone with charisma, a certain someone who could, shape and sculpt words into magical masterpieces. We wanted someone who could capture everyoneís imagination and change the future of how we think as mortal humans. But, as Alan Disbery has retired, we settled for Lee Windeatt. And so here is his controversial article on training in the ring.
Some people call training in the ring putting your dog back on the contact (touchpoint) after it has either missed it in competition or come off without a release. Others call it training if you stop your dog on the contact for too long. It's my opinion that we should all train our dogs in the ring in competition.
Watch the people at the very top, the ones winning tickets in champ classes each week. The majority will train some of the runs that arenít qualifiers. Some will stop their dog on the contacts for just a good solid contact, while others will stop for a few seconds. Then, in an important run, they will run their contacts with more certainty that the dog will run to the bottom as it's released, getting a good running contact. Dogs do know the difference between competition and training, but if you start out training them in competition at least you can fool them for a while.
How many times do we see someone with a promising youngster (pup) enter the first few shows and run the dog off the contact like its going to electrocute the dog. They win the dog into senior after a month and are then never heard of again? The dog has learnt for the last six months it stops on contacts in training but at shows we run off them or jump off as quick as we can. A 20 month old dog is not ready mentally to tackle Senior courses and, if it is, then the trainer has probably done too much with it too soon.
Every dog - okay nearly every dog - misses a contact in its career. I have seen one dog miss four in one class when they only had three contacts. The dogs that continually jump or fly the contacts should be pulled out of agility and stick to just jumping classes only. The contact is there for the dogs safety. Not much science behind it, but years ago they decided that if the dog kept jumping off dog walks, A-frames from great heights then they would be likely to damage themselves, either over a period of time or a one off... splat! So teach your dog that in competition they sometimes stop and arenít allowed to get off the contact until they hear go. Stop the dog for a second or five seconds. Vary it so the dog is guessing all the time and has to wait for the... go command. Lay a good foundation for the dogís future contacts and when you fancy winning the class, you will have more reliable, solid contacts. Well, that's the theory, at least.
I also see people still blitz their contacts after they have knocked a pole or been faulted in someway. Trust me, you arenít going to win the class and probably wonít get placed so stop it on those contacts if you have any during the rest of the run.
Now to judges...
It doesnít matter if the judge eliminates you as you arenít trying to win the class or go for a decent place so who cares anyway, but the judge still has to watch you for the rest of the run so donít let them turn their back on you afterwards. We still want the dog to think its competition. If they do ask you to leave the ring , just shout abuse and call them nasty names... okay, maybe not. Just accept it and mumble stuff under your breath.
Now to the nice judges, the sensible ones that let you put a dog back on the contact or train in the ring. What they are doing is making sure the dog learns it canít shoot off the contacts from great heights and help preventing the dog from future accidents, incidents or damage to its own body. What nice judges these are. Can we have more of them please?
I do think judges should have permission to ask someone to leave the ring if their dog jumps from the top of two pieces of contact equipment risking injury. Perhaps they already do have permission but donĎt use it. Some judges find this acceptable and they let a dog with no control fly the touch points, stay in the ring and yet someone who is trying to teach their dog control and keeping them safe to leave the ring. Strange logic.
I do realise that by everyone stopping on the contacts that we are using up more of the judges time and will probably cause the show to go on longer but there is nothing on TV on Saturday or Sunday nights anyway. I do judge and, whenever you are in my ring, you may train your contacts or place your dog back on the contact as long as you don't abuse the time or harsh handle in any way.
Photos of John & Bill by Brian Hutton
Lee's favourite pastime, other than training, is winding people up on The Agility Forum.
From Yvette Curtis...
I also judge and I let people train, within reason, on the contacts. As said in Mr. Windeatt's article, no point teaching one thing in training and another in the ring. What is the harm? There is no harsh handling or shouldn't be. That is a different matter so what is the harm in teaching the dog to negotiate the obstacles in a careful, controlled manner. There are far too many dogs injured these days. And no it does not say, to my knowledge, in the KC rules that there should be no training in the ring.
Probably get lynched now or asked to leave the ring next time I am counting my two or three seconds. Anyway thought I would say what a well written article and how much I agree with what has been said. (30/08/06)
From Jackie, Rocky & Stormy's Aussie Posse, Lady
Bug, O.D. & Itty Bitty Too!
From Rachel Woods
Any judge that finds this unacceptable should say so during their briefing, thereby giving handlers the option to pull out rather than risk an iffy or dangerous contact. Common sense from handlers would be more than welcome. There is nothing more frustrating than being in a queue waiting for someone that has taken 3 times the course time to coax a dog around that clearly doesn't want to run. I do believe in these cases Judges should intervene. After all Agility should be enjoyable for both parties!
Well done Lee - an interesting topic. It's more common sense than controversial!
My start point is somewhat different though. Now, before the comments about Johnnie-Come-Latelies from the old stagers start, I freely confess that we have only recently - four years ago - started Agility, but in that time I have heard constant grumbles about 'it's not the same as is was.'
I was not there in the old days so I don't know, but I suspect that Agility, like life, does not remain the same. It's called evolution and if it were not for this gradual change we would still be slugs!
What I am sure I have noticed though is that Agility is becoming more popular and shows are attracting larger entries and thus bigger classes. I feel that a lot of the grumbles in the queues are related to this, classes and shows sometime seem to go on forever, even though, as Lee pointed out, we rarely have any other pressing appointments. It is frustrating to have to sit around waiting for extended periods. It seems to me that we can made the rings run more slickly fairly simply, and we can all help in certain ways.
And most of all keep reminding yourself Agility is fun! Simply don't spoil your day or let others spoil it. Life ain't perfect so why should we expect Agility to be?