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Global Judging Program’s Course Design Day Review


In addition to its two 2-day intensive judging seminars, the GJP also offers a standalone Course Design Day.  Everything Agility went along to the last one for some much needed instruction!

What is the Global Judging Program (GJP)?

The Global Judging Program (GJP) is a 2-day intensive, informative and exciting seminar presented by two of the most distinguished and respected judges and agility handlers in the UK, Greg Derrett and Lee Gibson.  It has been designed by judges, for judges and covers every aspect of this vitally important role including course design and analysis, judging position, safety, what to do when the unexpected happens, and how to deal with social media.  On completion of the Program and its comprehensive modules you will have a greater understanding of the factors that help to transform a good judge into an excellent one.

For those judges wanting to further their skills, GJP 2 is a further two days, the first is a teaching day, and the second a graded assessment. 

Course Design Day

I’ve been judging agility for probably 20 years and I would guess I have been totally satisfied with a handful of the hundreds of course I have designed in that time.  The best have been those that haven’t needed any changes because they’ve been one entire class, or maybe tweaking for a second class.  The most challenging, by far, is judging at UKA or a show like Adams or Dog Vegas where you might have to change the course without moving major equipment many times.  I think Greg himself said that at one of these shows he had 13 different classes in one ring and still ensure grade appropriate flow, skills tests and, most of all, safety! 

Also, I believe that some people are naturally better at course design, just as some people can naturally paint, or draw… or train dogs!  And it doesn’t naturally figure that an excellent course designer will be an excellent judge.  To me, they are two separate skills and I would happily purchase course plans if I could!  However, as I can’t, the next best thing is to attend

GJP’s Course Design module which runs over one day and is open to all, whether you’ve attended the Program or not. 

Before we go into the nitty gritty of the module itself, have a go at this judging quiz.  How many safety issues can you identify in the course plan below?

There are at least 15 issues that hopefully an educated judge would consider. Not all would need changing but all judges should base that decision on their understanding of the potential safety issue they pose.

What You’ll Learn on the GJP Course Design Day

I can’t cover everything I learned about but hope to give you a taster so that you can go try it for yourself.  This 7 hour day seminar is dedicated to course design and focuses on:

  • Defining, recognising and creating dogs lines
  • Addressing simple course design mistakes that result in awkward or dangerous sequences and safety issues so commonly not identified
  • Creating courses with a great judge’s path to give you the best view in the house
  • How to create multi-option sequences and combinations to make your courses more exciting and challenging
  • Appropriate lines for appropriate levels
  • Practical sessions on skill identification and skill inclusion in design, safety identification and course modification, nesting, judge’s path and course changes to create better views
  • Non-organisation specific

Dog’s Lines

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen plenty of courses set which puts the onus of safety onto the handler.  For example, if there are two ways to do a wing wrap then the handler should chose the one that’s best and safest for the dog.  But we know it doesn’t work like that, does it, because there will always be at least one handler who doesn’t take the intended line… and really, is it the responsibility of the hander?  GJP doesn’t think so.

Here’s an example scenario:

The judge may think it’s obvious for the dog to turn left over obstacle 1, giving them an apparent straight entrance to the dog walk.  However, what if the dog turns to its right over 1?  And even if it turns left it could go wide and once again create an offset entry onto the contact equipment.

“Injury should not be the result of a dog failing a skills test.”

Judges shouldn’t use contact equipment to test approaches, especially for the inexperienced handler who might not realise the implications of an offset line.

Subjective Approach

Looking at the scenario below, judges need to consider the various lines a dog might take on approach, especially if the handler just leaves it to the dog and doesn’t ‘work’ the entry.

To make the approach safe consider using a ‘safety catch’, i.e., another obstacle that makes the handler work the turn harder or stops dog turning too wide.  For example,

If obstacle 2 – the safety catch – wasn’t there and the tunnel entrance was the second obstacle, dogs going at speed are likely to turn very wide as they exit, putting them on a potentially unsafe approach to the dog walk.  By adding the jump no. 2, the handler has to stop the dog from turning too wide out of the tunnel and taking it again.

A-Frame Approach

When setting a course, consider the dog’s speed as it hits the up ramp.  What obstacles do you have before it?  Is the A-frame exit test suitable for a range of height dogs (if applicable).  Importantly, will the dog be safe no matter what it does prior to ascent?  Not every dog is going to find the line the judge intended.

See-Saw

There are similar considerations with the see-saw, including what can the dog see in its line of vision?  (I must say I would never have thought of this.)

In this scenario, might the dog think it’s going up the A-frame and then fly the see-saw?  Other considerations with this obstacle – the only one that moves after it’s been completed – are to ensure that the dog and handler can get away from the see-saw safely, and not to use it when it would force the handler to cross behind. (As the see-saw goes down and the entry end goes up it could easily hit a handler crossing behind.)

The Tyre

Another obstacle that should be preceded by a straight line, e.g.,

Excuse poor diagram, but you get my drift!

The Wall

Avoid complex handling on the wall until we have foam rubber versions that aren’t likely to do any damage if they fall on the dog.

Nesting

This is when you need to make several different courses without moving key equipment.  Key nesting components include:

  • Approach to contacts
  • Other approaches
  • Appropriate skills test for level
  • Judge’s path
  • Position of entry and exit

So, in this scenario, how can a judge increase the skills test?  Well, for example, changing a single jump to a spread or a wall; test contact exits, increase changes of side, obstacle discrimination, changing jump angles, speed and more.  First create a template for the course and identify the judge’s path, location of major equipment, and approaches and exits from it, and lock those in.   Take a look at whether the course works in reverse, but try not to move the start and finish obstacles, and definitely do not use them twice in a course.  Sending a dog around timing equipment could cause safety issues.

Practical Activities

Split into groups we had five different tasks:

  1. Skill contrast.  We listed all the skills in a course and identified opposing skills, e.g., left weave entry vs right weave entry.
  2. Nesting.  We built both a Beginners/Grade 1 and a Champ/G7 course out of a Novice course.
  3. We looked at how to incorporate skills into a course.
  4. Safety, of paramount importance.  We identified dangers on a course, noted concerns, and tweaked to improve.
  5. Judge’s path.

Working with other people and considering their ideas was extremely useful.

Discussion

The whole group discussed the ‘dumbing down’ of agility.  We conjectured that Champ judges so desperately want to award CCs that some, occasionally, will make a course easier than it should be for that standard.  Also, how judges can be bullied by competitors and how to deal with that, both at a show and on social media which really can give judges a hard time.  However, if we can’t or won’t critique judging and course plans, then how will anything improve?  Let’s just hope that more potential and existing judges will want to make sure they do everything they can to design an appropriate, safe and enjoyable course for both dogs and handlers.

Finally….

Just this one day module covers all of this and much, much more.  It’s presented with humour by Greg and Lee who both add amusing anecdotes from their judging experiences.  I think that we all came away with a vastly greater understanding of how to design creative, fun and flowing agility courses with a judge’s path that gives a clear view of each piece of equipment, as well as how to use the handler’s path to increase/decrease order of difficulty but most of all to ensure that they’re not going to brain themselves on a swinging see-saw or trip over the end of a dog walk!

I know we would all like to see consistency in the standard of the courses we ask our dogs to run.  There are, as in all walks of life, people who are constantly trying to up their game and those who believe ‘they’ve got the T-shirt’.  For those who want to improve in performance and confidence, then I highly recommend both the GJP and its Course Design Day.

Next GJP Course Design Day – December 6th 2019. GJP 1 will be held on December 7th-8th.GJP 2 will be held on December 14th and 15th. Held at Wickhamford Village Hall – WR11 7SA.

NOTE: At time of publishing there were only two spaces left on GJP2 in December.

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