With Shaun Hunt
I started my Agility career in the mid 80’s. Back then everything was done with the dog on the left, contacts were completed properly if you managed to stop your dog in time and weaves were the responsibility of the handler! Fast forward to the present and it’s a world apart from those early days. Our training techniques are better, handling systems help guide our dogs round courses at faster and faster speeds, dog fitness is at the front of our minds, the list goes on and on. In short, Agility has evolved to the highest level it’s ever been.
Over the last couple of years the training of my clients has also evolved. After 10 years of training full time I’m no longer just teaching handling manoeuvres and training dogs to understand, but I’ve now moved into what makes the handling better. From this I’ve developed a programme which targets the specific movements handlers require to get round a course, focusing on speed, changes of directions and whole body co-ordination.
One of the problems I have found is not so much the execution of say a front cross but how the footwork and co-ordination makes the front cross efficient. Looking at a broader picture let’s think about driving a car – we don’t think about which foot goes where when changing gear or braking, where the gearstick is or using the indicators. That’s because repetition has developed muscle memory.
When we are training our dogs it’s difficult to keep repeating handling manoeuvres and create muscle memory, because we have a lot more to think about – the dog, the course and our timing. So what I have done is strip away the different layers and designed a programme of drills, based on the specific movements we execute, removing all other distractions (mainly the dog!) so that the handler can develop this important muscle memory – the aim being that we can then run without having to consciously think which foot goes where.
I recently ran a taster session at one of my venues. The programme ran really well and received a lot of positive feedback. I plan on running another session in the near future followed by rolling out an online course. If my thoughts have intrigued you watch this space or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.