Posted by: Adrienne | January 27, 2010

Distance and Lines

This weekend I had the opportunity to attend an agility seminar put on by my instructor.  This seminar was to address the subject of “distance”.  

Most often the majority of a course can be handled from a distance of 6-10 feet, as long as you boogie.  There are times however, that being able to work at a distance is a great advantage.  There are others where it is an absolute necessity.  Certain types of courses have challenges that require the dog to move out and work away from the handler.  Novice levels might require 10 feet, advanced 15-20 ft and in certain organizations the distance can exceed 30 ft.

Recently I read a most excellent article on the blog View From 4 Inch on the subject of “lines”.  The author is quite eloquent and gives a wonderful perspective on a topic that I now find to be integral to the sport.                        

Now, it might be that my instructor has just recently started talking about lines and how handling affects them.  It is quite possible that the subject has never come up in the past year.  Because it is for certain that is only recently that I started hearing it!

Interestingly enough distance and lines are very connected.  Annelise gave the connection at the seminar.  She called distance handling “simply “trick agility””.  Meaning correct handling is correct handling.  If you are doing things right your dog “reads” the correct obstacle and path from your position and body language.  Moving out doesn’t change this, it just requires a bit more practice.

The next day in class I mishandled a sequence.  She gave me the directions of what to do telling me that by doing this I would be putting pressure on the line.  Ah ha!  It was a lightbulb moment.  As in, “Oh you mean putting pressure on the line!” 

I started to be able to see the course not only as a single fluid path that the dog runs; but saw that path as plastic, that my push and pull on it is what it really means to handle a course.  A synergy whereby you show the path to your partner and as there is trust that what you show is correct they then move through the course swiftly and smoothly.

Today I was reading the latest post on View From 4 Inch.  Part of a course by Lisa Potts is posted (one of my favorite judges as well!)  I found myself analyzing the course in a much different fashion.  Looking at possiblities that hadn’t occured to me before. I will be mulling over this new way of putting things together for quite awhile I am sure.

Incidently, Emma and I had hit a wall in our distance skills.  We had been pegged at 10 ft as a working range for quite some time. 20 was out of the question and obstacles 15 ft away took so much convincing on my part that we went over time and disqualified when I finally could convince her to take them.  At the seminar, by the last practice course Emma was going out to a tunnel 15 ft away with speed and confidence.  Hooray! 

And just in time.  This Sunday we are entered in the January “Freeze Pup” trail put on by Upper Midwest Australian Shepard Club of America (UMASCA).  Wish us luck!

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