Monday, December 1, 2014

RIP Yikes! 10/28/01 - 11/30/14

MACH Speedoggie Already Crazy MXS MJG AAD GM TM

October 28, 2001 - November 30, 2014

Yikes! was our very first homegrown Champion and his accomplishments awarded Speedoggie with our first AKC Breeder of Merit Award. However all of his agility awards pale in comparison to his amazing spirit, sense of humor and companionship. Yikes! and I traveled together and enjoyed many an adventurous vacation while on the road competing and teaching. His first love was watching TV with us. His ability to locate television screens in any room, anywhere, and then turn them on was nothing short of amazing. Whether it be a smart phone, an iPad, computer or a large screen television, Yikes! could locate it in a room immediately upon entering it and then he would make it his job to get it to play something. Touch screens were no match for his nose and if there was a button to be pushed he would fine it and push it until he got the devise to start. Many a day I came back to our RV and he would immediately climb up on the dinette and turn the TV on top of the refrigerator on with his nose so we could watch it together. At one point he was filmed turning the TV on in our RV while we were out at the ESPN Great Outdoor Games Agility Competition. Always the entertainer, Yikes! loved all the attention and laughs he got from the film crew. 

Yikes! second love was water. Splashing it to be exact. Swimming wasn't really a great love of his, but splashing and yelling at the water droplets was great fun. So much fun in fact that we would have to limit his availability to baby pools, etc or he would hurt his feet from digging at the water. Lakes and oceans were also one of his very favorites and we would always try to find him some water to play in wherever we went. 

Yikes! made friends easily and wherever we would go he would be everyone’s favorite dog of our pack. You would think with a bunch of black and white border collies swarming around people wouldn't be able to tell them apart. But they all knew Yikes!, he charmed every person, child or animal he ever met. His personality was huge and after his retirement he became Speedoggie’s official greeter and bathroom assistant. Anyone who has been to our home knows Yikes! 

Yikes! spend his last hours with us sitting by the fire watching agility videos of his brother, niece and nephew from the weekends competition and feasting on a delicious chicken with homemade gravy meal that Frankie made for him. He died peacefully in my arms with us singing quietly to him. 

Yikes! will be greatly missed by his immediate family of brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews, birds and cats, as well as the many close friends (dog and human) he has made over the years. Our hearts are very heavy with the loss of our great friend and companion but we are thankful to have had the opportunity to spend so many great years together as well as one last Thanksgiving together as a family. 

Monday, September 22, 2014




Future Stars Foundation ONLINE CLASS

4 Week Online Class Dates: Sept 29, Oct 6, 20, 27 2014 (no class week of Oct 13)

This class will contain video footage of the instruction from the actual classes, edited down into smaller segments and posted to YouTube. Participants need to have an account with Youtube (free). Videos are viewable to participants thru the email address they sign up with. Video are not viewable to anyone not signed up for the Online Class. New video will be posted each week on Wednesday (evening) and participants have a full week to practice, post their training video for review, discuss, post questions, etc. 

There are 3 participation levels to the online class (description of all 3 levels included below)

4 Week Session 
$140 Working  ($35 per class)
$120.00 Auditing  ($30 per class) 
$ 64.00 Observer ($16 per class)

All online participants will have access to video lessons, written materials, class discussions and critiques for six months from the start date of the class.

WORKING STUDENT:  Working students can post videos of their own dogs working through each assignment for instructor feedback and discussion, and they can post questions and comments, as well as participating in class discussions.

AUDITOR: Auditors have access to all material (video and written) from the class and can post comments, participate in discussions, and ask questions pertaining to the work in the class.  Auditors do not post videos of their own.

OBSERVING:  Observers have access to all materials (instructor and student). Observers do not post video, or participate in discussions or comment.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

RIP my friend. Be at peace.

Kirsten Westhoven 4/27/70 - 9/4/14

Over the past week, I have enjoyed talking to many of Kirsten’s family and friends and hearing the many wonderful stories. Throughout every story I was told there was one main theme, Kirsten was one of the most loving and giving people any of us have ever met.

I met Kirsten 25 years ago at a lecture I was giving to a Breed Club. Turns out we both had Dalmatians. From the time we met we clicked and my life’s journey changed course. She and I and our Dalmatians did everything together. We grew up in the competitive dog fancy with each other. She drifting towards confirmation and myself towards performance. Both of us were passionate about dogs. Not just our own, all dogs. We could talk dogs all day long and then still call each other up at night and talk some more. 

We also had lots of other interests in common, music, art, and auto racing to name a few. I introduced Kirsten to her husband Kryn, who was my boss and one of my oldest friends at the time. They hit it off immediately. I can remember like it was yesterday how happy she was with Kryn. Back then, when Kirsten was happy she would dance and I would play DJ. C&C Music Factory was one of our all time favorites. Every time I hear that band, Im flooded with memories of she and I in my Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am with the “T” tops out, cruising down Red Hill Road singing at the top of our lungs… oh those poor neighbors!

When Kirsten bred her first dalmatian litter, she and I trained all the puppies and new owners together. We formed our first business together “Laguna Del Sol Dalmatians”, all things Dalmatian including raising and training being our specialty. When it came to breeding dogs and veterinary medicine Kir was the teacher and I the ever eager student and when it came to animal behavior I was the teacher and she the student. We would talk, argue and debate for hours about dogs. She held my hand thru my first Border Collie breeding and whelping. Now my performance Border Collie kennel is internationally respected thanks largely to those early lessons Kirsten taught me. 

Kirsten was always there to help when I needed it. Whether it be a ill dog, a ride to the shop to pick up my car, help painting a room in my house or holding me up when my nephew was killed in Afghanistan. She was always there to lend a hand, and ear and a shoulder. She just loved helping other folks in need and she was good at it.

I could spend an eternity trying to figure out a way that I could of helped her defeat her demons. A way that I could be for her what she was for me. But in the end she kept her deepest pain hidden from all of us who she loved.

Along with the many stories that I heard about Kirsten’s life, I also listened to many people question why she would take her life. After all, she “seemed” so happy. She “never showed any sign of being in pain”. When I stood up to speak at Kirsten’s memorial service I reminded everyone that mental illness, is in fact an illness. Nobody ever says “Gee I wonder why “___enter name here___” decided to die of cancer today or “why on earth would such a happy person choose to have a heart attack”? Similar to other life threatening illnesses like cancer, heart disease, etc, mental illness is an illness and NOT a choice! Nobody wakes up one day and decides THIS is the day to succumb to mental illness. It was not a decision that Kirsten made. As with all illnesses, if not carefully monitored and treated, mental illness can be fatal. And if there is anything to learn from any of this, next time someone tells you they suffer from depression, bipolar, PTSD, or the like, listen to them. Be empathetic and work to understand what they are going through. And never forget that their illness could take them away from you at a moments notice.

When I remember my friend I want to remember her energy and spirit. I want to hear her laughter ring in my ears and I want to remember that smile she had just before she said something politically incorrect - usually while I was taking a drink of something. I want to always remember how her eyes used to light up when she heard a race car rev its engine or saw an animal in need. I won’t let the shadow her tragic death to take those wonderful memories away from me.

From the first time I met Kirsten 25 years ago to today as I say goodbye to her, her presence in my life has changed the direction of my life’s journey. The fragments and pieces of her life she left behind along with all the wonderful memories of her will be with me forever. And as I look out at a whole new world without her physical presence in it, I remember a promise we made to each other. A promise that she could not keep, but that I am determined to uphold for both of us.

RIP my friend. Be at peace.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Riff-Raff at 11 Weeks Old

Riff-Raff (Pine Run Time Warp) is the newest canine addition to the Speedoggie family. An adorable 11 week old Golden Retriever puppy with ridiculously sharp teeth attached to a considerably powerful jaw. The combination results in lacerations, contusions and copious bloodlettings; it also results in me squealing and him giggling at me. It seriously does seem to me that he is getting bigger by the hour. Wasn't it just yesterday I could pick him up with one hand! Thankfully he isn't a squirmer because I really don't know how I would get him down the stairs! 

Aside from the physical maturation, I am seeing substantial mental and emotional transformation as well, even at this young age. You would think that after 30 years experience in dogs I would have seen most everything. Having lived, loved and learned from many different breeds of dog, all with unique personalities and including another Golden Retriever, that I would not be easily perplexed. Quite frankly, I wouldn't describe anything about Riff as “easy”. He is savvy and a fast learner, however he is a lot of dog with a mind of his own. Exactly what I wished for! Curiously still, this pup surprises me almost on a daily basis. There is never a dull moment for those of us who work with animals, that is for sure, and I personally am always striving to observe the puppy’s shenanigans without prejudice. As he and I progress in our learning curve with each other it has become clear that this particular pup has a very strong mind and a determined agenda. The key to great dog training is exceptional observation skills and a healthy dose of gumption. However in this case I find myself enthralled with this little guys spirit and I often just sit and watch him in wonder. What IS going on in that busy little brain of his.

As I scrutinize every action/reaction, I am finding many of the tried and true notions of canine defiance and insubordination inapplicable with this pup. Not so much because he is unique, we are all unique just like snowflakes :) But rather I feel that Riff-Raff isn't just doing his own thing. On the contrary, he wants me to join him in his own thing. It seems that it’s not as enjoyable to do things alone, lets take Mom with us for the ride! And of course, many time, I take him up on it to see where he will take it. Im fascinated by him and totally in love with his character. He’s a charmer even while he is acting totally naughty.

I find many trainers worry about making a mistake in the training of a young pup. They stress that if they don't stop any and all incorrect behavior immediately that they will create a huge problem down the line that the will not be able to fix. Often the intercommunication with their pup is solely with the intent to develop action plans. They spend most of their time in a reactive state, trying to get the dog to listen and comply instead of interacting with they pup with the intent to actually hear what the pup has to say. Don’t get me wrong, action plans are useful HOWEVER before you design your plan of action, you really should first have a good long listen to what the dog has to say! While I observe Riff-Raff, I am expressly intent on listening to everything he has to say with an open mind, void of any preconceived notions. Quieting one’s mind can be extremely challenging. I find that my training is much more effective when I take the time to fully understand what the dog is trying to say before I organize any action plan.

Even when Riff-Raff’s communication is a bit “uncomfortable”, going against the grain of how I currently do things, I strive to be open to change and eagerly await inspiration from what the dog is communicating to me. I am spending more time listening instead of jumping into training with both feet before the “what”, “when” and “why” have been established. 

Riff came to live with me at 7 weeks of age. I prefer to bring my new puppies home at 7 weeks as I like them to be somewhat settled into my routine by 8-10 weeks of age due to the fear period that happens during that time.

Dog Developmental Stages:
0-7 Weeks: Neonatal, Transition, Awareness, and Canine Socialisation
7-16 Weeks: Human Socialization Period
8-10 Weeks: Fear Imprint Period
6-14 Months: Fear Imprint Period / Fear of New Situations Period
1-4 Years: Maturity Period

At 10 weeks on the dot I witnessed Riff-Raff question situations with much more caution then needed. This kind of behavior is completely expected at this age. What was not expected was how fast he rebounded from his sudden outburst of fear. In one case it was a person who was oddly dressed and gesturing towards the puppy with open arms coming right at him with “awwwwwhhhhhh pupppppppppy”. Riff responded with a very low, very quiet growl. Then he seemed to identify the person as a non-threat and completely recovered, greeting the person perfectly normal. His recovery time was less then three seconds.

Twenty-four hours later, while out for his last potty break, there was a loud sound “BANG!”. Could of been a firework, gun shot, back fire from a car/truck engine, I am not sure exactly what it was. Riff dropped into a down, as low as he could go. Tail tucked completely under himself. He remained motionless for less then a minute. He seemed to do a mental self check to assure himself that he was fully operational and then he scanned his current location, again assessing the danger threat. Less then a minute later, he was up on his feet. His tail was tucked for a bit longer but nothing major and soon he was back to leaping over blades of grass and eating dirt instead of pooping :) I’m continuing to see him offer a small hesitation here or there but nothing major. He remains as curious as ever. From my observations he seems to be on the tail end of this fear period.

What I have noticed in the past 48 hours is a sharper awareness of his “personal space” as well as a clear and conscious value system for items and locations that are off limits. To say he is keeping me on my toes is an understatement! Because just because he seems to KNOW these things, he is still just as curious to find out “what if?” and he will test my reflexes at any change he can get.

Riff-Raff is a mathematical genus with physics being his strongest subject. He can calculate exactly how long my arms can reach as well as how quickly I can get from one place to another. He can also measure his own personal space to the inch, insuring that at no given time can I interrupt him getting a taste of something off limits, like the furniture, or something that has been dropped on the floor. His speed and accuracy are nothing compared to his ability to read the entire space he is in and react immediately to anything changing. Something as simple as a piece of paper dropping to the floor is fair game for the pup and he rarely looses the race to catch the item falling and make a mad dash off with it singing to himself “I’ve got a treasure… I’ve got a treasure, and YOU cant catch me!”

Riff also has applied a whole new value system to items. If he picks something up in his mouth and I immediately remove it and replace it with an appropriate chew toy, his mind goes immediately to work calculating exactly what he will need to do to seize said item back into his possession as quickly as possible. Nothing in his world has more value then an item that I have deemed off limits. It has become painfully obvious that I have failed as a dog trainer in this regard as although I believed I was “redirecting” his actions to an equal or greater value item clearly I need to become more educated on the value of things from a dog’s perspective. The cap to a water bottle is far more valuable, if recently taken away from him, then a squeaky toy or chew bone. And the laces on my shoes are the most prized possession he could have. Perhaps I should braid a shoe lace toy for him :) 

In a small test of my theory, I restrained myself from redirecting Riff off of an item that he should not have. Instead I ignored and continued to meander through my work, touching many things in the process. He quickly discarded the item and worked his way around the area, processing the value of other items by my reaction to him mouthing them. I find studying dog behavior fascinating, and this pup in particular is very deliberate with his action plans. It is obvious that he has thought these things out and is processing everything that is going on around him, using that information to form game plans for himself to support his wants and needs. Keeping me alert and focused on him seems to be his number one goal. 

Today in particular Riff demonstrated his every increasing tactical abilities, mastering the use of time and space, resulting in him becoming untouchable by human hands. The lack of physically adeptness in his 11 week old body, that often trips over its own feet, is balanced nicely with his adroit AND assiduous mental game. I must admit, I’ve met my match, and as expected I am completely enthralled by him. 

I look forward to the next few weeks and all the funny stories that will come from it. Every time a new dog comes along, a new journey begins. I have to admit I am having the best time so far on this journey and I am becoming a better dog trainer because of it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Speedoggie's Summer Seminar Series:

Four Paw Fusion Yoga® Seminar
Strength, Conditioning & Proprioception Disciplines For Canine Athletes
  • core strengthening
  • body awareness
  • injury prevention
  • mental stability (anxiety etc)
  • post surgery rehabilitation
  • active recovery
  • increased flexibility
  • overall body maintenance
  • confidence building
  • improved performance
  • impulse control
  • increased focus
  • much, much more
Four Paw Fusion Yoga® is a dog specific yoga technique developed by Chris Ott and Frankie Joiris consisting of physical and mental disciplines, postures and focusing exercises for attaining control of both the canine body and mind. 

The Four Paw Fusion Yoga® program was designed to easily guide dog/handler teams through specific canine yoga positions, targeting muscle groups used and injured most frequently by dogs in competitive sports. This program is perfect for all dogs regardless of size. Disciplines can be taught using molding, luring, mirroring and/or free-shaping. 

Developed in conjunction with world leaders in canine rehabilitation, muscle strengthening and core development, the Four Paw Fusion Yoga® Program blends customized canine yoga positions into routines and blending poses together to create smooth, flowing and completely holistic workouts. Four Paw Fusion Yoga® utilizes olfactory stimulation, harmonic resonance and therapeutic touch to create a complete state of relaxation for the very best exercise results. Exercise balls, peanuts, balance discs, etc can be added for teams that wish to increase the intensity of any part of the workout.

Some Other Amazing Benefits of Yoga (
Long-term yoga practitioners have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements. Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels and has been shown to improve mood and anxiety more than some other metabolically matched exercises, such as walking. Yoga is beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors. For chronic low back pain, Yoga has been found 30% more beneficial than usual care alone. A research group from Boston University School of Medicine also tested yoga’s effects on lower back pain. They reported a pain decreased by one third. Yoga participants also had a drop of 80% in pain medication use.
There has been an emergence of studies investigating yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer patients. Yoga is used for treatment of cancer patients to decrease depression, insomnia, pain, and fatigue and increase anxiety control. Researchers at Washington State University found yoga could help reduce the inflammation caused by cancer therapies. The researchers noted the yoga group reported less fatigue and better moods.Yoga is found to improve cognitive functions and reduce stress in conditions associated with cognitive deficits and stress-related relapse.

LOCATION: Pinelands Dog Training Center, Medford, NJ
DATE: Saturday, July 19, 2014
TIME: 2-4pm
Cost: $75

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

International Handling Seminars coming to Medford, NJ

Speedoggie Performance Dog Training

I will be presenting multiple International Handling Seminars Medford, NJ (indoors, turf). All seminars are held on Sundays. These seminars are currently open to Speedoggie students and those who have worked with me in the past. I have a waiting list for non-students if/when openings become available. If you are interested in attending any of these seminar dates please email me.

Location: Pinelands Dog Training Center in Medford, NJ 
Dates: 6-22, 7-13, 7-20, 7-27, 8-3, 8-10
Time: 9am-5pm (1 hour lunch)
Cost: $175 (multiple dog/seminar discount offered)

Courses consist of jumps, tunnels and weaves (only). We will be organizing each seminar by performance level. The levels will be: Introduction (new to international handling styles), Experienced (basic understanding of the handling moves) and Repeaters (anyone who has attended my International Handling Seminars before). 

*Ample parking close to building and plenty of indoor crating space. Close to eateries or bring your own lunch.

Im offering these seminars as a fundraiser for my Finland trip this August but those who can not attend any of these events who would still like to support me on my trip I have created a donation page. Thanks in advance for all of your help in supporting me on this continued education quest!

Follow this link to my GO FUND ME Page

Chris Ott & The Speedoggies!

Some of our accomplishments:
Cynosport Steeplechase World Champion
Multi Year USA/AKC World Team Member
Multi Year USA/AKC European Open Junior World Championships Team Coach
Multi Dog European Open World Championships Team Member
Guinness World Record Holder in Dog Weaving
Multi Year Winner AKC/USA World Team Tryouts (Individual & Overall) 
10th Place 2002 FCI World Agility Championships Agility Class
4th Place European Open Team Jumping
Multi Year Cynosport World Championship Semi Finalist
Multi Year ESPN Great Outdoor Games Participant
Multi Year AKC Nationals Challenger Round Finalist
Multi Dog USDAA Lifetime Achievement Awards
Multi Year, Multi DogUSDAA Top Ten List
Golden Retriever Hall of Fame (GRCA)
"Register of Merit" Award (BCSA) on multiple dogs

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

2014 AKC National Agility Championships Finals Round

Reflection, Connection, Redirection

Innovative Running Contact Protocols

The arena in which the final round of the AKC National Agility Championship was run afforded the opportunity to watch from high above the course, a view which was informative on many levels.  We do not often get a chance to see agility from this perspective, it really allowed for a great analysis of handling choices and results.  Quite noticeable and of major importance was the connection or lack thereof between handler and dog as the dog exited tunnel #18.  When handler and dog were not connected, it caused a wide turn at best, a refusal or off course at worst.  

Staying connected to the dog during an agility run is my number 1 priority.  And by the term ‘connected’, I do not mean staring at my dog until they make eye contact with me.  Connection is achieved when I am SURE that my dog and I know where each other are on course.  Sounds simple, doesn't it?  Well… it’s not.  We see it every weekend,  the handler scoping the course for the next obstacle and the dog following the handler’s sight line, resulting in a wide turn, an off course, a refusal, a bar down.  Errors on course happen more often than not due to a break in connection.  You can be locking eyes with your dog and still not have connection if the dog AND you are not purposefully intent on going to the next obstacle.  If you are the only one who knows what’s next, that is a problem.  If your dog figures out what is next or guesses correctly… he/she is a genius! Unfortunately the dog does not always make the correct choice.

We have all had it happen, we send our dog out to a jump and when the dog is taking off, we lift our gaze up and turn our heads to see where the next obstacle is, and we hear the jump bar get knocked out of the cups.  URGH! It’s frustrating and hard to replicate in practice.  Why does this happen?  The quick and easy answer is that when you SEND your dog to something, you are cueing a turn, because you would not be sending to the obstacle if you weren’t turning and/or could go with the dog, so the cue ‘out’ usually means ‘out and turn’, which translates to the dog as ‘jump this jump in collection and turn in the direction I am indicating’, BUT if you lift your head/eyes to look around the course, you are effectively telling your dog to extend.  Why?  Because your sight line is a big indicator to the dog of where you are going.  This is a natural cue, meaning it does not have to be trained because it is the dog’s natural response to this motion.

Here at Speedoggie, we train our handlers to use their head/eyes as turning cues for their dogs.  Look at the dog’s take off point and that cues collection.  Look at the dog’s landing point and it cues relative collection (relative to the degree of turn), look down a long line of jumps and it cues extension.  So, although we are not exactly locking eyes with our dog, we are indeed connected to the dog through our head/eye cues.  There are six other cues we have, but that will wait for another blog post :-)

Another thing that was interesting to watch from our aerial perspective during the final round was the handler’s choice of path for their dog.  The sequence from obstacle #13 through obstacle #18 was an integral part of the run and it was a make or break section for many teams.  Agility is a timed event.  That is to say, it is not a measured event.  The length of your dog’s running path is not being judged.  How fast your dog gets from here to there is what determines success or failure.  That being said, the dog’s PATH is a big factor on course.

Coming from an auto racing background, I have been teaching for years how to achieve the fastest lines on course and how to navigate the appropriate path to ensure the least amount of strides and the quickest path through a turn.  The tightest line through a turn is also the slowest line.  A super-wide turn can cost valuable seconds.  Somewhere in-between lies the perfect line.  How do we determine what that path is?  Well, in auto racing it is defined as: “The fastest line through a turn is achieved by following the largest radius arc through the constraints of the turn.”  The largest radius arc is determined by dissecting the turn, finding the largest radius arc, and marking the apexes.  The next step is to aim for those apexes while calculating the most speed that can be held through the turn.  Does that sound complicated?  It’s really not.  Think of a ramp off the interstate.  Ever take that off ramp a bit too fast?  Yep, that’s what I’m talking about.  You go too fast and all your crates shift and your leashes and training bags relocated themselves in your vehicle.  Take the turn too slow and that guy behind you is riding your bumper, but if you take the turn just right, it feels as smooth as glass.  THAT is what I’m talking about.  You probably drive down that off ramp a few miles above the posted speed limit, but the car holds the pavement and your coffee doesn’t spill :-)

Here are a few examples from auto racing and competitive driving sites:

Example A: Shows the largest radius arc that can fit within the constraints of the turn. This would be the line that had only one apex and that could be navigated with the most speed.

Example B: The difference here is that the "Fast" example has 3 apexes: one at #1, one at #2 and one in-between #3 and #4. The "Slow" example has 4 apexes: one at #1, one at #2 and one at #3 and one at #4. More turns = more breaking = slower times. 

What does all this have to do with this year’s National Agility Championship and running contacts?  Well, that section off the dog walk really proved to be problematic for dogs with running contacts.  The handlers with dogs who had perfectly trained running contacts where the dog maintains speed and stride throughout the entire length of the board (no trotting, no collecting) ended up wasting their advantage by bleeding off too much speed prior to the turn or setting a non-competitive (ie. slow) turn apex to negotiate the turn to obstacle #14.  The handlers were not connected to the dogs while they were on the plank, otherwise the dog would of known they were turning to #14. In my opinion, if you are going to spend months/years training the perfect running contact, why, oh why, would you not train yourself to set a competitive line off said contact? Why not train for communication and connection while the dog is on the plank? Why not consider path alteration on the flat off of non-turning obstacles (ie dog walk, aframe, etc). 

Most handlers let their dogs carry out a few feet past the contact and then slammed them into a 180 degree hair pin turn on the flat before directing to jump #14.  This was not only the LONGEST path, but also the slowest, keeping in mind the physics lesson a few paragraphs ago about the tightest turn being the slowest etc.

How could this be improved upon?  We first need to find the largest radius arc that fits within the constraints of the turn.  Wait, perhaps we can CREATE that arc by using a V-set.  V-sets are a handling maneuver used when changing your dog’s direction on the ground before an obstacle.  Lining the dog up for weave poles for example, or straightening a dog’s line to the dog walk.  

In the diagram below, I show an option off the dog walk with a Reverse V-set (meaning that the handler is on the inside of the V using a PUSH cue).  By pushing the dog OUT off the dog walk, the dog can carry more speed through the turn and still navigate the line competitively.  This option would allow the dog to maintain a competitive speed all the way through the turn.

My second option is radical and I am aware that many handlers would not opt to train it, HOWEVER, I am willing to experiment :-)  Most running dog walk contacts are training with a turn back to the tunnel option.  What if, and I know it’s a big if… but what IF we trained our dogs to turn back and go under the dog walk, just like there was a tunnel there?  But there isn’t a tunnel, the dog just travels under the plank.  Obviously safety concerns would be addressed and trained, and you could not do this maneuver with all dog walks due to the way they are manufactured.  Some manufacturers, for example J&J, use tension wire supports.  The dog walk used in the final course at the National Agility Championship had Max 200 ramp supports and would have been entirely safe for a dog to turn back under.  Also, considering we can train our dogs to lower their heads while entering a chute so they do not make contact with the top of the chute, this maneuver would be utilized the same way in the turning back under the dog walk plank. The dog would turn back 270 degrees and lower his head while navigating a safe path under the plank. That path could be trained and dogs could use the ramp support leg and the bottom of the plank as distance markers for where they pass under the plank. Basically the exact same path that they would take if a tunnel were under the plank. 

All normal training concerns need to be taken into consideration, I’m just throwing the idea out, tweak as you please.  Train out the bugs and ensure safety as you would when training anything.  BUT, it IS doable isn’t it?  If I trained my running contact dog to be able to turn back under the dog walk for a tunnel proficiently, why couldn’t I train the maneuver without a tunnel?  As long as the dog does not physically touch the dog walk with any part of his body while traversing under the plank, there would be no fault as far as I can tell from reading the rules.  Running this path would create a very nice line from #13 - #15, and would enable the handler to be ahead enough to show deceleration for the turn after #15.

Keep in mind that what I am suggesting is designed for dogs who have completely competent, well trained and proofed, independent running contacts (ie the dog can perform the behavior in almost all situations). I understand everyone has some holes in their training programs, but we are not here to discuss how to fix the holes. We are here to discuss the options we have to keep our running contacts AND navigate sequences like the one presented to us at NAC finals, both competently and competitively without resorting to a stopped contact performance and/or without slamming the dog into a screeching halt on the ground in order to facilitate a turn. Not only are those screeching halts slow and non competitive but they are also dangerous physically to the dogs.

Below is the line that MOST handlers with running dog walks took.  This line, and the resulting turn off the dog walk, seemed intentional and/or planned for.  The performance of these turns were less than competitive due to being wider than they were quick as the handlers were unable to cue them in a timely fashion as they generally ended up falling behind after the turn due to the micromanagement of the path off the dog walk. This path also opened up the teeter as an off course option after #17.  

What I like most about either the push out after the dog walk (blue path) or the radical turn back under the plank (green path) is that they are both significantly shorter paths than the path taken by most handlers with running dog walks.

Here is an overview of all the paths for comparison:

Here is the same map with path measurements.

Editor’s Notes:

  • These ideas are geared towards teams with running dog walks and are not applicable to any style of stopping contact as a dog who has stopped at the end of the dog walk is perfectly capable of making a competitive turn off the plank in any direction.
  • These ideas are for handlers who planned on performing a front cross at the end of the dog walk as these maneuvers are not very applicable for teams planning no side change at the end of the dog walk plank.
  • These ideas are for teams who do not have significant training issues with their dogs obstacle performances so they would not be restricted in the way they handle the obstacle.
  • These ideas are for the elite competitor at the top of their game looking to be more competitive.
  • These ideas are for all handlers capable of getting to the end of a dog walk.
  • These ideas are for handlers who are interested in NOT bleeding off excessive speed.
  • These ideas are for teams who have not been successful in training a competitive turn off the dog walk from a running contact and would need to resort to a more creative method of handling options. 
*Before responding to this post please consider if you have read this with the intent to LISTEN with an open mind, or did you read this just with the intent to RESPOND without adding anything to the conversation. I am extremely interested in an open minded discussion about all of the options and concerns for those of us who fall into the category that I described in my Editor's Notes. If your agility team does not fall into this specific category and/or you have nothing to add to the conversation, please just don’t respond then. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

One Mind Dog Seminar Janita Leinonen & Jaakko Suoknuuti

In the past year I have had the pleasure of working with Janita Leinonen and Jaakko Suoknuuti of One Mind Dogs in Finland ( It has been an eye opening year and working with OMD has changed my agility program forever. I am loving the methodology and really enjoying work with Janita and Jaakko. Making plans to travel to train with them more in the following year(s)!

Here is a video with clips from my very first seminar with them:

And here is a video with clips of my most recent seminar: