The Art of Course Analysis in Dog Agility!
In Dog Agility, after training on the performance of the obstacles, handlers must spend some quality time to understand and appreciate the Art of Course Analysis.
There are typically 4 main objectives in Course Analysis.
To understand and appreciate the natural path of our dog,
To understand and appreciate the course through the eyes of the dog,
To understand the challenges, to tackle the challenges through different handling options and to memorize the entire course,
To understand and fully comprehend the entire course.
Course Analysis includes the system to help you to remember the entire course. In competitions, you will always see handlers forget their course thus cost them a qualification.
In this article, I will like to introduce the system of the Fixed and Movable Points as a basis. Firstly let’s take a look at Fixed Points. Fixed Points are obstacles that you are unable to influence the angle of approaches such as A-frame, Dogwalk, Teeter, Tyre, Open Tunnel, Weave poles and Broad jump.
However they are the exception, the Open Tunnel entry is considered a fixed point, while the exit is not. It’s the same when you refer to the Closed or Collapsible Tunnel.
This tool of Fixed Points (FP) will enable you to break the course down into 3 to 5 smaller segments. This will not only help you to remember the course, it will also help you in dissecting the course and tackle the challenges section-by-section.
In figure 1, left, the RED colour obstacles are the Fixed Points. And the path of the dog in different colours helps to illustrate the breakdown of the different section.
The 1st fixed point is on Course is the Collapsible Tunnel at 3, and our 1st segment chain will be Jump, Tyre and Collapsible at 3. And the next fixed is AF, BJ and DW which is next to each other so I selected the DW as my 2nd fixed point. Our 2nd segment chain is from AF, BJ and DW at 6.
The 3rd fixed is Open Tunnel and WP. And I selected WP is our next fixed. The 3rd segment chain will be from Double Jump, Open Tunnel, Table and WP at 10. The 4th fixed is Teeter and our 4th segment chain is Jump, Teeter at 12. And the very last fixed is Tyre but it’s the 2nd last obstacle and I selected the last jump as my fixed point. The 5th segment chain is Jump, Tyre, Jump at 15.
Fixed Point System allows me to break down the Course into 5 segments. And by remembering all 5 segment-chains, it will help you to form a flow pattern of the dog’s path and it will also help handlers as they have the sequence run at the back of their head.
Okay let’s start the mind mapping of the Course Analysis
1. To understand and appreciate the natural path of our dog,
At stage 1, we focus on looking at the course as in the path of our dog; this will not only allow your mind to form a flow of pattern of this course and will also help us to see the natural path of the dog if he or she understands numbers. This pattern will then form the basis of Course Analysis. (Please refer to Figure 2, left)
2. To understand and appreciate the course through the eyes of the dog.
Going through the course through the eyes of the dog. In this stage, our prime focus is the see any potential traps presented to our dog in the entire course.
Having to identify the potential threats or traps, it will help the handler to start considering various handling options. I will like to highlight here on the handling options that I use; Front Cross, Rear Cross, Blind Cross, Post turn, RFP etc.(Please refer to Figure 3, left)
3. To understand the challenges, to tackle the challenges via different handling skills and options (Figure 4, left)
Obstacles 1-2-3 (Start)
1. The RED Jump 13 is a possible threat when you are taking No.2 to 3
2. Options to handle
Lead-out is a good option to get into position for the FC from 2 to 3
Lead-out as in Recall at 2 and FC to 3
The ORANGE double jump and open tunnel are possible threats if you allow your dog to burst through the collapsible.
Options to handle – handle on right hand and guide the dog to AF. If you want more guarantee her, you can put in a false turn to turn your dog’s hand away from the open tunnel.
Just need to be careful on the angle of approach for BJ and DW.
The YELLOW AF is a threat when you take Jump 7 to 8 Tunnel.
The PINK BJ is also a threat if you pull your dog too fast off to the table to the BJ.
Options to Handle
After Jump 7 do a PT, keep dog’s line tight and through the Open Tunnel.
After Table, I can either do an FC to WP or right handling to WP.
The PINK Table 9 might be a threat for flying teeter type of dogs.
Option to Handle
FC from Jump 11 and take the teeter on the left
Obstacles 13-14-15 (Finish)
The GREEN Jump 1 is a potential threat when dog jumping through the Tyre to Jump 15.
Option to Handle