Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dangerous course designs, should we train them?

There has been a lot of conversation lately about what is safe on course and what isn't.  Approaches to contacts, exits from running dog walks, turns out of chutes.  Let's face it, our game is getting faster and faster and we must adjust the design of the course with it.  I would love every course to be fast, challenging and safe, but they aren't.

I am not going to debate if something is safe or not, I really just want to bring up some points that I think about when I spot something that isn't safe and hear "I am not going to train that" from my fellow competitors.

One scenario that I have run up against now three times in the last six months is a table directly after the DW.  If I have a 2o2o DW this probably wouldn't get my attention, however Split has a running DW.  The first time I saw this it was a USDAA Advance course and the table was 12 feet from the end of the DW (technically legal) with a tunnel directly after.  The second and third time, the table was a generous 18 feet after the DW.

12 feet was fairly dangerous in terms of distance, 18 feet isn't that great either.  Think about a 22" - 26" jumping dog and if they don't have time to prepare their take off to the table.  They will hit the table with their chest or shoulder or lower leg.  I don't want to think about the injuries that could happen.

So, people walk away from that and say "I am not going to train that, it is dangerous".  I walk away saying "I am going to train that, it is dangerous".  I don't train it so that I can endorse the dangerous design or so that we can conquer all courses.  I train it so that when there is a dangerous design I have a fair idea how my dog will execute it and if I should pull him from that course. I train it so that they can keep themselves safe if I ACCIDENTALLY cue something unsafe.  I train it because sometimes we can figure out how to do something in a safer manner.  I train it in a manner and scenario that I can keep my dog safe while we learn.

When I trained the table after the DW I can tell you I didn't set it 12 feet after the DW, that would be dangerous.  I set it about 18 feet and at a very low height (8 inches).  We started from a stop at the end of the DW, backchained and then ultimately ran the DW.  I wanted Split to see that set up and I wanted to know how he would negotiate it.  He was treated for ALL his reactions.  He was treated for choosing to run around the table, fly off the table and finally stopping on the table.  I want him to know that what ever option feels safe to him it isn't wrong.

This is just my way of trying to keep my dogs safe in an ever changing environment of dog agility.

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