In dog training, especially agility, some folks love claiming that they invented certain training and/or handling techniques. I think agility was invented by Adam and Eve. Cain probably blamed his dog for his own lack of good training. I bet he carried his dog out of the ring every time something went wrong. He probably killed Abel because Abel, being the good guy, mentioned to him that perhaps his dog kept messing up because Cain’s training and/or handling sucked.
Every time somebody carries their dog out of the ring for messing up, or gets pissed at their dog and marches them off, all I can think of is how they are bringing attention to themselves for their crappy training and/or handling. Don’t they know that our dogs are honest, loving creatures that do only what they have been taught by us? Our dogs deserve better!
But I digress.
Anyway, the “new” handling maneuvers so often seen in the ring today were around when I started agility in 2000. I remember practicing blind crosses until I was blue in the face. I also remember the “flip” turn which is now called the K turn or the J turn depending on whose camp you are in or how you execute the turn. I can accomplish the same thing using a post turn and not lose my connection with my dog! It doesn’t look as fancy but whatever. I used big off arms to turn my dog away from me and I layered everything I could. I tried to lead my dog around by the nose but, being a slow a$$, all I did was teach my dog to run as fast as I did.
It took me years to UNLEARN the crap I learned in the beginning. I remember way back when, the first time I was told that blind crosses were OUT! I was flabbergasted! I had worked so hard to perfect mine! I was told that my dog might duck behind my back when I least expected it on course. I sure see that happening now with the reinvention of the blind cross!
I also remember being told that using my off arm to turn my dog was confusing to the dog. Brining up that arm might look the same to the dog as the beginning of a front cross or a cue to go on straight ahead. That made sense to me. But it was when my first agility dog cut in front of me because I put up the arm next to her to tell her to go straight that I really understood. Regardless of what I thought I had taught her, SHE had learned that my left arm up meant turn right and my right arm up meant turn left and that is exactly what she did. I nearly tripped over her as she darted in front of me. However, the off arm move was so ingrained in my handling, I found myself bringing up that off arm for years after I “saw the light.”
I was told by many instructors in camps, seminars and privately that we needed “rules” to follow so our handling was clear to the dog. One cue needed to mean one behavior. The list of things went on and one and on. My head was spinning at time when I was first learning that new way of handling.
So now I see some of those same instructors who once told me I would go to HELL for blind crossing or using the off arm or any of the other old style handling moves I was taught fourteen years ago, using those same moves they once said were evil! I am not sure how I feel about throwing all that money at them for years and following blindly down their path of self-righteous handling, only to now see them going in a completely different direction! Were they wrong then or are they wrong now? They used to make fun of all those folks using the same moves they are now using themselves and now they make fun of that very system that served them so well for so many years. I honestly think I feel betrayed by them!
I LOVE having guidelines in my handling. I use a lot of distance on course because I can’t move. I am old, overweight, had polio as a child, post polio later in life and am now going through chemotherapy for cancer. I love the Greg Derrett system of handling because I never have to pick from the many moves o’day when it comes to my handling choices. I love being able to walk out on a course and know immediately how I am going to handle it! I love his meat and potatoes approach to handling. It is nothing fancy. People don’t watch and go “OOOOH!!!” or “AHHHH!!!” because there are no fancy behind your back, over the shoulder, run low to the ground, do a somersault then cartwheel moves in his system. It is just straight forward handling and I love it. Sure, I wish I could run but I can’t. I have to rely on my dog training ability and a good handling system that doesn’t require me to be in my dog’s face constantly.
Below is another run I did five days after a chemo treatment. I was very sick but figured I would feel a lot better running my dog than sitting around feeling like crap.
How does seventy-six year old Sir Cussalot with bad knees, old legs and a bad back get a very fast BC with running contacts around without being able to run fast and get in her face to lead her around by the nose?
Very well with the handling system we have come to know and love.
So, for now, even though we are a dying and nearly extinct breed of handlers, I will just stick with what I know best and let the other people entertain me with the latest and greatest moves that were first invented so long ago . I think it is awesome that so many want to try new things. All the power to them! Those agility handlers teaching all those “new” moves are entitled to make a good living giving seminars. For me, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I tell people who try to get me to put more tools in my handling toolbox that a jeweler doesn’t need a crowbar ;). I am perfectly happy being placed on the endangered handler species list.
There is a great quote from Albert Einstein that my friends Bob and Carol told me yesterday “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” I love that quote! I think it applies to all things agility.
After reading some of the comments regarding this blog, I thought I needed to clear up few things:
I am not defensive or bitter ;). I have NO idea where that came from! I guess some people are unable to understand my humor.
I don’t give a hoot what other people do in their handling!
The point of the blog was that those “new” handling moves are not new at all! They have been around FOREVER!
As for my reluctance to change that was stated by some, I did change. I changed years ago AWAY from the “new” handling we see today to what Sir Cussalot and I are now using (and have for the past twelve years). If somebody can show me something that is actually NEW rather than recycled and renamed, I am more than willing to take a look! I am not interested in going backwards, however. The system we use works beautifully for fast, medium or slow speed dogs and/or handlers. I can walk around a course and follow the same principles as a fast runner.
Some mentioned that people in North America need to change handling styles because those Euro style courses are headed this way. Guess what? The HANDLING METHOD WE USE WAS DEVELOPED SPECIFICALLY FOR THOSE EURO STYLE COURSES! It has thoughtfully evolved and changed over the years along with the course changes.
Finally, as I have stated in the blog AND here AND on Facebook AND elsewhere, I think everyone needs to use what works for them! I don’t care what anyone else does as long as they are nice to their dogs! I will continue using what works for me and, hopefully, will be able to do so without finger pointing and laughing from fellow competitors:).