Sunday, November 7, 2010

Foundation Work

Just open up any Clean Run magazine to find articles on "Foundation". All are about foundation for the dog. What about the handler?

I had an interesting conversation with my friend, Gail, this weekend about handling. We came to the same conclusion: Everything we needed to know about handling we learned growing up playing basketball.

Here are some basketball skills:
Working as a team
Reading body language
Hand/eye coordination

These are all important agility skills!

  • In basketball, you always know where the ball is, but use your peripheral vision for movement from other players.
  • In agility, you keep your eye on the dog.
  • When you get the basketball, you either dribble, pivot, or shoot.
  • Is a pivot any different than a front cross? No!
  • Is passing or shooting a basketball any different than sending your dog out to an obstacle? No!
  • Basketball is a lot of stop and go movement. Can you say "acceleration" and "deceleration"? I knew you could!
When I played basketball, I learned how to use my peripheral vision, see what was around me, and anticipate "things", like other players cutting through the lane, the recipient of the pass (since the passer usually looks at the recipient), who is going to shoot, etc. I do the same thing in agility. I walk a course. I see what my dog may see at each obstacle. I know if I twitch, my dog may react to the twitch by popping weaves or pulling off a jump. Yet most handlers blame the dog!

As a handler you are both the coach and a player. You guide your dog through the play. It is your job to anticipate the off-course potential. You send your dog on in gamblers. You snake your dog though a snooker. And you do this without flailing your arms and screaming.

It may be worth having a handler foundation class on a basketball court. A few bonks in the head by a basketball (trust me, it hurts), may be what some people need to get into the game.