Strategy for Agility: A Course Map Analysis Case Study

Running agility courses isn't just about learning the handling moves or teaching your dog the obstacles. There is also a lot to learn about course analysis and planning your strategy. That piece can be the most challenging part for some times: what to do where?!

In my handling class, Smoother Moves, I have designed a series of technique quizzes for students to work through to help them develop their skills around planning their runs. This gives them the tools to look at a course map or walk a course and narrow down the available handling options that they have so that they can determine which will work best for their team.

In this first set of quizzes, students can choose from the techniques that they already have learned in the previous handling class, Smooth Moves. They are also prompted to predict their dog's reality lines for specific jumps. This puts the handlers into the mindset of thinking of the dog's path and which handling techniques impact their dogs' lines in the way that we need them to jump and turn.

Arielle posted her thoughts on the first set of technique quizzes. Here are her answers: 

Quiz - Level 1

  • The trick for this one will be keeping Jax from going from 2 to 4
  • Handling options for 1-2-3
  • I can already predict his reality line for 2 - it's going to be big and headed towards 4
  • Start DOL and rear cross 2 to 3. I didn't think this was a great option for Jax. Plus that would leave me a little behind in handling 3 I think.
  • Start DOR and turn with dog 2-3. With as big as Jax jumps I think he's going to need more of a decel/turning cue. I think he'd take 4 if I did this.
  • Start DOR and false turn 2-3. You know how much I love false turns. haha
  • Start DOR and reverse spin 2. This is honestly probably going to create the best line and hopefully keep him off of 4
  • Front cross 3
  • Forward send and move lateral to keep Jax on left from 4 to 5. I think he's going to jump a big slice and have a big correction stride on the ground doing this but I think it's the simplest option even though it isn't going to be the tightest line. 

Quiz - Level 2

  • 1-4 DOR as pinwheel. I'm just going to have to make sure I support 3 and don't turn my chest too soon towards 4, like you commented in your last feedback video
  • Backside send + Front Cross 5. The reality line for this should be pretty tight with the FC.
  • Options for handling 6-7-8
  • Blind cross tunnel ending up with DOR. I feel like racing a Border Collie through a tunnel for a blind cross might be a poor life choice, though could make for entertaining video
  • Enter tunnel DOL, Rear Cross 7. Probably the best option, though I have a feeling he may jump right to the number 2 jump.
  • Front Cross 8. He's going to jump 8 at a big slice heading right for the tunnel so he's going to need strong decel/turn cue and I think I want him to end up on my left so he doesn't take the tunnel
  • Options for handling 9-10
  • Turn with dog 9-10. He's going to jump 9 big and need a bigger correction stride for this, but I don't think he would take the 1/5 jump.
  • Reverse spin 9 to create a tighter line

Quiz - Level 3

  • DOR 1-2
  • Forward send 3. Though I'm trying to decide whether I need to handling 2-3 more. He's going to jump 2 at a slice heading towards 5, so I don't know if I need more of a decel/turning cue here. Thoughts?
  • Front cross 4
  • DOL 4-5
  • Turn with dog 5-6
  • Options for side change between 6 and 7
  • Front Cross 6
  • Blind Cross between 6 and 7
  • I'm not sure I have a strong preference between the two. Thoughts?
  • Options for 7-8-9
  • Rear cross 8. I think RCs are harder for Jax when there is no obstacle for a "draw. " I think that's why he did better than I expected with the technique review, because there was a jump to jump towards. In this case he'd be jumping into space, or he'd see the #1 jump and jump to the left to take that.
  • Front cross 8 and wrap him back to the tunnel. This is going to also require a lead change I think so I'm assuming I also will have to do ROTDL between 7 and 8. I think this might be the best option for Jax.
  • Enter tunnel DOL
  • DOL 10-11 turning with dog
  • Front cross 12
  • DOR 13-14 turn with dog
  • Forward send 15

Because I love nerding out on course maps, I took her answers and worked out what I expected to happen based on her written plans. Take a look here:

And because Arielle loves nerding out, she included some side by side video of her handling plans for Quiz #1, since there were several different valid options for cueing the turn from #2 to #3. Check that out here:

A lot of agility training can be done without dogs or equipment! If you have a course map and some colored writing utensils, you can flex your course analysis muscles! The more you practice making plans on paper, the easier and faster it will come together for you when walking courses in real life.

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