Best handling practice ever: 1234game
As much fun as it is to run full courses, I don’t think that running sequences is the best way to practice handling. Instead of practicing in one long sequence, what I would recommend is playing a game I cleverly call “1-2-3-4”.
In this game, set up any viable pattern of 4 obstacles. Typically I just scatter 4 jumps as shown. Randomly pick the first 3 obstacles. Then pick the 4th obstacle and place the cone at one of the spots as shown 4a, 4b, 4c or 4d.
The goal is to handle the sequence as if you want the dog to take the direction over the bar, and the part of the bar as shown by the cone. Handle as many viable options as you can (front cross, rear cross, serpentine, push threadle, pull threadle etc..).
When you have exhausted all the handling options and you and your dog understand each other perfectly, then move only the number 4 cone to any other obstacle that is a reasonable option after the same 3 opening obstacles. In the example, you might go back to the number 2 jump. Then you could only move number 1 to a new spot and repeat.
In this way, you change only one variable for the dog in each exercise so that they can begin to recognize important communication cues. Aha! – Every time the handler is on the left we go left – I think it might mean something when she is on the left! Aha! – Every time the handler stands like that – I go there and get a cookie – I think I will do that every time I see that picture!
Don’t underestimate how complicated it can be for the dog to isolate the cues that are important. Changing only one variable helps you and them recognize the patterns in handling maneuvers.
Best game ever!