OneMind Dogs Assistant Coach Megan Foster was pushed out of her comfort zone when she got challenged by OneMind Dogs Coaches Mikko Aaltonen, Mari Kaplas and Jenni Leino to handle a course by being behind her dog all the time. Megan is known as a Front Cross princess, so this was really exciting for her. Watch the video and read Megan’s story about training this course!
“For my entire agility career, my handling options have focused on being ahead of my dogs and close to the obstacles. I could easily rely on my speed to be everywhere I needed to be. This became even easier for me as I learned to see my dog’s commitment point and leave early to get to the next obstacle, and so Front Crosses, Reverse Wraps, Blind Crosses, German Turns, and Jaakko Turns are my go-to handling techniques!
The Handling from behind challenge was given to me after teaching with Mari on her Rear Cross and Whiskey Cross course in a technique seminar in Colorado – I was clear with the concept of these two techniques, but I could never work out the timing, especially with my own dogs when I’m working by myself. Watching Mari coach so many different teams on these techniques gave me a ton of insight, and I felt like I could go home and execute them successfully, but I was really nervous when the idea of a challenge came up! These techniques where I am not close to the obstacles is so foreign to me, and also for my dog, Smack, it is strange for him when I don’t run ahead of him.
It was a very different experience training this course. Since the techniques I was working on are so different than what I typically do, it was sometimes challenging for me to know what Smack was telling me when we made a mistake. When I do a Front Cross and something goes wrong, I can pinpoint right away my mistake, but with Tandem Turns, Flicks, and Lap Turns, I don’t even “feel” myself doing things incorrectly. So, watching my videos playback, I really realized how amazing my Smack is for figuring these things out! The hardest thing for me, actually, was the Tandem Turns. The timing was tricky for me to learn, and I easily started thinking about the obstacles, which is so unlike my typically handling style.
It was great to see that I could put the techniques into sequences so quickly and be successful, but I also felt like I have much more work to do on these techniques before I am comfortable with how they feel! I am excited to continue practicing them so that it comes more naturally to me. I know Smack understands this, and even when I practice the techniques individually, my puppy, Shrek, understands exactly what I am doing! I can see myself using more of a balance in the future – I am enjoying Flicks a lot, but I won’t be getting rid of my Reverse Wraps anytime soon!
This is an excellent challenge for all handlers. If you already handle from behind, this is the ultimate test of your timing and technique! If you try to always be ahead but cannot outrun our 4-legged dog (you’re a human with 2 legs; it’s not a fair race!), you should give these techniques a try – it may open some new doors for you! And, if you’ve been working only on Front Crosses without much success, these techniques may come more naturally to you (and your dog), and give you more strategies on handling different types of challenges.
The more you experiment and grow with your handling, the easier all courses become!
Thank you OneMind Dogs Coaches Mari, Mikko, and Jenni for giving me the push I needed!“