The Chicken, or The Egg? Gamblers courses are often referred to as ‘distance challenges’ - but which came first? Which should you focus on when training for Gamblers: distance or strategy?
Gamblers is a distance handling game - if you haven’t already, check out our first post in this series What is an Agility Gambler?
The truth is, excellent distance skills are a part of Gamblers game strategy, and they are actually very easy to accomplish! Distance handling skills are often talked about like the Holy Grail of Agility - very hard to get your hands on! In reality, distance handling skills are very easy to accomplish when we simply ask the question: What exactly is distance handling? It boils down to three main components:
To handle your dog at any distance (even 1 foot away from a jump) requires your dog to have a level of obstacle focus and requires you to be able to commit your dog to the obstacle so that you can continue on in the sequence. The further away you intend to be from your dog, the better the obstacle focus and commitment needs to be.
A dog that holds obstacle commitment is very easy to handle from a distance because once you send or ‘commit’ them to an obstacle, you can trust they will complete the task. Once you know your dog will complete the task, it is simply your job to give them the right task.
Precise control of your Handling Elements
All your handling elements must support the dog’s intended line(s). This requires you to really get down and see what the dog sees. Once you understand the dog’s line, then you must decide how to use your 7 Handling Elements to support that line from where you will be.
Your body may look different supporting the same line from different distances. If you handle the same sequence from 1 meter/3 feet, you may find you have to adjust your elements to handling the same line from 4 meters/12 feet. This is because as you move further away, the dog may require more of a ‘push’ to commit them to the line. The most important thing is to support the line that take your dog to the intended obstacle.
Don’t forget about motion! Remember that the most powerful handling element is motion, so try to keep moving in a way that supports the intended line.
Many people can get their dogs to send away from them for an obstacle or two on a course, but what people struggle with most is keeping their dogs at a distance. Keeping your dog at a distance requires constant connection through the sequence being handled at a distance. Dogs come back into you when they feel a dropped connection because they are searching for your connection.
You cannot commit your dog to any obstacle, regardless of the distance if you do not first have connection. The moment they complete an obstacle, they will be looking to you for connection, if you provide that connection immediately, you can then commit your dog to the next obstacle all while keeping them at a distance away from you.
So what is the best way to start building your distance handling skills?
Check out this course to learn how to build obstacle focus and commitment.
Learn how to analyze sequences from your dog’s point on view. This will help you learn how to support the intended line from any distance.
Practice handling your virtual dog from a distance! Remember to maintain connection in order to keep your dog at a distance from you.
Helpful tip - video yourself running your virtual dog and your actual dog to see if you are maintaining connection and supporting the intended line(s) with all your handling elements.
Remember to always have fun! Happy Training!