Foundations for Success
As a newbie to the world of Agility, I count myself incredibly lucky to have found a club that understands the value of introducing top-level trainers from day 1. Because I have access to those at the very top level of their field (Kathrine McAleese, Suzanne Clothier, Dave Munnings, and Dan Shaw to name but a few), I’ve spent a lot of time asking very successful people what they consider to be the key to their success.
The first answer out of most people’s mouths is “I have an amazing dog”; who would expect anything else?! But the answer that always crops up second or third is “we have amazing foundations”.
Though I’m sure for some of you, this is not the most exciting answer. But I love it! As an ultimate planner and analyser, I get excited by the fact that so much performance hangs on getting all the little things just so, for two reasons:
- I just love dog training, and
- It’s something I know I can fix right here, right now!
And the fix is a really simple continuous activity I like to call the APE cycle:
The first step to fixing something is to figure out what bits need work. This can be done on any scale. Three times a year, we go through Daybreak’s Performance Assessment tests, and measure ourselves against what the top-level professionals expect from every aspect of agility training. For instance, last time it was our jumping that really came out as a weakness, whereas we found our weaves are not just solid, but also pretty fast too!
But we also use the cycle at a miniature scale too. Breaking down our jumping, we found a sit or a down in front of the grid made little difference (testing his balance in a wait), but that me running alongside caused the greatest number of ducked poles. We then went on to look at things like stride consistency, collection and extension, and appropriate power. And of course, a check-over by the wonderful Smart Clinic to look at muscle tightness and balance.
The analyse stage results in an incredibly comprehensive picture of what it is the dog can do! I like to think of it as answering the question: “So, we know what’s supposed to happen, and what actually happens, but why are there differences?”.
The beauty of the planning stage coming after the analyse stage, is that you know what you need to work on, so you just have to focus on what order you’re going to tackle them, and how often you’re going to train.
All of this combines into a training diary, which slips neatly into our Daybreak record book, and details exactly what we’re going to work on.
The training diary produced in the plan stage is just an amazing tool. Not only do I longer have to think “what am I going to work on today”, but it’s also great for producing weekly “wins”. By planning for focused success, I can see things improving on a weekly basis. And what better way to keep the enthusiasm?!!
The training diary is also amazing for competitions. No longer do I worry about bits in a course we might have problems with. Because, by keeping a really tight track of what we can and cannot do, I’m not planning the course for the dog I had 3 months ago. I know what we’re capable of.
So if, like me you fancy APE-ing it up, leave a comment, post on our Facebook page, or speak to your trainer. And good luck with all the off-season hard work to come!