Seven essential elements
- The handler’s movement
- Handler's position in relation to the dog
- Handler's contact with the dog
- The direction of the handler’s chest (“the laser point”)
- The direction of the handler's feet
- Handler hand signals
- Handler verbal commands.
All handling techniques include elements of these seven factors to support the dog’s movement on an agility course to make it as easy and effective as possible. The core rule is that the handler should be consistent with the training and never give mixed signals to the dog.
Basic Principles of handling:
Maintaining the connection with the dog on an agility course is the handler's number one job. The importance of the connection is very high: if there is no connection, the dog will actively start looking for it and he won't be able to fully concentrate on proceeding on the course.
The contact doesn’t always mean straight eye contact with the dog. For the dog, being in contact with the handler equals seeing the side profile of the handler's face. So to connect with the dog, the handler needs to turn their head to the side that they want the dog to move to next. Sometimes the handler doesn’t actually see the dog, they just know where the dog is and create the connection by turning there head.
In some situations it is possible for the handler to see where the dog´s attention has been focused by looking at the dog's eyes, and to predict what the dog is going to do next.
Once the connection has been created, the dog can commit and proceed towards next obstacle. The earlier the commitment to next obstacle has been established, the faster and the more fluently the dog is able to advance on the course. After the dog has committed to the obstacle, the handler can move on to telling the dog what is going to happen next. We want to teach our dogs to stay committed to the obstacle despite of the handler’s actions after the commitment.
When dog has the information where to continue from the obstacle, he can do the adjustments that are needed for the upcoming situation. We use the techniques to give the dog as much information as we can, as early as possible. This allows the dog to perform the right obstacle with correct speed. Our goal in handling is to let the dog have the right obstacle in his sight as early as possible. The dog can proceed smoothly and fast on the course when he is landing in the right direction and doesn’t have to correct his line and speed up again to the next obstacle.