I have been fascinated by handling systems trying to understand what the deal was for about the last year or two. I love to discuss handling systems or read about them, but it is not a popular topic of conversation and I notice if I bring them up most people get a glazed look in their eyes-on the surface I think they do seem pretty boring but gosh it is so interesting if you figure out the handling system you want to use and really try to understand it, and I think understanding it makes life so much more fun for the dog because a good system eliminates confusion, and who wants to run around while they are confused?.
Recently Diana http://4dogcraziness.blogspot.com/ posted that she was watching the Linda M. Handling Foundation seminar, (Awesome Paws Handling System) and the price had been discounted to $75 (from $175), and you now get a week to watch it (you used to just get 48 hours). http://www.awesomepaws.us/ I have read the series of articles and Linda's jumping book, and struggled to learn the APHS so I had always wanted to watch the seminar, but sitting for six hours with less then 48 hours and paying all that money if I could not get through it....those things always kept me from paying for the VOD until I saw Diana's post. I had an instructor that was teaching APHS when I started the border collies out, which was when I started to understand WHAT a handling system was, and why I wanted to bother learning about it, it was the system I learned with when I really started trying to understand handling-in another hundred years I am sure I will have a pretty good understanding, LOL.
I had originally trained Chloe in classes where I was not taught that I was using a handling system-I had no idea I was using a system, but I was....so I really was originally taught using a Gregg Darrett handling system, although I did not know that at the time. Because the dogs in my class are handled with GD, I really notice there are some things they do that seem easier for them and their dogs, and there are some things my dogs ROCK doing that are very hard for the other dogs (I love when that happens), so always good and bad. But I have to say I LOVE my handling system and really love its benefits.
Why use a handling system and what is the point of having one? Well, I just think it gives you some structure and helps you make sure you are being consistent in your cues and how you handle your dog. Consistency makes for confident, fast dogs. Consistent cues in your handling system keeps you from training your dog NOT to do something one day and then asking them to do it the next in another situation and then not understand why the dog gets confused, or stops listening to you, or slows down because they do not feel confident of what is going to happen. It is like driving with a person that has a habit of yelling to turn NOW at the last second, soon you do not trust them to tell you when to get on the right freeway, you will probably slow down, drive in the right hand lane and do a lot of the sign reading yourself.
At first it was REALLY hard in class to stay consistent because Deanna usually gives her explanations based on what would work in a GD handling system, I would work on something in class and go home and think about it and realize that I have really disregarded some of the concepts of my handling system so I have to rethink and be happy Breeze is very forgiving. Some days it feels like I speak a foreign language and it feels like Deanna my instructor is speaking French-or GD, I need to listen and translate it to my home language English-or APHS, then re translate it to French to ask Deanna how to handle it and state the problems that I am having in relation to my system and how can I make it work and not be inconsistent so my dog stays happy and knows what I am doing. Deanna my instructor understands her handling system VERY WELL and the basics of APHS so she does try to help me out and when I feel stuck and am not sure how to handle something, but I think because she understands her system of handling so well, it is easier for her to help me with mine ;-).
So watching Linda's foundation video, I had my own V8 moment as soon as the video was on about five minutes, so I knew right away the money I had spent was SOOOOOO Well, worth it. I have been having a trouble with the backy up move, where you go up to a jump, maybe move backwards a few steps, open your shoulders and that is a cue to the dog that they need to collect and come around the jump to my side and we will go on. Breeze has been running RIGHT up to the jump, to where she is almost hitting it and STOPS COLD. A definite refusal, and of course the silly dogs fault.....OR WAS IT???? Yep you guess it, MY FAULT TOTALLY, I was forgetting forward motion, it all of a sudden hit me I go up there, think my dog really used to be terrific at that and I start thinking about where I am going next or worse yet stopping, Breeze reads my motion soooo well, that she just stops, wow, how cool would that be if I needed to pull her off a jump, LOL, not so cool when I want her to go over, but she was being a good doggie and doing exactly what I taught her. That is sort of the basic rule of my handling system and here I have been messing it up and did not even realize it, whoops! So how easily fixed is that, I just have to show forward movement toward the jump, even if I walk backwards toward the jump to do it. Whooo hoooo!
I was also really interested in watching the foundation video because Cricket is getting to that age where I have to make some decisions soon how I want to train her for agility. Unfortunately the classes they have here, based on GD use a lot of methods that are really not going to work if I want to train Cricket with the system I currently use, so the bummer is that I will probably have to train her at home, and with some privates occasionally as I can afford them until she has started trialing and is ready for the advanced handlers classes here locally. I have not had to train a dog from scratch totally by myself, so whew I am hopeful I will be able to do it. If not,....well, it is just dog agility...so thankfully no one will be horribly hurt and I will re evaluate ;-).
One thing that really stands out is that in the APHS there are really not a lot of things to teach the dogs...most of it is teaching the handler to handle things correctly based on what dogs naturally read about movement from their handlers. I have always been a little confused about how Linda starts dogs out so they get an understanding of reading the motion and in the very beginning stages I do think it is hard while the dogs are figuring it out. I remember not being sure if Breeze would ever get some of the ideas I was trying to "teach" and understand what we were doing as she ran courses with her head backwards almost the whole course, LOL, but it is pretty cool now that she has figured out what we are doing, and a lot of it sounds like you just have to give the dog time to figure it out. Watching the VOD helped me understand a little more about how Linda starts dogs out and listening to her I do think some of our earlier problems were just part of the learning process when using this system. Now most of Liz/Breeze/my problems are from times I stop dead in my tracks or am inconsistent using deceleration or motion.
Anyway, if you have a weekend to kill the VOD basically cost what it would cost to audit a seminar around here. It was really nice to be able to stop the VOD and rewind or replay parts I wanted to clarify, so that was nicer then auditing a seminar, although going to audit a seminar is an outing and this was sitting in front of my computer, LOL, not as glamorous for sure. I think there are some things that relate to any handling system you are using and some natural cues you may be giving your dog unknowingly that give some food for thought, so I would have to give the seminar a big thumbs up. Hopefully she will do another one with common sequences or some more advanced concepts. I really enjoyed learning about the converging lines when I was working with my former instructor and would love to hear her talk about them, but that would be in a more advanced seminar-so hopefully one day.