How Handling Systems are like Spandex | Susan Garrett's Dog Training Blog

How Handling Systems are like Spandex

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We had a full day of handling here yesterday and another one planned for today. Double box times two! Yesterday was a group of mostly high drive dogs, 11 of the 14 being over-the-top Border Collies.  For the most part, all of the dogs worked very well.  However, at the end of the day, I had to give the group, a little collective smack down. I was a bit miffed at the fact that of all the dogs working, there were only 2 that had a solid start line (one of which was one of my instructors).  

Even if you are a lightening fast runner, having a dog that you can count on to wait at the start line will be a benefit to you throughout your career. I personally believe that the lead out is critical to a dog learning that your body position remaining motionless in a certain spot, translates to an upcoming turn.  This understanding of “positional cues” is an important part of Greg Derrett’s handling system, thus a solid start line is a big help when running in Greg’s system.

You may notice that I rarely talk about handling on this blog. Handling systems are definitely a matter of personal choice. I have been a fan’s of Greg Derrett’s system since my first introduction almost 10 years ago. However, I don’t write much about handling here because I want this blog to be a welcomed source of dog training to everyone. Handling discussions have the potential to divide people into defensive positioning of “us” against “them.”  Although, I am thrilled with the results I have gotten with all of my dogs while  following Greg’s system, I respect the right for all to handle how they feel is best for the dog.  

Handling system preferences have definitely created some “cliques” at agility trials. It is so easy for innocently intending comments to be overheard and turned into fuel for such a climate. It is my wish that this attitude doesn’t prevent anyone from learning from the information that I share here or in my newsletters.   Don’t get me wrong, I have very strong opinions when it comes to my own handling choices, but, just like wearing spandex, it is a matter of personal preference and that has got to be okay.  

At the risk of sounding altruistic, I will tell you that my vision for this blog is to create an atmposphere of inclusiveness rather than exclusiveness.   I want it to be a place for anyone (regardless of handling preferences) who is interested in good, science-based dog training, to ask questions, share their thoughts and collectively help dogs everywhere to be better understood. To this end, handling discussions will be kept to a minimum, however I will occasionally wear spandex as I type.

Today it is Feature’s 2nd birthday and I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have her influencing my dog training and my life.

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