The Dog Agility Judge’s Path

Swagger DW finals

This weekend something bizarre happened. My otherwise reliable agility dog Swagger suddenly did the exact opposite of what I cued him to do. It was like he was hearing conflicting cues and chose to listen to someone else.

It wasn’t until I looked at my video (something everyone should have… videos of their runs) that I could see what really happened.

Watch the video and see what I mean… but before you watch please know, I am posting this with the blessing of the judge who understands this is not meant to be a blame and shame session but rather an educational one.

Now I am happy to say this doesn’t happen often, but it has happened to me once or twice before. In each of the past cases it happened on a dog walk contact… the judge moved in close to see the contact then ran away to get clear of me… the motion of the judge moving away took the dog with him.

Dave Bozak is the judge in this video, and he is a very well respected and experienced agility judge. I am grateful to Dave for allowing me to post this video for all to learn how any judge, even the most experienced judges, can influence the cues an agility dog is receiving.  Swagger ran near the beginning of this class however several other dogs, including Linda Mecklenburg’s experienced dogs, acted similarly to Swagger. I am happy to say that Dave did alter his motion so as to not influence other dogs after those of us that ran near the beginning of the class.

Fascinating stuff… you can not only see how strong motion can over ride well trained verbal cues (seriously important that one supports the other) but you can also see the extent of our dog’s peripheral vision!

Editors note. The reverse would also be true…if my dog was going over a jump heading towards a tunnel and my body cued a turn away…the dog would follow the body however if the judge starting yelling “Go tunnel, go tunnel” it would be a case of a verbal cue over riding the physical one. 🙂 Cues need to be consistent for our dogs!

Today I am grateful for Dave Bozak, who knowing very well how much this video would be viewed, still gave me his blessing in order for others to see.

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