How To Remember a Dog Agility Course

dog agility course mapDog agility is all about patterns and conditioning for you and your dog. A competition course is no different in that you must learn how to see patterns and condition your mind to focus on them and not the obstacles.  In most cases beginner courses or fun matches use relatively easy courses that utilize logical orders and straight lines.  However, at some point you are going to progress and a plan of action is needed. We are going to go over the 25 steps you need to utilize in order to teach your brain to memorize dog agility courses. 1) Study the course map and find patterns 3) Walk the course 4) Visualize

Almost all trials supply a course map to competitors and at the very least post them for you to study. Snap a picture with your phone and go somewhere you can focus on the course. Try not to look at and remember the course by obstacles, this will do you little good in a jumpers course where they all look the same. Instead look for the patterns and sequences you have practiced at home.  See your course in lines and shapes such as pinwheels, boxes, and loops. If you don’t practice sequences at home, start looking at course maps and pick out sequences and start practicing.

You will want to walk the course about three times so don’t miss the call when they open the gate for you to walk your course, you need that time. If possible you should have your course memorized before your walk through begins. We are talking to those that have issues with remembering their courses.  If you can walk the course once or twice and are good with it, then sit back and chill for awhile until your turn comes closer.

The first time you walk through you want to follow the numbers and get a feel for where the patterns you picked out on the map lay out on the field and the overall flow of the course. Now walk through again and see things from your dog’s point of view all the way to the last obstacle. This will help you with handling techniques as you will better see traps and difficulties your dog will have with the course. Now you are ready to run through as you will handle your dog finding exact placement for yourself to block traps and set your dog up without being in the way. You will want to actually go through the motions and make sure you know where to be to avoid collisions with you or equipment.

Do your best to stay focused on you, your ghost dog, and the course when walking your course. This is your time to focus and plan your run. If you spend this time in idle chitchat or allow yourself to be distracted by others, it will be to your own demise. If you have friends that are more experienced, politely ask them to refrain from talking to you while you are focusing or wear earbuds. Likewise, don’t interrupt others while they are focusing on their walk throughs as well. If you have someone that can help you, wait until they are done then go over your questions. Keep them to a minimum though and don’t make huge changes in your plan. They don’t run like you do and they are not running your dog. You have to learn what works for your team and stick with it.

Don’t forget to visualize your dog running the course with you and both of you running it perfectly. When the field is cleared visualize it again and drawing it in the air if you like, with the field empty. Once the class starts you can watch a few goes as long as it doesn’t confuse you. On harder runs you may see a strategy that works better, but now is a dangerous time to change things especially if memorization is your nemesis.

When waiting at the start gate take those few minutes to warm you and your dog up, visualize your run again, acting it out if it will help you. This again isn’t the time for chatting, it is the time for focus and metal prep for you and your dog. And when you enter the ring, do not change what you have planned by babying your dog. Your change in handling will through them for a loop more than the course.

No there aren’t 25 steps, aren’t you happy? But there is one more step we forgot and that is to practice your walk throughs at home. You can find all kinds of course maps online or even get software that you can design your own with. Set up plastic cups as markers in your living room, yard or even the park. Go through the same motions you would at competition. When you think you have the course memorized, wait 10-15 minutes then see how much you remember.

It is suppose to be fun. The more mentally prepared you are for the show, the more fun you will have. So don’t wait for show day to start teaching your mind to handle patterns, start now.