Can you just look at a piece of wood and immediately know how long it is? What about if I asked you the distance driving from your house to your work? Would you be accurate? I probably would not be. I can be directionally challenged.
In agility, this can be a problem for dogs and humans that don’t naturally calculate distance well. On course, do you notice the distance between jumps changes?
Sometimes they are closer together and sometimes farther away. When you walk a course, notice when the course has been designed to collect or extend your dog.
Learning to Adjust Stride
Dogs will need to learn the skills of shortening their stride, expanding their stride, and going back and forth. Do you know what is the largest distance your dog can stride?
Can you clearly describe what cue you give your dog to shorten their stride and what cue you give your dog to extend their stride?
Like humans, some dogs are not naturals at this. This is one of the most missed skills in dogs that knock bars. They can turn, they can jump, they can go, but they can’t read the distance without handler assistance.
This is where you can learn to help your dog. Notice in advance on walk through places you will need to run or slow down to aid your dog’s jumping through a course. You may need to adjust your handling plan to assist your dog.
Here is a great video showing a dog’s mastery of changing its stride when necessary on course. When the spaces get wider, he jumps longer/harder. When the distance shrinks, he shortens his stride.
Laurie Zurborg, CPDT Wags & Wiggles Founder.