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Feet First- Using Your Feet to Set Lines and Cue Turns 2 DVD Set

Feet First- Using Your Feet to Set Lines and Cue Turns 2 DVD Set
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Using your feet to set lines and cue turns

by Sandy Rogers

When we are handling our dogs around an agility course, we are thinking about what the dog is doing; we are giving verbal cues and trying to make our hand signals clear. But what about our feet?  They should be a fundamental part of the picture – after all, they dictate where we are going – but all too often footwork is neglected in agility because there are so many other things to think about.

In her DVD, Feet First, Sandy Rogers, a successful agility competitor of some 20 years’ standing, showcases her training programme that is entirely dedicated to improving footwork to make life easier for the handler and for the dog.

Using live footage from competition and from training, Sandy gives in-depth analysis of what the handler is doing and how this affects the dog. The positioning of our feet and our direction of travel tells the dog where to go, where to go next, when to accelerate and when to collect and decel – all vital ingredients in the agility game. But achieving the correct footwork, which will be of maximum help to the dog, does not come naturally – it is something we have to work at.

WHY FEET FIRST
To introduce the Feet First training programme, Sandy calls for a change of emphasis: we need to spend time working on our own performance rather than being totally preoccupied with what the dog is doing.  With the help of live footage, she gives examples of how, by using the correct footwork drills, we can make things so much easier for our dogs, facilitating turns and opening up the lines to show the correct course, This becomes increasingly clear as she shows film of incorrect and muddled footwork, which is confusing to the dog, often sending him in the wrong direction, as well as losing valuable time. With the help of the Feet First programme, the handler’s ability to execute turns, sends and pulls, as well as our lateral motion which opens up lines, will be dramatically improved.

5 KEY ELEMENTS FOR PRECISION
Before getting started, Sandy outlines the five key elements of her training programme using the anachronism DITCH:

Dog’s path
Identification of cues
Timing
Cues – where they start and end
Handler focus

The handler needs to get these elements right before the training becomes truly effective. Sandy looks at each element in considerable depth:

DOG’S PATH
This means being aware how your position affects your dog’s position.  You need to know which side to be on, how open up the correct path when the dog is faced with multiple obstacles, and how to keep out of your dog’s way.

IDENTIFICATION OF CUES
You will use a number of cues, including verbal cues and hand signals, but your feet will tell your dog where to go and what obstacle he should take next. You need to be crystal clear with each of your cues.

TIMING
This is of critical importance; Sandy calls it “the art of the sport”.  As she says, you can have the most fabulous footwork, but it counts for nothing unless you know when to execute it.

CUES – WHEN THEY START AND END
Every cue you use has a start point and an end point. In some instances the last step of one cue may become the first step of the next.

HANDLER FOCUS
As a handler you need to have a visual reference point in order to execute correct footwork; this involves setting your chin in a position to maximise peripheral vision. You also need to think about how you view your dog  – watching him rather than looking at him, and avoiding hard eye contact.


WAKE UP YOUR LEG DRILLS
We put all the emphasis on training our dogs, but what do we do to train ourselves. Sandy points out the fact that we spend time working on our dogs’ core strength, co-ordination, balance and proprioceptive skills, and buy expensive equipment to facilitate this, but we do nothing to improve our own performance. With the help of students, she demonstrates a number of leg drills which will make a real difference to the way we move around an agility course.

AGILITY FOOTWORK DRILLS: PART 1
Handling is so much easier without a dog! In this section Sandy shows handlers how to move and how to place their feet in order to execute turns and to open up lines. She outlines drills for the send cue, the front cross, for lateral motion and for hip rotation so your body and your feet are working together, giving a very clear picture to your dog.

AGILITY FOOTWORK DRILLS PART 2
Practising with students, first without dogs, and then with dogs, Sandy gives detailed drills for figures of 8, pulls and threadles. She then looks at putting moves together, enhancing the fluidity of the handler and as they move around the course and, just as importantly, painting a picture for the dog that is 100 per cent clear.

ADDITIONAL DRILLS AND TIPS
The Feet First programme is completed by combining handler focus with footwork. This means practising peripheral vision skills so that you become practised at keeping one eye on your dog , while still being aware of the context and where the course is going next. She concludes by going through some common mistakes made in front cross footwork and how footwork can be modified to suit particular circumstances.

The message of the Feet First programme – and this DVD  – is that we owe it to our dogs to become foot perfect. We expect so much from our dogs, the least we can do is to match them by enhancing our own handling skills. This involves some hard work and dedication. The aim is to become so fluent, you don’t even have to think about what your feet are doing.  As Sandy says: “You need to practice every week; if you don’t practise, you lose it.”
So, when you are walking a course, you need to envisage every single move – hand signals, verbal cues, and footwork  – never forgetting your imaginary dog and working out what he is seeing.  “ A precision walk through will produce a precision run.”

Running time- 3 hours, 52 minutes

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