Posted by: allstaragility | June 7, 2013

Biathlon Jumping

The first round of the Biathlon was the Jumping class judged on Friday afternoon by Emiel Vervoort.


Video of our run can be found HERE.

I will always smile whenever I think of this run.  Partly because I loved how Solei and I ran the first half, but mostly because the ending was all BS handling after all my plans flew out the window and I was just winging it.  Yeah, not the best thing to have happen at an international competition!   But, it is always nice to know you can pull it out when needed and while I lost some confidence that I didn’t get where I had hoped, it made me believe so much more our teamwork in recovering from a deviation in my handling plan.

This being part of the Biathlon with only 2 runs deciding the podium placements, it was paramount to have your fastest possible run.  I actually chose to handle the opening of this course to the first tunnel with Solei on my right.  I decided to do this mainly to push for more speed off the start line and show her a direct line to the tunnel and felt that it worked very will.  It also allowed her to see where I would be upon her exiting the tunnel.

After #3, the big decision was which side to be on from 4-6.  On first glance at the map (which we got as they were course building most times), I was initially leaning towards running the backside of the tunnel (dog on right).  Several factors tipped the scale in favor of running on the inside (dog on left) through the tunnel after getting out to walk it.  I think what had the most influence was the length of the tunnel.  Being longer in length, I wasn’t certain I would be able to cue the tight turn I wanted at #4 and be able to be far enough ahead to let Solei know to turn to the left out of it.   When working the backside of a tunnel,  I want to make certain my dog knows which way to look for me.  If  you are not far enough ahead for the dog to sense you being past the plane of the inside of  the last curve of the tunnel (shown by the dashed line below), I feel most dogs will naturally default to turning in the direction they last saw you.   This is depicted in Figures 1 and 2 below:



Handling on the backside in this scenario would have been a longer path for me and, I felt, a bit too risky.  I did see numerous handlers successfully run it that way, however.   Interestingly enough, as a side note,  I have set this piece up in class and at a recent seminar I taught where we used a 15′ tunnel and it actually worked much better to be on the back side of it.  It is amazing how 5′ can make such a big difference!

I decided to execute a blind cross wrap at #4 which allowed me to get far enough ahead of Solei to blind cross at the end, where I held just a moment so she could see my motion coming out to move to the next jump.  We ran a bit later in this round so got to see enough dogs run to note that a common mistake was the dogs not seeing the jump after the tunnel, so that also influenced my handling choice to make certain she saw jump #6

The next big decision was how to handle the weave entry.  Because of the threadle after the poles (or a push-through depending on what side you handled it), I knew I wanted to run those weaves with her on my right.  I walked it with the poles on my left and a cross or push at the end and my gut just didn’t feel it would have been the most efficient for either of us.  That brought me to the conclusion to rear cross the poles.  Right before this event, we ran snooker which wasn’t our most connected run and she missed a very similar weave entry.  Because of the difficult angle of approach, I knew I had no choice but to front cross after #6 and somewhat shape the weave entry so that I wouldn’t be doing such an extreme rear cross.  I was amazed by many of the European handlers who kept their dogs on the right over #6 and just told their dogs to weave (the dogs actually had to come across the handler’s feet to find the entry!).  Ok, so that didn’t work for all of them, but I came home knowing I need to work much more extreme entries.

At that point, I was very pleased with #1-7 and that hard rear cross at the weaves… then it started to get a little wild.  I cued the pull to get Solei on the correct side of #8 and she actually self-released off of my hand to take the jump ahead of me.  My goal was to hang on to her a bit longer so that I could get up the line ahead of her to cue a tighter turn off of #9.  Since I was running more with her, she did have a larger turn from #9-10 and “squiggled” the line from #9-11.

The chute to the jump afterwards was a bit trickier than I think it looks on video (but is depicted on the map).  If your dog came blasting out of the chute, there was a chance they could focus on the back-side to the right of the #12 jump.  If you called too hard, it was possible the dog could have completely pulled off that jump (especially if you were hauling to get down the line ahead of your dog).  As it was, I don’t think I needed to babysit it as much as I did, and I didn’t have the intention of doing so, but something told me I needed to be up there a little more to give her clear cues to take it correctly which partly led to my failure to be ahead on the next sequence.

Oh, that long line from the chute to the back-to-back  270’s!   I really went back and forth on what to do on piece.  It really was the goal to get ahead of her down there to cue them more proactively.  I initially walked a front cross between #14-15, but watching handlers force the cross really cost a lot of time.  Daisy planned on pushing that line with Solar on her left the entire way and was very successful with that.  Note to self… I can’t always get to the same places Daisy can (big surprise there). 🙂 My plan involved blind crossing on the landing side of #15 to keep Solei in extension to then front cross on the take-off side of #16 and push to the back-side of #17.  Looking at the video, I think I could have gotten it in if I had just trusted myself a bit more (that is why we need so many more opportunities to work these skills in competition), but she was coming off of the spread quickly and I wanted to make sure she was going to commit to taking #15.

Until I was able to see the video, I am not entirely sure how we got through the end. 🙂  All I could picture in my mind was that scene in Twister where Helen Hunt is calling out “LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT!”  to help Bill Paxton navigate around falling debris!  Rear crossing around the outside of 270’s is not something I routinely train for and I am amazed that it didn’t pressure Solei to turn too soon and cut to the inside of them.  However, looking at the video, she actually had a pretty efficient line and maintained great forward motion, so perhaps it worked out better than my original plan!   We finished in 6th in that class just a second over the 1st place time (a wonderful Malinois from Sweden).

The only thing I really remember was coming out of the ring laughing and praising my dog for pretty much carrying our teamwork through that end section!   I still think she read those numbers… 🙂


  1. Wow. You would never know you were winging that ending. Great thinking on the fly skills by both you and Solei! Those with the great talent can make it look effortless.

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