Author Topic: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.  (Read 5082 times)

tag team

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NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« on: May 04, 2018, 06:07:22 AM »
Both my dogs ran this NADAC Elite Jumpers Course in March. For clarity sake, several of my friends have run this same course at different trials but it was set up differently and ran differently as a result. This post only refers to the opening sequence seen on this map which I think matched the course we ran in March very well. 

The opening sequence reminded me of the types of handling challenges I used to see on AKC courses back in 2012 when I still competed in multiple venues. But lately I've been seeing more and more NADAC course maps with this same type of challenge thrown into otherwise fast and flowing courses.... which IMO changes the challenge tremendously due to 21' NADAC obstacle spacing which has a profound affect on the way dogs move through courses (I am referring to dogs that are really running vs. casually loping along).

My understanding has always been that NADAC courses were designed primarily for dogs. Courses were designed with the natural movement of dogs in mind. NADAC is unique in its encouragement of handlers who want to explore the exciting realm of big distance handling with their dogs which necessitates mutually respect and an equal partnership between handlers and dogs. There is no other venue that offers this level of support and encouragement. Distance is an integral part of NADAC... imo.

In other venues, jumpers courses are not designed to be run at a distance. My understanding as well as my personal experience running NADAC courses with three different dogs, is courses run smoother and faster at a distance (if dogs have the necessary foundation skills) even with mini-dogs. My personal opinion about the opening sequence above is that its a good example of a current common challenge I'm seeing that has a better chance of a dog running fluidly with close handling and a bit of micro-management to help fast and long-striding dogs get through illogical spots that necessitate collection and lead changes like seen at LC1 and LC2 if the handler is on the dog's right side. I suppose one could eliminate LC1 by handling from the dog's left side to start so the dog starts and starts off on the left lead but that is besides the point of this post.

My dogs are trained to work at a distance and they appear to enjoy the freedom that comes with distance. They get to use their intelligence to run the courses I'm showing them however they see fit (in collection or in extension). For for me, I would not choose to handle that opening sequence up close or want to micro-manage to force collection or an awkward lead change. My approach is to look at bonus boxes for handling clues...whether I plan to attempt a bonus or not. I learned this from my good friend Lynn Smitley who said something like "the bonus box is a clue about the course designer's intended handling challenges." When Lynn uttered these words years ago, she was 100% correct. Bonus boxes used to offer valuable information about handling options even when I expanded the box significantly which I often did. However, now when I look at bonus boxes, I often feel like they were added after the course was designed vs. being an integral part of the design. And when I walk some (not all) of the current courses, I wonder if the course designer took time to envision a full range of dogs running the course to see if the motion required of them was reasonable/ logical to dogs.

Takoda has been out of commission since a mid-March trial due to a sacrum injury. This has given me 6 weeks to think about what I want to do moving forward. I still love NADAC and sincerely hope the future of NADAC course design will incorporate some sort of review process that will ensure course challenges continue in the NADAC tradition of rewarding dogs that have been trained to run courses with intelligence, confidence, fluidity, and speed at reasonable to big distances from their handlers. IMO this is the core of NADAC. Its what sets NADAC apart from other venues.

This sequence is one example of course design I don't see as what I think of as "NADAC."  I can post other maps with other examples if people are interested. If I am one of a small group of people who have issues with current courses, I will let it go.  I hope people will be willing to share their thoughts on this public forum.   

Dev, Takoda and Lil

Rosemary

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2018, 08:54:15 AM »
Can you explain specifically what you object to?  I do not have big distance with my dogs and often run with them.  However, we have been practicing the distance and I believe that I would be able to handle the opening from a distance, possibly even the bonus box with one of my dogs.  It looks pretty flowy to me, although there is a chance for an off course.  That, to me, is a timing issue on the part of the handler - something I am working on.

Chris Nelson

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2018, 09:07:15 AM »
So Iím going to give personal opinion here instead of my normal nadac view.  Maybe that will help more.

1-5 is not a sequence that lends its self to flow without the handler creating it.

In other words,  you canít fall asleep on the course and let your dog fill in the blanks.

Does that mean it doesnít flow? Or that it isnít nadac?  No not in my opinion.

It just means the handler has to work to make that flow happen.    Which is something I have to say a lot of handlers struggle with.

If my dog wasnít listening to me, this wouldnít run well.   If I was late with my Ďeasy, comeí this wouldnít run well.   Basically if anything went sideways from my intended plan it wouldnít run well.

That to me doesnít make it a bad course.  Challenging,  definitely.

And lastly, and probably most important,  how this course is set is HUGE in how it runs.   Iíve seen it set well, and not so well.  And it makes a dramatic difference in how it runs.

But again that is part of being a handler.  If a course is set in a way you donít appreciate you should always weigh whether you want to run it,  and if you do how you will adjust your handling to make it flow.   Every once in awhile youíre going to get a course you donít like,  a judge is going to have an off day.   That doesnít mean itís the new direction of anything.  Itís just an off day.


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Edraith

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2018, 09:16:30 AM »
To me it looks flow-y...I mean...it doesn't seem that much different from a serp?
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Kyle

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2018, 11:16:03 AM »
I'm kind of with Rosemary, I'm not quite sure I understand what your concern is. Is it the path from obstacle 2 to 3 or, is it the path from 3 to 4 that's concerning? Knowing a couple of different Bonus handlers who each have different training methods and thought processes (myself included, so that's at least 3 different points of view), my bet is we would all be processing this in our own ways. I'd love to hear a more in-depth thought process you have in accomplishing the sequence because at this point my understanding of your post is that it's not flowing - but I may be totally misunderstanding you.

I always understood Sharon to say that the challenges she looked for in possible Bonus courses were that there was speed and collection (sometimes more than once on a course), dog comes in to you and out away from you (sometimes more than once on a course). Changes of direction and lead changes are required. I guess I'm looking at obstacles 1 - 5 as being something I've seen quite a few times as a Bonus handler in the last 10 or so (?) years. (In fact, a long time ago  ;) we would have seen a line going from 1 to 21 making 1 - 5 even more interesting! But, of course, that doesn't pertain here.)

The way I was taught (or at least how I *interpret* how I was taught  ;D) to look at the sequence is something like:
Obstacles 2 - 3 requires me to lift my left arm to get the slight turn from 2 to 3 along with lead change to the left lead. (I am not going to use a "switch" here because it is so slight of an angle - but that's just me. Yours may be different.) From 3 to 4 I need to allow the dog to do a little "drift", just as you show with your blue line, so I can call the dog towards me (changes lead to the right lead) and then give a "switch" (changes lead to the left lead)  to get to #4. This will give the dog a really *nice* arc that will carry it through the pin wheel and actually all the way to #11. Whew!

I'm just guessing that you are concerned with the slight angle left (#3) to the harder right turn (#4) to the left turn (#5)? The way I see it, if #3 was somewhat in line with #2 to #4, it might actually be a flatter/harder/jerkier turn into the pin wheel, making it much less flowing for the dog than what it already is. I don't know if that is what you might be suggesting as a change for the course or not, but I'm just throwing that possibility out there...

My feeling (without having actually run this, of course!) is that the "wiggle" to the come to me to the switch isn't anything "new" and can actually accentuate the connection between me and the dog as it requires it right at the start. Might make the dog pay a little closer attention for later on? I dunno...and again, maybe I'm way off base trying to understand your thinking on this.

Just some random thoughts....

-Kyle
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tag team

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2018, 11:24:18 AM »
Here is another current jumpers course with an opening sequence that necessitates a little push to #3 and a pull to #4 if handling from the bonus box (a common sequence I've been noticing on recent courses),  The box happens to be in the same general location of the course I posted a map of earlier.  IMO this entire course, including the opening sequence, offers much better flow from a "dog motion" perspective.   I think most people will agree that this course has its challenging spots especially with a fast, long-striding dog.  I am posting this map to clarify that courses can be challenging from a handling perspective and still have good flow for fast and long-striding dogs.

Kyle

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2018, 11:47:17 AM »
Interestingly enough, on "Keen", my longish striding dogs would find the turns from #7 to #8 to #9 as much flatter, making it more difficult and a little less "flowy" than anything on the "Magma" course.  :) My opinion is that every course offers different challenges to each dog no matter the size or length of stride. Keeps it exciting to watch all the different styles of training, handling and thought processes!

JMHO,
Kyle
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Chris Nelson

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2018, 11:58:52 AM »
Amanda and myself would sum it up like this.

Magma = handler challenge course
Keen = dog challenge course


The majority of folks will prefer the latter


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tag team

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2018, 12:19:19 PM »
I totally agree!  Based on my experiences running two very different dogs, I can say with 99% certainly they also prefer the latter.   I have always associated NADAC with dog-challenging courses and other venues with handler-challenging courses (with some overlap of course).  I felt like my dogs and I were doubles partners in NADAC vs. my dog was my tennis racket in other venues (mostly USDAA, a little AKC, and a little TDAA).  I can't recall where I heard that analogy but it resonated enough for me to remember it.   

My sincere questions are: What is NADAC?  What are the underlying principles that guide course design. 

Chris Nelson

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2018, 12:21:37 PM »
I will say before this ever gets to the point of nadac becoming like other venues,  just look at an elite level course from those other venues.

It is very very obvious where nadac is different


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Chris Nelson

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2018, 12:27:48 PM »
Actually Iíll just go ahead and post some.
AKC


USDAA


UKI




Can we all agree at this point that nadac is not becoming like other venues?


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Jeff Lyons

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2018, 12:29:32 PM »
These are ONLY my thoughts and opinions. 

This course seems to be a fair elite challenge.  It should run very fast.  In Jumpers, we usually want some areas of collection, a few changes of side (lead changes) and some areas of flat out running.  This course has a lot of areas to flat out run.  1-3 brings speed into the first turn, which requires the handler to be engaged.  The dog is then switched to its left lead from 4 all the way to 11 (a third of the course) which allows a lot of speed build-up to the lead change for 11-12; that right lead only lasts for three obstacles, and then the dog is back on the left until 19-20.

I look at courses for what I recognize as very basic elements like pinwheels, loops, 180's, and serpentines. Other than those elements, the course will typically flow in curvy arcs or straight lines.  This course presents two loops (4-5-6) and (11-12-13-14 making a complete circle).  Other than that, it is mostly intuitive straight line or arcs.  Since 4-5-6 is a simple loop seen on all kinds of NADAC courses, it is the lead-in from 2-3-4 that seems to be at issue,

It appears to me that the course designer was looking to present the off-course 6/16 jump to the dog as it approached 3 with good speed from the straight lines presented by 1-2-3.  I agree with Chris that the handler would need to keep engaged for the sequence 1-4, but it does not feel awkward to me. 

In isolation, if you just look at those 3 obstacles and take away all of the others, 3-4-5 looks funky, but seeing 4-5-6 as a loop, it only appears that lead in to the loop from 3-4 with the switch to 5 is something that would require a handling moment.   

In micro managing,  maybe the angle of 3-4 is a little flat on paper (since 4-5-6 is just a loop), but 3-4 is certainly fair (and probably gets ďhelped outĒ when it gets set).   Would I want to see changes?  While all courses will have room for improvement, I don't see anything that requires changing.   Depending on how it was set, it may be prudent to add a yard between 6-7 by bringing down the 3/7/17 jump which would ease the angle from 3-4.  I would stay away from changing the 1-2-3 angle because it would likely take away the visual line that the dog should have for the potential off course at 6/16. 

Personally, I would definitely give this a go from the bonus box.     
Jeff L.

Chris Nelson

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2018, 12:30:36 PM »
All the same principles apply.

Speed
Distance
Flow

Just because the handler has to work a little harder doesnít mean those options arenít there.

Try to make any more than 1 of the above work on the other courses I posted and it should become obvious how nadac is different


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Marcy Matties

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2018, 12:44:13 PM »
Actually Iíll just go ahead and post some.
AKC


USDAA


UKI




Can we all agree at this point that nadac is not becoming like other venues?


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Amanda Nelson

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Re: NADAC Course Design: Please share your thoughts.
« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2018, 12:55:04 PM »
I like a mix of of handler and dog challenge courses and I definitely do not think that just because a course is a handler challenge course that means that it is a course where I am not a teammate to my dog? Definitely not.

I teach around 20+ seminars a year and over 10 various online classes. And what I work on more than anything else is teaching handlers to see challenges in courses, to see lines in courses and how to address them. Magma is a handler challenge course, you have to be able to read lines, and your cues have to be on time. Your cue cannot happen while your dog is taking off for a jump, it cannot happen in the air (how can a dog collect when his feet have left the ground?) I want my cues to be 2 strides before the jump, that is my ideal. That gives the dog enough time to either collect or extend and tells them where we are going next. 

I have run Keen and it is a nice course that I enjoyed running with my dogs, and it is more of a dog challenge course, and I donít think my dogs prefer one or the other, it is teamwork no matter the style.

There have been lots of good points in the post, and I definitely agree with Kyle, Jeff, and Chrisís posts.

Amanda


I totally agree!  Based on my experiences running two very different dogs, I can say with 99% certainly they also prefer the latter.   I have always associated NADAC with dog-challenging courses and other venues with handler-challenging courses (with some overlap of course).  I felt like my dogs and I were doubles partners in NADAC vs. my dog was my tennis racket in other venues (mostly USDAA, a little AKC, and a little TDAA).  I can't recall where I heard that analogy but it resonated enough for me to remember it.   

My sincere questions are: What is NADAC?  What are the underlying principles that guide course design.
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