Friday, June 15, 2007

Manchester-Derrett Seminar

SUMMARY: Boost and Ellen learn some things in the oppressive heat.

Laura Manchester-Derrett discussing the no-go zone.

Greg Derrett has been coming out from England to teach seminars at Power Paws Agility for several years. I've taken his seminar(s) with a couple of my dogs, plus I've been in his sessions at Power Paws Camp in years past, PLUS Power Paws incorporates his ideas into their training. Not to mention that a lot of what they teach is also taught by others to whom I'm been exposed, and I'm not even sure where all of the ideas come from originally. So I'm reasonably familiar with their material.

basic no-go zoneI basically understand the "no-go-zone" or the "blind cross zone" or various other names for it--essentially, if you draw a line extending out through your shoulders to either side of you, the dog should never go into the zone behind that; they should be driving at all times to get into the zone directly in front of you, loosely defined by the same line but more specifically directly in front of you in the direction you're going.

This is illustrated with a simple situation: Set the dog in front of three jumps in a row. Walk out and stand just beyond jump 2 but about 10 feet to the right, facing he same direction the dog is facing. Release the dog but don't otherwise move. (That's a lateral leadout.) The dog should drive forward over the two jumps and then curve in and stop in front of you.

basic front crossIn theory, this is why front crosses work--you direct your body forward until the dog is committed to the obstacle ("committed" meaning there is nothing you can do to pull them off that obstacle), then turn your body, so dog wants to drive out of no-go zone and drive to get in front of you again.

teaching dog to drive into no-go zone
That also shows what happens when you turn too early--before the dog is committed: The dog ceases her forward motion and strives to get out of the no-go zone and back in front of you. I had been basically aware of this concept relating to why Boost has so many refusals on course. (Keep in mind that you don't really teach the dog not to go into the no-go zone--you reward them for driving in to your side and for driving in front of you; the lines and the zones just make it easier to understand why some things are happening.)

However, I hadn't managed to make the connection, until Laura pointed it out in yesterday's seminar, why Boost has started making the occasional blind cross--which I've *never* taught and done everything to avoid--at the same time that she's getting fewer refusals. Which is that, in my rush to not be too late on my turns, which is a perennial problem for me with both dogs, and to "turn and get the heck out of there," which is also a perennial problem for me to do, I have started turning TOO EARLY (before the dog is committed to the jump, and yet still trying to insist that she still go over the jump (because I said "hup!") rather than responding to my body position. teaching your dog a blind cross

So, basically, if you HAVE to make a mistake, it's better to cross late (which could give a wide turn or, ok, possibly an off-course if you can't correct for it) than to cross early (which teaches a handling pattern that can affect you for a long time to come).

There was, of course, a lot more in this seminar, but for me, this was the most revealing insight.
Walking a double-box course on Power Paws' small lawn.


  1. That is very very interesting. I'm going to have to think about it a bit. As a side point, I wonder what you think of the preturn cue (I think that's what the maneuver is called)? I instinctively feel that it must be creating an inconsistency in handling somewhere else, but I don't see it.

  2. If I remember correctly, they were saying at the seminar that there is no longer a "preturn cue" exactly for the reason you state. I'll have to see whether I can find it in my notes or ask someone else who was in one of the seminars.