a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Derrett System vs Handling Skills

Friday, October 21, 2011

Derrett System vs Handling Skills

SUMMARY: A fun timing exercise from class
Last night in class, a dog's path option in the middle of our last course of the evening turned into a long and animated discussion, resulting in hauling out the electronic timers and timing everyone doing the two different options.

Here's the map and some notes--I mention only the specific handling options that we used; there are certainly other handling options that result in the dog taking the same paths. What we're interested in is the dog's most efficient path.

At a glance, the longer option (A) seems like it would be a bad choice--2 extra yards in a jumpers course where the top dogs can be hitting close to 6 yards per second means, in theory, about a third of a second difference.

And, as we know from the recent FCI world championship, where the amount of time separating the midsize dog World Champion Luka from the 3rd place dog is a mere .09 of a second, .33 of a second is a lot of time.

Of course, it's not just about time: In theory, a dog following a smoother path is arguably more likely to get through the course successfully. Plus, the Derrett System says, we believe, that choice A would be the right one.

(NOTE: I don't know that I have the distances correct here, so our times might not be your times.)

Not surprisingly, the two options worked worked differently for different handlers and even different dogs with the same handler.

Tika was 6.90 on the wrap, and although I thought we did the serp fairly smoothly, she was 7.03, so 1/10 second slower. (And she was quite a bit slower at the end of the evening than at the start of class. Older dog. Sigh.)

Boost had the fastest time of all the dogs on any of the options, 6.05 on the wrap (although she knocked the bar). Then it took us 7 attempts for me to do the serp correctly with her, and she was 6.25. That might be because she'd just done 7 full repetitions at the end of a long class and was getting tired, or simply the obvious fact of our inability to handle it comfortably.

SB, who was the primary advocate for the serp method and handled it beautifully, when running Boost's full sister T-Cam (different litter), got 6.17 and 6.18 doing the serp and 6.17 and 6.24 doing the wrap.

But with her older (nationals finalist, former world team) dog Maja, they were about .1 faster doing the wrap than the serp with very close to the same times as her younger dog.

SP and Kip had interesting results--he kept doing an odd hesitation when trying to do the serp compared to a fairly smooth wrap, but still got 6.33 on the serp and times of 6.75 and 6.56 on the wrap.

And JC and Jet were about a tenth of a second faster on the serp.

So--three dogs faster on the serp, three on the wrap.

Comments? If anyone else sets this up and gives it a try, let me know.


  1. When I get together to train with a few friends, we inevitably end up timing a "decision" the same way you did to find what is really the "fastest" way. I also use the GD system, and what I find with my experienced 13" Sheltie is she can usually do both ways almost exactly the same time. With my faster, greener, 15" Sheltie, who runs like a big dog, she'll be faster when she can maintain her speed. I think the decision making system is a good guide, but you have to take your dog into account. I also think that sometimes a significantly shorter path may outweigh everything else.

  2. Those are good points, too: You have to know your dog, you have to know your own comfort level, and you have to know the competition (if you care :-) ). We also discussed how much difference it would make if jump #4 were rotated just a little bit in one direction or another (10 degrees? 20? 45?), how much difference it would make in what you might choose to do and what might be the tipping point for where most people would choose to do it one way or the other.