Stuart Mah's 30 Second Drills - With Video

13 Feb 2010Steve Schwarz

When Stuart Mah was at For Your Canine in Chicago last year, students who went to his seminar were telling me about a 30 second drill he had them perform. It involved a straight tunnel set up with eight jumps surrounding it. From their descriptions it sounded like a fun drill, but at the time I didn’t realize the real benefits of it.

Later when I was working on my CleanRun search I came across his Backyard Dogs article in the Clean Run Jun 2009 issue in which he described the exercise and his reasoning behind it.

The crux of the exercise is to take a jump then the tunnel then a different jump and then the tunnel and so on until you’ve taken all eight jumps. Sounds pretty straightforward, here’s an example of one of his obstacle layouts:

Stuart's Easiest Layout with My Handling Strategy

There are two constraints Stuart adds to this drill that make it really worthwhile:

  1. You only have 30 seconds to complete the 8 jumps - this pushes the handler to be efficient. Not just driving the dog over the jumps in extension and creating long looping paths (and possible off courses).
  2. If your dog takes an obstacle other than the one you planned you can't stop, you have to modify your plan on the fly to still get all 8 jumps - makes the handler more responsive/resilient to the dog's actions.

Stuart also stipulated that if you try a layout for a second time you shouldn’t repeat the same jump sequence. This keeps you and your dog thinking and not just practicing a fixed pattern. In my mind it is the act of executing your overall plan while still reacting to what happens when you are running the sequence that is the key part of this drill.

The concept I liked most about Stuart’s drill is it trains what he calls Situational Awareness. In this context that means awareness of the physical location of the obstacles, your overall strategy for completing the sequence, and which obstacles you have yet to complete. I think of it as an important skill in playing agility games like Snooker and Gamblers. Even if you don’t play those games it helps you better react to your dog on the course. It could even help you save that “Q” when you temporarily forget where you are going :^)

So I decided to set up some of these courses and I shot some video of our efforts. For the first layout I walked my plan a couple times before running the sequence but I was still able to get all 8 jumps within the 30 second time limit and I was pretty confident of where I needed to go. I didn’t feel the pressure I feel when reacting to a Snooker plan gone wrong :^) So then I tried some of his harder jump arrangements where I didn’t walk my sequence first; I just stood at the side of the course and visualized my plan. That made me have to “think on my feet” a little bit more and was more challenging.

So we worked some of the sequences over two days and it was a lot of fun. Here are our efforts, warts and all:

I strongly recommend you pull out the Jun 2009 Clean Run and give this a try! If you don’t have it you can get an idea of some of the jump variations from my video. Or you can use the Pick Up Sticks approach to setting the jumps around the tunnel. He also had a follow up article in Aug 2009.

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