Raven and Cypher Cover Greg Derrett in Australia

02 Mar 2007Steve Schwarz

Australian agility blogger Simone is posting on her Raven and Cypher Blog a number of detailed articles about a Greg Derrett seminar she recently attended.

I haven’t had the opportunity to attend one of Greg’s seminars although I have trained several times

(Dana Pike Camp Fall 2005,

Dana Pike Camp Fall 2006) withMary Ellen Barry who is influenced by him. I have a confession to make also, I have owned both of his videos for a long time now and still haven't made the time to view them. So I am happy Simone is taking the time to discuss his approach.

In her Chapter 1 post Simone discusses the “win out” titling system used in the UK and the impact it has on a trainer and handler’s training priorities. Since that system puts an emphasis on speed above all, it really requires handlers to train very hard and the good ones will work the fundamentals very thoroughly before even beginning to trial. I agree with her sentiment that such a system would greatly deter the average weekend agility enthusiast from competing here in the US too. Although rather than having competitors spending most of their dog’s agility career in Excellent; you’d now have dogs “stuck” at whatever level they couldn’t win out of. So I think it would add a much more competitive edge to all the levels and would greatly change the landscape of US agility.

From a trainer’s perspective though I guess I’m used to trainers who focus on training all dogs as though they are potential world team members. Even if the students (and the trainer) know that won’t be the case, the trainers I prefer to train with will go through the analysis and present recommendations as though you are striving to take your team as far as possible. It is then up to the handler to decide how much effort to commit toward that goal.

Simone presents a very thorough discussion of Greg’s training and handling philosophies in her Chapter 2 post. It is a very informative read and I greatly enjoyed it. I’ve put a couple comments below that might only make sense after you’ve read her article.

Greg has a notion of a “Reinforcement Zone”. I liked the notion that dogs should want to always get to the area in front and to the sides of the handler. If I recall correctly, Jen Pinder further restricts her reward area to only her sides as she doesn’t ever want her dogs crossing in front of her without her permission (and never cross behind her). I also recall that she really trains for rewarding at her side especially for herding breeds who want to work in front or forge ahead. I had never heard this term before and it has a nice ring to it; I’ll definitely start using it in future classes.

Greg sounds like a front cross centric handler (which is a style I’ve been gravitating to over the years). He doesn’t believe in pre-cues (whether or not pre-cues really exist - that is a whole ‘nother article :^). I like the discussion of not crossing on a straight line I certainly agree and have seen all the problems he presents; though never thought about them in such detail - that is one of the benefits of taking a seminar with someone who has immersed themselves in the sport.

Discussed why he doesn’t blind cross or allow them even in a play environment. I actually never allow it except for an obedience finish and the only time I use that is for setting my dogs up at the start line. Someday I’ll write my article on Blind Crosses…

I like the “Motherflicka” handler comment a lot. That is definitely the curse of the Inside Arm used to flip a dog away from the handler. That can really bite you when you bring the inside arm up on a straight line. Just the slightest outward arm rotation and the dog is gone off course. I once had Milo turn almost 90 degrees and 20 feet away from me to take an off course. So I understand where Greg is coming from. This has helped make the Inside Arm the new “Evil Arm”…

So please visit Simone’s site and encourage her to continue with her great discussions of Greg’s seminar.

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