The Benefits of Reversing Course
26 Dec 2007
There was a discussion of Flatwork on theBaggageAgility Email List and one trainer mentioned their dog preferred to work on their left side. This was due to their obedience training where they worked their dog a lot in heel position. Obviously, for agility you and your dog should be equally comfortable working on both sides.
I replied to the trainer that one way that helps handlers and dogs break out of their handed pattern is to run each practice course in both directions. I don’t mean to physically run backwards (although that would be challenging :^), but to run the sequence of obstacles in reverse order. For courses with teeters and chutes you’d need to turn these obstacles 180 degrees.
There are a number of benefits of running courses in both directions. You get more than twice the workout for the same equipment setup.
Working the Little Grey Cells
Switching directions helps you work on course memorization skills; knowing the course in one direction doesn’t really help with memorizing it in the opposite direction. In fact, sometimes it makes it harder to run it in the opposite direction because you can fall back on the original sequence if you aren’t concentrating.
This is also a good exercise in helping spot patterns in courses regardless of the direction you travel through the course.
Handling the Challenge
Another benefit of reversing course is that you’ll likely need a different handling in each direction. This lets you work different skills on the same equipment setup.
Whose Side Are You On?
The final benefit of reversing a course is the one that prompted me to write this article; your dog is likely to be on your opposite side in the reversed course than they were on the original course.
The days of running a course with your dog in heel position are long gone in almost all venues even at the Starters/Novice levels. You’ll need at least one change of side on your first competition course. Besides if you plan on going further than Novice it is really important to be adept at handling on both sides.
So now you can Double Your Pleasure and Double Your Fun with any course setup.