Daisy Peel's Agility Challenge Tip 3 - Engraving Approach

16 Jan 2024Steve Schwarz

Daisy Peel has an interesting podcast about the "engraving approach" for learning/improving a skill as applied to dog agility handling. It is a short episode so give it a listen and come back for my 2 cents afterward:


First off, I’m a natural skeptic. At first blush I thought this is a “can’t hurt, might help” idea. Then after some more reflection…

For me the key take away is intensely watching and imagining yourself performing the cues. Just passively watching a video of a top handler run a course or execute some handling over and over is, IMO, probably not that valuable. But, very carefully studying what they are doing with their Motion, Shoulders, Location, Arms, Verbals, Feet, Eyes, etc. and when/where those cues change could be helpful. Especially, if you can be aware of how your use of your body’s cues differs from the theirs (maybe for the better…)

My second take away is setting up a course for which you have video of top handler(s) and then executing it with the same handling/intensity. And I’d add doing so without your dog initially. Video it and when you play it back: did you execute as well as you saw the top handler did? That exercise should be very enlightening. If you critically assess your execution you might find something interesting…

The hard part is you have to know what you are seeing and if you should/want to model your behavior after a particular handler’s execution. I think you really have to know what you are seeing and that is the hard part for folks new to the sport.

The best analogy I can come up with is learning to train a running AF. Experienced trainers know what striding pattern(s) have worked for the different dogs they have taught. e.g. they can tell if the dog is short striding over the apex, landing long/short on strides on the landing side, etc. For them it is “just” a matter of applying props/shaping the dog’s motion over the obstacle to get the desired striding. But, until you know what “good striding” looks like for various sized dogs you might not be training the correct behavior for that dog.

TL;DR: this sounds like an interesting training approach; but I’d want to be careful of what skills I want to invest it in and which videos I’d want to use in the process. Thanks Daisy for getting me thinking about this technique!

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