Testing Your Subconscious Skills 

 July 3, 2023

By  Daisy

If you’re one of those people who, while at work all day, dreams about what you will do with your dogs when you get home, only to find that the time you had slips away from you between chores, children, spouses, and the other little necessities of life, then you’re not alone! In this series of articles, I’ll follow the motto of “Think, Plan, Do”, and I’ll outline plans for skills that you can train in ten minutes or less, so that you can find the time you didn’t think you had to train your dogs!

You may have seen alphabet drills before, but this is a different sort of alphabet drill; one that is designed to test your ability to handle a sequence using your subconscious skills, rather than thinking consciously about what you are doing.  

If you’re short on time, use an existing equipment set up, rather than the ones provided here, and then, when you have the time to move equipment, try the sequences below. Or, set up the sequences below during your ten minutes on one day, and come back to the sequence the next day. In this first article, you may get several 10-minute sessions out of one set up! By the end of this article, you’ll see how this activity could be applied to any sequence to help improve your ability to handle subconsciously, without letting your conscious mind interfere quite so much!

Step 1 – Set Up The Sequence

The sequence shown can be set up in a 40x40 foot area. If you have a larger area, you can increase the challenge by expanding the spacing between obstacles so that you have to move more to get from obstacle to obstacle. If you’ve decided to use an existing set up, you can skip to Step 3 below.

Figure 1

Step 2 – Walk The Sequence

Because this exercise is meant to be a mental as well as a handling exercise, rather than giving specific instruction on how to handle the sequence, I will give you all of the options that come to my mind, and will attempt to list the options in order of difficulty.  You may discover more options! Your goal should be to include a variety of different types of handling maneuvers; a front cross, a rear cross, a blind cross, a lateral send, a forward send…the list goes on.

OBSTACLES 1-4

These four obstacles can be executed a number of different ways.  Here are some options:

OPTION 1 – PULL FROM 1-2

 Start with the dog on your right on the takeoff side of obstacle #1. Release your dog forward to obstacle #1, so that your dog turns to the left at #1 (you could call this a pull or a forward send, depending on how early you leave your dog to go to obstacle #4). Move toward obstacle #4 with your dog on your right.  

Figure 2

OPTION 2 – FRONT CROSS FROM 1-2 

Start with your dog on your left on the takeoff side of obstacle #1. Release your dog forward to obstacle #1 and ask your dog to turn right at #1. This will be a front cross, and you can then move toward #4 with your dog on your right. 

Figure 3

OPTION 3 – FRONT/REAR CROSS FROM 1-2

Start with your dog on your right on the takeoff side of #1. This time, release your dog forward to obstacle #1, and ask your dog to turn left at #1, while  executing a front cross.  The dog lands #1 and turns back, now on your left. Now, do a REAR CROSS either on the takeoff or the landing side of #2, depending on your dog’s size, stride length, and forward momentum.  If you rear cross on the landing side of #2, be sure to really drive forward so that you give sufficient forward cues to get your dog to obstacle #3.

Figure 4

OBSTACLES 4-7

OPTION 1 – FORWARD MOTION FRONT CROSS AT 5, SEND AT 6, FRONT CROSS AT 7 

Execute a front cross while your dog is in the tunnel and pick him up on your left. Execute a forward motion front cross for #5, rotating your shoulders toward your dog as you pass the plane of #5, moving in the direction of #6.  Be sure to stay as close to the takeoff side of #6 as you can; moving out in to the space on the landing side of #5 (see red line in Figure 5) will cue your dog to take the jump in a manner in which will lead to a wide turn after #5.  

Figure 5

Finish your front cross, and as your dog commits to #6 on your right, indicate the obstacle while you step to the left (a lateral send). Direct your dog to take #7 on your right, and let the dog land turning to the left – this will end up being a front cross, where you’ll pick up the dog on your left and move to #8 with him. 

OPTION 2 – SEND AT 5, PUSH AT 6 (SERPENTINE), FORWARD SEND AT 7 

As your dog comes out of the #4 tunnel, cue him to take the #5 obstacle with your left arm and your verbal jump cue.  As you do so, move down the line toward #7. For this option, your dog will need to have been trained to come in to your side, or to converge, over a jump.  This is not natural for a dog, and your motion does not support the #6 obstacle, so this option is more difficult. As you approach #7 with your dog, decelerate on the approach to the obstacle and again use your inside arm as well as your verbal jump cue to send your dog forward to take #7.

Figure 6

OBSTACLES 8-12

OPTION 1 – FRONT CROSS 9, FRONT CROSS 10

Send your dog forward to #9 on your left arm, and your verbal jump cue, as you decelerate upon approach to the plane of the jump, and when he turns back, show him a recall to heel presentation on  your right side (this will end up being a front cross and he will then be on your right for #10). Send your dog to #10 on your right,  but this time, rotating your shoulders in to your dog as needed as he commits so that you sees a side change coming (another front cross), and finish 11-12 with the dog on your left. Earlier shoulder rotation and your outside (left) arm may be needed here, as your dog’s more parallel approach to obstacle #10 will make the jumping effort more difficult than that required for obstacle #9.

Figure 7

OPTION 2 – FRONT CROSS 9, BLIND CROSS 10 

Send your dog forward to #9 on your left arm, and your verbal jump cue, as you decelerate upon approach to the plane of the jump, and when he turns back, show him a recall to heel presentation on your right side. This time, however, instead of then sending him to #10 on your right, take a step backwards toward #10, and allow or motion for your dog to take the #10 obstacle with your right arm, and allow your dog to pass behind you.  Stay close enough to the jump standard that as your dog turns back toward #11, he does not have to wrap around both you and the jump standard, and as he is finishing the jump, switch to your left arm, look over your left shoulder, and move toward the #12 tunnel with your dog on your left.

Figure 8

Step 3 – Run The Sequence

It may be that you choose an entirely different way to run the provided sequence than the options I’ve outlined here.  It may also be that you decided not to even use the sequence provided, but instead, to use something already set up in your training area. The important thing, in my mind, is that you be able to find multiple ways of running this sequence. Don’t just choose the options that feel most comfortable to you – figure out all of the options that make sense, assuming the best of both your technical abilities and those of your dog.  You might find that you were capable of handling maneuvers you previously thought outside your range of capabilities!

We’re not done yet – there’s one more step, and this is the step that will test you mentally!

Step 4 – Say Your ABCs

Whether you use the sequence provided, or your own sequence, handle your dog through the sequence a couple of times, until you find at least two different ways of handling the sequence that both feel comfortable. Then, start the sequence again, only this time, as you make your way through the sequence, you must say, out loud, your ABCs.  Yes, you read that right – in between saying your dog’s name, or jump, or over, or left or right, or whatever verbal cues you feel you need to use, you will also be saying your ABCs, and you need to try to finish by the time you get to the last obstacle! This last step tests your ability to handle using primarily your subconscious skills, since your conscious mind will clearly be occupied! And you must say your ABCs aloud.  

If you’re having trouble, try singing your ABCs – singing actually involves a different part of your brain than speaking, and you may find it easier to handle your dog and sing your ABCs than to say them.  But, it will still require you to handle using your subconscious mind, as your conscious mind will be occupied.

Wrap Up

Although I’ve provided a sequence here, and some suggestions on how to run it, the real meat of this 10-minute trainer activity is step 4. It may be that you’ve got a sequence in mind already, one that you ran last night, or at your last club practice or class.  How does saying your ABCs while running affect your ability to do a front cross? A rear cross? A blind cross? Did you make more mistakes, or fewer mistakes? If you were not alone, did you feel silly saying your ABCs in front of somebody else? Did this affect your performance? This simple act of saying one thing (your ABCs) while doing another, can make an otherwise simple sequence much more challenging.  This is a lot like how a sequence that seems simple in your back yard can seem much more challenging at a competition! It’s also a fun game to play with friends around.  Try it out, and see what you think!

Until the next 10-minutes…

Happy Training!

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