February 14, 2022

Episode 301: Are You Overusing Some Cues in Dog Agility?

In this episode (15:25)

In this podcast, Sarah, Jennifer and Esteban talk the difference between OVERUSE and MISUSE and dive deeper into what your instructor may mean when using these terms.

You Will Learn

  • Why instructors (including us!) should be careful with terminology.
  • Why “overuse” may be misuse in disguise.
  • Why it’s problematic to have one cue for a wide range of responses.


(gentle upbeat music) - Welcome to Bad Dog Agility, a podcast helping you reach all of your dog agility goals, whether it's competing under the bright lights of the televised finals at Westminster or successfully navigating a homemade course in your own backyard. We'll bring you training tips, interviews and news about the great sport of dog agility. Are you ready? - I'm ready. - I'm ready. - I'm ready. -

The show starts with your host, Jennifer, Esteban and Sarah. - I'm Jennifer. - I'm Esteban. - And I'm Sarah, and this is episode 301. Today's podcast is brought to you by hititboard.com and the new Teeter TeachIt, an easy to use tool that controls the amount of tip on your teeter so you can introduce motion to your dog in a gradual way. Go to hititboard.com for the new Teeter

TeachIt and other training tools and toys. Use discount code BDA10, to get 10% off your order. That's hititboard.com. - Today we ask the question, are you overusing some cues in dog agility? And I think we're gonna start here from the instructor's perspective because the three of us here, so Jennifer in Ohio. Hello, Jennifer. - Hello. - And Sarah here with me in Texas. Hello, Sarah. - Hello. -

And we do a lot of feedbacks, right? So people send us lots of videos and every day we're looking at videos and we're giving feedback and we as instructors, say lots of things. A lot, right? So we have certain go-to phrases. And I think, maybe one of the words that we drop a lot is, overuse. Hey, you're overusing this maneuver, right? So Jen, how do you, what kind

of language are you using when you give feedback and you see a problem and it's the 10th person you seen do it that day? - Or the 10th time from the same person (chuckles) - Yeah. I would definitely say that telling someone they're overusing it would be something that I would say, you know there's probably people listening to this that are live students of mine for many years

or have listened to many feedbacks and know that that is absolutely something that I have said. And I actually think that the idea of this podcast came from a little bit of a conversation we had where I was complaining to you guys, that somebody was overusing a skill and you kind of made the point that, well maybe they weren't overusing it, that they were misusing it. And that's

kind of what we wanna clarify and talk a little bit about. - Ooh, that's really good. And so I think there is a difference, if we stop for a moment and we think about it and everybody runs over to Google and types in the words, overuse and misuse, what's the difference. So with overuse, we have the excessive use of something and that would be like, you know an

easy example is hard for me to find maybe it's you use a pen to do any kind of writing. You never use a pencil, you never use a paintbrush but you're always using a pen, even when the job demands something else. Like, I don't know, you need to write on a wall or something and you'd do better with a paintbrush. And so you're overusing it, right? It's excessive.

And then misuse would be for the wrong purpose. Well, now I feel like the pen is the wrong purpose for the wall. As far as my example, it's a little bit tricky when you think about it but you have something and you're using it incorrectly. And the two are very, very different and we'll throw even more clarification on in a second. So I think like you were saying

Jen, a lot of issues that people have, in their handling, are not necessarily problems of overuse but they might be problems of misuse. So I think for myself I can remember a time when I was all about the front cross. It was the new thing, you know, agility in the beginning it was, there weren't blind crosses really that I think anybody was doing this is way back, when

20 years ago. Is rears or fronts. And I grew up in a more rear cross oriented school and then you could do front crosses and then front crosses were the thing, and then it was all about the front crosses like you never did rear crosses. And so there, I think you would say, hey, that guy's overusing front crosses but what we're saying is this, if it was the

the right move to do an acceptable move to do, and sometimes in one spot, there are multiple acceptable moves, right? A front or blind and a rear are all equivalent. So any of them are okay but if the front cross is always an option there, then you're not overusing it. Right? But now if three of 'em are good, but the fourth one, a front cross is a really

stupid thing to do and there's no way anyone can possibly do it well, you're always gonna get a wide turn, a bar, an off course or something, then guess what? You have misused the front cross there, but your instructor or your friend might look at it and say, hey dude you're just overusing front crosses. See what happened on that fourth one. But it's really a failure of language

here. It's very imprecise, right? - Yeah. I remember I've said this before, but I used to always say that, like you, I mean, we did agility together, so we had similar styles and we did a lot of front crosses and I've told many people, the more I learned about front crosses and front cross theory and how to do it well, and what the perfect timing and position were,

the fewer front crosses I did. And the reason is, I'm replacing a bunch of bad fronts with good rears, right? And so that's exactly what we're talking about. That is not overuse, that is misuse. I just took out all of my late front crosses and then put in, you know, a well timed rear. - Right? - I think the scenario for me recently where this situation came up

was in the case of the reverse spin, where you're rotating towards the dog followed by a blind cross to try to tighten up the turn, and within one day on very close in proximity feedbacks, one person, I had said they were overusing 'em, right? Meaning that they did, like, I think they did maybe three on a course and that just seemed excessive, it seemed like a lot. I

was like, oh my gosh, that's a lot of spins, you don't need to be doing that many spins you're overusing it. But in further analysis, it was appropriate to do them. So they really weren't overusing them, but I had just come off of a feedback with somebody who was misusing them, so they were doing spins where they should not have been doing them and I just carried over

the terminology and said, you're overusing them, when in reality, it was the confusion of the misuse in the first feedback. So it's a slippery slope and you gotta really be clear on, if you're an instructor and you're listening to this, what you're saying but if you're a student, get that clarification from your instructor, if they say you're overusing or if they're saying misuse, make sure you understand what

that means. You know, was it appropriate to do there? And I just did it poorly or is it not appropriate to do there? Am I, you know, overusing? I mean, it's tough. It's definitely tough when we talk about that terminology aspect. - Yeah. That's such a great point that you made there. And if we add in poor execution, on top of it, right, that's like a whole other

level, right. It might be the right move or an okay move, to do a front cross, or to do a reverse spin, or you do a Yako turn, but then if you do it incorrectly, right? You kind of have your own personal handler failure to perform, right? The execution is poor, you're not misusing it, you're not overusing it, it's the right time, it's the right place. You're just

not doing it well, most likely you're learning the maneuver, you're doing it with a dog, you know, who's just getting started. - Yeah. I think that, I think we need to think about like, well, what's the problem with overuse right? Why would we even care? And I think that most of the times when instructors say that, the concern is that the dog is going to have a less

and less response because the cue happens so often, right? - Right. - But I think that what we really are talking about as instructors, is typically a queue where it's used in multiple different places expecting kind of a variety of responses that are kind of similar you know, like, you know, every turn is a turn but there's a very big difference between a wrap on a a jump

and a 30 degree turn, right? Those are both turns, but they're very, very different. And so when we have one cue that we're using for every turn from 30 degrees, all the way to, you know a loopy loop wrap, then that's where I think that idea of overuse kind of makes some sense, but what we really are saying is, you need to have different cues when you expect

different responses, and therefore something in here is being misused. You probably shouldn't have the same cue for this whole range of behaviors and you probably need to think of how you can make it more clear to your dog. - Right. That's a really good one because I think that's something that you hear a lot on course, calling of the dog's name and then it begs a question like

what does it mean to your dog, for you to call their name, right? To come towards you and then take the next obstacle, to come all the way in towards you without taking any obstacles, right? And if you call their name, should they not take an obstacle, unless you give a cue for another obstacle or as soon as you call their name and they're lined up at the

right thing, they should go ahead and take that. So I think that's something that everybody kind of needs to think about, but yeah, calling the dog, I think that might be a case of overuse, and there are probably times then it's misused. If you have a very specific meaning, for calling your dog's name. The other example that we came up with when we were talking about this is

threadle versus bypass. So when we say threadle, we might mean that, you're headed for a tunnel, a curve tunnel, that's both entrances are kind of facing the dog and the dog is on a line straight for the wrong end. And you are running on the correct end, right alongside of the dog and you have the option to pull the dog. People here in the U.S. typically use their

opposite arm. In most cases like people have some kind of system to discriminate between the two tunnel entrances. So that's threadle handling, right? So don't take that option, take the second option. But especially for people who use the opposite arm, that's also something that's very commonly used to create better turns. I think this goes way back for the old timers who know what an RFP is, reverse flow

pivot, sometimes called a false turn, especially if you're British or you come from the British lineage or you've been in agility for longer than 15 years probably. So you'll see a lot of people still try and tighten up turns usually to avoid an obvious off course trap. So you might have a two obstacle choice situation which looks a lot like the tunnel, two entrance discrimination situation and that's

why you see similar handling in use there. But I think that's a common spot. And basically you're just asking for two very different behaviors, with the exact same verbal cue which I think is something that you were talking about. Yeah. So the answer there for people who are really hearing themselves, when I describe that, is you split the cues. You create one cue, a verbal cue that means,

you know, go to the other, whether it's a tunnel or a jump. So instead of coming and taking a jump straight on you go to the other side of the jump. So that's a backside or a threadle, so you'll have a threadle cue and then you'll have your what we call a bypass cue, kind of stay with me, don't take that obstacle. And you may even need something

like a D cell, or as Jennifer was talking about a reverse spin, or a J turn, something else to create tighter turns. And so that's where we start to add complexity to our handling system. But, this all kind of goes back to the idea that, we as evaluators of your performances and your handling system the way you get around the course with your dog, you know sometimes we're

a little lazy with our language and we're like, hey you're overusing this, hey, you're doing this. If they don't say overuse, they'll say this, you're doing this too much, or you always do this, you never do this. And I think, you know, we've been around long enough to know when people start saying things like always and never, you know, we're starting to get a little lazy with our

language to make a point. - Right. And I think one of the things that you brought up when we were first talking about this was the kind of thought question of, is it possible to overuse something, if you're doing it in the right spot, for the right reason and executing it perfectly. And when you kind of put the question that way, then all three of us agreed. No,

there's no such thing as overuse when you're using the right thing, in the right spot, for the right reason and executing it well. And so that's, I think kind of the myths we wanted to debunk about overuse is, if you're doing it right, it is not overuse. I mean, if the course calls for, you know, six back sides, or the course calls for fore front crosses, or the

course calls for whatever, you know that's what the course calls for, but it's about making sure that you are doing the right things, in the right spots and doing them well. And that's where I think sometimes things fall apart where people tend to go with the maneuver that they're more comfortable with, but not necessarily the best maneuver for the spot that they are in. - Right. And one

last thing I'll say, I'll throw in one more word, and it's the idea of suboptimal 'cause you're kind of getting to that right there. You may have a spot where any of the three crosses is gonna work, blind, front, rear cross but maybe one's gonna be noticeably better than the other, for whatever reason, the angle of approach, spacing of the obstacles, whatever the off course trap is. And

so they're all good, but two of them are suboptimal and you do have an optimal option. So, just even more to think about. - And that's it for this week's podcast. We'd like to think our sponsor hititboard.com. Happy training! (gentle upbeat music) - Thank you for listening to Bad Dog Agility. We hope you enjoyed today's episode. For more information, updates and links to all our socials, just check

out our website, www.baddogagility.com. If you haven't already signed up for our email subscription, we would love to have you join the BDA community. Until next time, take care. (gentle upbeat music)

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