In the last few
years, the idea of 'European style' handling has
become more and more popular around the world. Amazed by what
appeared to be flawless performances
displayed, Canadian / Brazilian Dante Camacho
decided to look a little deeper into what was going on and try find out what those weird
'European moves' really meant. Here
is an excerpt from his thought provoking blog written in January
I have been involved with
agility for almost 15 years, not a lot of time if compared to
some of the agility dinosaurs we see around. It has been
enough time, however, for me to see a lot of different trends in
training and handling of dogs. From
time to time, there is a change in handling style- something
originated by but not
necessarily dictated by one person but probably needed due to the
increasing challenges presented by the courses that we face.
I can remember a time when rear
crosses were the most used handling manoeuvres out there. As a
consequence, the dogs were really good at it. Then came the front
crosses and suddenly, using rear crosses, became outdated and 'wrong.' People would try to front cross everywhere, even when it
was obvious that a rear cross would have been a better option.
Why do people do that?
As silly as it may sound, I
believe a lot of people have never left high (secondary) school -
mentally that is. It was a time when you felt that you had to be
like everyone else and needed be doing what they were doing. You
disregarded your own feelings and intuition and followed trends,
systems and fads which often made you unhappy, unmotivated and
even ruined your self-esteem. And you did all of it to make sure
you fitted in.
In agility terms, it means that if this or that top
trainer is doing it, then it must be the right. I have noticed that many people have changed
their style of handling to something
that often felt wrong or that they just couldn't physically do?
Why has this
happened and why is it still happening? Personally I
believe that agility students are
not taught to really understand agility, how their
motion and body positioning naturally influences their
dog's response and how handling is not just about learning a set
of obstacles and using them like your were pressing buttons on a
influences... I have noticed that there seems to be an attempt to 'own' a handling style or
set of manoeuvres. It makes sense if you are trying to 'sell' a system of
handling, to claim ownership over it and dismiss all other ways
of handling, judging them less than perfect to say the least.
To be honest, I have always found
be much more obvious in North America than in Europe. The division
of handling systems and the almost religious following of pre-determined rules
is more obvious there. Yes, when you went to watch a world competition
a decade ago, you could see that some countries had different
styles of handling and you could identify their handlers even if
they were not wearing uniforms. But, eventually things started
changing. Maybe the EU had an influence in the agility world,
too. The difference in styles is no longer as clear as it was and it seems
like everyone is trying everything.
North America - where
things stayed more or less the same - would be the possible
exception as people were so focused on not breaking
any rules that they missed the change that was happening right
in front of their eyes.
Evolution or revolution.. There has been an evolution in handling
techniques - choosing
and perfecting manoeuvres that make sense to dogs, handling styles
that complement the individual teams and their strengths. Forget
about what is right and what wrong. Focus on what works and make the team
'European handling' is
nothing but the natural development of handling. It's very much
like Darwin would suggest. The better adapted species will
survive and thrive.
Today there's been a race to learn
the 'European way' as if it would be enough
to solve all people's handling and training issues. Often I see people trying to use blind crosses and fancy turns in situations
where they are doing more harm than good to their runs but, they
feel like they have to do it in order to stay current.
The best handlers will
adapt and evolve according to their needs and strengths. They will
develop unorthodox strategies to achieve their goals and won't be
limited by the ruling of third parties.
Don't let anyone tell you
that something is wrong 'just because.' Question more, observe more
and, most importantly, try to understand why.
Today, handlers are
bombarded with many different options, and it can be hard to pick and choose
whom to take instruction from. My piece of advice is that you
should try to learn from those who are open to the new, but that
don't forget the old. There are those who will show you the importance of
a German turn and of a rear cross.
There is no one way of
doing things and whomever tries to convince you otherwise, has
only their own agenda at heart.
Whether you are European, North
American, Japanese, South African or South American -
wherever you are from - handling has always been about being
clear to the dogs, and dogs are the same everywhere in the world.
About the author...
Dante Camacho is a full-time dog trainer. He teaches and coaches agility, freestyle
He is owner of Dante Dog Works and lives in Ontario
Canada with his seven dogs.
He competed in the 2014 European
Championships, representing Canada,