Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Agility Etiquette- Part II. The Walk Through

One of the most stressful parts of any agility trial is the walk-through.  The dreaded 20" walk through where 40 people... with their arms out  and headphones in...are walking around in circles like a drunk frat party at a playground.  The running of the bulls, if you will.

It never fails, if there is a particular spot on the course where a jump has 2 or 3 cones, there is going to be trouble.  Handlers trying to walk will hit this spot several times during their walk through, and it becomes a games of handler chicken.  This problem is only compounded when 2 or more handlers gather to discuss handling options.  Inevitably, the discussion takes place right in the handler's path and this creates a scene similar to the annual salmon trek upstream to lay their eggs and die.  Hopefully there are no deaths at the end of this run, but there is much bumping and bouncing off of one another.    When dissecting the tricky part of course, might I suggest that the discussion be taken off to the side.  What is even more distressing is when this discussion isn't about the course at all, but about Suzie's new fluorescent yellow shoes, or why Tammy got whistled off the JWW course, or guess who has a border collie now.  Keeping the path clear for all competitors makes everyone's walk through more productive.

We all know we have to check-in at the gate before we leave.  At some of the shows, the gate sheets don't get put up until well into the walk through, and then the gate steward and scribe begin calling out for people to check in to make sure everything is in order.  I don't like to waste my walking time checking in, and I don't like the distraction of people calling my name while walking.  I have taken a personal pledge.  I know the show secretaries in the area and how they work.  For this reason, I will make a concerted effort to find and post the running order for the classes I'm in before the walk through begins.  If one person from each class would do this, the running orders would be posted in plenty of time for the handlers to check in before their walk through.

I have been to a few shows with some of "those" handlers.  The "upper class" of our sport.  I have worked the gate at regional and team competitions, and noticed a trend that I find bothersome.  Many of those upper class handlers simply will not check in their own dogs.  It is as if they expect the person at the gate to a.) know who they are and b.) know that they plan on running one or all of their dogs entered and c.) are running all dogs as listed on the running order.  Often, the person working the gate for the excellent/elite/masters dogs is a novice handler who may not know who you are.  It only takes a second to check in, and if we as handlers make it our job to help make sure the gate sheets get posted, it will be a task that doesn't interfere with our walk time.

On the opposite end of those who don't check in, are the "pen hoarders".  These are the handlers running several dogs in the same class and they stand guard at the board, pen in hand, trying to mark off all of their dogs on the running order.  People who hover at the gate board do nothing but cause a back up.  There are usually running orders posted elsewhere in the arena.  Why not check out this running order, and get an idea of the best place to move the dogs being run.  By having an idea of where the dogs need to be moved to, then the time it takes to move the dogs around on the gate sheets can be done quickly and efficiently.  Everyone wants to get checked in so they can begin their warm up routine with their own dogs.

Taking a little responsibility to help the show run smoother is something we should all look at.  The more effort the handlers make to expedite the show, the sooner we all get out of there!

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