Course Analysis; Step 1: Course Map Analysis, Part 2

Last week I wrote about the first two steps of Course Map Analysis, finding the course numbers and the mouse-line. This week we will pick up from where we left off with the next step, finding your dog's path.

To recap, I break Course Map Analysis down into five separate steps. My breakdown is below:

1) Course Map Analysis

A) Finding the Course Numbers

B) Finding the Mouse-Line

C) Finding the Dog's Path

D) Finding the Handling Choices

E) Prepping for the Walk Through

We will continue to use the same course maps as last week. The map is:

This week, I thought I'd try to make my drawings a bit clearer and use CRCD to draw my paths and lines on the map. In doing so, my obstacle placements might not be 100% accurate but they are close. As a refresher, I have attached the course with the mouse-line below.

C) Finding the Dog's Path

For me personally, finding the dog's path only comes after finding the mouse-line. Why? Because the mouse-line gives me so much information as to how my dog will run the course.

When I am running my dog(s) through a course, there are expectations I have for both myself and my dog(s). For myself, it is my job to show my dog where they are going and to give them the information they need to do so in a timely manner. For my dog, it is their job to follow me through the course, actively listening and completing the obstacles to criteria. These are expectations I have any time I step into the ring with my dog(s).

Now, you might be thinking, how does the mouse-line help me meet those expectations?

It helps me, because with practice, I can look at the mouse-line and make some assumptions about how I have to handle the course. I break handling down into two parts. Leading and Critical Points.

What are those you ask?

Leading, is when I am showing the dog the path that I want them to take, without having to turn the dog, or make any lead changes. I am still proactively handling my dog but I do so by simply staying out of their way and showing them where they need to go.

Critical Points are when I need to use physical and verbal cues to indicate to my dog that a lead change and/or turn will be happening.

With the mouse-lines on the above course map I can see where I am leading my dog through the course. The "leading lines" are below:

Looking at the above map there are 5 different "leading lines".

They are:

1-4 tunnel entrance

4 tunnel exit - 6




By seeing those leading lines, I can make some assumptions (for lack of a better word) on course. To preface, with the way that I train my dogs, their default is to always turn INTO me, which will help clarify a few things with my assumptions (and other parts of my Course Map Analysis).

My first assumption is that when I see leading lines, I generally do not have to do any kind of handling maneuvers. I simply have to accelerate or decelerate to cue my dog to run and follow me. With this particular course, that means I have to show my dog the leading lines from 1-4, 4-6, 7-9, 13-15 and 15-18 on course.

The other assumption I can make is, where I don't see leading lines on the course, I will likely have to do some kind of handling maneuver be it verbal or physical. Which is what I consider a "critical point" on course.

With this particular course, my critical points are below:

On this course map, there are four critical points,

They are:





Is that clear as mud?

I mentioned in my previous post that dogs generally run straight(ish) lines or arcs in Agility. To keep things simple; leading lines are usually straight(ish) lines and critical points are usually some degree of an arc or:

Leading Lines = Straight(ish) lines Critical Points = Arcs

To what degree of an arc each critical point is, is dog dependent. When looking at course maps and especially walking the course, I always try to keep in mind the individual dog's jumping style and size, as it does make a difference on course. While it isn't a hard and fast rule, I tend to lump these groups of dogs together:

4/8/12" dogs

16/20" dogs

24" dogs

What I mean by that, is if I see a critical point on course, I try and take into account where the dog will naturally land.. Lets look at 9-11 on this course, I have broken down the 3 different groups of dogs and where I would likely expect their path to be.

Now, I'll admit my drawing skills with CRCD are poor at best, but it at least gives you an idea of where I expect the dogs to land and stride. The smaller the dog, the closer to the mouse-line I expect them to be, the larger the dog, the farther away, simply due to their size (at least at critical points).

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely think with certain handling maneuvers, you can make a dog tighter or wider, but at this point in my Course Map Analysis, I am not looking at handling options. I am simply figuring out where I can expect my dog to be on course.

For discussions sake, I am going to say the dog I'm running on this course is a 16/20" dog. That will then make my dog's path at critical points look like so:

By figuring out the leading lines and the critical points that make up the dog's path, I have a clear understanding of where my dog will be on this particular course and it will help me to move onto the next step; finding the handling choices. Which we will leave for next Tuesday!

Until next Tuesday, Happy Holidays!

~ Kim Benjamin

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