Runouts and Refusals

If the obstacles are in a straight line, it is fairly clear cut. However, what if you have a combination that calls for an awkward transition and entry, such as a course sequence that takes the dog over the long jump, and requires a hard right to the line of weave poles. If the handler turns too abruptly the dog will also turn abruptly, and incur the refusal without ever having focused on the poles.

Unfortunately, if the handler rushes too intensely at the poles to gate the dog, the dog may push out on the far side of the poles and incur either the refusal or an improper entry. This is an example of how a judge can create a situation where it's not doggie's fault ... it's your fault (handler-induced refusal).

Another example of a handler induced refusal is sitting a dog (perhaps to get control for an upside contact problem). (Bud Houston)

The first "third" after an obstacle is for the dog to land or complete the obstacle he has just done; immediately following is when the dog is looking for direction, and then the dog is going to enter the "range" of some obstacle next; and this whole procedure, obstacle after obstacle, is getting around the course.

This is very general, and only for purposes of description of how I "watch" a dog. As other judges have stated, "focus" is the main concern. A dog could be "focused" on the next obstacle in line as a dog is mid-air from the obstacle it's performing; if a handler calls it off a split second after it lands that could be a refusal. Or the dog could be "near" the next obstacle but still looking for direction, not having really seen another obstacle yet, and it could be seen by a judge as "looking for direction". That handler better do something quick, but that may not be a refusal yet at that point.

Judges are not concerned where a handler is on course, nor what he/she says to the dog (except bad language); we are looking at the performance of the dog. To get the best run the better handlers work as "partners" with the dog, directing the dog throughout the course to maximize the performance. Agility is not about how much control a person has over the dog- it's the ability of a person to guide the dog from the first obstacle to the last, without a glitch in performance that makes a "great" run. The dog is the performer (remember the dog really is doing most of the work!), the handler just a guide. The best runs I have seen are the ones where I'm not aware where the handler is - I only am seeing a beautiful, athletic performance as agility is meant to be!

For those of you who are currently running a course with your dog in heel position, or under a tight rein, or calling your dog back to you so YOU can catch up, you should be considering improving your handling to allow your dog free flow on a course. If you continue to do agility in this way, you will get even more "handler induced refusals" than you ever expected, as your dog gains more confidence and your performance doesn't change. Trust your dog that it knows how to perform the obstacles; now work on teamwork to make it a good run!
(Darlene Woz)


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