Dog in Motion — GPS, mapquest, and Rand McNally

The following essay has been in the works for a few months. One of the interesting elements of being a thoughtful instructor is the constant search for analogies to which people can relate.

This month I’ve spent a good bit of time driving to and from obedience / rally trials, dragging poor Dash around the ring and in and out of Red Roof Inns. My 82-year-old mother has gone with me, just for company on the road and to provide her with entertainment.

First aside — Dash has earned his CD and RE, and is nearly half way to his RAE.  He’s had two experiences in Open A, the first of which was the “least sucky” NQ in his class of 5 dogs, and gave me hope, the second of which was a complete meltdown on his part. He injured himself twice jumping into his crate in the back of the Tahoe, because of a miscalculation of the crate opening, and this is no doubt his last year of trial travel.

Second aside — after 5 days of watching rally and obedience and asking lots of questions, my Mom asked, “do you know ahead of time what courses you’ll be running tomorrow?” When asked if she feels she’s understanding things more, she said, “I still don’t get this whole thing about legs and titles and DQs.”  “NQs,” I said. Wish I hadn’t corrected her — clearly she missed the most important point of the trip — or maybe not!  Perhaps she saw through the superficial legs and Qs and titles to the core of the sport: enjoyment of dogs and dog-people and dog-activities and dog-people-watching.

Third aside — every meltdown of Dash’s caused me to flash back to running Banner. She loved performing, didn’t have the stress issues that plague this old boy, and I only had to think about handling my dog. With Dash, I’m constantly battling his panic attacks. He’s able to recover from panic in 45-60-seconds but, unfortunately, panic can pile on top of panic and no recovery is possible before the next attack. I was a little disappointed in my rally judge who told me “go ahead, you’re not going to get that sign” when I was struggling to overcome Dash’s panic at sign 2 on a 15-sign course. I thought his comment showed a complete misunderstanding of the situation, and a lack of sensitivity to a dog’s emotional state. Nothing new, really.  Part of my drive to become a rally judge is that I think I can do better than just about any rally judge I’ve shown under. They’re friendly enough, but they often show no understanding of how dogs move, what the handler’s path will be, how a dog shouldn’t JUMP DIRECTLY INTO THE DOG SITTING AT THE HONOR STATION.  DUH !?!?!

So here’s my essay:   “Dogs in Motion — GPS, Mapquest, and Rand McNally”

Traveling with my mother makes obvious the upgrades in geographic technology.

On every roadtrip she insists on bringing her atlas, circa 200?.  It makes her comfortable to know where in the world she is, currently, and she wants to use her Rand McNally to find driving routes for me. So I get navigation information such as “we’re going to take I-76 to Portage Lake, then connect with I-77 south.” (All the while we’re looking at conflicting information from two more updated forms of driving directions.)

On the other hand, my Mapquest directions break every trip down into little tenths of a mile, and is very difficult to read and understand. It’s impossible to read mapquest directions and drive at the same time, for me. The order of directions should read, “after 3 miles look for exit 153, then take route 25 south towards …”  And I don’t need to know that I’ll drive one tenth of a mile on Some-Local-Hero-Drive to get to the Red Roof Inn.  I know what the motel looks like, can see the sign, and can find the entrance. Does ANYone really follow those tenths-of-a-mile breakdowns?

GPS devices, on the other hand, give real-time information in a timely fashion. “In 3/4 of a mile exit LEFT onto I-77 south … exit left … exit left (as I’m exiting left) … continue for 117 miles.”

When traveling with my Mom, I’m listening to my GPS device, I’m hearing my Mom discussing what her Rand McNally looks like, and (when I say, sharply, “what’s Mapquest got me doing here?”) it takes her 30 seconds or so to figure out where we are on the mapquest directions, and I’m often through whatever confusing intersection caused the scuffle.

In addition to reading her Rand McNally, and struggling with Mapquest, my Mom tries to micromanage my driving by pointing out “do not enter,” “one way” arrows, red lights, etc.

I finally said to her yesterday, “Please put away your Rand McNally and my Mapquest directions — I’m following my GPS device.”  It’s just too confusing to listen to  1) timely directions from GPS, plus  2) late directions from mapquest being read by my mother, plus  3) a general discussion of where we are (complete with a finger pointing at a spot on a map of Ohio — “Hello?!?  I’m reading signs and driving !!   I can’t see what you’re pointing at!”).

As our dogs run agility or rally, they want timely information. “I’m done with this now.  Where do I go next?  Left? Right? Straight ahead?”  Barking is often the dog’s way of saying “I’m not getting information soon enough!”

Our course walk-throughs should focus on finding those precise spots on the course where we need to provide TIMELY directional information.

Whether we train absolute directionals (left-right-ahead) or relative directionals (come-turn-go on-get out-close), the dog must be the FIRST to know what they’ll need to do next.

The pre-cue is taught to the dog to ensure that a FAST dog (one running ahead of the handler) knows before approaching an obstacle what the new direction and the next obstacle might be.

I use pre-cues in rally, and we’re teaching our fast dogs a precue for agility. They’re not perfect for slow dogs, though knowing what’s next, even for a slow dog (one running beside or behind the handler) may be prudent handling.

When you’re running your dog, whether in agility or rally, be a GPS device.  Give timely information.  Let them know ahead of time what’s next. Help them prepare physically and mentally for what’s coming next.

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One Response to “Dog in Motion — GPS, mapquest, and Rand McNally”

  1. Vicki Says:

    DQ….. Marsha, your mom gave me the laugh of the day. Thank her for me!

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