Dog Agility Course Memorization

Tips for Memorizing Dog Agility Courses

Your ability to remember a course will improve with experience, but here are some tips that will greatly speed up the process:
  • Say Affirmations
  • Arrive Early and Study Course Maps
  • Walk the Course Properly Whenever Possible
  • Use a Mental Toughness Program
  • Think about and name techniques you plan to use at key parts of the course. This will add structure to the course and make it easy to remember.
Now, let's discuss each of these topics in detail. 


Say Affirmations
An Affirmation is a positive statement about yourself. People like Tony Robbins, and Rhonda Byrne (the Secret) recently popularized affirmations but they have been around for centuries. Myrtle Fillmore co-founder of Unity discovered affirmations in 1888 and when she got TB, she affirmed "I am a child of God, and therefore I do not inherit sickness." 

Within two years, Myrtle got better. Family and friends got excited. Her husband Charles Fillmore studied world religions and philosophies.  Charles and Myrtle started writing about their beliefs and founded the Unity Church.
Affirmation Tips

* Mentally connect an affirmation to a unique stimulus you experience every day. I like to say my affirmations when the blue light flashes into my cup each time I make a cup of coffee using the iCoffee single serve coffee machine shown here. It works great!

* Make the affirmation positive and in present tense.
* Consider adding your name as in "I,  <insert your name> remember the course and ...."
* Say it with feeling and stress different words each time. I remember the course -- I remember the course.
Arrive Early and Study Course Maps

Arrive Early. Arriving early has many benefits, so shake off dull sloth and get up early! You'll get

  • a better parking space, 
  • a better crating area, and 
  • you'll get more time to study those course maps!

Draw Lines  Draw lines on the course map. This will help you identify patterns. It's easier to remember, say, "Figure S" or "Pin Wheel" or "Left Circle" than specific obstacles.

Above: 3d Course Map Maker
Recreate the Course. It's fun to recreate the course from memory using a magnetic course map maker. I have 2 of them, one is flat and the other 3-dimensional.
You just grab one of the obstacles (which has a magnetic on its underside) and plop it on a metalic whiteboard.) You can then easily draw and make notes on the white board and photograph it for posterity.
You could also just draw the course on the whiteboard without using magnetic obstacles. I use both methods at different times.

Coaches Eye. Coaches Eye is an inexpensive app for iPhone and Android. Using this method, you take a 1 second video of the course map. Then you can record over the existing video -- drawing with your finger and talking your way through the course. Once the recording is made, you can replay it several times. I've found that my mind starts drawing the lines automatically even when the video is not playing.

You may also want to see this page: Studying Dog Agility Course Maps.

Walk the Course Properly Whenever Possible

Open Walking.  Strangely enough sometimes there is what some call "free walking" or "open walking" There seems to be no rhyme or reason for it, but it seems to happen when there are two rings and only one judge. So when the judge is busy in one ring, and the other ring is setup, people will start walking the other ring. 

Sometimes it just seems to happen. People jump in and start walking.  I asked a judge about this once and the judge was rather unclear, "Oh, I think I told somebody there was open walking in the jumpers ring."

I suggest this: keep an eye out for early, open walking that may be happening and join in. Or if it looks like a ring is setup and available, just start walking it yourself. The worst that can happen is that you will be yelled at: "Hey you are not supposed to be walking now."  If that happens, just apologize and leave quietly.

 I asked a judge about this once and the judge was rather unclear, "Oh, I think I told somebody there was open walking in the Jumpers Ring."
Watch Where You Will be Watching

It's important to look (watch) at various things and directions as you run a course.  For example, when doing a Kabai Cross you need to watch the dog's eyes as she is coming toward the jump and then gaze at the take off point. Once the dog commits, you can switch your gaze to the next obstacle.   Practice these "watches" with a virtual dog as you walk and watch where you need to watch. 
Give Course a Structure 
It helps to have names for the various techniques you are learning.  The names of these techniques will give structure to the course and make it much easier to remember it.  Teach your dog to respond to left and right verbal cues. And as you walk the course think about whether there is a left or right curve in the course. Even if you don't use the verbal cues, having them will improve your sense of direction.

Naming Techniques Gives Structure

For example, the video here shows Magic Momo earning her AKC Masters Title in jumpers. In this run, I focused on this structure:
  • Long lead out.
  • Front Cross at #2 (Change from Right to Left hand)
  • Right Curve to Weave Poles with Rear Cross
  • Weave Pole Grab and Pivot
  • Independent Weaves to Allow Left Side Leading
  • Front Cross to Reverse Direction
  • Left Curve to Front Cross for Left Side Leading
  • Diagonal Run to Serpentine Near End of Course
  • Tandem Turn to Finish Line
More Tips
More Tips from Magic Momo Superdog will be coming soon.

Magic Momo Confident Now!

Magic Momo was terrified of dog agility trails -- even practice sessions when she first started. But research shows that repeated exposure to an environment helps us all adapt. Momo has adapted and now loves agility and in on her way to stardom -- at least so she tell us. 
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