Studying Dog Agility Course Maps

Momo Studies 3D Course Map

Tips continued...
Plastic Holder. Get a plastic holder and insert the map into it. Then draw lines and notes on the plastic using a white board marker. Use different colored pens. 

White Board. Get a small white board and draw your own course map. 

Retrogressive Chaining.  A technique developed by Profession B.F. Skinner. Study the last 3 obstacles, then close your eyes and imagine yourself and your dog taking those obstacles -- call out the number of each obstacle as you imagine it.. 

Next study at the last 6 obstacles and do the same. Then study at, say, the last 12 obstacles and test your memory again. Keep working back in this way until you can recite and imagine the entire course. 
AKC Premier Course Map Dog Agility
Video: Momo Performs a K9 Arrow at Obstacle #2 and turns sharply to Obstacle #3. Momo earned a new title and a blue ribbon with this run!

Studying Dog Agility Course Maps & Learning Agility Courses

At left you can see Magic Momo studying a Magnetic 3D Course Map. As you can see the first obstacle is a tire.  I'll talk more about this 3D course map later, but for now here are some basic tips for studying dog agility courses with course maps...
Be Early. Get to the trial really early so you have plenty of time to study the course map.

Take Picture Take a picture of the course map for future reference.

Grab Extra Copy. If possible get an extra copy of the map and draw a line on the map showing the basic path.-- see line in red on illustration below. 

Get Maps. Get course maps for study that are similar to ones you will encounter in trials. You can find and download them from online sites. 

A good source for course maps is:

Since Magic Momo is now running in the AKC Premier class, I downloaded the PREM (premier) course map you see on this page from

Using Retrogressive Chaining, I studied the last part of the course first -- 16 through 21 .  NOTE: this is an old course map, so the chute is now obsolete.

Talk to Yourself. When studying a map talk to yourself. For example:   "Approach to 15 is easy after the
A-frame at 14. I will be leading with my left in the inner circle for 15, 16 to 17.  The circle curves to the right. 13 is a possible off course "trap" so I must give a strong right turn cue to Momo.

At 17 I will do a Front Cross as soon as Momo commits to 17.  I will lead the backside move first using my right hand to cue the backside run around and then my threadle arm to cue the jump over 18. Then I will use Run on the Dog's Line cuing the final obstacles with my right hand.

In the video on this page you can see me leading Momo over obstacle #2 with a K9 Arrow -- where she jumps directly at me. I position my body so I am ready to run to Momo's right when she commits to the jump. This cues Momo (and me too) where we will go next!
NOTE: One Mind Dogs calls this a "Human Arrow."

Coaches Eye. Use the Coaches Eye App on an iPad or Android tablet. (More on how to do this later.)

Walk-Throughs.  The timing of when walk-throughs happen can be really confusing.  Don't be afraid to ask questions so you do not miss your walk through! Sometimes "free" walk through happen.  Who knows why, but they do happen, especially when there are two rings and only one judge.  If you see people walking a course and it doesn't make sense, ask someone what is going on! A "free" walk through is an extra one and it is not timed like a normal walk-through. 

Small to Tall.  This can be confusing, especially when you see handlers of 20" jumping dogs walking first, and you have a 16" inch dog. Apparently the correct description should be: "Handlers of large dogs will walk first and then run first. Within the large dog class, the handlers of smaller dogs will walk, then run first."

Chunking and Techniques  If you have a bag of handling techniques, they can help you memorize a course!  For example, if you know the Hungarian Cross, you can say to yourself something like this:  "I'll use the Hungarian Cross for obstacles 13, 14, 15."  This helps to chunk 13 through 15 into one thing to remember  

If you use, say, the K9 arrow at obstacle #2, you will not need to remember where obstacle 3 is because the K9 arrow has embedded within itself the direction of your next movement. (See video.)

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