Developing Handling Skills for Awesome Agility Teams


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What is it about?

After many years of observation, study, experimentation, and practical application, Linda Mecklenburg has arrived at a simple but comprehensive approach to agility handling that is appropriate for all dogs and handlers, from the beginner to the most accomplished competitor. Developing Handling Skills for Awesome Agility Teams describes how to communicate with your dog and effectively cue him to perform the challenges he will encounter on course.

This book will teach you what your dog already knows and wants you to learn—agility handling uses motion as the primary cue. Understanding how to use motion appropriately and in a timely manner is the most important handling skill you can
master. Inappropriate motion is responsible for the majority of handling mistakes on the agility course. Have you ever wondered why your dog jumps long, goes too wide, turns the wrong way, runs by obstacles, goes off-course, or otherwise doesn’t respond the way you expect? This book will help you answer these questions as it demonstrates various ways in which motion cues, when balanced appropriately with other cues, can create different responses from your dog. Developing Handling Skills will help you discover the best way to balance cues to guide your dog efficiently and accurately on course. Believe it or not, all you need to do is learn how to “run in the right direction.”

Developing Handling Skills is the most comprehensive book available on dog agility handling. It is designed to be a resource that you will refer to for many years to come. The sport will continue to evolve, but our dogs’ responses to the natural cues will not change, and motion will remain the primary cue. Use this book as a guide to determine the best way to communicate with your dog, and to personalize your handling cues to suit the needs of your team. Contains over 200 color photos and 500 diagrams

Who wrote it?

Linda Mecklenburg is considered one of the premier agility instructors in the United States, and her students have achieved top honors at the highest levels of the sport. She specializes in perfecting the teamwork between dog and handler. Each student comes to Awesome Paws with a different background and varying goals and objectives. Linda customizes her instruction for each team. Regardless of their aspirations, to stand on the podium at the World Championships or have an exhilarating run, helping her students achieve their dreams is Linda’s goal.

No doubt one of the most accomplished handlers in the United States, Linda has won numerous national championships. She has represented the United States in international competition on 14 occasions, with 6 different dogs. At the FCI Agility World Championships, she has earned both gold and silver medals in the Team competition, as well as several top ten Individual placements.

Considered one of the pioneers of dog agility since the earliest days of the sport, Linda is one of the leading innovators of training and handling techniques. She constantly searches for ways to improve performance and raise the standard of excellence and so remains a driving force in the evolution of the sport of dog agility.

When was it published? 2011

Who published it? Clean Run

Illustrations- Full colour images


“Linda Mecklenburg’s system is great, and I think, fairly easy to learn. In her new book, it’s all spelled out really clearly in ways that are easy to understand.” —Diane

“It doesn’t matter what handling system you are embracing, the information in this book speaks to our dogs in their language and can truly enlighten us to be able to speak ‘dog’ more fluidly and completely. It’s so fabulous to have this inclusive, thorough book, bringing trainers/handlers through the system step by step! I can’t begin to identify all the parts that are so powerful individually and how, collectively, they are magical. Teaching the hierarchy of cues as the dog sees it is only one part. The skills for getting ahead and telling the dog where they will be going down the line are amazing (lateral/forward sends/RTH in motion/sends to non turning obstacles, crosses using lateral motion, etc.)—each piece is brilliant and combined it is incredibly empowering. I often reflect on my gratitude for this literature and system and what it must have taken to internalize it and then communicate it to others. It’s a gift of love to dogs, and hopefully for their humans who chose to embrace it. There’s never been anything available such as this, and it is sorely needed. I just wanted to personally thank Linda and Monica for the journey of knowledge you have made possible, and for the tremendous gift you’ve contributed to our dogs.” —Helene Juice


~~In this book, Linda Mecklenburg, one of the most accomplished handlers in the United States, come up with a simple and comprehensive handling system suitable for all dogs and handlers.  She explains how to communicate with our dogs in a language they understand, using natural cues, and in particular motion, to develop both a winning partnership and performance, personalised to suit each individual team.

Simple yet effective, this book will teach you to master the most important handling skill in agility;  when inappropriately used, motion is the cause of the majority of handling mistakes.

With over 200 colour photos and 500 detailed diagrams, each exercise is elaborately explained, making this book easy and straightforward to follow.

Chapter one introduces us to cues.  Mecklenburg begins by explaining that the most effective way to communicate with our dogs is in their language, which is why in her training approach she emphasises the use of body language. These are natural cues that the dog can respond to intuitively without having to think about what his response might be. She continues by looking in more detail at the six different cues that she uses to guide her dogs. She explains  how we can use all of the following for forward cues, turning cues and collection cues, providing diagrams alongside demonstrating how to do this.

These are;

  • Motion: Mecklenburg describes this as her primary cue, giving the dog direction information and motivation.
  • Shoulders: The shoulders naturally direct the dog, particularly in the absence of motion. Again the shoulders give direction information.
  • Location: location can be relative to the dog or the obstacle, and by being on the approach or completion side of an obstacle or ahead or behind the dog.
  • Arm/hand signals: Arm/ hand signals are trained cues but it is important to remember that they are attached to shoulders which are a natural cue.
  • Verbal cue: Verbal cues are also trained cues. Mecklenburg stresses that that it is important not to overuse these or use them inappropriately as this has the potential to decrease the dog’s reactivity to natural cues. Verbal cues can be in the form of the obstacle name, the dog’s name and directional commands.
  • Eye contact: Mecklenburg explains that eye contact naturally cues the dog with indirect eye contact a forward cue and direct eye contact a collection cue. Our eyes are also our dog’s primary side cues.


Chapter two looks at fundamental skills and Mecklenburg begins by explaining the importance of foundation training and how we should be aware of our natural cues right from the beginning, taking care that we don’t train our dog to inadvertently ignore them.  In this chapter Mecklenburg reviews the following fundamental skills.

  • Recalls: Mecklenburg explains that the recall to heel is the most important foundation skill as it helps the dog to respond predictably to cues.  She describes how she goes about  teaching and building on this, providing diagrams of exercises to practice.  She then moves on to variations of the foundation recall to increase the difficulty.
  • Sends:  It is important to be able to send the dog forward to a turning obstacle whilst moving laterally away from them. Mecklenburg advises to practice sends initially around a cone or post before explaining how to progress to teaching forward sends and lateral sends with and without jumps.
  • Basic Turns: Mecklenburg explains how she practises the four basic turns – pull, front cross, rear cross and push – on the flat without jumps to begin with, giving us step-by-step instructions and diagrams. Once these have been mastered on the flat, she describes how to move on to adding in motion and jumps.

Chapter three looks at standard cue combinations, combinations of cues that come up frequently in agility courses, focusing on the three common actions – to land and go forward (extension), to land and turn (extension or relative collection) and to collect, jump with a round arc, land, and turn (true collection).

Chapter four moves on to balancing cues with turning obstacles. Mecklenburg explains how by using different motion cues for the turning obstacles we are able to achieve a wide variation in how the dog performs the 4 basic turns. She looks at how to cue the four different turns using lateral motion, deceleration, backward motion, forward motion and no motion.

Chapter five studies balancing cues with non-turning obstacles.  Natural cues can sometimes be a disadvantage with non-turning obstacles; the dog does not need direction information on approach, as we want him to perform the obstacle independently.  Mecklenburg looks at approaches to non-turning obstacles including straight line sequences and turning sequences, as well as how to use cues during performance and on completion of non-turning obstacles. Finally, she touches on individual obstacle considerations.

Chapter six looks at handling common sequences, explaining how to use the six different cues to execute various handling strategies for common sequences found in a course, including how to end and begin each sequence. Linda Mecklenburg has also developed a companion DVD specifically for this chapter, demonstrating the sequences discussed in the book.

Chapter seven moves on to opening sequences, which, unlike other specialised handling situations, are found on every course. Mecklenburg looks at types of opening sequences including straight lines, turning and specialised opening sequences. She also looks at the advantages of handling an opening sequence with a lead out, both stationary and in motion. Finally she looks at lead out front crosses and a lead out push before touching on handling opening sequences without a lead out, in the form of running starts and sending starts.

Chapter eight examines advanced skills. Mecklenburg talks us through how she uses a progression drill called the zig-zag exercise to teach the dog to read the handler’s line of motion and negotiate obstacles in his path with minimal assistance. She continues by looking at responsibility for obstacles, explaining that it is the dog’s job to perform the obstacle and the handler’s job to cue it so that it is in the dogs field of view.

Chapter nine focuses on specialised handling situations, discussing how to handle these while maintaining consistency. Mecklenburg looks at obstacle discrimination, blind crosses, layering and shaping.

Chapter ten moves on to course handling, and explains how knowledge of natural cues and how to use motion has an important effect on choosing the best course handling strategy. Mecklenburg talks us through how she would use these cues to run the 4 different courses shown in the accompanying diagrams.

In chapter eleven, finding a balance, Mecklenburg explains how to find the most appropriate cue combination for each obstacle  whilst at the same time balancing them, so that no single cue or combination of cues is ever overused, which could have negative effects.

In chapter twelve Mecklenburg concludes by explaining that successful handling in agility comes down to a good knowledge of how our dogs naturally relate to us as a handler and how they interpret our cues.

Finally, Mecklenburg  provides 10 appendices covering an overview of cues, jumping arcs, turning and non-turning obstacles, sends, arm/hand signals, lateral motion, forward motion, lines of motion, motion used in crosses and a summary of handling objectives, plus a useful glossary.

This book is a fabulous resource, packed full of great information that you will find yourself referring to for years to come.


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