Framing the Distance Presentation

“Distance Work” is not just a matter of whether a dog will work at a distance. The handler must have the skill to shape the dog’s path to frame the distance presentation. Sometimes the wise words of an old golfing buddy of mine occur to me as I watch someone spoiling a line of approach for a distance send; he would say to me “Have you ever tried aiming”?

The handler should view the available real estate leading into the distance challenge as a canvas upon which he will paint the shaping movement which most ideally frame the path ahead. The handler should also understand the attributes of movement. An “attribute” is the expected result or yield of a movement as it impacts the dog’s path or speed.

A common mistake a handler might make in contemplating distance work is the belief that working a dog at a distance has anything to do with the handler stopping while the dog goes on. If anything the handler’s movement at a distance must be a true and constant application of pressure that helps direct the dog and to answer the ever-present question… where to next?

Post & Tandem on the Flat

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In this drawing the red line indicates the handler’s containment while the dog performs obstacles #3 through #6. Aside from just the sequencing performance the handler should ask the dog to lie down for a count of five seconds while remaining behind the containment line.

Note that the handler starts snug with the dog on the dismount of the dogwalk. If you think about it the handler wants the dog to get ahead so that he can step behind the dog on the landing side of jump #2. Most handlers will be closely trapped to the dog on the dismount of the dogwalk in any case.

The path after jump #2 is deliberately drawn to show the hard Post the handler shows the dog after the jump. Just as the dog slides past the handler’s position the handler will push in the turn to the right (the Tandem). The dog’s turning position constitutes the corner of approach to jump #3 and consequently on to the pipe tunnel at #4.

Two attributes of the Tandem Turn should be noted. 1) The Tandem creates a wide sweeping turn; 2) The Tandem accelerates the dog. We want both of these attributes in the turn. The wide sweeping corner opens up the approach to jump #3 and brings the dog around to a more logical line to the pipe tunnel. Acceleration is desirable too as it gives impulsion and motive for sending the dog on.  

Front Cross – Straight-Ahead Send

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The straight-ahead send can be problematic, and more difficult than it looks. The handler must endeavor to drive from behind as much as possible. In this drawing the handler sets up for a Front Cross on the landing side of jump #9. Note that the station for the Cross might have been much nearer to jump #10 if this were a routine handling sequence. But because the handler has a compelling interest in sending the dog ahead at some point, he will want to reserve as much real estate for movement as possible.

This is a simple Front Cross but must be executed in the anticipation of a speed change (from forward of the dog to behind the dog). So out of the rotation the handler will need steps toward jump #10 to indicate the path and straighten the line… but the dog must get ahead of the handler as soon as possible, and well before getting to jump #10. This is an excellent opportunity for the handler to shorten stride without taking off any sense of urgency or making a show of putting on the brakes.

The difficulty with the turn from jump #10 to the dogwalk is that the dog will have a good look at the table which is directly on his path. So the handler might give a little call to the dog to get him to look back. Note that I’ve draw the handler facing the ascent ramp of the dogwalk; he’s also tucked up behind the wing of the jump, reserving a couple of strong steps (line shown in green) to get the dog out to the dogwalk.

Midterm

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I omitted any discussion of the send to the pipe tunnel from the table with the handler held at some distance by our containment lines. This is probably solved by a simple parallel path presentation of the jump. The handler wants to establish the parallel path before releasing the dog. On the other hand, the handler doesn’t really want to exhaust all of his real estate for movement before releasing the dog.

You may find that the difficulty in this exercise is getting the dog to lie down with the handler at a distance, and maintaining the down position when the handler begins to move. Clearly this discipline is the subject of a training program all by itself.

 

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store

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