The Prospect of Hanging Concentrates the Mind


—Samuel Johnson

How would you like to have perfect timing? Never again be late with a command or movement, and never again be early. It’s really quite a simple matter once you understand that every movement and every command has a specific cue. All the handler needs is to understand his cues and be disciplined enough to use them.

Timing is dictated by position and event. You first have to get out of your head that “timing” in agility has anything to do with time whatsoever. It’s all a matter of where things are positioned in space, you, the dog, and the obstacle. Thinking in terms of time creates the illusion that the handler mush rush a movement with a fast dog, or that the handler of a slower dog can be completely indifferent.

Timing of Verbal Commands

Most people think of timing as a matter of when to give a verbal command. In fact, the timing of verbal commands is just about the least important requite for perfect timing in agility. Nonetheless, the handler can observe a simple rule in terms of how a verbal command should be timed for the dog.

We’ve all seen that handler whose timing of verbal commands is so bad that he might be saying “jump” while the dog is up in the air over the jump for which the command is given. Obviously, the dog had already figured out that the jump was the correct obstacle.

We have also seen the handler whose handler says “jump” when the dog is facing a wrong course jump. The dog is absolutely correct to take the jump when the handler has given the mission to do so.

A command for obstacle performance should be given to the dog at the moment that he is facing the obstacle. Consequently the handler should focus on his real job, which is to get the dog facing the next correct obstacle. And then, at the earliest possible moment, the handler gives the command rather than waiting. As dogs can move faster than humans move, it’s not a bad idea to give the dog the mission for the next obstacle even while at a considerable distance.

Timing of Movements

Any understanding of timing must begin with understanding how a dog moves. Therefore the handler must acknowledge and understand the Laws of Dogs in motion:

The Laws of Dogs in Motion ©

         The dog turns when the handler turns

         The dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path

         The dog gets his speed cue from the handler’s speed

         The dog gets his direction cue from the handler’s shoulders, toes, hips, and movement

         A dog ahead of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position

The first law is really the most important. The dog turns when the handler turns. This isn’t anything tricky or mystical. The dog really wants to go in the same direction his handler is going. So naturally the dog will turn when the handler turns.

Here’s a simple example. The course begins with two jumps followed by a sharp right hand turn to a jump. What is the handler’s cue to turn the dog to jump #3?



In order to understand the timing of the turn we should acknowledge one of the Laws of a Dog in Motion: “The dog turns when the handler turns. With that in mind, the handler should execute his turn at the “corner” of the dog’s turn. The handler should not show a turning movement while the dog needs to continue his line. So, in the example, the handler should save his command to turn until the dog is committed over the jump.

If the handler shows the turn while the dog’s feet are still on the ground on the approach to jump #2 he risks causing the dog to pull off the jump (judged a refusal) or drop the bar. If the handler is late showing the turn then he risks losing the dog to an off-course over the dummy jump beyond jump #2.

Showing the turn can come from any combination of the handler’s cues: the verbal, stopping (or even slowing); or actually turning in the new direction of the course. Doing any of these things before the dog has actually committed up and over the jump is “cheating the turn.”

Timing of Turns on the Flat

A good example of using the dog’s position to cue the handler’s movement can be found in the Front Cross. One of the most important applications of a Front Cross is to create a “corner” that lines the dog up in a nice straight line.



This example shows a 270º turn in the transition from jump #3 to jump #4. The handler of the fast dog might believe that he has to hurry his turn because his dog is fast and he’d just better get going with the turn.


So the handler begins his Cross at the instant the dog gets to the position marked “X”. Recall again our simple Law of a Dog in Motion, the dog turns when the handler turns! And indeed the handler’s timing for the turning movement will give the dog his line of approach into the box. Draw a line from the center of the “X” through the center of jump #4. Continue the line to see where it might take the dog. The handler’s premature movement sets the corner of the turn and gives the dog a line into the box that directs the dog to a wrong course jump.


In this example the corner of the dog’s turn is on the flat. To determine where the corner of the dog’s turn is, draw a line through jumps #4 and #5. Where the line comes to rest on the take-off side of jump #4 is the corner and defines the position at which the dog must arrive before the handler shows any part of the turn.

The Prospect of Hanging

Saddam Hussein was executed on December 30, 2006. After being found guilty and convicted of crimes against humanity by an Iraqi Tribunal for the murder of 148 Shi’ites in the town of Dujail in 1982, in retaliation for an assassination attempt against him, he was sentenced to death by hanging.

His mind was not concentrated.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

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