What If… Nancy Gyes Was Jewish?

Someone asked me once what was the significance of Nancy Gyes alphabet drills. My quick answer was to say it was her way to create imaginative and fanciful context for the practice of fundamentals. The next question, of course, is what the hell does all that mean? I’ve always found that fundamentals are fundamentals and will be discovered like a found poem in the constant shifting context of agility course design. So the alphabet drills are not in themselves law and mantra. They simply give the opportunity to play with sequencing in a variety of path shapes to challenge the handler.

Don’t you wonder how different might be her alphabet drills if Nancy Gyes was of the Jewish faith… making her sequences to describe the Hebrew alphabet? Frankly I’ve been thinking that much could be made of dog and handler starting position using nikkud (it might be interesting for specifying handler station during distance work, for example).

Anyhow, working her way through the Alef-bais might begin something like this:

The Letter Alef


[Please note that all inserted text is my voice. I would not presume to imagine what Nancy Gyes would actually recommend from a handling point of view.]


Presented with the ostensible “serpentine” at #6 and #7 I’ve found that many agility handler swill pucker up on their handling responsibility inasmuch as the mission for the dog finding his way in the sequence has been given over as the dog’s responsibility in the overall training objective in our culture; rather than the explicit responsibility of the handler.

The handling I should love to see in this closing is for the handler to storm past the exit of the pipe tunnel in a running Blind Cross to help draw the dog out marginally to set the approach to the jump and bank on a Post turn to jump #7… or heck if you’re already ahead of the dog how about punching through jump #6 into a quick Front Cross to keep the line tight and efficient?


After jump #5 I’ve abandoned my little CRCD handler man. You’ll note in illustrations below I’ve pretty much abandoned the little guy. This sequence is equally challenging before and after the weave poles. I would personally like to have the dog on my right side on the dismount of the weave poles so that I could show the opposite side entry of the pipe tunnel using counter rotation as a means of making the dog favor the correct entry to the tunnel. Though, it might be solved with a Post & Tandem fast dog approach as well.


If you use Clean Run Course Designer you’ve probably noticed that when you use connect to numbers for the dog’s path properties the line that is drawn is not true. I often have to go back in and imagine that the dog will carry through on the landing side of a jump given the trajectory of his approach and the physics of mass being hurtled through space. I’ve notice too that some handler’s don’t appreciate the linear nature of the dog’s path, nor the physics of the dog’s turning radius.

I would love to practice this sequence with a Front Cross approach to the weave poles. And there will be some dogs that need that kind of “shaping the entry” baby-sitting. By the very same token I should love to practice this sequence simply pushing the dog ahead (from the handler’s right side) to gain the entry himself… whilst the handler conducts a very bold and nearly perpendicular Rear Cross at the entry to the poles.

Aside from what is noted in the text box I also found that the transition from #6 through #11 might be challenging. The turn from jump #9 to jump #10 is actually a threadle and should be treated as such in the handling plan. The handler must set up for a left turning presentation after jump #9. If the dog turns right (due to the handler’s miscalculation) the sequence will go to hell in a hand-basket.


By this point I’ve pretty much abandoned trying to make the text presentation the same way Nancy might. She says “do this” and “do that”. I see a lot of variability depending on the training foundation on the dog and maybe making accommodations for different types of dogs.

Interesting Surfing



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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3 Responses to “What If… Nancy Gyes Was Jewish?”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Love the new blog. Followed you from agilityvision. Thanks for continuing to post.

  2. Nancy Gyes Says:

    Wow, I love the Jewish character for A. I may create a whole new set of alphabet drills with a new Yiddish theme:)

    But, they would really only help scholars who are familiar with this alphabet even though it would be fun for me to have some new patterns to work off.

    One of the reasons I used distinguishable patterns like letters was so that handlers could set up a drill without consulting a piece of paper. It is easier to remember a drill setup when you can associate it with a known design like the letters, numbers and patterns of diamonds, circles, squares, etc.

    The other rationale was for teaching ease. An instructor can tell a student who is struggling with rear crosses to practice the letter J, or who needs serpentine work to setup the arrow. No need to draw somethign on paper or say consult an article I published three years ago:)


    Nancy Gyes, who is not Jewish but likes the Jewish Alphabet

  3. budhouston Says:

    Hey Nancy,

    It’s easy to Google… the Alef-bais (Hebrew alphabet). But it’s certainly more full of consternation than our own.

    I wondered if your ears were burning. lol

    A gezunt ahf dein kop
    Bud Houston

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