Cheating the Turn



Here’s a drawing that I did that appeared on the cover of the Clean Run about 13 years ago. It reminds me how little we knew about training dogs for agility in those days. My entire training philosophy for new dogs these days is that the dog chooses every step. We never push, pull, force, or otherwise manipulate the dog in his choices. This is where learning comes from and is key to the dog’s boldness.

While the drawing appeared in black & white you’ll note that I did the whole bit with a blue ink ball-point pen.

Honoring the Dog’s Path

What does the expression Cheating the Turn mean? In my own vocabulary it means that the handler abruptly shows the turn without precue in the moment before the dog gets to the corner of the turn.

A thing we understand when we’re driving our cars is that we should turn the wheel when the car gets to the corner… not when we first see the corner. I know you guys know this simple rule, because you are alive today to read this. So why is it that we would turn our dogs before the dog actually gets to the corner? Someone said once that you can prove anything by analogy so I’m not going to be an absolutist in terms of what it proves.

You’ll note that most errors on course are errors of timing. The dog drops a bar because just at the moment he is gathering to jump the handler jerks away or rotates into the turn (the corner for which is actually after the jump, and not before). And I’ll tell you a funny thing. For people with really hot fast dogs… most of their errors are for being too soon in the cues for their dogs. Isn’t that ironic? Too soon?

I understand the psychological conundrum. The handler is moving to position and “Eeeek!” here comes that fast dog. So the handler has to get going in an absolute state of panic. If you understand the rules of timing you’ll note that the rules are precisely the same for the fast dog as for the slow dog. Indeed, with the fast dog the more perfect the handler must be. The fast dog handler doesn’t get to miss the timing events.

There is little profit in panic.

Dog Camps on Yahoo

A new discussion group has been created on Yahoo to announce dog training camps and seminars in the United States. The group is open to the providers of those camps and seminars, to the seminarists who lead them, and to the agility enthusiasts who might be interested in a camp or seminar in their area.

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You know, I’ve been wondering what the effect of the economy has been on our sport in general. I’ve heard some anecdotal woes but I don’t know the real effects. Are trial entries down? Is it harder to fill a seminar? A doggie-vacation camp? I don’t know.

Sequences from Sunday Lesson Plan


This is a combination lesson plan. You’ll note that the red numbers represent a distance training and proofing sequence. We encourage our advanced / masters handlers to layer at a more than comfortable distance while the dog works away over the contact obstacles. In this kind of training it’s usually not a matter of whether the dog will work at that distance, but whether the dog really understands his job on the contact obstacles while the handler isn’t looming over him (being embedded in the context of performance).

The white-numbered sequence is a bit of a handling riddle. You’ll note that the handler is expected to turn the dog after jump #4 while avoiding the dogwalk. Frankly, even if the handler finds a solution the dog will probably be set upon a path that favors a wrong course entry to the pipe tunnel at #7. So the solution to the jump #4 to #5 transition should take into consideration the downstream challenge.


Once again, the red numbers represent a distance challenge. So, right after conditioning the dog to go up onto the dogwalk… we’re asking the handler to turn the dog into the pipe tunnel instead and taking away his ability to do so by looming over the dog’s head micro-managing the change of direction. I’ll give you this one hint… about the weakest thing we can do to solve this sort of thing is talk. Talk is the weakest cue a handler can possibly give. 

The white sequence provides rather the same challenge, keeping the dog off the dogwalk and into the pipe tunnel. And, having solved the tunnel mystery the handler doesn’t really get to stand around and admire his work since after the tunnel the dog must be drawn on a very flat turn from jump #6 to #7, whilst avoiding the dummy jump set in a logical pinwheel position.


The real question with the red-numbered sequence is which side of the containment line should the handler work? It might be interesting from either side; though you’ll note that the send to the tunnel is a more novice objective than lateral layering from the #5 pipe tunnel to the weave poles at #8.

The white sequence is a lazy easy thing that probably features a single Front Cross on the landing side of jump #5. I will often run sequences to really pick on the execution of a single movement. It’s my intention to give all of my students a dynamite Front Cross (well actually, I want all of their movements to be dynamite!)

It’s amazing to me how many handlers will fall into the sleep-dreamy world of the behind and pushing handling plan. In this sequence I will have students (at home and at seminars) who’ll fairly insist on a Tandem on the landing side of jump #2, and another Tandem in the turn from jump #6 to jump #7.


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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