Path and Pressure for Distance Handling


A dozen years ago I penned the Laws of a Dog in Motion. More and more I’m thinking that the Laws are much more about the handler in motion than the dog.


I’m trying to develop a formula for effective pressure to direct the dog at any distance based on the speed of the handler’s movement and the direction he is facing while factoring in the consequence of slowing down, speeding up, or quite frankly… coming to a complete stop. The overall formula must take into consideration the tempering of the dog’s obstacle focus.

It probably takes a mathematician to express it correctly because the variability of factors is so great. However, like much of dog agility there’s quite a know thy dog consideration in the handler’s choice of movement and understanding how much pressure the dog needs to be well directed.

Here’s a puzzle for you:


In this five-jump pinwheel how much pressure of movement should be required for the dog to be properly directed? What direction should the handler face at any moment in the performance given the overall length of his path?


Applying the know thy dog litmus… the Green path is for my young humane society rescue Martian dog Blue. She’s had something over a year of training and, while she has considerable focus for contact obstacles, jumps are largely optional to her so far. This means my path will have to be robust. Note too how I’ll work through the jumps, even bending in a bit on the landing side to keep the pressure out through the jump.

The Red path is my young girl Hazard. I’ve put her through a pretty strong program of jump conditioning. All I really have to do is keep focus on the jump she’s working on and be prepared to take a short accelerating step towards the next jump should she look back at me for information (and frankly, she doesn’t much ask for information any more).

The Black path (yeah… there’s a third path out there!) would be the extent of movement required for my old boy Bogie, now retired. Inasmuch as I have little intention of moving at all, I’d be mostly challenged by correctly showing him the turning direction into the pinwheel so that he doesn’t wrap back to the left after jump #2. The old boy had considerable obstacle focus. Mostly all I had to do is give him some verbal affirmation and support while he work, and he was completely capable of running entire courses while I did my imitation of JC Thompson (standing in the middle).


The biggest difficulty I have in teaching handlers distance work is the understanding of what direction they should face when not moving. We become conditioned at an early point in the sport to run parallel to the dog so that if we drew a line from tip of one shoulder to tip of the other it would create a line perpendicular to the dog’s path. And truly, when we are moving that is probably the correct presentation.

What we have to remember is that when we’ve stopped, that means we aren’t moving any more. (You can quote me on this one). So the rules of the set of the handler’s shoulders have to change.


You’ll note in this drawing, color by color, the handler remains fixed and focused and facing the next jump in the sequence until the dog commits up and over the bar of that jump. This is by extension and at a distance good old fashioned meat and potatoes handling. The handler should always be intent on doing his job, one obstacle at a time.

Q & A

Is this good handling?

No… it’s horrible.

Is this good training?

Yes… it’s wonderful.


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


One Response to “Path and Pressure for Distance Handling”

  1. Ron Watson Says:

    Really cool blog entry. You’re doing some good work here.

    Love the socioeconomic diatribes. I feel you on that.

    The last time I was in Germany I stayed with this really cool guy, a pressure trainer, quite literally. A big giant of a man who has a real way with dogs. Interesting stuff for me.

    Anyway, he was talking about a Hann Schlegel (sp) seminar (he’s pretty famous I guess…) he attended to where they did some pressure stuff in circular patterns.

    He told me that you can slow a dog down on a circular pattern by looking at their face, or slightly in front of them, and you can make them go faster if you look to the rear of them.

    I’ve got a really crazy border collie with a ridiculous outrun here that it works pretty well on.

    Very cool stuff.


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: