On Handling Systems

Handling is a journey of discovery. We train our dogs, learn new discipline, perfect our movements and our skills at giving our dog direction… and over time everything comes into sharp focus.

Most sequences provide opportunity for discovery at some level. With my own students I’m not so much interested in teaching a handling system as I am teaching them to understand matters of discipline. I will push them beyond complacent execution just so they can get a sense of what is possible to them.

I’ve been playing with a variety of sequences for tomorrow’s mini-clinic. I expect that I can predict what I’ll see my students do; and predict with equal clarity what I should like to show them.

First Sequence – The Riddle of Sides


What I really wanted to accomplish with this opening sequence is an offer of subtle challenges with the dog working at full speed. The first four obstacles are all about flow. Note that the placement of the dogwalk fairly allows me to predict that the handler will be trapped against the dog while attending the down contact, and so shall be behind the dog in the #4 through #6 transition.


You’ll note that the flow of the dog’s path actually favors the wrong-course pipe tunnel. And so the handler will have to demonstrate his skill at the red “X” in drawing the dog into him to square up for the A-frame. I expect my own students would us an RFP to draw in the dog. But if screaming and flapping your arms works for you… you could try that as well.


So now the handler is on the side away from the turn at the #7 tire. Almost surely we’ll see the handler resort to a Back Cross (at “X”). Ideally this will draw the dog neatly around for a good approach to the weave poles at #8. The red dog’s path shows how an ill-timed Back Cross will cause the dog to refuse the tire.

What I might do at this point is demonstrate how a Tandem Turn (putting the cross on the landing side of the tire) takes most of the risk out of crossing behind the dog, as compared to the Back Cross.

It’s good to have a Back Cross for use in an emergency. But you know, every single emergency shouldn’t be of our own creation. Let’s back up and have another look at this sequence.


Humor me here just a little bit. I would really like to get the handler on the landing side of jump #5. But that’s not going to happen unless the handler gets some kind of lateral advantage on his dog during the performance of the dogwalk. With that in mind we might want to do a bit of proof and practice on a basic send and then working the dogwalk at an aggressive lateral distance.

This is actually quite advanced; and it mightn’t be the right handling at all if the dog isn’t actually trained to understand the performance of the down contact without the handler sitting on his head.


Given the generous advantage in real estate from the lateral distance performance of the dogwalk the handler should easily be able to slide into position on the landing side of jump #5 for a Front Cross. Note that this puts the handler in a blocking position on the pipe tunnel, effectively taking away the wrong course option.

I won’t bother to draw the turn from the tire to the weave poles. Now, having solved the riddle of sides, the handler will do a simple Post Turn from tire to weaves.


I know there are several handling plans to solve the balance of this sequence. And anything that actually works is right. But just for a moment, humor me again. I’ve broken the sequence into colored segments so you can follow along with the action.

The black figures show the handler sending the dog over jump #9 and on to the teeter at #10 while the handler layers to the opposite side of jump #15.

The red sequence is simply a bit of lateral distance work. Note that the handler’s path parallels the dog’s path. The handler moves to the opposite side of jump #12 and there will use a Front Cross to draw the dog into a turn.

The blue figures show the handler pressing a line parallel to the dog’s to draw the dog through jump #12. The handler might use a Front Cross here; but being in a bit of a hurry this is an excellent place for a Blind Cross.

The green figures show a simple turning transition… but again with the handler changing sides to his dog. I will show my students the mechanics of a rolling Front Cross. Note that after getting the dog into the pipe tunnel the handler will begin drawing away a moment before the dog makes his exit. The handler still wants maintain a control position forward of his dog and needs to show a turning cue so that the dog doesn’t elect the wrong-course #15 jump.

In the purple sequence the handler draws the dog past the A-frame for a squaring Front Cross. At this point whatever advantage the handler had in real estate has finally evaporated, and the handler will have to race around the A-frame to keep the line straight on the dog’s exit from the pipe tunnel.

More Sequences

I’ve spent a little too much time on the first sequence and have other work to do. While I had some dandy things to say about these other sequences I’ve designed… it’ll have to wait! It’s late.




You’ll note that I’ve put an alphabetic index (https://budhouston.wordpress.com/index/) page up. I find it’s easier to browse than going through old blog archives. It strikes me that something I write with a cute title will get 400 reads… but a good exercise or training piece will come and go so quickly that it’ll have only 40 or 50 reads; (yes, I get all the stats!). Anyhow, a lot of my posts have been good reference material and I’m trying to make them more accessible.

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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