Don Quixote and the Pinwheel

You can put on the course the simplest element of the pinwheel (a 90° turn, give or take) and it will pass without comment or generate much consternation or even challenge. But if you put it all together there is something magical in the presentation that warps the perception of the handler.

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We started this evening in a semi-private workshop with this simple wind and rewind of a pinwheel. The tricky bit, if there is one is in the turnaround (rewind) at jump #5.

I have just a couple of observations. Most handlers will begin on the inside of the pinwheel and never really manage to get out of it. Given that the dog’s path is considerably longer than the handler’s path, this virtually guarantees that the handler will not move as well as he might. To this add the usual side note: Movement is motive, movement is direction. Why would we deprive the dog of movement?

Also, in the turnaround after jump #5 most handlers will turn the dog to the left (back to the handler’s position) in spite of the fact that that a turn to the right is the natural turning direction and the dog will have a tougher consequential path.

One other observation worth noting is that some handlers will race mentally forward of the dog in a pinwheel, typically addressing not the next correct jump but the jump following that, or two following. It’s terrible undisciplined stuff and manages to put the team at risk every time they enter a pinwheel.

After the entertainment round I did my usual playful look at the other side of the coin, in terms of handling.

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First of all, we began practicing the entry into the pinwheel from the Tandem position. The Tandem is an accelerating and sweeping movement. And frankly it gives the handler considerably more real estate to conduct honest and robust movement. I also, in this remix of the handling plan drew an arbitrary containment line, and gave my students these two instructions: Shorten stride on the approach to jump #2 (so as not to use up all the available real estate); Face jump #3 after jump #2.

This leaves the handler forward enough of the dog to gain position for a Cross after jump #4 in order to influence the dog into a right turn after jump #5.

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Just as a moments diversion, I had to share this drawing with you. You’ll note the dog’s optimum path… in black. I’ve also drawn a handler path… of a handler unconscious of the dog’s optimum path (of course the dog won’t be on that path if the handler moves in this manner). Understanding the dog’s path is important here. The handler should be careful not to step over the line that indicates the dog’s path in order to create that path. To get a neat turn back toward jump #6 the handler should be prepared to suck back behind the jump as the dog curls around the wing of the jump.

I’ll continue this discussion tomorrow.

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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