More Fun with the Pinwheel

To continue yesterday’s discussion; we’ll use the pinwheel to practice a bit of basic distance skills. Note that when working a dog at a distance it’s most likely that the handler won’t be moving well. Certainly the handler won’t be alongside the dog. When working at any appreciable distance from the dog -and unable to provide much in the way of movement-the handler must use simple focus to cue the dog for direction.


Before adding the distance, let’s begin with the basic sequence. I’ve added a jump and the opportunity for the handler to turn his dog out of the pinwheel before resuming the flow. I’ve drawn here a handler’s path that introduces the pinwheel from the tandem position to give a little acceleration to the overall performance. Then, in the transition from jump #3 to #4 the handler turns the dog away again with a Tandem turn.

Note that the sequence begins with the handler behind the dog and pushing; essentially a fast dog handling plan. Yet when the handler pushes the dog away in the turn from #3 to #4 the handler is now forward of the dog and has made a speed change to slow dog handling (forward, and pulling).


Next, what I’m going to ask my students to do is a layered Tandem. Note that the handler approaches jump #3 with a bit of lateral distance to the dog. This allows the handler to make the step towards the dog to sell the turn, without actually getting tapped behind the jump.


It’s not a terrible big jump to replace jump #4 with a set of weave poles. Many handlers will want to run in and micromanage the dog’s performance of the weave poles. However, since I’ve constrained my students to do a layered Tandem they’ll just have to sell the turn and trust their dogs to the performance of the poles.

Invariably I’ll have to caution my students not to make a run for the exit of the weave poles after taking the Tandem step. Indeed, the handler should be interested in and focused on the entry to the weave poles…. rather than the exit.


Now we’ll turn this into a masters’ gamble. Remember the containment line I drew for the original pinwheel exercise. We’ll use the same containment line and still get the change of directions after jump #3. Again, note that even from a distance the handler has reserved a bit of real estate to take the Tandem step and sell the turn. Without the step it might be unlikely that the dog will believe the turn.

This should have a fairly high success rate. Certainly we’ve been gradually patterning dogs to the overall sequence. But that patterning can be a useful tool.

What does a student hear? What does a student learn?

I have students who will train with me for many months before they really start to understand what I’m telling them every week. I’ve adopted the phrase “teaching is a game of repetition.” It makes me wonder really what people get from two or even four days of seminar or camp work.

Truly my best students are those who’ve trained with me a number of years now. The natural handler is a rare bird in today’s world. I wrote at some length the other day about what it takes to be a world class player in our sport. Fundamentally the handler must learn to be a natural handler. Though I’m always amazed to visit the websites and blogs of top handlers and see little more than pontification on the task of training the dog while shedding no light on the art of the handler. It is little wonder that most people who subscribe to a “school” or a “system” are so unable to make it work for them. They’re missing the fundamentals.

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 “More Fun with the Pinwheel”

  1. Ron Watson Says:

    Hey Bud,
    Great lesson…

    Do you think you could cross post your intro + on your blog or in an article on K9Athlete?

    It would be a great way to generate traffic and it would help with agility content on my site.

    I’ve made you an author over there, so you can post this. Just copy the html from your editor and paste it into the html code of the editor on k9athlete.

    You’ll probably have to ‘toggle’ the view.

    I’d love to get content like this and pass the traffic over here. That’s how it works


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