Training Steps for the Tandem Turn

Mary leaves a comment on my blog posting that I should share the training steps for the Tandem Turn. I think I should take a couple of days to cover this.

Definition

The Tandem Turn is a form of the Rear Cross or Back Cross, whichever of those terms you subscribe to. What makes it different from the Rear Cross is where it is conducted. You’ve done a Tandem when you cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle, or out on the flat, rather than on the approach to an obstacle.

Frankly the Tandem is better handling than a Rear Cross about 90% of the time. But sometimes only a Rear Cross will actually do.

Flatwork

A couple years ago Pati Hatfield Mah wrote this article for the Clean Run teaching a thing she called the “Reverse Vee”. Silly woman… she was documenting flat-work for the Tandem Turn. It works like this…. You start with the dog on side; then using a treat you draw him across your body to your opposite knee; and then you lure the dog into a turn away from you.

When I first show this flat-work to some students they will basically stand still and spin the dog in front of them. I don’t find this exercise particularly useful. What I’d really like to practice is turning the dog away from me while we are both in motion.

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And so we move forward together; and then I draw him past me; and continue to support him in a turn away from me. This is a simple Tandem Turn on the flat, or as Pati Hatfield Mah would have it… a Reverse Vee.

It’s fairly important to do this flatwork turning in both directions. You’ll find that some dogs will turn readily in one direction, but will be resistant to turning in the other.

I’m not really a big fan of luring. Luring is useful for shaping a performance. As a dog trainer however I abandon luring as soon as I think I can get away with it and switch to a program of praise and reward for the performance. When being rewarded for guessing right a dog begins to learn in leaps and bounds. He doesn’t learn quite so fast when constantly being lured… because it doesn’t really take a clever dog to follow a hand with food in it.

Introducing the Tandem on the Hurdle

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As soon as possible what I should like to do is transfer the work I’ve done on the flat in teaching my dog to turn away from me into the more robust movement associated with jumping.

There’s always a risk that a dog will shut down in this kind of training. If you think about it the handler tends to curl up as though to strike his dog in a menacing fashion on the landing side of the jump. So if the dog is shutting down a bit it might be a good idea to go away from the raw skill training for a bit by shifting the context to other obstacle performance or just plain running with the dog. And then you come back to this little bit to train and to proof.

The best way to avoid shutting down the dog is to remember that if the handler intends to do a Tandem Turn on the landing side of the jump, then he should arrive at the jump at approximately the same instant as the dog. If the handler gets to the jump early (as in, before the dog) then there’s not much he can really do but assume the menacing posture as he coils to take the step into the dog’s space.

The Lateral Distance Step

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The next practice with the Tandem is what I call the “lateral distance” step. What the handler wants to do is work parallel to the dog from a comfortable distance of 10′ or so. The cues are the same and the timing is the same. And still, the handler crosses on the landing side of the jump.

The biggest mistake a handler will make when practicing this is not actually using the lateral distance which has been so carefully saved up for handler movement in a convincing fashion. Although working at a comfortable distance from the dog it’s the handler’s job to sell the turn.

The Layered Tandem

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This is a rather advanced application of the Tandem Turn. The handler shows the turn and gives the dog a strong command to turn away. But rather than going all the way around the jump the handler will layer to the inside of the jump.

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I expect that I will write more on the Tandem 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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