Jenny Damm Rerun

I’m pulling out a weblog entry that I wrote something like two years ago. I read some of the old stuff with a real pleasure especially when I take the time to talk about what’s going on in life, the people I meet, and so forth. In that respect what I write can be a real journal, when I’m not being a pedantic kind of detail oriented teacher.

I had not remembered that while I was musing about the teaching of Jenny Damm (her training videos are excellent, by the way) that I had done a seminar up at Rondout in New York. I’m scheduled to go back up there in for three days this June.

But the funny thing, I teach the Front Cross leading with a pulling hand today as though I’ve owned it most of my life. But clearly we can mark the point in time that I incorporated it into my teaching, by the blog entry. I did understand that a properly conducted Front Cross should begin by withdrawing with the inside shoulder, rather than punching at the dog with the outside shoulder (one of the most common handling errors in our sport). But I hadn’t settled on the simple elegance of the pulling hand. I used to say hard-to-digest things like “turn first, then show”.

I include the entirety of the blog entry below. I have a lot of old writing still trapped in the dusty tombs of AgilityVision that I want to dust off and put into accessible archives of a more frequently traveled blogosphere.

The Pulling Hand of Jenny Damm


We began our last day at Rondout with an exercise in which I explained to the group that I am going to use them to try out a thing that I’m not familiar with, and probably contradicts my teaching. I confess to being a little fascinated with the “pulling hand” presented in the Jenny Damm training dvds (available at

I am an empirical learner and need to see a thing over and over again in action in order to gauge whether the movement is natural and easily understood by any number of dogs.

The awkward sequence above requires a handling moment in which the dog is drawn out of obstacle focus and into handler focus for a fully 360º turn at jump #3. We actually practiced it in both directions because I am a fan of ambidextrous training.

The way the pulling hand works is this. The handler starts with a lead on the side of the dog and them draws into a cross, keeping the same hand to draw the dog tightly around the handler’s body. This contradicts my own teaching because I’m usually an advocate of using the hand nearer to the dog as the lead hand (the on-side hand). And yet, during the course of the exercise it was clear to me that this was completely intuitive to just about all of the dogs without resorting to any program of compensatory training.

I am ever seeking those things that dogs intuitively understand. If you think about it… a good handler would understand how to run just about any dog… not just his own dog.

I guess I’ve become a fan of the Jenny Damm Pulling Hand. It works. Dogs understand it. It’s gotta go into the repertoire.


This is a variation of a post turning exercise I’ve done in the past. I designed the original exercise to illustrate the phantom Blind Cross in the post turn from #1 to #2 and from #4 to #5. A phantom Blind Cross is an inadvertent thing. The handler over-rotates and abandons connection with the dog causing the dog to tuck up on his opposite side (taking the wrong-course into the pipe tunnel). I must admit I designed this to be illustrative of the error because those who are opposed to use of the Blind Cross will say sappy things like “the Blind Cross disposes the dog to tuck up on your opposite side” when, in fact, the phenomenon is caused by an error in another movement entirely… the Post Turn.

I further made a stipulation that the handler would make a Back Cross at jumps #3, #6, and #9. I never say require handling to say that “this is the one-true way”. I believe nothing of the sort. I specify handling in order to work on a specific skill.

I showed the group at Rondout how to use a Post & Tandem presentation of the jump in order to do the Back Cross. I did notice that Jenny Damm does exactly this… but this is not unique to Jenny Damm. Many handlers in the world do a signature pull & roll in order to precue the dog to the handler’s intention to change directions at the jump. This becomes specific language to the dog and pretty much eliminates many of the ills of the Back Cross (dropped bars, refusals, and inefficient turns).

The two pipe tunnels on either side weren’t really supposed to be a part of the exercise. But since they were there and since they worked with the symmetry of the exercise I left them there and was completely delighted with the discovery that they added additional challenge to the exercise. The handler after the Back Cross had to do something to draw the dog away from the pipe tunnel for the next correct obstacle.


With a little bit of tweaking we finished the day with this course (or something very close to this). After the rather agonizing handler training in the previous exercise everyone really needed something fast and flowing so that they and their dogs could finish the day with a fun romp. Of course this course wasn’t without challenge. If I had had another day with these guys I’d certainly have done a break-down of this course.

It’s amazing to me how Novice handlers will find a way to put a lot of gratuitous Back Crosses into their course work. I personally love to have a Back Cross in my repertoire for the emergency. But every single emergency should not be of my own creation. A Back Cross on any tunnel is problematic anyhow. On the entry it can create a refusal. On the exit it can be a wobbly movement because there’s no way the dog can get any kind of precue from the handler while in the tunnel. It’s a very very technical kind of Cross.

Leaving New York

I’ll be leaving New York in the morning. It has been a great pleasure to work with the folks up in this part of the world. Many of them come to camp to train with me frequently. And I count them among my friends in this world.

I was happy to contribute to the delinquency of Miuki, the Japanese intern. She’s a very nice young lady. She does not have good language skills (either in content or pronunciation) and those closest to her have been occupying themselves with teaching her stupid idiomatic expressions and cuss words. She told me last night… “If you mess with me… you mess with the whole trailer park!” Tho I subbed the word mess.

Working with a lot of people who do rescue work is always humbling to me. They do hard work and tough work in our world. I do not have the temperament for this kind of work because I cry too easily at the inhumanity to dogs that is so prevalent. So I learn from them…and they learn from me. It’s a wonderful arrangement because I get paid for it.

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

4 Responses to “Jenny Damm Rerun”

  1. Michelle Says:

    Bud, is your blog on Agilityvision completely gone? I tried last week to read it and again yesterday. The Agilityvision site is completely different. I had bookmarked your AV blog and now I can’t access it.
    There was a lot of good stuff there I like to reread!
    Any idea how to access it?

  2. Susan Eastwood Says:

    Hi Bud,

    I was wondering what your thoughts were on why the pulling hand front cross works so well…I have my own theories which I freely avail to my students… :o) Just curious…


    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Susan,

      I believe it’s because it allows the handler to get into the turning rotation and movement in the direction of the course. And since these are the princile cues that makes the dog turn anyhow it’s bound to be more successful.

  3. Susan Eastwood Says:

    I tell my peeps that keeping the dog on the lead hand longer in the turn causes the hips (and thus the rest of the body) to rotate into the turn more quickly in order to get the lead hand around to show the turn. I demonstrate this and then demonstrate the “pointing in the opposite direction before turning” (what folks usually do when learning to do a FC), to show how much later this causes the hips to turn.

    Also I now tell them that their non-lead hand also has a job in the turn, which is to “warm a spot” on their thigh until the turn is complete, then they can bring that hand up as the lead hand. I find that folks are so focused on their lead hand that they have no idea what their non-lead hand is doing….so now it has a job. It seems to be helping to get rid of the flailing.

    I hope this makes sense…


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