Buying Real Estate

You know, I always learn something when teaching. Sometimes the learning comes as an unbidden surprise. It may have been confirmation of a thing I already knew; or it might be something totally unexpected and fresh to me.

The game of agility is won and lost in that expanse of real estate between the obstacles that we refer to as “the flat”. You’ll recall from yesterday’s discussion I wanted to specify fast dog handling and slow dog handling in alternate performances of the same sequence. I had determined that I would time the performances. Mostly I wanted a confirmation of a fondly held belief that slow dog handling is keener and faster than fast dog handling. Now I have to reassess based on my observations from last night.

Okay, based on the simple suggestion that the handler would either use nothing but Front Crosses or Rear Crosses the numbers would seem to validate my initial prejudice. Rear Crosses came in around 19.5 seconds… Front Crosses performed notably better at 18.5 seconds. A second is a second, after all.


But I observed this interesting fact… my students (Vicki and Jackie, for the record)… were somewhat lazy in their use of real estate on the flat. I knew when I saw it that the handler couldn’t do much more than give a braking cue to the dog, a signal to gear down, having so little real estate to use for movement. You can see here the handler layering to the opposite side of jump #11 after sending to the pipe tunnel at #2 (red lines and figures); and laying well off the weave poles while the dog finishes his work (black lines and figures).


So I had this chat with them… explaining my idea that using as much real estate as possible would require the handler to move in a sharper and more businesslike manner; And so the handler should work for a scoop at the #2 pipe tunnel (nearby and moving at the exit); and, on the other end, crowd and jazz the dog in the performance of the weave poles.

As a consequence, the dogs’ time for performance dropped down in the 18.5 second range… completely comparable to the slow dog handling option.

And so what I have to be watching for now, as I watch the fast dog handling option (behind and pushing) is whether the handler is being gratuitously lazy with his use of the available real estate. Contemplating the fast dog option the handler should buy additional real estate in order to move in a more keenly and in a convincing manner. I know that it’s a small and obscure point. But then, a second is a second.

Summary of the not-completely-convinced

I am an empirical learner, to be sure. I have the benefit of testing any wild theory or cockamamie notion on possibly hundreds of dogs. And numbers bear out presumption. Indeed, as Vicki and Jackie left last night I thanked them for the notion that I would get paid as I learn a thing.

I’m not completely convinced. Truly if there is a sublime understanding of use of real estate for the fast dog handling plan… there must be an equally sublime answer for a slow dog handling plan. I continue to coach the mechanics of a simple Front Cross that has the handler withdrawing from the dog at the moment of the Cross by pulling back the inside shoulder… rather than punching back at the dog with the outside shoulder. I’m coaching against years of contrary muscle memory and so I cannot quite yet bring my students to the moment of the sublime.

Here though, I have yet another thing to study. And I’ll share it all with you down the road as it develops.


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

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