Natural Turning Direction

Often in agility competition the handler has a choice of directions to turn his dog at a jump. Any time the handler actually has a choice of direction the decision should be subject to a bit of analysis:

  1. What is the natural turning direction for the dog?
  2. Which direction offers more/less risk?
  3. Which direction offers the better consequential path?


Here’s a simple example of a turn that might really illustrate a turn in the wrong direction. The handler starts with his dog on left, and simply turns the dog to the right after jump #3 to draw the dog back on the path he has been working. Looks pretty logical don’t you think?


In fact, if we really look at the line of the dog’s approach to and through jump #3 we’re better able to answer the question about the dog’s natural turning direction. Whichever direction offers the shorter distance for the dog to get around the wing or the standard will, in fact, be the dog’s natural turning direction.


Frankly, the bigger turn back to the right also offers more risk. It is much more likely that the dog will be caused to back-jump jump #3 (earning a wrong course penalty), than it would be if the handler had allowed the dog to take a left turn on the jump.


Note too that in this case a turn to the left (red line) leads to a straighter and shorter consequential path for the dog. A turn to the right sets up a wobble in the dog’s path making the path longer, and lending more risk to the performance.

Just so the analysis here doesn’t seem quite so pat, there are some changes we could make in this course that would make a right turning-solution at jump #3 seem considerably more rational.


In this new version of the course to the left of jump #4 we’ve placed a dummy jump adding considerable risk to turning the dog to the left (in the natural turning direction). Also, the consequential path of turning right doesn’t look nearly so wobbly now that we’ve placed the A-frame in a turn after jump #5…with another wrong-course jump placed beyond it.

At the end of the day, anything that works is right. But just a bit of critical analysis could make the difference between running clean, and earning faults on the course; between winning the match, and merely qualifying.

Keeping Me Busy

The greater part of today I spent designing a suite of 36 courses for a USDAA trial in Washingtonville that begins in about 10 days. This is an unusual circumstance. I don’t believe I’ve ever designed more than about 12 courses in one day. I’m half wondering if some of the courses aren’t actually better than they would be if I had too long to think about it and nudge things around.

It’s going to be one of those marathon judging assignments. With 16 classes to judge on Saturday… well, you do the math. If I were to take as much as 1/2 hour between classes for course building, tweaking, briefing… and walkthrough; then there would be 8 hours used up if we never ran a dog. And so I was very careful to nest these courses to an extraordinary extent. Some courses will allow me to brief and walk multiple classes.

I expect that we’ll have tightly timed walk-thrus, and probably impose fault limits as well. I’ll surely let you know when the trial is upon me.


For any of you who are film buffs, you’ll be tickled by this:

BLOG435 / BLOG07

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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