The Architect 101

While I was patting myself on the back the other day for the “magic trick” in Washingtonville I have to confess to putting up a Snooker course for Starters that was wrong. It featured an A-frame as the blue obstacle with the red jumps set in such a way that a managed approach was required.

BLOG446_01I’m afraid that I watched a series of dogs dump unceremoniously off the side of the A-frame as the handler attacked the obstacle with a doomed plan of execution. One lady made the approach so badly, with dog on right as I’ve drawn here that the dog didn’t even have room to get up high enough on the A‑frame to make it very dangerous. That’s a small consolation.

Okay, nobody was hurt. I am abashed to add to this, no thanks to me. And I will not make this mistake again. Novice should be treated as absolute beginners without any basis of training or understanding of the handlers’ craft in agility. They’ll figure it out over time. In the mean time, I will remind myself that it’s not right for the Novice player that the riddle should be: “do you know how to do this without killing your dog?”

Adding the “Managed Approach to Contact Obstacles” to a Training Curriculum


What I’ve done in this diagram is drawn and extended two lines that crosses through opposite corners of the A-frame. From within the safe zone the dog can move in a straight line up and over the A-frame without being dumped over the side. Approaching the A-frame from the danger zone guarantees that the dog will dump over the side if he holds a straight line. Frankly, many dogs will learn to look out for their own safety if the handler isn’t thoughty enough to do some of the thinking for the team.

BLOG446_03I’ve drawn here a handler with her dog out in the danger zone. The key to managing the approach to the A-frame for it to be safe for the dog is to visualize a corner of approach that is in the safety zone. The handler must be committed to getting the dog to that corner of approach before actually making the approach.

I’ve drawn a big black “X” at a spot that is sensible for a corner of approach. I’ve also drawn a little red “x” to indicate a spot that is simply awful, because out of the turn many dogs will not have sufficient impulsion to get up and over the ramp without clawing and scrabbling furiously to beat the slope.


It is useful in the curriculum of agility training to practice the movements which will help create the managed approach. Which movement we want to use really depends on where we want the dog to go after the A-frame. If the course is straight ahead or a turn to the right, then a simple Post Turn might do the trick (K.I.S. – I never mention the second ‘S’).

While the Post Turn is one of the most common movements in agility too many handlers take it for absolute granted. It is the handler’s job to draw the dog around his “post” position. If the handler simply turns, drops connection and doesn’t do his job, the dog might easily tuck up on his opposite side as though the handler had conducted a Blind Cross… and once again we have an unsafe approach to the A-frame from the danger zone.


If the course goes to the left (given this scenario) then the handler probably wants to use a Front Cross to create the approach to the A-frame. This is a movement that I call the squaring Front Cross, for obvious reasons. We want a square and safe approach to the A-frame.

The handler must be mindful that the dog turns when the handler turns. The practice of the canny handler will allow the dog to get to the corner of approach before conducting the dog into the turn with the rotation of the Front Cross. If the handler gets antsy and fidgety and over-anxious… and turns too soon… then the dog will also turn too soon and make an unsafe approach to the A‑frame from the danger zone.

Big Deal! Moving from Magic Trick to Magic Trick

Tomorrow morning begins a very small games camp here at Country Dream. It’s been about four or five years since I ran a games camp. I think we had about 20 dogs running in that last camp. We made a decision then, watching the agility world change around us, that we would discontinue doing these, because fewer people were actually interested in agility for the fun of it.

We didn’t market this camp much. And I’ll tell you … this one’s going to be for our recreation. I’m going to get in a lot of quality play with my girl Hazard. I’ve been so preoccupied with Kory that Hazard has had a bit of a vacation (yah, that’s the ticket. A vacation.)

Casual Reading?

This is Gina’s blog. To tell you truth what I’m most fascinated by is the interpretation of language. Gina is English and she blogs about agility and for all of that she speaks a different language than US.

One thing I find interesting is that the Brits speak of the colors of snooker obstacles rather than the numbers. Gina writes: “Rum … picked up a 2nd Q in Novice Snooker because he went back over the start before pink and black.” Just so you know “pink and black” are the #6 and #7 obstacles in snooker. While I’m pleased with myself that I recognize the color coding of the snooker obstacles, I’ll be darned if I know what the rest of the sentence means. Does that mean she didn’t get the #6 and #7 in the closing? Because Rum went back over the start (crossed the finish?) And truly, if the qualifying criteria is the same in the U.K. as in the U.S. then Rum would have had to do three reds, two blacks and a pink in the opening in order to qualify (though Novice might only require 35 points to qualify rather than 37.. meaning that Rum could have qualified with a blue a pink and a black in the opening.)

Gina often speaks of being “chuffed” when she competes. An American might want to translate that as being out of breath (chuffing, don’t you know). I think it actually means something like “stoked” or dizzy-happy and pleased.


You probably know that I’m doing some research on teeter fear in agility. I’ve gotten dozens of very interesting emails from different people sharing their experiences with me. I’ll share these with you in due course. I think it’s important that the collective knowledge for training dogs in this sport ultimately has a repository.

It’s worthwhile to note that there are people out there who’ve done some really good foundation work on the topic. I’ve especially been fascinated with the study of “Teeter Whip”. Barb Levinson pointed me to a link on the Clean Run site that pointed me here:

Teeter Whip –

There’s an excellent discussion of “teeter whip” and a video that will astound you.

I’ve had to add the term “teeter whip” to the Glossary of Dog Agility Terms.

RYG the BuBa PeeBee!

Course by Stuart Mah



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