The Riddle of Sides

In the game of dog agility many handlers learn fairly early that the dog turns most naturally towards the handler. And so the clever handler will endeavor whenever possible to gain position on the turning side of the course. If the handler were to strictly adhere to the proposition that he should always be on the turning side of the course… then he will routinely engage in what I call slow dog handling; meaning that he puts his movements forward of the dog, and pulling.


A particularly snarly sequence may defy the handler’s best efforts to cross in front. Consider, for example the serpentine opening of this sequence, from jump #2, through the weave poles at #3, and finally jump #4.

BLOG452_02This illustration shows the handler drawing the dog up for a Front Cross intended to manage the dog’s entry to the poles. It’s probably a lot of work for the transition… and might create a longer path for the dog than necessary.


A little bit bolder, yet still crossing in front, is the handler who sends his dog to seek the entry to the weave poles. The handler will step to the opposite side of the line of poles while the dog is engaged in the performance and finish the Cross.


This is no terribly complicated sequence. The most challenging moment comes right at the beginning in the turn from the collapsed tunnel back to the weave poles at #3. I have certain students who will surely hang back and try to talk their way out of this striking a tone that seems suitable for the moment (pleading or harshly demanding).

I should like to draw a picture of a handler gabbling instructions to his dog. But it wouldn’t be completely satisfying as about half the time it would involve a wrong course over the dummy option jump.

IMHO this is a job for the serpentine Front Cross.


The serpentine Front Cross is actually a combination movement, Front Cross to Post Turn (or, as the case might be, Post turn to Front Cross). In this scenario the Front Cross comes first. Out of the Cross the handler wards the wrong-course option jump by maintaining a blocking position throughout, while drawing the dog on Post for a square look at the entry to the weave poles.


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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