Team West Virginia Makes a Run

Tonight we played Helter Skelter. On the face of things this looks like a perfectly simple game; though in the running of the game it will expose interesting challenges.


The dog will start and finish on the table; running the white numbered sequence first, and then turning back to run the black numbered sequence. The game will be scored time, plus faults.

Teaching Points

Although it was a “fun run” night, I’m really not capable of containing myself in routine teaching points.

You’ll note that the course has six pipe tunnels. That’s just enough to catch out the handler who insists on turning away from the entry (towards the exit) before the dog actually gets in. So we have refusals, wrong-courses, all kinds of stuff happening on course.

Teaching the handler his job for a pipe tunnel is really a statement of the obvious. The handler should keep working to the entry until the dog gets in. And note that to the dog’s point-of-view we point more surely with our toes than we’ll ever point with our hands.

The Helter-Skelter course is a classic country-driving/ city -driving kind of exercise. On the outer loop the handler should run and push the dog’s lines; in the inner loops the handler should gear the dog down for efficient turning. I found an interesting thing as this was run… the turns that a handler was most likely to be in the wrong gear were the white #7 to #8 and the black #5 to #6. These are modest 30° turns.

I worked with one of my students on a strategy to tighten the turn from white #11 to #12… in the pinwheel. His dog is this very nice moving Sheltie with a very obstacle focused work ethic. Over time we’ve found that this dog is hard to turn. He doesn’t respond well to a static Post; and a precue with the handler on the landing side of the jump #11 might as well have just been a simple Post and shoulder roll for the weak influence on the dog. What we actually played with was giving the precue with the handler on the approach to the jump; it’s just a simple RFP with a counter-arm instruction intended to gather the dog into handler focus. I think it worked. My student will have to practice the movement so that he can own it. He tends to do his homework.

For the sake of our youngest player this evening, I’m reminded that most dogs miss the down contact for racing their handler. Her little slip of a Yorkie managed to do the dogwalk several times without bothering to touch anything with yellow paint on the dismount. I had her practicing running ahead of her dog over the dogwalk… coming to a stop down at the bottom of the yellow. Her little boy trotted right down through the yellow.

Oh… and I should mention the weave poles. I know we get a lot of ugly approaches in competition. But I am perfectly content with testing a dog in a straight ahead attack in a speed building sequence. For dogs whose brains explode approaching the weave poles at a full run, I had the handler practice a little gathering (& regrouping) RFP on the approach. It helps the dog check his stride and get his brain together for the entry.



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at This is new! You should buy it! I need a new pair of tennies and a haircut.


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