Long Lines

I have noticed over time that judges will often create long uncomfortable lines in a course. This leads one to suspect that the judge who creates such an interesting riddle has never driven a dog forward in the course and is more likely to be a handler who runs along with his dog. You must know that the long and (not so) straight line isn’t so kind to the team when the dog is actually faster than the handler (a highly desirable discomfort in this sport).

These lines should be routine in practice with our dogs. I’ve made up a small sampling just for the purpose of practice.

Practice 1


The opening line (black) is a nearly straight line. The handler probably should view the first three jumps as a completely straight line. The handler is challenged to get far enough down-field to influence the dog to bend to the right to get into the #5 pipe tunnel. Too far downfield, and the oblique approach to jump #2 might make that jump a candidate for a run-by refusal.

On the return trip (red) the handler will have to beat feet downfield while the dog is engaged in the performance of the pipe tunnel in order to be in position for the change of directions after jump #7 and the abrupt change of directions after jump #8.

Practice 2


In the opening (black) the handler has a tricky change of directions in the transition from jump #3 to #4. Of course the angled approach to jump #2 is still a problem of presentation while the handler gains the necessary forward position for the turn.

On the return trip (red) the handler really doesn’t have time to stop and admire his work after getting the dog into the #5 pipe tunnel. This sequence might not be quite as easy as it looks. On which side should the handler have his dog on the approach to jump #6? To jump #7?

Practice 3


The opening (black) of this sequence is probably the kindest of the three practice sets I’ve drawn. I think I can let this one pass without too much in the way of analysis.

The closing (red) is a bit more of a pickle. I’ve dramatized the wavy line from jump #7 to #8. The handler might consider setting the approach between #6 and #7… but that clever calculation is likely to leave the handler hopelessly behind the dog to affect the change of direction (in the face of a wrong-course option) in the turn from jump #8 to #9.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at www.dogagility.org/store.

4 Responses to “Long Lines”

  1. Peggy Rodinak Says:

    The long lines have taught me to learn distance work with my dog. I don’t have a tunnel to work with at home yet but I can probably set up enough to work on the long lines. These give me some great ideas to start with.

    As I was reading this, I thought back to my first agility class. There were dogs of all heights, from 4″ to 24″ in the class. Where a small dog handler would tell their dog to “go out”, many times the large dog handler would be telling the dog “here”. It was an interesting perspective that many don’t get to see unless you are an instructor.

    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Peggy,

      It’s true… many small dog handlers have that terrible habit (stepping in front of their dogs).

      You’re spot on… the “long line” presents an opportunity for distance training on both sides of the line (lead-out & recall; and sending the dog to finish the job).


  2. Stacie E. Says:

    Just found this site – am enjoying it. I am new to all this, so am not real good at reading course maps, although with practice I’d like to get better.

    In practice #2 you asked what side the handler should be on for jumps 6, & 7. It seems to me the dog would be on my right through the rest of the course. . . . bus since you said it’s not as easy as it looks. . . . . .???

    Thanks for your time and attention

    • budhouston Says:

      Stacie, of course whatever works is actually the right answer. Dog-on-right is fine… but you have to be fast enough… relative to the speed of the dog, to be in position to bend the dog away from#7 to #8 (or do a “Get Out”). If you aren’t fast enough being on the dog’s left would cause most honest working dogs to curl to the wrong course dummy-jump.


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