What Do You Make of This?

Fashioning a lesson play is often a game of “What Do You Make of This?” I’d very much not like to spend the day moving equipment around. And so with a single set of equipment I should like to examine a variety of challenges and handling skills without making the whole thing seem repetitive or boring.

For our Sunday mini-clinic I have several parts of the floor that will each have a different set of equipment.


This first sequence features at least a couple interesting riddles. The approach to jump #2 is at quite a depressed angle. Either the handler needs to open up the approach or trust that his dog understands the jump even when presented at such an angle.

In the transition between jumps #4 and #5 the handler needs to give the #8 dummy jump a miss. There might be a couple ways to do this: → the approach to jump #4 could be vee-set; → the handler could use a static post at jump #4 drawing the dog out of obstacle focus (and away from jump #8); → the handler might use an RFP on the landing side of jump #4.

If you want to have a bit  of fun with the sequence, encourage your advanced handlers to layer to the opposite side of jump #4 while the dog does the closing sweep of jumps after the table performance.


What I always look for in an opening like this is that the handler has the sense to line his dog up for the course… rather than squaring to the first jump. Sometimes teaching is a game of repetition.

Given downfield considerations the turn from jump #2 to #3 suggests a Front Cross. Tho a number of my students live and die (mostly die) with behind and pushing logic and handling (meaning they’ll post from #2 to #3 and push off in Tandem for the turn to jump #4).

Out of the #3 to #8 pinwheel the handler will probably want to Front Cross on the landing side of jump #7 in order to have dog on right for the wrapping turn at jump #8. Many handlers will force the turn against the natural turning direction (turning the dog right instead of left) resulting in a longer path, and considerably more risk.


While jump #2 has a challenging oblique presentation, mostly the opening of this sequence all the way through jump #6 is intended to build up very nice ripper of a run for the dog. And then, of course, it concludes with this interesting technical bit in which the handler must direct the dog through two wrong-course options to get  him into the counter-side entry to the #7 pipe tunnel.


Finally handlers get a good look at the serpentine sequence that cuts through the center of this set of obstacles.

Of course some of my students may be looking to use the Blind Cross to solve the serpentine. But frankly, I use the serpentine to teach the Blind Cross. It really doesn’t make much sense in this sequence. I’m afraid I’d have to publish a rather elaborate paper to explain why it doesn’t.

However, I’ve given a kindly approach to jump #7 with the dog in an obedience position on the table. So the handler should be able to take a modest lead-out before starting the dog, into a quick Front Cross to solve the turn from jump #7 to #8. No big deal at all.

I didn’t mean to overlook the oblique approach to jump #2. But that’s been an ongoing theme in this lesson plan.


This sequence introduces the dreaded threadle. Take note that dog on right on the approach to jump #4 will have an extraordinary high fail rate. Frankly the best handling for the threadle (is what I call a serpentine Front Cross (#4 to #5); the handler begins with a simple Front Cross, and then continues to draw the dog around on a tight Post for the approach to jump #5. If you analyze the dog’s path it describes something of an “S” shape… thus the serpentine Front Cross nomenclature.

One last little wrap at  jump #8 will finish the sequence. But it’s quite a handling riddle because the handler probably wants dog on right for the approach to jump #8, and dog on left for the approach to jump #9. This requires a fairly advanced combination movement.


The opening line to the table might be handled in a couple different ways: → Post through the first three jumps and Tandem to the table; #4 to #5) → Or, a neat little Front Cross on the landing side of jump #2.

Oh my… I’ve given them another threadle from jump #6 to #7. There might be a couple of solutions to this. I see a Bend & Post; but frankly I still like the concept of the serpentine Front Cross.

Once the sequence is solved, the handler gets to take the dog on a ripper run around the outside. Watch out for that table though. Never take options for granted.

End Notes

I’m not done with the lesson plan yet. I’ll share more tomorrow.

It looks like I’m back in the business of designing training plans. While I have a modest number of students in this part of the world I’m pretty much going to do the same for them that I did back in when I was doing the big training center thing..

Coming next month I’ll be adding two training nights during the week, and reintroducing league play. Our league play now will be run under the rules and sanction of the CWAGS CCAP program. I will probably hit Agiledogs this week with a call for other training centers around the country to join our league play so that we can compare notes in terms of performance. We’ll see how that develops.


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.

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