A “Breakdown” is a unique agility training format. It begins with a course which is broken down (hence breakdown) into challenge elements. Typically when we’re doing league play we’ll run the league course; do the breakdown training; and then run the course again to see what we learned from practicing the elements of the course.

It has been my observation over the years that given the opportunity to practice the challenging elements of a course… most handlers will do a considerably better job than they will with an unpracticed course. Should we ask the judges if we could practice their courses? I’m sure most of them would be fine with the idea.

The Course




This isn’t a completely inconsequential opening. From the table the handler has the tunnel-under-the-dogwalk discrimination problem; with the handler required to take a blocking position on the discrimination. The handler will be drawn (possibly) to a Front Cross position forward of the dog on the exit of the tunnel, and so may not give a convincing block.

In the #2 tunnel transition to the weave poles at #4 there might be two pretty good handling options. The handler could pick up the dog out of the tunnel with a Front Cross, attacking the #3 jump at a depressed angle, and trusting the dog to make the angled entry to the weave poles from the off side.

Or, the handler might simply keep the dog on post out of the tunnel through jump #3, using a Tandem Turn on the landing side of jump #3 to open up the approach to the weave poles.

Note that the subtle left-turn on the dismount of the weave poles might lead some handlers to take a step away from the dog before the job is finished, and may compel the dog to come out of the poles early. Frankly, as a dog training issue, we’d like the dog to stay in the weave poles without regard to the movement or antics of the handler. However, that being said, the handler should be disciplined enough not to test the training foundation by taking an abrupt step away from the dog.


Clearly the tricky bit in this entire sequence is the abrupt change of directions after  jump #11 out to jump #12; followed by an equally abrupt change of directions back to the right to get to jump #13.

This might be an opportunity to solve a technical sequence with a nice bit of distance work. Consider, for example, sending the dog out to jump #9 while the handler remains behind on a line congruent with the #8 and #10 jumps as the handler tracks sideways into a cross on the landing side of jump #10. Note that the reason for the distance send in the first place was to give the handler an advantage in real estate… in order to do a Front Cross on the landing side of jump #11. If the handler isn’t in front he can’t do a Front Cross.

Another possible solution to the #11 to #13 zig-zag back & forth would be to use Rear Crosses at jumps #11 and #12. Whatever works is right.


After jump #14 the dog has a couple of pretty good options before getting his nose turned all the way around to the dogwalk at #15. First the table looms rather large; but more likely the pipe tunnel tucked under the ascent ramp should be compelling to a number of dogs.

This might be a good place to simply use a static Post. That means the handler simply puts on the brakes at the #14 jump and awaits the dog’s response, until he turns all the way off the first two options and to the dogwalk.

For that matter it could be solved with an RFP.

The next interesting moment in the sequence is the threadle from jump #16 to jump #17. With my own students I teach a Flip for this scenario (a combination turn – Front Cross to Blind Cross). This is a great place for a Flip as it is a racing movement. And the handler has a compelling interest in racing the dog out of the counter-rotation of the opening Cross.

I elected to make the #18 pipe tunnel dog’s choice… it would be a gratuitous challenge to say one side or the other was required. Frankly in the race from jump #16 to #17 most dogs will kick into a new gear and should be allowed to flow as naturally as possible into whichever end of the tunnel suits.

Kory in Class!

I’ve got Hickory in Marsha’s Sports Foundation Class… which began tonight. Marsha gave us a very balanced presentation of three skills, neatly spending 20 minutes on each of the skills (I’m a sucker for good timing in teaching).

Amen to that!

Above is a link to Marsha’s blog where she describes the class. My “amen” was related to the problem of instructor’s syndrome that she mentions in her text. Some of us who teach spend more time attending to the needs of our students dogs than we do our own. I’m fairly committed to giving Hickory a terrific foundation. He actually did quite well. While he wants to go visit with the other dogs he easily gives me good attention and manages to be a rapt student even when somewhat stimulated. He’s a good boy.

Cartoon byTed Rall



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at the Country Dream Web Store.

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