While the Cat’s Away

Okay, I’m soon out the door for a lovely judging romp in Kansas. I will try to behave myself and not share with anyone how disappointed I have been this year about Mizzou’s performance on the gridiron (especially against Texas).

There are really a variety of sequences that might be made of this set of the floor (all based on our league play game… 4-Leaf Clover). We have both the Hobday box and a nice four-jump pinwheel so that we may understand the implications of the arrangement of the obstacles.

Think Outside the Box

We have other obstacles on the floor so should be limited to the jumping sequence at center. In this exercise I’d love to see the practice of a layered Tandem in the turn to the A-frame.

There’s also a great opportunity to layer to the opposite side of the pipe tunnel while the dog works away over jump #6. Frankly, if the handler doesn’t layer the pipe tunnel it seems unlikely that the handler can avoid driving the dog up onto the wrong-course dogwalk without actually layering to the opposite side of the pipe tunnel.


This is a really simple exercise to underscore the importance of the handler’s path. The blue line in this illustration shows exactly how far the handler should advance beyond jump #2 before committing to a Front Cross. Anything earlier will make it terribly difficult for the handler to set a line of approach on to jump #4.


In this simple sequence the handler is faced with a 270° turn followed by a four jump pinwheel without an implicit change of sides. The theme for practice in a sequence like this is to find a way to give robust movement to the dog. In our discussion of this sequence in camp we found a way to improve the time of dogs by 2 to 3 seconds (yes… 2 to 3 seconds in a simple 9 obstacle jumping sequence). It’s  hard to shake the conservatism out of most handlers—to move them out of the realm of the obvious to the realm of the possible—without actually timing the performance and showing them the stopwatch.

For a bit we experimented with using a Tandem Turn to accelerate the dog through the turn from jump #2 through the 270 to jump #3. It did a great job accelerating the dog and actually delivered better times than the default handling plan (stick-in-the-mud dog on left all the way). But, we found that the Tandem really created to robust a path for dogs.

Ultimately we settled on the BLT to both accelerate the turn and keep the dog’s path to a neat and manageable size. The BLT (Blind & Tandem combination) is unique among agility movements as it represents a combination movement that requires a speed change (slow to fast dog) between the two elements.

Fine Tuning

Straight away everybody will pretty much see that this sequence will require fast dog handling (behind and pushing). And so the exercise should immediately become how to conduct a Post & Tandem presentation to solve the counter-side tunnel discrimination. In camp I gave a lot of discussion to using the static Post to precue the handler’s intention to make the turn.

And after perfecting the fast dog handling option I pointed out to my campers that the necessity to do fast dog handling was a complete illusion, and that they would improve both time and performance by switching to an energetic slow dog handling plan. So we practiced the Flip. I’m always amazed by how such a technical and contrary movement can be mastered in only one or two practice tries.

Thinking Inside the Box

The most obvious and immediate challenge in this sequence is the blind approach to jump #4. I’m afraid it’s followed by a very technical jumping sequence to get to the weave poles at #7 which should challenge most handlers to adequately solve the “riddle of sides”.

It might be fun in this sequence to challenge handlers to send their dogs to the performance of the weave poles from inside the box. Of course the #11 weave poles will be slightly more challenging as most dogs are more likely to miss the nearly perpendicular approach entry when faced with the entry side of the poles.


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

%d bloggers like this: