A Riddle of Sides

I’ve found over the years that even deceptively simple sequences will test the analytical abilities of the handler. The handler’s analysis is key to success in this sport. What is the right movement? On what side should I work the dog? Getting the right answers to these questions is fundamental to success.

Good handling on a foundation of bad training is more likely to succeed than bad handling on a foundation of good training. In the ideal world… we’ll have both good training and good handling.

The point of course… we should endeavor to train the handler with the same high criterion as we apply to training the dog.

We were treated to this fun roller-coaster of a ride at a recent NADAC trial. You’ll note that the key feature of the sequence is a concave curve of jumps. Otherwise it would simply be a loop, and not nearly as fun.

The sequence turned out to be a tough intellectual puzzle for too many players. You’ll note here a common attack on the sequence: the handler running to bend the dog back into the curve; I suppose in order to be on the turning side of the course on the approach to the pipe tunnel.

The real problem with this approach is that the handler wasn’t really on the turning side of the course when he needed to be… and the consequence is that the dog continues the curl back towards the handler’s position after jump #4 while the course actually goes another direction. This led to collisions and wobbly fumbling in the handling moment.

We’re always faced with the riddle of sides in agility. The handler should rely on a very basic law of the dog’s movement:  the dog turns most naturally in the direction of the handler. And by understanding this, the clever handler will endeavor to position himself on the side of every turn.

In the strategy shown in this drawing the handler seeks a Cross forward of the dog between jumps #3 and #4. Now the handler’s position after jump #4 draws the dog towards jump #5… rather than away from it.

Okay, the strategy actually puts the handler on the side away from the turn in the transition from jump #6 to the pipe tunnel at #7. If we really think this though there is considerably less risk associated with being on the wrong side of the turn here… than there was in that transition between jumps #4 and #5.

Let’s go back to the original handling position, in which the handler keeps the dog on right through jump #4. Frankly the sequence can be solved from this side, but will require a bit of handling skill and something slightly cleverer than stepping in front of the dog. The handler might use a Tandem turn, stepping behind the dog on the landing side of jump #4.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What kind of bird is this?

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the February Jokers Notebook (or March, if you prefer).


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – Feb 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special02” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

5 Responses to “A Riddle of Sides”

  1. Ronni Says:

    White breasted nuthatch? (these are getting harder to google!)

  2. Adrienne Says:

    It’s a small songbird with a white breast, blue head and varigated wing feathers.

    There! I win again! 😀

  3. Vicki Says:

    Is it a Red-flanked Bluetail?

  4. Adrienne Says:

    My instructor must be teaching us something right. I would have gone for a front cross after #3. And on the principle of pulling the dog forward and keeping her motivated, probably would have tried for another in between 5 and 6.

    But you are saying the Tandem Turn creates acceleration and separation. Is what you have pictured above, a TT? And if so, at what point do you bring your arm up and turn your body? That is, where is the dog when you start doing this?


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