The Secret Serpentine

In our culture we tend to think of a serpentine as a flat presentation of jumps that looks something like this:

But in fact the serpentine is any sequence that suggests; or possibly even requires a series of side changes. Stuart Mah used to have an exercise that he called the Oscillation Exercise; which looked something like this:

And this too, is a serpentine. Note that it suggests, and probably even requires a series of side changes.

And there are certain serpentines that are so subtly presented that too few handler’s even see the serpentine nature of the equipment.

I want to approach this sequence with the proposition that I can outrun my dog. I can’t actually outrun all of my dogs, and that’s for sure. But if I can, I can actually use the serpentine to give my dog a speed cue from which he’ll move at his very best speed and in an efficient enough path that he’ll outrun dogs that might actually be faster.

I’m going to solve the sequence with a series of Blind Crosses.

What’s important to understand about the Blind Cross is that it’s a racing movement. The handler must be forward of the dog for it to work effectively. If the dog has come up on the handler’s hip the handler might be able to save the turn with the counter rotation of a Front Cross. But for the dog that has come even with the handler the Blind Cross is too weak of a turning cue. Ideally the handler will be 6′ or 8′ forward of the dog at the moment of the Cross.

In this drawing I’ve also taken pains to show that the handler needs to cross the dog’s consequential path before actually committing to the Blind. If, for example, the red handler is on the wrong side of the red line when committing to the Blind, then it may not go very well at all.

The handler’s path shouldn’t really wobble all over the place. The handler has committed to a lane in each instant that allows him to continue motion in a nice straight line that strikes a path parallel and coinciding with the dog’s approach to the next obstacle.

Aside from the handler endeavoring to understand where are his own corners and on what lines his path will be drawn… he should also understand the proper timing cue for the Cross. “Dog in the air… do the Cross.” A handler who understands the physical cues for his movements will achieve spot on timing.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who was the artist who created this comic book cover art?

The first correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the April Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – April 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special04” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.


9 Responses to “The Secret Serpentine”

  1. Adrienne Says:

    Since blind crosses are mightily discouraged around these parts I have to ask, do the cross when the dog is in the air over *which jump*? I am assuming the dog is jumping the 11 jump as the handler turns his corner for the 12 jump and so on but would just like to verify.


    • budhouston Says:

      Hi Adrienne,

      You’re correct… the handler is basing his timing cue on the jump behind him… before turning attention to the jump forward.

      I’m aware of the ignorant opposition to the Blind Cross. I’m sorry you live in such a dark spot on the map. lol


  2. Ronni Says:

    Steve Ditko?

  3. Chris Says:

    Although blind crosses may seem to be out of favor, they are not forbidden, even here Adrienne! I use them ALL THE TIME with Maggie because they SPEED HER UP! I can always be ahead of Maggie.
    I will use them with Winn when he’s in a tunnel, but he doesn’t read them as well because we don’t practice them as much. Occasionally I’ve thrown them in, usually on the 10th run of a weekend when my body says “take the easy way out”
    chris in mn

    • Adrienne Says:

      I wish I got to see more of your runs! I know it’s not forbidden, just not taught as part of our repetoire. So I’ve never learned them. I would like too. They certainly seem more straightforward than some alternative handling solutions.

      The “eyes off the dog” was one argument I’ve heard against it. But for those of us with smaller dogs, they are often out of our peripheral vision anyhoo. I am still working on trusting that Emma will be where she should, since I can’t see her.

      How many times has Annelise told me (loudly), “Where are you looking?” Why at Emma of course, ma’am!

  4. Chris Says:

    AND you’ll notice something I call the “Legal Because it’s European” Blind Cross now, especially off a an Aframe. It’ll be back in fashion any day now here, in fact I bet you’d see it at the World Team tryouts next weekend.


  5. Adrienne Says:

    Aww. It’s not all bad up here. We’ve got a pretty good crew for the most part. 😉

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