I started teaching my dog distance skills at an early age. It didn’t take long before I had a young dog who’d work happily on big wide open sequences as much as 30 yards away. With a young dog I used hoops at first and very low set jumps as he grew.

But an interesting thing happened from this “distance first” philosophy. The little tight technical moments became nearly impossible feats. He had virtually no concept of working close and taking direction while passing alongside my body. Tight and technical is a contradiction to big free-wheeling distance romps.

What I resolved to do is teach Kory a very simple thing… to bump my open palm hand with is nose. An important element of this is the presentation. My arm is held against my body with my flat palm facing backward at my thigh. I’m always facing away, so he has to come up behind me to bump my hand.

Now, this could probably be more simply done with a completely food motivated dog. You just put the treat in your hand and shape your hand with that special “I’ve got a treat” thing… and later that becomes a special hand-shape that captures the imagination of the dog and his close work. But Kory is almost indifferent to food… and I pretty much conduct all of our training with one of his favorite toys.

So… he touches my hand and I toss the toy. Like I said, it was a simple thing.

Implementation ~ The Pre-cue

If a pre-cue really works we know that these elements should hold true:

  • The dog will have an efficient turning radius
  • The dog will curl into the turn over the jump

I’ve studied the pre-cue for a number of years and find that it has such an extraordinary fail rate that it’s clear that the implementation (as being practiced) is in no way intuitive to most dogs’ That suggests that either the mechanics of the presentation are flawed or that it is a counter-intuitive skill that must be taught to the dog.

My approach to the pre-cue is to transfer the “Close” command taught independently on the flat to a jump. My position is at the plane of the jump or slightly forward of the jump. In the introduction of the turning cue I work at a single jump and, with virtually no movement wait for my dog to come ‘round behind me to bump my hand with his nose. You’ll recognize that is the very skill we were practicing on the flat.

When he does bump my hand I toss his Frisbee or tennis ball which was cleverly concealed in my other hand.

When I first introduced this combination of the “Close” command with a jump to Kory he took wide rangy turns that had me briefly doubting my theory. But gradually he started taking steam out of his approach to the turning jump until it turned into a tight little wrap that had him tucking neatly into that little 18″ space between my hip and the wing of the jump.

The Rock on a String

Imagine whirling a rock tied to a strong in a circle over your head! When the hand releases the string the rock will fly away on a line perpendicular to the radius. I’m sorry if that sounds technical, but it’s the only way I know how to say it.

The dog coming over the jump with the Close pre-cue is much like the rock on the string. When the handler moves (at all) he releases the string… and like the rock, the dog takes off on a line perpendicular to the radius of the string. [Incidentally, the same dynamics are true in the execution of a static post.]


In this turning exercise the handler must time his movement to release the dog as the dog’s nose comes around square to the approach to the desired jump. This is an exercise in canning timing.

I suppose the question must arise… with what movement do we release the dog? My answer has to be that it just about doesn’t matter. I’d personally use something that is simple and quick without a lot of moving parts and any contrary pressure against the dog.

In the drawing, for example, I’d likely seek out jump “B” with a quick pulling hand Front Cross (a movement implicitly already started by my facing position). For jump “C” I’d finish with a Blind Cross (making the overall combination a Flip: Front to Blind.)

Jumps “D” and “E” require the handler to be very still and patient. The dog needs to curl very tightly around the wing without so much as a flinch on the part of the handler. The turn back to either “D” or “E” is a simple (?) pre-cue Front Cross with a wrapping turn. But even here the handler’s timing of the first step drawing the dog will release the rock on the string and determine the dog’s direction of movement.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What is the popular name for this  photo taken by a member of the an Apollo flight crew?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.


4 Responses to “Close”

  1. Ronni Says:

    Blue marble?

  2. 2mindogtrainer Says:

    The blue planet.

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