Rock on a String

Okay, I want to say something technical. I’ve been wrestling with this for awhile now and I think I’m getting close to calling it observable science.

Static Post

A “Static Post” is a moment when the handler is forward of the dog… and comes to a complete stop.

In this illustration the handler has arrived at the #2 jump forward of the dog and comes to a stop. You’ll note that in the transition from jump #2 to #3 the dog has three wrong-course options. These are labeled “a”, “b”, and “c”.

The question for the handler is one of timing. Note that the way I teach this the handler does not turn to face the #3 jump. Instead he should remain in his stationary position until the dog turns completely to jump #3. Only then should the handler make any movement to continue.

This is analogous to the “rock on a string”. You have a rock tied to a string and you’re spinning it in a circle. When you let go of the string the rock will be released into space on a path perpendicular to the radius of the circle defined by the string. I told you I was going to say something technical.

Any movement the handler makes while in the Static Post will release the string, and so release the dog into space. You’ll note the three red lines after jump #2 pointing at each of the three wrong-course options. Each of those represent where the dog is likely to be released if the handler moves, rotates or flinches at or before the moment the dog has made that much of the turn.

It takes extraordinary discipline for the handler to remain stationary until the dog completes his turn. But that is exactly what makes the movement successful.

Note that the Static Post is a precue. That means the handler should come to a stop alongside the jump before the dog gets to the turning jump. And indeed, the handler should get there enough forward of the dog that the dog has time to respond to the turning cue.


First of all, notice that the sequence has changed. Now the handler is doing a bit of a monster threadle with his dog.

This time the handling choice is a pre-cue Front Cross with the handler facing back toward the dog but giving pressure to the jump by backing up through it. Again the question of timing will dictate the handler’s success in the movement. The handler should not move, rotate, or flinch until the dog’s head is pressing between his thigh, and the jump. Any movement or flinching might release the dog. And now there are four options for the dog to admire before drawing into position alongside the handler.

Front Cross

To tell you the truth the foregoing examples might seem a bit on the fanciful side and beyond the ambition of the average player. So let’s look at a more common example… the Front Cross. In this illustration the dog will have two wrong-course options before the Cross, and another option after the Cross.

Again, the handler requires timing discipline for this movement. As the dog comes over the jump the handler will rotate away (counter-rotate away, actually), and then come to a complete stop to await the dog’s participation. I also see the handler dropping his lead against his leg to draw the dog into handler focus.

If the dog initially goes wide on the turn the wrong-course dummy will certainly loom large for the dog. The handler must be still, no movement, rotation or flinching, until the dog wraps his body and addresses the correct entry to the tunnel.

The Front Cross in this scenario is quite technical from a timing point of view. There are two moments in which the handler must be careful not to release the rock on the string.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

2 Responses to “Rock on a String”

  1. Peggy Johnson Says:

    In the first example, what is the pre-cue that is given to the dog so that he knows he is supposed to turn to jump 3? You said the handler should arrive at jump 2 ahead of the dog so that the dog has time to respond to the turning cue — is it that my arm is low to my side while my feet and shoulders are still facing straight ahead parallel to jump 2? Am I also giving a verbal cue as the dog takes jump 2?

    Thank you.

    • budhouston Says:

      The static post (pre-cue) is nothing more than the handler coming to a stop forward of the dog; and arguably just slowing down or “tapping the brakes.”

      When facing forward I would keep the arm up to keep the dog in obstacle focus, but drop the arm after he’s jumped.

      You can give a verbal cue, if you want. OTOH, if you want to be a complete scientist about it, give the turning cue non-verbally and see how the dog responds. Sometimes we speak more clearly with movement (or sans, in this case) than we do by talking.


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