What Do You Make of This?

More often than not I begin design in my own training center with “the game”… whatever we’re playing for the week. Then the sequencing or handler training that we do emerges from the set of the floor like a found poem.

The Four Leaf Clover I set up last week has its obvious training bits: handler staying in the box and sending out for the different elements. We can also do a bit of “train the dog” by forward-chaining calling the dog through a set of weave poles or sending the dog through a set of weave poles.

Less obvious are the raw handling sequences that can make any set of the floor quite interesting.

In this numbered sequence the handler is posed with a couple difficult transitions, probably accomplished with a Front Cross. We find with the faster dogs and the long-striding dogs that it is an opportunity to practice a pre-cued Front Cross. The first Cross, in the transition from jump #2 to the pipe tunnel at #3 allows me to study the rock on a string theories of release. If the handler flinches, the dog is bound to off-course over the #4 jump. The second Front Cross, from #4 to #5 requires a considerably different handler position and poses a real test of the pre-cue.

This whimsical sequence might not be as simple as it looks. In the transition from jump #3 to #4 the pipe tunnel beyond jump #3 surely looms large for a dog with good obstacle focus, particularly if the turn goes a bit wide from #2 to #3. What I’d like to study here is a continued pre-cue through the turning jumps, @2 and #3 and then, of course, a quick release out to jump #4.

In the transition from jump #4 to #5 the dog has to be looking at the wrong-course pipe tunnel. The handler has to work for a corner of approach to jump #5 because it is clearly a blind/managed approach to the jump. The particular skill we will work on is drawing the dog tightly into handler focus to make the corner and then releasing to obstacle focus through jumps #3 and #6. This particular skill, drawing the dog into handler focus, is probably a simple matter: arm up is obstacle focus, arm down is handler focus. At least that’s the way I teach it.

We can have a little more fun here with the blind approach, this time to jump #2. It’s really a complicated bit, if you think about it. In addition to setting the corner of approach to #2 the hander should work for a left-turning transition from #4 to #5. If the dog turns to the right after jump #4 the dog’s path is liable to be quite wobbly.

The solution to the transition from jump #6 to the weave poles at #7 really depends on whether the handler has dog-on-left at jump #6, or dog-on-right. Dog-on-left might be the simpler matter.

Sometimes just the absurd… this is a snookeresque sequence, requiring the handler to move his dog across the field giving one or more tempting obstacles a pass. How would you do it?

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

In Bleak House by Charles Dickens is the first recorded use of a word that is common today. What is the word?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

4 Responses to “What Do You Make of This?”

  1. Karen Bales Says:

    Hey Bud 🙂 Looking at the first sequence I’m wondering why not utilize your ability to send the dog to #3 staying inside the box and front crossing on the inside of #4 pulling the dog over #5. Backcross inside of #5 and send to #6 front crossing inside of #7 to call over and pull to #8.

    It’s been a few years since I’ve even thought about an agility course, but looking forward to a new experience with my new puppy, Tugg.

  2. Debbie Brewster Says:

    something we never suffer from with dogs – boredom

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