A Discussion of Kentucky Windage

Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of yesterday’s discussion from an old lesson plan.

Kentucky Windage is a very old term in the American lexicon, although too few of us remember the meaning. The Kentucky rifleman, a keen shooter responsible for getting the food that appeared on his family’s dinner table, understood that the bullet moving through space would be pushed away from the target by any wind. And so the shooter would lean his shot into the wind to compensate for the push of the wind so that the wind would carry the bullet to the target rather than away from it.

By analogy we can compare the bullet moving through space to the dog working forward of the handler. It is one of the Laws of a Dog in Motion: A dog forward of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position.

We resume our send-to-tunnel work with this sequence:

After explaining the concept of Kentucky windage to my students I pointed out how this sequence was designed with a natural accommodation to the dog’s tendency to curl back to the handler’s position. Though the transition from jump #2 to the pipe tunnel at #3 is a bit of a turn, it the natural path for the dog curling back toward the handler.

Note also my rather severe drawing of the handler’s line, which continues to apply pressure against the dog’s path. Since the dog’s natural curl already draws back towards the pipe tunnel, if the handler curls and turns (as though working with the curl of the tunnel), then the additional movement might actually spoil the approach to the pipe tunnel. The handler is better served to apply pressure against the dog’s path.

I reminded my students that the handler wanting to make a send to the pipe tunnel should allow the dog to work ahead as early as possible in the sequence.

I was most gratified when, after my discussion of Kentucky Windage a number of dogs, intent upon making my point for me, actually earned a refusal at jump #2. Okay, I really should draw a picture for you:

You see? It’s one of the Laws of a Dog in Motion. A dog working forward of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position. With the illustration at hand I helped my students amend their view of the entire sequence.

What we’ve actually done here is set the dog’s approach to jump #1 more severely, with a touch of Kentucky Windage, knowing that the dog will naturally curl back to the handler’s position.

Dogs will have considerably more success in this sequence when the handler better understands the dog’s approach. I like to think that some of the great handlers we see in the world understand the phenomenon of Kentucky Windage whether or not they use that term to describe it. The handler of a fast dog doesn’t much survive if he doesn’t learn fairly soon the dynamics of the dog’s movement relative to his (the handler’s) own movement.

Sometimes judges will set long straight lines in Novice courses, thinking that they are giving the novice dog and handler team a simple challenge. But trust me, long straight lines are killer to the handler of a fast dog, particularly if the handler has no recourse to taking a lead-out or otherwise cheating the real estate in order to keep the line straight for the dog.

I am reminded, by the way, of a bit that I need to add to the Laws of a Dog in Motion. “Nothing straightens the line like the certainty in the mind of a well-trained dog.”

This discussion is continued tomorrow.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. 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.


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