Fair and Square

In course review a comment that I often have to make is that an obstacle must be square to the dog’s approach. In all classes this advice applies to the contact obstacles and to the tire. In the Beginner class we want reasonably square approaches to all obstacles.

I’ll limit discussion on this topic (today) to a square presentation of the dogwalk.

Turn to the Dogwalk

The dogwalk is often a feature of one side of the ring or another. And so in course design we have, often enough, an ostensible right angle transition from a jumping sequence to the dogwalk. The sequence I show in this drawing will get a MUST FIX notation in my course review as the approach to the dogwalk is not square, and not safe.

Don’t get me wrong here. Maybe only one dog in five or ten will approach the dogwalk with such reckless speed that attempting to corner on the ramp causes them to dump off the side. For our purposes it is not the dog’s job to approach the ramp in a square and safe manner; and it’s not even the handler’s job. I admit that it’s an interesting riddle “can you do this without harming your dog?” … but it is not an appropriate riddle, at any level.

It is the course designer’s job to provide reasonable assurance that the ramp is square and safe to the dog’s approach.

The Fix

I can’t really provide a fancy mathematical formula for presenting the dogwalk square to the dog out of a turn.  I have a simple rule-of-thumb with two parts: 1) provide an appropriate turning radius for the dog; 2) provide sufficient real estate to accomplish the turn.

Here’s an adequate illustration of my two part method. First of all I assume (in the TDAA) a roughly average turning pivot point on a 90° turn of about 5 feet. Jump #3 in this drawing measures precisely 5′ from the red line.

I also provided a minimum of 12′ for the dog to accomplish the turn. You’ll note that the line was drawn automatically by CRCD which doesn’t have the good sense to understand that a dog doesn’t actually turn in the air over a jump.

Note, by the way, that I corrected the transitional distances between the jumps in the opening line. 8′ is precisely the recommended measurement in a straight line between jumps. That’s another blog topic!


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running.  www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


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