Triangular Pressure

I’ve mostly been an advocate for the notion that a dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path. Indeed I’ve codified that notion in what I call the Laws of a Dog in Motion. In those same laws is a secondary notion that “a dog forward of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position”.

I’ve been struggling with the “framing” of a fundamental handling concept that I call Triangular Pressure for handling in dog agility. I’m finding more and more that “parallel” is largely an illusion.

In this drawing I’m showing handler movement and pressure relative to both dog and destination. The illustration shows ideal handler movement, particularly in the case of a very novice dog, or a fast dog with excellent distance skills. I know those two cases seem at polar opposites of “type”. The real difference between the two, mind you, would be the length of the handler’s path. For the slower novice dog the handler is likely to meet the dog at the confluence of the triangle; for the fast dog with distance skill, the handler is likely to take no more than a step, or two.

This drawing suggests handler pressure on the dog’s path for a lengthened line of jumps. The handler does not apply pressure to each jump discretely. Instead the entire line is handled as a unit with a common vanishing point perspective.

I’ve drawn the handler’s path in two colors to illustrate length of path as a relative matter depending on the speed of the handler versus the speed of the dog. I think a lot about that imbalance these days.

In a curvilinear arrangement of jumps the handler’s pressure is probably a more complicated matter. The only reason I’m sharing this picture with you, incidentally, is that I relish the illusion of the curve and want you to get a good look at it before I draw my own lines.

The illusion of the curve contributes to a fuzzy understanding of the mission; and of course creates fuzzy over-complicated handling.

The handler in the illustration has set a converging vanishing point on the landing side of jump #3; and a finishing converging point on the landing side of the final jump. While the length of the dog’s path is given, the length of the handler’s path depends on the handler’s speed relative to the dog. So the handling does not depend on the length of the handler’s path, but in the direction of the handler’s path. The timing event (for changing paths) is the dog’s commitment over jump #3.

In a pinwheel the handler should treat each jump as a unique moment of triangular pressure. Indeed, the most common error in a “pinwheel” is for the handler to fail to give pressure to each jump.

The pressure the handler gives to each jump in a pinwheel is sometimes as slight as a single step (or two); and certainly must include “what is the handler facing?”, “what is the handler moving towards?”, and “what is the handler looking/pointing at?” And all of this is conveyed in a blink… a small moment in time.

I’d still like to dispel the illusion of the “curve”. This is more important to handling success in a pinwheel than in a gently curving series of jumps. Each corner is a timing event to the handler. And the corners ultimately form a square to the disciplined handler.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.


One Response to “Triangular Pressure”

  1. Jenn Says:

    Your thought process is so helpful.

    it’s entirely too easy to just go out there and run and not ‘get’ what’s going wrong. I love reading your analysis – I get a lot of ‘aHA’ moments on this blog.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: