Internationalization pt 2 ~ the Blind Approach

As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d stay away. –Hughes Mearns (from “The Psychoed”)

Box Threadles & 270s

The first hint of a blind approach in our agility culture came from the onset of the 270 turn. I recall at one time these weren’t legal in the AKC. But I believe they came to the realization that a challenge that is common in FCI play needs to be set up for practice in the U.S. if our players are going to compete in Europe… so the ban on the 270 was lifted.

I’ve addressed the 270 a number of times in my blog. I posted the following a couple years ago, as I was practicing some of the challenges in the Alphabet Drills authored by Nancy Gyes:

Another common form of the blind approach is a thing we call the threadle (a blind approach requiring two changes of direction).


These exercises are courtesy of the letter “A” (box threadles left; 270s right).

The blind approach always requires for the handler to shape the approach because it is not a natural or intuitive flow. In other words, the dog cannot be released to work. And more to the point, the course designer is demanding micro-management of the dog.

The most common error in the 270, to be sure, is a handling error. The handler fails to step outside the box to shape the turn, and so the dog cuts inside, earning a refusal on the second jump.

Have this at the back of your mind… the blind approach always demands micro-management.

The Blind or Managed Approach in Competition


This AAC Jumpers course contains a transition between two jumps that is commonly known as a blind approach or a managed approach. The blind approach occurs in the transition between jumps #5 and #6.

What the handler has to do here is be in position in the gap between the #6 jump and the #15 jump to draw the dog around for an approach to jump #6. If the handler’s a long-legged kid, he can probably sprint down to be in position… forward of the dog. Getting behind the dog is a big problem because any dog with a lot of obstacle focus and a good work ethic will likely take the #6 jump in the wrong direction if the handler is out of position.

Later in the course, mind you, is a hard wrap at jump #15. Again, the course requires the handler’s presence to manage the wrap. Note that the judge has put a gratuitous dummy jump beyond jump #15. So, unless the handler can outrun the dog he had better have taught the dog some magnificent distance skills to give direction from #7 through #14.

Making a Case for Training

The real question that occurs to me … can the blind approach be taught to the dog as a performance option. Be very clear on what this means. I’d like to be able to point out a jump and tell my dog “go around that jump, and come back to me over the jump.” All good training begins with a solid statement of objective.

I’ve got a video to share. It’s not actually my video but something I stumbled upon in my odd quest for interesting studies. This is evidently from Portugal:

This young man is running a course that features no fewer than four blind approaches (and a threadle to the weave poles thrown in for good measure). Please note that on one of the blind approach challenges he sent his dog forward to get it done (jump #13, following the U-shaped pipe tunnel). The dog, Jack, dropped the bar on this jump which we might blame on the dog not giving himself enough room on the un-managed approach; but then again, the handler stepped in to bend Jack away sharply after the jump which could have been the culprit in the fault.



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.


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4 Responses to “Internationalization pt 2 ~ the Blind Approach”

  1. Sharon W Says:

    Bud, this idea of effectively sending the dog out to come back to you over a jump was addressed in that seminar I attended a couple of weeks back, that I mentioned to you. The presenter’s belief, founded, I sense, from observing the Europeans, is that Yes, this can be trained, and yes, it should be trained. Verbal cues are the key, I’m told. And if I understood correctly, the Euro style of handling actually can involve the human moving in a direction opposite of the way the dog is supposed to be going, with the dog doing what it is told rather than what it is seeing. Counter-intuitive in some ways, though I seem to recall you being surprised that Dixie, following my “left” “right” cues, could do what she was told rather than what my body was showing her. This Euro style seems, to me anyway, to be an extension of that concept that Dixie and I stumbled into quite by accident.

  2. Pat Says:

    Sure it can be trained… after seeing a *lot* of that type approach in weekly classes this winter, I decided it would help if we had a verbal for it. Approached as a shaping exercise in my living room, it took only about fifteen minutes total time (in very short bits) to get the basic concept installed and labelled, then a few weeks of intermittent practice to get it about 90% reliable on sequences. Was much easier than I expected.

    I still back up the verbal (“pass it”) with appropriate body language that supports rather than conflicts with the message, but now I don’t have to be out there near the jump in question nor doing a big/ambiguous ‘push’. Makes life easier, for dog I think as well as for me. Truly, this was not hard at all (admittedly, with a very shapeable eager-to-please Lab type). We won’t start trialling again til spring, so will see how it goes in competition, but it certainly works fine in class.

  3. L Says:

    We see plenty of threadles (called pull-throughs, as in “pull through the gap between obstacles”) and 270s here in the UK. It’s the bread-and-butter of our courses, especially at the higher levels!
    My dogs all have a verbal “out” command, which means the dog has to take the obstacle from the opposite side of approach. It’s always backed up by appropriate body language, but it’s generally the only cue I have which is mainly based on a verbal command.
    However, I wouldn’t use an “out” for either a threadle or 270. In the case of a threadle (ie. box threadles shown above), I’m pulling the dog towards me, and the change of direction shouldn’t be dramatic enough that the dog ever stops looking at the next obstacle. In the case of a 270, I might use an Out command if I’m a long way off, but usually it’s just a continuation of the dog’s line.
    I’d use an Out in the case of the Portuguese video on #13 and on the tyre, and I’d call that a “push-out” as opposed to a “pull through” (threadle).
    The 270 can be seen right from the very bottom level, and the pull-thru and push-out are seen from bottom/mid-level upwards.

  4. Warren Says:

    “Internationalization pt 2 ~ the Blind Approach | Bud Houston’s Blog” was in fact a fantastic blog post. If it included much more pictures it would be perhaps even more effective. Thanks -Cathern

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