Strategy for a Distance Handler

This is an ongoing series intended as homework for Canine Manners distance seminar students; March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK, (and others interested in training great distance skills who might visit these pages). Canine Manners is an active franchise in the National Dog Agility League. It is useful to use the NDAL courses as a context for the study of teaching the agility dog an independent performance (sometimes called… distance work).

As I study the January 2017 Masters league course for the National Dog Agility League I can’t help but see the course through the lens of a distance handler running a dog that is perfectly comfortable with independent performance.

At the same time it’s clear that the plan I’ve devised for myself has a list of prerequisite skills. Allow me to demonstrate:


Plotting only the first four obstacles of this course serves up, for me, a list of prerequisite skills. On the course map I’ve drawn a line to demonstrate exactly what I want to do as a handler. I want to move in a straight line from the start to a position intermediate to the A-frame and the pipe tunnel at #4. The transition between #3 and #4 is a “technical moment” and requires the handler to be right in the big middle of the action.

The skills list includes, from the start:

  1. A send to the pipe tunnel;
  2. Performance of the A-frame at a lateral distance;
  3. A back-pass in the transition from #3 to #4

Are you ready for some homework? In the next few days we will talk about each of these skills; and provide YouTube videos to demonstrate. If you practice any of these sequences feel free to send me your videos so that they can be used for illustration and comment on the pages of this web log.

Feel free to attend the written homework. All of these skills are documented in The Joker’s Notebook issue #0:

Progressive sending (to the #2 pipe tunnel); [JN00 “Around the Clock” p 46-47; “Progressive Sending” p 59; “Training & Handling #2 p 122.]

The send to the pipe tunnel begs that you understand the principles of Kentucky Windage; [JN00 “A Discussion of Kentucky Windage” p 63-65.]

Performance of the A-frame with the handler at a lateral distance; [JN00 “Unambiguous Contact Finish” p 19-22; “Back to the Abridged Training Plan” p 60; “Lateral Distance” p 92; “Lateral Distance Work on Technical Obstacles” p 94.]

A Back Pass on the approach to the #4 pipe tunnel; [JN00 “Come By” p 28-29]. Note that the discussion of the Back Pass when this issue of the Joker’s Notebook was written is quite primitive. We’ve learned a lot about the movement since then.

Illustration of Concept

We couldn’t leave this page without having video as a proof of concept. The video shows Marsha Houston running her wild dog, Phoenix, in the opening four obstacles of the January Masters NDAL league course.

Notes Aside

Play with the NDAL

New clubs are always welcome to join the National Dog Agility League. Preview the NDAL January courses here:

Contact us if you are interested in joining play. Getting started with the NDAL is simple.

Like the NDAL on Facebook:

Visit the NDAL blog:

Page Number References

Yesterday I began this series as a context for homework for distance seminar students at Canine Manners, March 20 and 21 2017 in Broken Arrow, OK. In that discussion I failed to refer to page numbers in The Jokers Notebook (issue #0). When I have this page published I shall go back to that blog post and edit it to include the JN00 page number references.

The crazy thing about page numbering is that as I work I am editing the original issue #0 to include the YouTube recordings that so nicely illustrate the teaching from the original text. This means, of course, that when I republish issue #0 all of the page numbering from this blog will no longer match up.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.


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