Posts Tagged ‘Flip’

Measuring Success

December 16, 2014

When judging, I occupy myself with studying handling methods. There is this new thing that people are doing where the handler shakes a fist at a jump. I’m presuming that the signal is for the dog to collect and wrap the jump in a neat turn back to the handler. I’m all for something new. I always have been.

It’s fairly easy to ascertain if a handling device actually works. Did it communicate to the dog and deliver the desired results?  Did the dog collect? Did the dog wrap neatly back to the handler? Or, did it cause the dog to drop the bar or earn a refusal in the face of it?

So far as I can tell, the “fist” thing at a jump is as likely to succeed because of what the handler does with his body as with his hand. Rotating slightly back to the dog indicates a turn. Making the presentation with the counter arm does the same. Facing back more fully to the dog (back-peddling to support the forward movement) is a favorable cue for the dog to collect for the jump.

At any rate, I measured the success rate of the “fist” at a cool 50% which isn’t terribly impressive, don’t you know. But I’m reminded that like the game of Zoom where a clear message is whispered from ear to ear that the spoken phrase at the end of the line mightn’t much resemble the phrase that began the whispering. And so the teaching of whatever innovator is out there teaching this “fist” thing is most likely obscured by the sloppy passing on of the technique.

What I want to know, of course, is this something that is supposed to be intuitive to the dog? Or, is it something that has to be taught to the dog? If it is not intuitive… why the heck does it have to be a fist? Couldn’t it be a hippy peace sign? And, if it is intuitive, why doesn’t it work to a greater extent.

I’m sure somebody will step up to share the “science” with me.

While we’re on the subject

The Ketchker is getting to be more common in competition. This is a movement that I began studying and teaching 12 or 15 years ago. I called it the “Flip” and defined it as a combination movement, Front Cross to Blind Cross. Unfortunately in the present incarnation it is used in a very narrow and one-dimensional context… solely as a wrapping movement at a jump. The world at large hasn’t discovered the application of the Flip out on the flat. And, there are several dandy applications on the flat.

Note that like the RFP the handler’s lead in the Flip/Ketchker resolves to the side on which it started. Unlike a simple cue for the dog to collect and wrap (as in the “fist” thing or a simple “backy-uppy”) the handler doesn’t really want to change leads. So it was natural, predictable, and logical for the movement to come into common use.

The following I’ve extracted from a web log entry from about seven or eight years ago:

Day 75 – Footwork/Path for Flips

I have for a number of years catalogued handler movements in agility and tried very hard to understand how they influence the dog’s understanding of the direction of the course. Since it is the handler’s job to direct the dog it makes some sense that we should understand movement as a form of communication with the dog. Indeed, movement surpasses verbal speech in nearly every way. This is a radical notion in today’s game. It seems so obvious to me that I am always surprised when I run into the brick wall of incomprehension and, frankly, belligerent denial.

Carole Schlaes wrote this comment: “Since you still have 27 days or so to go in this latest endeavor, can one of those days be a tutorial on the Flip?” I suppose that I’m obligated to do so now.

Mitchell Flip

I’m pleased to call this a “Mitchell” Flip one last time, just to acknowledge how I first began to study this movement. In a class back at Dogwood many years ago we were doing an RFP exercise. Once of my students did this thing that clearly was not an RFP. But what struck me on the moment was that a) it worked, and b) it was quite elegant. Mitchell has moved on to a Border Collie and training with someone who disdains handler movement as a form of communication with the dog. So the movement really doesn’t need to be named after him.

The Flip is a combination movement, Front Cross to Blind Cross. It is the poor second cousin to the RFP, and can be used instead of the RFP in many situations. In one way the Flip is superior to the RFP. The Flip allows the handler to remain in motion, and to get going, when the RFP grinds the handler to a halt.


The Flip acknowledges three lines and creates two distinct corners in the dog’s path. Note that the first movement is a Front Cross, which starts towards the dog. But the handler does not want the dog to come all the way up on the new lead hand. Before the dog can actually catch the handler, the handler will do a Blind Cross, continuing to turn in the direction started with the Front Cross yet moving in a direction corresponding to the third line.

In the drawing the dog’s path is indicated by the solid line. Notice that the handler flips into the Blind Cross before the dog can actually overtake the handler in the initial Front Cross.


The Flip compels the dog to turn two distinct corners, and draws the dog towards the handler’s position. It is a marvelous tool for solving simple discrimination problems. On the face of the movement, it looks like a simple 360º turn. That’s not exactly true. It’s actually a 270º turn, followed by a 90º turn. It’s unfortunate that those two numbers add up to 360.

This is a very business-like movement. The handler must move convincingly and without any sort of hesitation, because it is the movement that turns the dog. In this illustration the handler’s cue to begin the first element of the Flip, the Front Cross, is the dog coming up through the tire. The cue for the second movement is the dog turning and moving in the direction of the handler.


The Flip is also a very powerful tool for tightening a dog’s turn. This is great for the very ballistic dogs, as the handler’s movement is very compelling.

The rotation of the handler’s body might actually be very tight, nearly a pirouette (and nearly a 360º turn.) Yet the handler should not lost sight of the fact that it is two distinct movements, each with their own cues and objectives.

When the two are put together back-to-back the handler’s movement and the effect on the dog can be a thing of grace and beauty, a moment of poetry.

RFP vs Flip

I have distinct criteria for whether I would use a Flip to solve a riddle rather than an RFP. The RFP is a movement in which the handler wants to be very precise and maintain a control position. The Flip is to the RFP as the Blind Cross is to the Front Cross… the Flip is a racer’s movement meaning that the handler has a compelling interest to race the dog. What a novel concept in these times of micromanagement!

And in the same way that the Blind Cross is kinder to old knees than is a Front Cross, the Flip is kinder to old knees than an RFP. A single Cross is a grind against inertia so the double-cross of the RFP is a double-grind against inertia.

Blog959 2 of 100

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.

Ketchker in the Control Position

July 3, 2013

I think more and more about “control position” on the agility course. That’s that moment that requires the handler’s presence to solve. My training objectives are to limit the number of “control positions” by training to a conditioned response to verbal commands. But let’s face it, there’s stuff you just aren’t going to talk (or train) your way out of.

BLOG908_01Here’s a bit I find interesting. The challenging part is the transition from jump #3 to jump #5. Mind you, the handler coming off the A-frame might solve this with amazing simplicity and grace and with uncomplicated handling choices. I’m tempted to set it up and just run some different handling options to see how it goes.

Note first of all that the dog coming off the A-frame might easily fix on the dummy pipe tunnel straight ahead. If this has no other consequence, it might draw the dog wider in the turn to jump #3 than the handler wanted – then presenting the #6 jump as a wrong course option… when it should not have been.

After jump #3 is a tight little turn back to jump #4. If the handler doesn’t manage this well the dog’s path might turn too wide between the two jumps, making the turn to jump #6 acute and uncomfortable.


My solution to this requires a lateral distance during my dog’s performance of the A-frame and a 2o2o with a verbal release. As he comes a stride or two off the A-frame I’ll start a counter-rotation (Front Cross) but leave it incomplete so that I am facing back-wards when presenting the #3 jump. As he goes over the jump, I study his turn over my left shoulder, and as I feel his nose come around roughly towards jump #3, I finish the movement with a Blind Cross and push to the #4 jump. I’ve just described what I’ve called a Flip for the longest time… and the world pretty much calls a Ketchker these days.

And oh, by the way, I’ll have to Rear Cross jump #4 giving a verbal directive to my dog to turn Right.

Top Dog

We’ve published two new courses for Top Dog League Play beginning in July and we’re about to make some interesting revisions to the rules of play. Go here to look at our new courses:


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.

Internationalization pt 3 ~ Ketschker

March 7, 2013

Okay this movement is all the rage right now. It can be defined as a combination movement: Front Cross followed by a Blind Cross. I’ve been teaching it for about 15years. I originally called it the Mitchell Flip; because the first time I ever saw it was by a student of mine during an RFP[1] exercise. He did this thing that clearly was not an RFP. Though what he did worked in the exercise. Being one never to dismiss a thing that works, I began to study the movement, and then to teach it.

Mitchell went on to train with a smart aleck in the sport who forbade him from using this movement. And so I’ve pretty much trimmed the “Mitchell” from the description of the term and in my own writing now call it the Flip. With some irony I note that the “smart aleck” now, some 15 years later, has incorporate the Flip in her own handling repertoire because she has observed it winning in competition.

I looked back to find where the Flip might have first appeared in my own writing. On my web store, by the way, I have something like five years of unique weekly lesson plans; for three training levels and nested with a weekly league play game. These are documented in the pages of the JFF Agility Notebook; available at: Notebook. Anyhow, here’s a PDF sample page from the October 2000 Notebook: Sample.

About eight years or so ago I got a note from Pati Mah; after she read something I’d written on the Flip to tell me that she had been using the movement for a couple years. So, we really shouldn’t give everything over to the Europeans as the onliest innovators in agility. We’re just slow to adopt in this country.

In the same time period I got a note from somebody in Europe who told me this was a movement they were playing with in Europe, where they call it the Ketschker.

The set of equipment I typically use to teach the Ketschker comes from the opening sequence of a course once used at the AKC Nationals. Correct me if I’m wrong I think it was 1999 or 2000; and I’m pretty sure it was round 4.


 Do you remember this sequence? Animal Planet covered the event. They showed this bit with Elicia Calhoun and her dog Soni… earning a refusal at the #2 tire. They played that bit over and over again; and she made the same mistake every time. To be fair, she was approaching the riddle as a Vee-Set. Soni went into the fourth round leading the pack. Had Elicia pulled this off, she very likely would have won that year.

The handler starts the Front Cross as the dog commits up through the tire. The handler must pull the dog in the perpendicular transitional line and then commit to the Blind Cross before the dog can actually catch him. The amazing thing about teaching this… most people are successful the first time they every try it. And yet, a big number of them fail when using their default handling plan. Of some 350 masters dogs and their handlers, about 25% of the field failed on this opening.

Only two dogs got to see a Flip to solve this opening at the AKC Nationals that year. And both of them were successful. I even remember the names of the two dogs[2] after all these years.


This YouTube video demonstrates the Ketschker that is used simply to tighten the dog’s turning radius: [Chip, handled by Rosie Ison.]. Note that the handler might simply have drawn the dog on Post. But she gambled, effectively, on the notion that the Post is a softer cue and the dog’s turn might have been much wider than necessary.

Here’s a video complete with schmaltzy music that gives the movement a real workout

Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day

If I were pressed to define what it means I’m not too sure I could come to a definition agreeable to everyone. If you craft a good one, I’ll put it on the Glossary of Agility Terms.

I was going to do a full rant on Internationalization. Indeed, this is third is a series I’ve been working on in anticipation of the Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day Internationalization topic. The first two I wrote were: Part 1; and Part 2.

In a broad sense Internationalization is two-fold: Course challenges, and handling skills. If I sound like I object to the course challenge side of the coin; It is not the challenge itself that I object to. It is the course designer’s bloody-minded approach to placement. Many movements require control position by the handler. That means the handler needs to be right there with his dog to get it done. So imagine that the course designer puts a control position challenge in the upper-right corner of the course map; followed by a diagonal speed building run to the lower-left corner of the ring. Now we’ve created a scenario in which only fast long-legged kids can race from corner to corner keeping pace with their Border Collies. Us old folks are left pitifully out of position just wishing we were there.

Challenge Course

Here’s a very short and interesting course that several clubs are running (under the aegis of Top Dog Agility Players) over the next couple weeks. We’d be delighted if you would join us. Please note… all scores will be aggregated as a single competition. If you want to play drop me a line at I’ll send you a score-sheet and give you a heads-up to rules for performance and faults.


A More Fulsome Grind

This is not a Top Dog course (but could be!) I included this just to make it a more full-length course.


Course Design College ~ Understanding the Dog’s Path

I’ve been reviewing a lot of courses the past few days. I would very much like to address the course designer’s responsibility for engineering a square and safe approach to contact obstacles.


This is the kind of thing I’ve been seeing (and way too much of it). Taking the picture at face value you must be thinking “What’s the big deal?” The dog’s path looks perfectly straight and safe for the approach to the dogwalk.

Here’s the problem… the line was drawn by the Clean Run Course Designer. And what you must know is that CRCD is an idiot robot. Note that the corner of approach is out modestly on the left of the jump labeled #2. In truth, there is no corner of approach at all to the jump… you should draw a straight line out of the pipe tunnel through the jump to truly understand the dog’s path.


This is the dog’s path, more truly rendered. Most dogs will actually manage the up-ramp of the dogwalk just fine. But a dog working at any real speed will get on the ramp out of square and will dump off the ramp, losing footing, about half-way up.

This was not the dog’s fault nor truly the handler’s fault. It was the fault of the course designer.

Most challenges on course are essentially the course designer’s riddle. What is never an appropriate riddle to the competitor is… do you know how to do this without hurting your dog?


  The problem of approach is really easy enough to fix. The course designer might move the jump more to the south (down); or could rotate the dogwalk in anticipation of the dog’s turning radius.


All the foregoing being said, this is a perfectly acceptable on-course challenge. The placement of the pipe tunnel will surely protect the dog from too perpendicular an approach from the left side. And now the riddle is a valid one… do you know how to do this without earning the wrong course fault?

And you must know that the dog’s true path favors the wrong course.


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.

[1] The RFP, don’t you know, can be defined as a combination movement: Front Cross followed by a second Front Cross.

[2] Bogie and Birdie