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Training Distance for Gamblers Part 2

Handling at a distance by Alicia Nicholas.

So you have taught your dog to go "out," now what? The next part of distance work is handling the gamble obstacles so your dog knows where they are going, even though you are 15-20 feet away.

There are many things to think about as you plan your distance Gamblers closing. Do you want your dog in extension (moving forward at speed) or collection (moving in a way that will allow a quick change of direction)? At what angle should he take each obstacle? 

The best way to determine this is to go past the pink tape into the gamble and walk the dog's path. How many times have you seen someone go past the tape and stand inside the gamble? Do this first and then go back and stand on the other side of the pink tape; you will now have insight into what the dog sees and where the path needs to change to complete the obstacles correctly. Don't treat that pink gamble tape like an electric fence! Even when doing the closing with your dog, you can step across and help your dog. You negate your Q, but you maintain your trust and relationship with your dog and you can go train lateral distance more for next time!

After you have looked at the dog's path, figure out how you are going to make it happen. You and the dog need to be on that parallel path, heading to the obstacle, even if you are 15 feet away. Try to plan your path so you don't end up coming to a dead stop at the tape. Make sure your "head, shoulders, chest and toes" are pointing on that path!

Here are a couple of examples of gambles with information on getting to the opening and handling the path. Don't forget to say "out" (or "banana" or whatever you call it)!

Figure 1 shows the first example, a direction change at a distance, which is common in Gamblers. The first question is, "From which direction should your dog approach #1? Straight or already turning?" The second question is, "How do you change your dog's path and get the 'out' tunnel?" (In this case, you will need to get your dog to change his "lead leg," which is the front leg that the dog leads with. It determines their ability to turn well in a particular direction.)

Figure 1

The first answer is that you want your dog jumping #1 at an angle and not straight. The straight path just shows the off-course tunnel. Coming from jump B puts the dog on a little bit of a collected turn and takes the off-course tunnel out of the picture. The second answer is that you need to signal a rear cross, use a verbal directional if you have it and cue "out" tunnel. Whatever you do, don't get stuck standing on that pink gamble line! Try to take small steps and still be moving as your dog jumps #2; that way you can take two more steps and push him out to #3. 

Take a look at Figure 2. The handler is in the correct position for the dog to jump #2. Don't get too far ahead there! Notice the handler is using the path of her motion to "push" on the dog's path. The handler is not just pointing at the tunnel. If you are already standing at the gamble line at this point, you are probably out of luck; stationary handlers do not show good "go out there and do that" motion! But if you have a verbal right and verbal tunnel cue, you might be fine! 

Figure 2

This next example shows what you would do if you did want the dog to take the tunnel. For sure you can come in from jump A. Make sure your dog is in extension and don't end up on the gamble line! See Figure 3.

Figure 3

After the dog has committed to the tunnel, the handler needs to put pressure on the dog's path as he exits the tunnel. Don't handle the next jump! Handle the space between the tunnel and the jump. Use your "out" word and right arm to keep your dog from coming in. See Figure 4. In this case it might be really easy to get caught behind jump B; you could still get jump #3 by putting pressure on the dog's path and using your distance verbal. 

Notice that the gamble doesn't end there! Don't forget to turn into your dog and get #4! 

Figure 4

Check back next week when we will look at how wrapping a jump can help while a dog is attempting a gamble.

This article is part of USDAA's Training Tuesday series appears on USDAA's facebook page. We encourage you to discuss this exercise on our facebook and to upload videos of your class or training group trying it out. If you have a facebook account, please join in the fun here:

Alicia Nicholas has been doing agility since 2001 and has been teaching the sport since 2004. She started her agility journey with two Corgis, and since then she has run Border Collies, a Swedish Vallhund and a Papillion. Alicia believes that dog training is a very important aspect of dog agility and encourages a strong foundation for dogs that do agility. Alicia teaches all levels of agility handling, from foundation to international level classes. She also teaches competition obedience, focus and relationship, puppy classes, how to coach yourself classes, tricks classes, and more. Alicia says, "Agility is a sport which requires mental toughness and goal setting while keeping in mind that your canine partner is in it for fun! Goals are an important part of the journey; it's how you attain them that matters!" Alicia can be reached via email at or through her website ( and you can read her blog at


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