Posted Date: October 7, 2013
What do you do when the tunnel entrance that appears to be next, isn't? By Bud Houston.
As a course designer, I am disposed to give the dog the flowing entry to the pipe tunnel. That allows the handler to release the dog to work ahead while the handler sets up for subsequent handling. However, it doesn't matter what I would do as a course designer. We have to train and practice for what we see out in the world. The opposite-side tunnel entry appears all too often in course design. And we all need to know how to answer this riddle.
This was not a dictated handling drill. I'd like my students to understand all of the various handling options and frankly practice them all. Beyond that, the handler should understand what might work best with his or her own dog and practice that to the extent that it becomes a capable skill. I used this sequence in a seminar to help students build these skills.
For many dogs, a simple "post and tandem" solves. Though I like to see the handler put on the brakes for a bit of a static post (a turn in which the handler and dog turn in the same direction, with the dog moving next to the handler, who is pivoting) to pre-cue the dog into the turn. The handler might turn on post as though preparing to make a presentation of jump #4. As the dog curls in to attend, the handler will flip back into the tandem (a rear cross in which the dog and handler move "in tandem" so that their arcs are of equal size, crossing somewhere in the middle) to turn the dog away into the pipe tunnel.
A simple front cross (a maneuver in which the handler changes sides in front of the dog's direction of motion) dog might serve as well. Though I have to remind my students from time to time that in order to do a front cross, the handler should actually be in front.
For certain dogs we also played with the pre-cue front cross. This means the handler will rotate back towards the dog and show the lead hand almost like a catcher on a baseball team holding out his mitt to catch a ball. As the dog comes up over the jump (#2), the handler will swoop the dog into the turn.
For at least one dog (about as hard to turn as a bowling ball), we used a vee-set. That means the handler puts the corner of approach in such a way that the dog is lined up through jump #2 into the right side of the pipe tunnel (with the point of the "V" being between #1 and #2).
After Solving the Pipe Tunnel...
... the sequence doesn't end and so the handler shouldn't stand around admiring his work. This is often the way of a technical sequence. The handler will move from riddle to riddle without any time to relax or breathe.
On the exit from the pipe tunnel at #3, I favor a front cross. We use the front cross because the counter-rotation of the handler's body is compelling to the dog. So it's important to note that the handler should wait until the dog can actually see the rotation. If the dog is in the middle of the pipe tunnel, the handler might as well have done a blind cross (where the handler changes sides in front of the dog by turning her back to the dog in the process) which is a considerably weak signal in the presence of the wrong course jump option.
After jump #4, I favor another front cross. We had to talk about the natural turning direction on jump #5 as several of the handlers in this seminar forced a turn back to the right. Of course the natural turning direction is to the left. Also, there is far less risk of a wrong course to the left than to the right.
Some of the definitions used in this article came from Bud Houston's glossary of dog agility terms (here: budhouston.wordpress.com/a-glossary-of-dog-agility-terms/).
Bud Houston is an agility coach and seminar leader with a talent for refining agility handling and distance training skills for any dog and handler team. Bud blogs at:http://budhouston.wordpress.com/and can be reached with a click at his website: http://dogagility.org/