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Training: Doodles

What works? Training exercises by Bud Houston.

I am an advocate in general for the idea that in handling for dog agility whatever actually works is correct. If a thing is practiced enough we are inclined to have confidence in the outcome. Confidence is an important trait as it will free the handler to move boldly and on the attack rather than conservatively and defensively. 

Following are some simple sequences that have multiple handling solutions. How would you solve them? 

Doodle #1

The opening line this sequence was quite interesting. Mostly the dog is lined up for the performance of the A-frame. So to spoil the line, the handler will have to resort to some intrusive micromanagement. Or, of course, the dog might, for reasons of his own, prefer the pipe tunnel.
An interesting approach would be for the handler to work a line lateral to and completely separate from the dog's approach to the A-frame and through jump #4. This puts the handler ahead of the dog in the relative direction of the course, well to the right of the dog after jump #4 making the finishing bit over jump #5 and into the pipe tunnel a relatively simple matter. 

The sequence might also be solved by the handler taking a long and bold lead-out to the opposite side of the pipe tunnel tucked under the A-frame. The handler would have to trust that the dog knows the A-frame will get him to the handler's position in the most straight-forward manner. 

Doodle #2

I'm fascinated with the variety of solutions handlers might use to approach the #3 pipe tunnel under the A-frame. The simple thing, of course, would be to take a modest lead-out with the dog on left, using a quick counter-rotation (a reverse flow pivot, or RFP, where the handler turns toward the dog and then turns back in the direction they were going) to draw the dog towards the handler and into the pipe tunnel. 

Even the transition from the pipe tunnel to the weave poles becomes a teaching moment. It's amazing how many handlers will exhaust the real estate available for movement while the dog is in the pipe tunnel so that when the dog comes out of the tunnel, the handler is down field and moving badly. This is the perfect opportunity to scoop, which means the handler will loiter near the exit of the tunnel, saving up all that real estate, and will explode into motion at the instant the dog makes his exit. 

In the serpentine following the weave poles, I will often specify handling as a series of blind crosses (where the handler changes sides in front of the dog by turning her back to the dog in the process). The blind cross is the racer's option for a serpentine and will create neat tight little turns and a dog that gets excited by the chase. 

Doodle #3

Now, at the risk of contradicting myself, I really don't want to attack the serpentine following the pipe tunnel at #3 with a series of blind crosses. Here's my logic: I will race forward of the dog with blind crosses so long as I have an interest in staying in front of the dog, an interest in winning the race. If you look at this sequence, the handler will really want the dog to slide ahead of him over jump #5 and out away to jump #6. The handler would do much better to use a front cross (a maneuver in which the handler changes sides in front of the dog's direction of motion) after jump #4 to slide the dog ahead. 

As far as that goes the handler could draw the dog through the first two jumps after the pipe tunnel on 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), and then use a tandem turn (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) after the second jump to accelerate the dog away into the turn. 

After jump #8, the handler should do a simple front cross to tuck the dog into the pipe tunnel. Now comes a bit of strategic analysis on the pipe tunnel. Should the handler scoop? Or should the handler run like hell? (I'd recommend just taking off and running like hell!)

Some of the definitions used in this article came from Bud Houston's glossary of dog agility terms (here:

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: can be reached with a click at his website:


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