Swinging With The Dog

Posted on 08/13/09 10 Comments

There have been a few questions since I posted my National’s standard runs about turning my dog away from me on the contacts. It occurred when my dog raced up the dogwalk on my left arm and had to turn away from me into a tunnel.

Running in Greg Derrett’s handling system we do not “flick” our dogs. This means there is never a time we use a body pressure or an arm flick to get our dog’s to turn away from us. A serpentine may give that appearance but in fact you are creating two turns with your two arm changes which makes the approach to the next obstacle a straight one. Greg affectionately refers to a dog that turns away from his handler’s reinforcement zone (the area around the front of the handler by Greg’s definition, the area at the handler’s hip by mine) as a “mother flicker!”

I think having a verbal turn away cue is an advantage to any handler in any system as evident from some of these clips. I don’t have to be right up at the end of the tunnel to get my dogs to turn. Ideally your body is back out of the dog’s view because you don’t want to give a positional cue that means turn to me and than have the dog turn away.

In the following clips you can see the advantage of being able to hang back to better handle the rest of the course. I give the cue “swing” to my dog’s at different times depending upon if I have cued a running dogwalk or a stopped one. Yes I have taught two completely different behaviours to cue each performance on the dogwalk and no, I do not just “give my release cue early” on my stopped contact to create a running one (doing so is a one way ticket to a much slower contact performance down the road).

If you listen closely you should be able to hear me cue the “swing” to my dogs.

If I have cued a stopped dogwalk I wait until the dog has nose touched before I ask her to “swing” towards the obstacle on her other side. If I have asked the dog to perform a running dogwalk I cue the swing as she goes across the top of the dogwalk and then remind her again on the down plank. In the first clip you can see either I was late cuing the swing to Encore, or she was late reacting to it, as she started to turn the wrong way and then quickly responded and turned away as I wanted.  Nice that the dog saves your butt every now and again.

I know there will be questions so I will just say now, I teach my swing cue very much like I teach the “check, check” cue. It is all laid out in my One Jump Video.  The only difference is that I cross the dog’s line to create the turn away when I am teaching “swing.”

Today I am grateful that I have had 2 great groups in for foundation handling seminars so far this week. Hoping today’s workshop is more of the same!


  1. Trudie says:
    Monday, September 21, 2009 at 10:27am

    Dumb Questions Dept. cont’d
    A similar situation happened to me this weekend. I had 4 jumps my dog on my right arm, then a U-shaped tunnel with entry on the left. I indicated a false turn with my left arm , then sent him to the desired entry with my right, alas my dog almost entered but then changed his mind and dipped into the other entry. I wonder how he perceived it, might he construe the left entry as flicking away from me? Why do we not count perceived tunnel curves as flicking? I can see the dog must learn to understand “once you’re in the tunnel you drive on to the end no matter how you turn, you enter the hole I indicate and no dithering!” But I’m just wondering about canine decision-making, as it were.
    Also, when we have a u-shaped tunnel with a choice of entry, do we let the dog choose or should we indicate a choice.


  2. denise says:
    Friday, August 14, 2009 at 7:58am

    Please forgive my ignorance but I’ve got to ask what must be a dumb question. I don’t understand why swinging isn’t flicking? I understand you’re using a verbal cue instead of body pressure or a hand signal but isn’t the end behaviour still the dog turning away from your body position? i.e. you’re standing on the right and instead of going straight ahead or turning towards you the dog is turning away. Isn’t that flicking? Not trying to be argumentative, just trying to understand. Sorry if the answer is obvious 🙁


  3. Polly says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 4:18pm

    Thanks for the clarification Susan, much appreciated – another thing on the training list!

    It would be great to know the process of teaching the different contact behaviours on the dog walk – this is the first time I have come across this. (Got a DVD?!) Do you also teach the two behaviours on the A-frame? I have always treated all the contact equipment the same but am seeing more and more handlers differentiating between the dog walk and A-frame.

    Do you have specific occassions when you use a specific contact behaviour or do you find yourself using your running contacts for the ‘big, really matter’ runs and the stopped contact for everything else?

    I have 48 million other questions but will stop…. for now anyway. 😉


  4. Sam says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 4:06pm

    Could I just ask why you don’t just use your directional cues to turn the dog away from you at the end of the dogwalk?

    Great blog, I have kearnt so much from it.



  5. Sarah says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 3:56pm

    Thank you so much for this post, Susan!


  6. amanda says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 2:42pm

    I started teaching my dog a “turn” cue just over a year ago and I can’t believe the difference! I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner!

    It came in very handy at Nationals that’s for sure!!! That standard with the turn to the far tunnel had a lot of people in a tizzy, and the turn cue was very useful!


  7. Nat says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 11:31am

    For some reason I always thought that in the Derrett system, a rear cross was cued by the shoulders. Interesting to learn that this is not the case.



  8. Trudie says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 10:02am

    Thanks too for the “flicking” comments. Now I know what I see some handlers use, some quite adroitly at competitions and I always thought it was some skill I didn’t know about.
    Thanks for your slow motion videos of your dogs jumping in a previous post where you said to try and spot differences. It prompted me to get and work through Susan Salo’s foundation work. Grateful!!!


  9. Trudie says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 9:47am

    Thanks, I will dust off my one-jump video and review the “check” work again.
    This isn’t exactly like Greg Derrett’s directional cues is it. In other words, your “swing” to the left means “turn left and come back to me taking the very next obstacle to your left”.
    What about turning right?


  10. Michelle says:
    Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 8:47am

    My dogs and I are extremely greatful for all the wonderful tips and tricks you share on your blog, thank you!! this is such a great resourse for those of us who can’t see you in person easily!

    P.S really looking forward to hearing more about your new video, any hints for us as to what its about? 🙂


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