Sunday, April 1, 2012

The 180 Flip

I Googled "dog agility flip" before teaching my class yesterday, and was disappointed that my blog post from last August was the first entry and there wasn't much else out there.  It was a confusing read.  I had not remembered writing about it.  I didn't know much about it when I wrote it.  I'm leaving it up there, not as an April Fool's joke though I felt like a fool re-reading it, but because it has a sense of history.  It shows I'm making progress, and progress comes dropping slowly. It also has a very interesting course map I'd like to set up again.

Now I know more about flatwork, teach it to my dogs much better, and have more to share.  The main thing is that a 180 Flip is a PUSH away from you, and your paths are like 2 candy canes, both curving in the same direction.  It's more than a straight push -- your arm describes a big circle in the air, away from you.

Even puppies love this work and catch on quickly if your motions are precise and treats delicious.  You can do this in your kitchen or living room.  Not much space required.

On the flat, (i.e., no equipment), put 3 treats in each hand.  Stand your dog to your right.  Lead their nose out and away from you, enscribing a big circle, so they make a 180 right turn.  Just after they commit to their turn, you also turn tightly, 180 degrees right.  Do NOT cross the dog's path.  When you are both turned and your dog is now on your left, treat from the left hand.  Walk a few steps forward, luring the dog with the second treat in your left hand.  Lead their nose out and away from you so they make a 180 left turn.  As they turn, you also turn tightly,180 left. When you are both turned and your dog is now on your right, treat from your right hand. 

Repeat this sequence, left turn, right turn, until all your treats are gone.  Praise, tug, play.

Repeat this sequence every day (maybe 2 minutes), increasing the walking distance between turns, walking faster, running.  Lure/treat intermittantly, then quit luring.   Treat intermittantly from your pocket, after 3 or 4 turns.

Intersperse flip flatwork with post turn and pull through flatwork.  This teaches D to watch your body moves carefully.  3-5 minutes a day of this is all you ever need do.  They think it is so much fun.  It's also a great warm-up at trials, something more than just putting D over a jump a few times, and can be used to signal that "the game is on".

When the dog can flip out perfectly 90% of the time, take the skill to the agility equipment.

The most common "on course" flip is shown in the diagram above.  D has to turn away from you to make the tunnel entrance off the dog walk or A-frame.  The treat comes after they complete the tunnel.  First, teach the flip alongside the tunnel (see diagram), both sides.  Then increase the difficulty by adding a contact obstacle.

The 180 flip is also used in other ways by a few distance handlers.  Jane Simmons-Moake can send D ahead 2 jumps, flip them over a 3rd jump and get them coming back in her direction with confidence (see diagram).  Her flips are wild to watch.  She flings her arm out so hard it just about lifts her feet off the ground!  Her forward motion is minimal.

Some bloggers say the flip doesn't work for them.  Instead they cross the arm nearest the dog over across their chest, turn towards the turn. roll their shoulder, decelerate.  Others say this results in pulling the dog in towards them rather than a push away.  I suspect it depends on how the dog is trained to read your signals.

I believe a unique signal for a "flip" is important.  It should not look like anything else.

My dogs do the flatwork flip quite well, and today I taught the move in my Handling Fundamentals class.  All teams seemed to catch onto the flatwork fairly fast.  Taking it to the tunnel worked well.  Taking it to the equipment was quite a bit harder, but I was only demonstrating when the flip could be used on a competition course.  They hadn't practiced it for long enough to master it at a greater distance than a few inches.

The trick is getting the dog's head turning away from you.  The body follows.  The other trick is convincing students to do their flatwork at home.

P.S. Some people call the 180 Flip a rear cross, and use the above described flatwork to teach the rear cross. I do not. To me, a rear cross is NOT when the dog propels his backside from the handlers right to left, nor when the dog ends up on the other side of the handler, but when the handler crosses over the dog's path, behind the dog. Looking at the candy canes above, you can see the handler never crosses the dog's path. Likewise, some call a pull through a front cross. I do not. To my mind, to be a "cross", the dog's path must be crossed, and the cross must be made by the handler. A fine but important distinction, and it may look otherwise, but it should be firmly implanted that dogs are NEVER allowed to make crosses.  All crosses are made by the handler.  What might look like D crossing over in front of H, had better always be H crossing behind D! 

P.P.S.  There are other ways to get to the dog's other side besides crosses, most notably, the "180 flip", and the "pull through" (also a 180 turn).  I call each of these a "change of sides" rather than a "cross", and I hope this clears up a lot of confusion for my students, as it has for me.

P.P. S.  There is also a straight line flip over a jump (without a 180 turn and without any change of sides), but I'm not covering that here.

Upwards and onward!

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