Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Lead Leg

Studying Linda Mecklenburg's book, DEVELOPING JUMPING SKILLS, I finally begin to understand what is meant by “the lead leg” and its significance in a dog’s agility performance! For years I’ve asked, and for years no one could explain it to me in a way I could grasp. This book, in Appendix 1, explains it perfectly. Thank you, Linda!

The Lead Leg
The lead leg is NOT the leg that's fartherest forward at a given moment. It's the last front leg the dog lands on in a single stride.  Turns out, it’s the leg easiest for the dog to turn into.

It’s the leg Maxie is extending forward in this photo, his right leg, which he will pivot on in making his right turn towards me. The lead leg should be the one nearest the inside of the curve – handling inside the curve cues the dog’s turn, but more succinctly, cues the dog’s lead leg. This behavior is a "natural cue", as opposed to a "trained cue".

Lucky Lucy
It’s the left leg in this photo, for you see that while Lucky’s right foreleg is extended, her left foreleg will be the last leg to complete the stride, and left leg will support her body while her rear feet push off. 

Halliliulih! So, the significance of the lead leg is about balance and direction. The dog landing on the wrong lead leg in a turn tends to spin away to regain balance, or turn wide as they add an additional stride or two to change leads.  Changing leads requires a skill just like when a kid gallops along like a horse, then adds in an extra hop to change lead legs.

Giving turn cues before D takes off over a jump helps D change lead legs before the jump and land ready for a tighter turn. 

I'm making further notes as I read through this "required reading" book in conjunction with Daisy Peele's Online "Agility Foundation" class,  which I am auditing this winter.  I will post my book and class notes when I've completed them, or maybe break it down into different topics like this one.

Upwards and onward!


Anonymous said...

I am enjoying your blog very much. It is refreshing to find an agility blog that breaks down the information so clearly and concisely! Thank You.

Kristen said...

This can be a hard thing to 'see' until you understand it! I struggled with this when I was into horses. I was able to indentify the lead if I was watching a team, but in 10 years I never was able to tell while I was the one riding the horse.

Is this something you will bring up in your classes at all? I'm always conflicted about whether it's helpful in putting together the big picture of handling or if it's an extra piece that the students don't need to know to do well. I don't want to overwhelm them!

Michele Fry said...

Kristen, I don't think one can "teach" the lead leg. But if your dog spins a lot or makes wide turns, you can watch the videos in slo mo to determine the lead leg over an obstacle, and learn to give your cues a wee bit earlier. It's about improving the handler's timing more than the dog's. And no, I would not introduce this to beginner students, but as handlers become more proficient some will become more interested in the fine details.

Kristen said...

I should have clarified - teaching the human students to be able to identify leads. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on that. I've been adding it into a lesson for intermediate students where we spend a night looking at motion and gait through different sets of agility activities. It's fun to see how they relate back to those learning moments later on.

I have seen dogs taught to move on a specific lead, mostly just in freestyle (and then the dogs can be cued to change leads every other stride, it looks like skipping!).