Foot & Arm Movements
I mentioned in the handling elements lectures that as humans, we walk with the opposite hand and foot forward, and how this can be conflicting information for your dog. We can retrain our brains to use the same side hand and foot when we are handling our dogs. If this movement is automatic for you, it is much easier to learn handling techniques that require this coordination.
Exercise 16 Same Hand Same Foot
Have a target, and something you can toss to the target. This video was shot in the winter, so I’m actually using my mittens! Haha. But, something not so bouncy or rolley is good! The goal of the exercise is to synchronize your same side hand and foot. You are taking a step towards the target, and keeping your hand on a similar level to your leg, and letting the toy go as your heel touches down.
You aren’t exactly throwing the toy – more like letting it go. Where the toy goes, your dog goes. Work this exercise around the clock, so you can practice pointing your toes towards a specific location (the target), and also work both sides. Don’t worry about what your chest and eyes are doing – we are focusing on hand and foot movement first!
Exercise 17 Step to Takeoff Point
You may have heard the instructions to “step to the takeoff point” when learning a handling technique. This is a natural way to cue turns to our dogs. For example, if you are stepping towards the obstacle, or the landing of the obstacle, your chest will point in an entirely different location than if you are stepping to the take-off point of the dog.
This take-off point is the point where the dog would leave the ground if they were jumping straight and in extension. This is *not* the take-off point we hope they choose if they slow down to turn. We are going to practice this stepping motion in this exercise. You don’t need a jump, just something that represents a jump. You need a target on the ground that represents your dog’s take-off point. That is the blue dot in this video. The yellow dot represents where the dog would be coming from if we had a dog with us.
I am taking a step towards the takeoff point with my dog-side foot, and the dog-side arm is sending the toy to the take-off point. Work around the clock, and work both your left and right sides.
The goal of the exercise is to automate the dog-side arm and leg stepping in a specific direction: the take-off point of the dog. It is easy for us to want to point our toes towards the obstacle or towards the landing of the obstacle to “help” the dog, but this does not give them the appropriate information for a turn.
Exercise 18 Step to take-off + Eyes on Dog
Finally, we are combining the step to take-off with watching the dog’s eyes for commitment. In the previous exercise, we didn’t have a virtual dog with us. Now, we do! The yellow dot represents where the dog is landing the previous obstacle. This is the moment we would be looking at our dog’s eyes to observe commitment, so for this exercise, you will watch the yellow dot while stepping towards the take-off point (blue dot) and releasing the ball as you step.
Even when I am behind the dog, I am watching the virtual dog’s head, and step towards the take-off point.
How Do These Skills Help You?
Focusing on these hand and arm movements helps you when you need to commit your dog to an obstacle. Being able to step in one direction and look in another gives you the ability to maintain connection with the dog and still know where you are at on course. This movement is the first movement in a front cross, reverse spin, false turn, and backside send.