Posted by: jility | January 7, 2014

In the New Old Fashioned Way!

In dog training, especially agility, some folks love claiming that they invented certain training and/or handling techniques. I think agility was invented by Adam and Eve. Cain probably blamed his dog for his own lack of good training. I bet he carried his dog out of the ring every time something went wrong. He probably killed Abel because Abel, being the good guy, mentioned to him that perhaps his dog kept messing up because Cain’s training and/or handling sucked.

Every time somebody carries their dog out of the ring for messing up, or gets pissed at their dog and marches them off, all I can think of is how they are bringing attention to themselves for their crappy training and/or handling. Don’t they know that our dogs are honest, loving creatures that do only what they have been taught by us? Our dogs deserve better!


But I digress.

Anyway, the “new” handling maneuvers so often seen in the ring today were around when I started agility in 2000. I remember practicing blind crosses until I was blue in the face. I also remember the “flip” turn which is now called the K turn or the J turn depending on whose camp you are in or how you execute the turn. I can accomplish the same thing using a post turn and not lose my connection with my dog! It doesn’t look as fancy but whatever. I used big off arms to turn my dog away from me and I layered everything I could. I tried to lead my dog around by the nose but, being a slow a$$, all I did was teach my dog to run as fast as I did.

It took me years to UNLEARN the crap I learned in the beginning. I remember way back when, the first time I was told that blind crosses were OUT! I was flabbergasted! I had worked so hard to perfect mine! I was told that my dog might duck behind my back when I least expected it on course. I sure see that happening now with the reinvention of the blind cross!

I also remember being told that using my off arm to turn my dog was confusing to the dog. Brining up that arm might look the same to the dog as the beginning of a front cross or a cue to go on straight ahead. That made sense to me. But it was when my first agility dog cut in front of me because I put up the arm next to her to tell her to go straight that I really understood. Regardless of what I thought I had taught her, SHE had learned that my left arm up meant turn right and my right arm up meant turn left and that is exactly what she did. I nearly tripped over her as she darted in front of me. However, the off arm move was so ingrained in my handling, I found myself bringing up that off arm for years after I “saw the light.”

I was told by many instructors in camps, seminars and privately that we needed “rules” to follow so our handling was clear to the dog. One cue needed to mean one behavior. The list of things went on and one and on. My head was spinning at time when I was first learning that new way of handling.

So now I see some of those same instructors who once told me I would go to HELL for blind crossing or using the off arm or any of the other old style handling moves I was taught fourteen years ago, using those same moves they once said were evil! I am not sure how I feel about throwing all that money at them for years and following blindly down their path of  self-righteous handling, only to now see them going in a completely different direction! Were they wrong then or are they wrong now?  They used to make fun of all those folks using the same moves they are now using themselves and now they make fun of that very system that served them so well for so many years. I honestly think I feel betrayed by them!

I LOVE having guidelines in my handling. I use a lot of distance on course because I can’t move. I am old, overweight, had polio as a child, post polio later in life and am now going through chemotherapy for cancer. I love the Greg Derrett system of handling because I never have to pick from the many moves o’day when it comes to my handling choices. I love being able to walk out on a course and know immediately how I am going to handle it! I love his meat and potatoes approach to handling. It is nothing fancy. People don’t watch and go “OOOOH!!!” or “AHHHH!!!” because there are no fancy behind your back, over the shoulder, run low to the ground, do a somersault then cartwheel moves in his system. It is just straight forward handling and I love it. Sure, I wish I could run but I can’t. I have to rely on my dog training ability and a good handling system that doesn’t require me to be in my dog’s face constantly.

Below is another run I did five days after a chemo treatment. I was very sick but figured I would feel a lot better running my dog than sitting around feeling like crap.

How does seventy-six year old Sir Cussalot with bad knees, old legs and a bad back get a very fast BC with running contacts around without being able to run fast and get in her face to lead her around by the nose?

Very well with the handling system we have come to know and love.

So, for now, even though we are a dying and nearly extinct breed of handlers,  I will just stick with what I know best and let the other people entertain me with the latest and greatest moves that were first invented so long ago . I think it is awesome that so many want to try new things. All the power to them! Those agility handlers teaching all those “new” moves are entitled to make a good living giving seminars. For me, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I tell people who try to get me to put more tools in my handling toolbox that a jeweler doesn’t need a crowbar ;). I am perfectly happy being placed on the  endangered handler species list.

There is a great quote from Albert Einstein that my friends Bob and Carol told me yesterday “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.” I love that quote! I think it applies to all things agility.


After reading some of the comments regarding this blog, I thought I needed to clear up  few things:

I am not defensive or bitter ;). I have NO idea where that came from! I guess some people are unable to understand my humor.

I don’t give a hoot what other people do in their handling!

The point of the blog was that those “new” handling moves are not new at all! They have been around FOREVER!

As for my reluctance to change that was stated by some, I did change. I changed years ago AWAY from the “new” handling we see today to what Sir Cussalot and I are now using (and have for the past twelve years). If somebody can show me something that is actually NEW rather than recycled and renamed, I am more than willing to take a look! I am not interested in going backwards, however. The system we use works beautifully for fast, medium or slow speed dogs and/or handlers. I can walk around a course and follow the same principles as a fast runner.

Some  mentioned that people in North America need to change handling styles because those Euro style courses are headed this way. Guess what? The HANDLING METHOD WE USE WAS DEVELOPED SPECIFICALLY FOR THOSE EURO STYLE COURSES! It has thoughtfully evolved and changed over the years along with the course changes.

Finally, as I have stated in the blog AND here AND on Facebook AND elsewhere, I think everyone needs to use what works for them! I don’t care what anyone else does as long as they are nice to their dogs! I will continue using what works for me and, hopefully, will be able to do so without finger pointing and laughing  from fellow competitors:).


  1. Like you learned the much of what is now considered “new” handling when I started 14 years ago. I hear our elite presenters selling these so called new moves by saying “handling is evolving”. Not really, it’s revolving. :). Love the blog.

  2. I am new to agility and have been learning the GD system which seems to make a lot of sense to me so far. Having been to only a handful of trials (to watch, not compete) I have to say that I love the UKI option of NFC and wish other venues would do the same.

  3. […] while back I wrote a blog titled “In the New Old Fashioned Way.” I outlined how I feel about all the “new” fancy moves in agility (that really aren’t […]

  4. Loved your post Helen…………share many of your views:)

  5. I had your same feelings about those instructors that first prevented me from doing the then unthinkable, realizing that now they are doing it left, right and center. However, I learnt a huge lesson from having those feelings. I learnt that there is no system. No absolute. I take what works for me and I use it. I am more open to try new things. And I adopt them or not, depending on whether they work for me and my dog.

  6. Whew! Glad to find this secret hideout of ‘not broken, not fixing’ GD handlers. Peer pressure is a bitch!!!

    Cheers to us!

    • LOL! We are nearly extinct but we will go down fighting! 😉 I have no intention to change, nor does my husband. We need a secret handshake ;).

  7. I’m with you, Helen! Only problem I seem to be having is finding accessible instructors that agree 😦

  8. Helen, I love your writing and normally agree with everything you say. BUT…. after my sheltie’s contacts went wrong, I tried everything. We practiced at home and at class with all sorts of things to try to get to her miss a contact with no luck. As the saying goes, “she was perfect at home”. No instructor would encourage me to walk her off for a blown contact. I had to make that decision on my own. She is a very “hard” dog, marking the behavior had no effect whatsoever. So I started to walk her off. Finally, after a solid year of hardly ever hitting the yellow on an aframe or dogwalk, she started to get them. After a few times of having the missed contact happen on the very last run of the day and just taking her off the course and putting her in the car and driving home, she became pretty reliable on contacts. So maybe my crappy training of my lack of consistency enforcing criteria in the beginning led to the problem, but I don’t think that adding more and more years of being frustrated at her for blowing contacts would be in any way better than having had to walk her off the course 8-10 times. There I said that. And that said, I love your blog and your humor and your courage.

    • Sadly I have had to do the same thing and I am ashamed! It happened with my first agility dog. I allowed her startline stay to go to hell for years, then decided to fix it. When it goes so wrong for so long, unfortunately for the dogs, sometimes we need to take them off for missing a contact or blowing a startline. It is still due to our lack of proper training and/or criteria enforcement in the beginning. I still think, even though I have done it myself, that it is a shame to get to that point and it makes me sad for the dogs, regardless of their temperament. We need to train better and hold criteria better in the beginning so it doesn’t come to that. I may find myself in that position again in my agility career, but I sure hope not! If I do, I will yell as I am leaving the ring, “LOOK AT ME! I SUCK!” LOL 😉
      I am glad you love my blog :).

  9. Love it, agree totally!!!!

  10. Fabulous post! Could not agree more.

  11. Helen – absolutely LOVE this post! Right on sistah!!!!!

  12. Thank you Helen…I call our “old fashioned” ways, Classic Agility. Seems better than meat and potatoes 🙂

  13. Helen…All I can say about this is: BRILLIANT

  14. as usual…. so very well said.

  15. Everything Old is New again…..IF it works for you and your dog …who is to say it is wrong?????

  16. “Every time somebody carries their dog out of the ring for messing up, or gets pissed at their dog and marches them off, all I can think of is how they are bringing attention to themselves for their crappy training and/or handling.” YES YES YES YES YES. Favorite quote ever right there.

    As for the rest of it…. ;o) I don’t subscribe to any particular handling system. I think the “fancy crap” is fun and do it when I can manage to find a way to incorporate it into the boring courses we run in the USA, but mostly we just play around in training. Ultimately, consistency is the key and that’s all that matters.

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