Lorrie’s Agility Dog Blog

Musings on Dogs, Agility, and Being an Instructor

But I Don’t Play (Insert Distance Game Here). So I Don’t Need Distance, Right?

I have to laugh when I’m in a class and people tell the instructor “I’m never going to run a Gambler’s course, so I don’t need to learn distance.”  There are SO MANY reasons to be able to work at a distance other than being able to play the games.  No matter what venue you choose to play in, there are places on course where distance gives you a huge advantage over other teams.  The biggest advantage is being able to get into position by sending your dog to an obstacle or sequence and moving away to prepare for the next sequence.  Distance also allows your dog to run faster since they are not running alongside you waiting for direction. 

Judges often design courses that challenge a handler by requiring they choose between either staying with their dog and being out of position for the next obstacle, or moving away from their dog at the risk of an off-course or incomplete performance.  The illustration below is similar to a sequence I saw on a USDAA course.  If the handler stays with the dog to support the weaves, they are forced to perform the A-Frame with the dog on the left, setting up a cross at the triple (5).  At the trial, many, many bars came down as the dogs looked to see where the handler went or tried to turn in mid-air.  People with stopped contacts wasted precious seconds crossing at the bottom of the A-Frame.  The most successful way to handle it turned out to be taking a straight line from the weaves to the left side of the A-Frame (as the handler would be facing it), while moving away from the dog in the weaves.  That allowed the handler to call the dog to the A-Frame with their right hand, and eliminated the cross at the triple.




Another challenge that I have seen more often lately is a place on course where handlers can choose to layer an obstacle, or to be at a disadvantage for the next sequence of obstacles.  The diagram below is again similar to a sequence from a USDAA trial.  After the table, the handler has to choose their strategy.  They can stay with the dog to get the tunnel entrance and try to either beat them to the exit or flip them so they head to the correct jump.  The other option is to layer the dogwalk and send to the tunnel entrance, which allows the handler to be in position for the jump.  Again, in the real sequence, the successful handlers used distance to layer the dogwalk and had plenty of time to cross between the tunnel exit and the jump.  Handlers that chose to stay with their dog generally incurred faults from off-courses or refusals.     




Even on such simple sequences as pinwheels or serpentines, the ability to send your dog away provides an opportunity to move into position and speed up your run.  It’s hard to watch people perform front crosses right in front of their dog, slowing them down dramatically, and sometimes even shutting them down completely.  If you are able to use distance to move away from your dog, your crosses can be completed without encroaching upon your dog’s path and will actually speed him up.  The other thing that speeds up your run is your ability to send the dog while taking short-cuts on course.  I don’t know many people who can run as fast as their dog, and being able to send the dog and move to the next part of the course greatly increases how fast the dog can run.

Even if you never plan to set foot on a Gamblers course, cultivating distance is important for success.  It is a skill, and must be learned and practiced, just like any other skill.  Keep an eye out – I’m still planning a post that explains what teams need to successfully work at a distance… 

 Editor’s note:  The article regarding skills for successful distance work is complete and can be viewed here:  https://lorriemaxx.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/five-skills-for-successful-distance/





April 16, 2009 - Posted by | Agility, Distance, Training | , , ,


  1. Excellent points Lorrie. Some people wonder how handlers with the super fast dogs can get front crosses in, when others are forced into rears. Its not because the handler runs like superman – its that they strategically incorporate distance to let them get into position. Every time you turn on course, there is an opportunity to get some distance and get ahead of your dog!

    Comment by Greg S | April 16, 2009 | Reply

    • Yep, I’d never get a single front cross in if I didn’t work distance with Maxx and Storm. I’m WAY too slow, and they are WAY too fast!

      Comment by lorriemaxx | April 16, 2009 | Reply

  2. Totally agree. With my last two dogs I have done a lot of distance work and it pays off. The first three are very velcro hence the lack of gambler legs 🙂 I am bringing Jim Basic out to Utah in May purely for a distance seminar. I can’t wait. I love your blog by the way 🙂

    Comment by Julie | April 16, 2009 | Reply

    • I’m glad you are enjoying it and I’m honored that you included the link on your blog site!

      Comment by lorriemaxx | April 16, 2009 | Reply

      • Thanks for including mine too 🙂 It is so nice to keep in touch! Will you be at both May Trials? If so see you there.

        Comment by Julie | April 16, 2009

  3. […] I stumbled upon an agility BLOG post entitled: “But I Don’t Play (Insert Distance Game Here). So I Don’t Need Distance, Right?” The title of the post drew me up short. It’s an argument I’ve seen from agility handlers for a couple decades. So I decided to check in on the poster to understand their logic. As it turns out I shouldn’t have presumed to think I was going to read an essay on why not to learn to work a dog at a distance. The author (Lorrie) provides an excellent discussion of the value of distance training. Read it for yourself: https://lorriemaxx.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/but-i-dont-play-insert-distance-game-here-so-i-dont-need-… […]

    Pingback by Fixation « Bud Houston’s Blog | April 21, 2009 | Reply

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