Vocabulary Reboot Part I: Threadles 

 November 4, 2016

By  Daisy

I’ve been thinking a lot about threadles lately. It’s something that historically, I’ve handled my way out of, rather than training, for the most part. I love training. I went to ALL of the Bob Bailey Chicken Camps, and I loved all of them. But for some reason, I just never viewed threadles as a training challenge. Insert maniacal laughter here.

I’m also thinking a lot about running contacts right now. Way back in 2008, when I started training Solar’s running contacts, before the days of online classes, and when NObody had thought to use FOOD or a remote controlled treat dispenser to get going, I figured it out largely by myself, along with Silvia Trkman’s writeup of the process she followed on her website. Her writeup was largely conceptual, and frankly, I think that was better for me to have read than a step by step process.

The concept of the process to be followed, along with my mind spinning with ideas, fresh out of Chicken Camp, meant that I really tried hard not only to be a good trainer, but also, to fully understand the concept of what I was training, as well as the ramifications of any ripples that might affect other training I was doing (there are, and JUMP training ripples in to running contacts, but, more on that later).

So, with my puppy, I expect that when she is old enough to step in to the arena to tackle an FCI style course, she will need a thorough understanding of landing side approaches.

What is a landing side approach?

First off, I think we would be wise to discontinue use of the term ‘threadle’, and instead, adopt a term that more accurately describes the type of challenge a threadle represents. So, I’m no longer going to use that word (plus my autocorrect hates it). Instead, I’m going to use the term landing side approach.

Examples of landing side approaches

You’re already familiar with landing side approaches as a challenge. You probably already have alternate names for each challenge as an individual challenge. BUT, consider that each of the individual scenarios below has in common the challenge of a landing side approach.

Just a few examples of landing side approaches to obstacles

Let’s look at each one of the above examples.

In the upper left example, the handler is in a location relative to the dog such that a pull to the takeoff side is required. Both the handler and the dog are moving directly toward the jump, but the dog needs information early on that she is moving toward the landing side of the obstacle.

In the upper right example, the handler is again in a location relative to the dog such that a pull to the takeoff side is required. Both the handler and dog are moving directly toward the tunnel, but they are moving toward the “landing side”, or exit of the tunnel (I call them landing sides now too, so I can get the concept in my brain and in the brain of students). The dog needs information that despite the handler’s motion, they should bypass the landing side of the tunnel and head to the takeoff side. This example can be expanded on – in the diagram below, the tunnel at left is easier than the tunnel at right, because the takeoff side requires less distance to get to for the dog. In the diagram at right, the dog may stall out before getting to the takeoff side of the tunnel, and, lacking an obvious entrance to get to, revert back to the landing side entrance.

Moving through the examples further above, the lower left is a push or send to the takeoff side, with a landing side approach. Although a send to the takeoff side may be a bit easier to handle, because the handler can use their body to control the dog’s approach and force them off of their path to the landing side of the obstacle, it’s not always possible to be close enough to the obstacle to accomplish this. And, the mechanical skill required on the part of the dog is essentially the same as a pull to the takeoff side, as I’ll get in to more as you read on.

Finally the lower right example…the weave poles. Yes, the weave poles as well can be thought of as having a “landing side” and a “takeoff side” (exit and entry). If you for any reason have to pull your dog to the takeoff side of the weave poles, you’ll see right away that this requires some solid training; the dog has multiple opportunities to slip in to the poles incorrectly, and must really know in advance that you are cuing one end or the other. A jump or a tunnel have only two options; front and back, entrance and exit, takeoff and landing side. But the weave poles have multiple spaces – one between each pair of poles!

More landing side approach examples

Below are a few more examples of a situation where the dog is approaching a jump from the landing side, and needs to be pulled to the takeoff side.

Landing side approaches – push or pull?

Until now, I’ve shown examples of landing side approaches that, for some reason, must be handled as a pull. Something previous in the course has forced the handler to be in a location where they cannot handle the landing side approach as a push. Typically, a push or send to the takeoff side is easier than a pull, because the handler can use their motion and body to more effectively push the dog off their path to the landing side of the obstacle. And so, here are the same examples from above, shown with the handler in a location where they can execute the landing side approach as a push or send.

We can also change up the weave pole scenario from above to be a push or send:

Why should we care about the vocabulary?

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what you call these things. However, I do think that using better terminology to describe this particular category of challenges will help us in the following ways, to name a few:

  • Landing Side Approach is a term that will help you be more aware of what your dog’s natural vs intended path is. Not all threadles LOOK like the classic, two jumps side by side threadle. But, as a landing side approach, they meet the same criteria when considering how to handle your dog.
  • If you’re more able to recognize a type of challenge or puzzle for what it is, you’ll be more prepared to solve that challenge.
  • Landing Side Approaches involved a great deal of mechanical effort and skill on the part of your dog, as well as understanding of the effort and skill required. Whether handled as a pull or a push, it’s work for your dog, and should be respected as such.

The mechanical skill required for your dog to successfully navigate a landing side approach, whether it be to a jump, a tunnel, or a set of weave poles, is complicated. And, when a landing side approach presents itself, it’s sort of a make or break proposition – not having the skill has more dramatic ramifications than other, “tamer” situations, where there is more room for error. In order to smoothly and comfortably (and quickly!) navigate a landing side approach, training and conditioning are required on the part of both the human and canine part of the team.

  • Very well put for my brain. Its all about the action. What is being required for the Dog to understand. Thank you. Loved the diagrams

  • Daisy,
    Thank you for this! I have been doing agility for over 10 years and have never been comfortable with the whole threadle thing. It caused me to do timid signals to the dogs and a lot of unsuccessful attempts because the dogs were never sure what I was asking for. Now this I understand!

  • I like your idea that because the dog’s behavior is the same in all those obstacle sequences we should describe them with the same term is a great idea. Unfortunately, like threadle, “landing side” still has a significant cognitive load when applied to non-jump obstacles; I’d argue it is more difficult for learners to see the landing side on non-jumping obstacles than for them to see the dog’s path being a threadle. Mostly because people don’t think of tunnels and weaves as having take off or landing sides.

    I’ve been hearing people use “non-obvious side”/end for those sequences and applying it to all obstacles. I’ve found it helpful when teaching new students since it is very clear to them which side/end of the obstacle is obvious to the dog as the dog moves along the desired path.

    I’m looking forward to your discussions of handling these sequences.

    • Absolutely, it’s more of a cognitive load. BUT, the advantage is that you start to see how the mechanical skill is essentially the same for the dog, whether it’s a tunnel or a jump. And, if you can wrap your brain around that, you can start to see how you can TRAIN the dog to understand the landing side as a concept on a variety of obstacles, not *just* jumps (and in my opinion, the more you can help them understand the concept without repetitive jumping, the better).

      Because jumping is the most complex behavior the dogs are doing out there on course, I *do* think it’s helpful to think of landing side and takeoff side, for every obstacle, not just jumps. It’s a bit of a stretch even for me, but I *am* using those terms, because I do think that the words help form the thoughts, and the thoughts help shape the actions.

  • I’m not wild about the term landing side. When viewed from the approach, every obstacle has two take-off sides and two landing sides (confusing when in discussion) depending on whether or not the dog is to take what’s in from of him or is pulled or pushed to the backside. Each has only one front side and one backside when viewed from the approach. So, while I appreciate your desire to get rid of the term threadle, I would argue for frontside and backside in preference to take-off and landing sides.

  • I loved this article, and the diagrams were so clear and easy to follow. I had never thought of weaves or tunnels as being in the same class as a back-jump, but your explanation has won me over. Thanks!

    • I’m still working through understanding of this myself, and so far, the important thing for me is that I’m recognizing where a particular mechanical effort (decelerate, shift to the rear, turn hard, often away from the handler) is required of the dog over and over again. I’m looking forward to Linda Mecklenburg’s Volume Two of MJS, I understand that there is quite a lot on landing side approaches contained in it.

  • I really enjoyed this discussion. The diagrams made everything very clear to understand. I had never thought of tunnels and weaves as potential Landing Side Approaches, but you are absolutely right.

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