Sunday, April 07, 2013

You Spin Me Right Round Baby Right Round

Like a record.

I was intrigued by a post by Agility Nerd about a handling move called Top Spin so I thought I give it a spin, so to speak, out at the practice field this morning.  You can check out the course map and description of the move as well as some video here.  Basically you use it when you want a lot of collection on a turn but not a full wrap.  You turn your shoulders towards the dog like you would in an RFP, if you do RFP's, but instead of quickly turning back, you keep going in a full circle.  Here's a rough sketch of the set-up I used so you don't have to go back and forth between here and Agility Nerd.

Dog goes over jump 2 on your right and as the dog commits to 3 you turn into him, or to your left, and continue in a full circle, moving in a clockwise direction.

I shot some video including some slow motion of both the Top Spin and a front cross between 3 and 4 with rear cross at the weaves.  Steve's got video as well and shows an RFP and a shoulder pull with deceleration.  I didn't try these with Strum because I can tell you right now that no way will he get that weave entry with just a shoulder pull/decel cue.  This is largely due to his spotty weave entry skills and partly due to the speed coming out of the tunnel.  And I really don't like RFP's, especially in this scenario, way too herky jerky, didn't want to try to go there with Strummer.  My first choice before trying the Top Spin would be a front cross between 3 and 4.  I didn't draw the full course but you turn to the left after the weaves so you want your dog on your right when he exits the weaves so with the front you either need a rear cross at the weave entry or a front or blind cross at the weave exit, none of which is a problem for us.  In particular I've been practicing tough rear crosses at the entry as a method of proofing and it's helping Strum a lot with his entries and staying in.

Anyway, here's my video, shot from a different angle from Steve's video, mostly to avoid shooting into the bright glare of the morning sun.  I've got examples of both the Top Spin and Front Cross in slow motion so you can see the details and the weave entry.

TOP SPIN ii from colliebrains on Vimeo.

It took us many tries to get the weave entry with the Top Spin but this could be just as much a product of Strummer's difficulty with weave entries as it is from the handling move itself.  The front cross allows me to shape the entry but even so he still missed it on one rep with the front cross.  In the case of the Top Spin it could also be that I was positioned such that I was blocking his entry on the misses, hard to tell from the angle of the video.

In general I prefer the front cross because it's more comfortable and even more so because I don't have to lose that contact/connection by taking my eyes off my dog.  I don't mind this during blind crosses and Ketschkers because the amount of disconnection is so small but the time it takes to spin around a full 360 degrees is significant, at least to me, and the period of disconnection felt like an eternity.  And I felt like I wasted precious time and mental energy trying to find him and re-connect again and Strum seemed a bit hesitant to the point of checking in on the earlier reps.  It's hard to say if this would get better with practice or if it's a problem intrinsic to the move.  Also I sometimes have problems with becoming disoriented when rotating out of a front cross and losing where I am on course during a competition and for me I could see this being an issue with this move, especially in the heat of competition.  Like Steve I also had issues with turning too soon and pulling him off the jump.  Verbal jump cues do little to send him on over a jump if my body language is saying something else so I have to be a little 'late' if I'm using collection cues that involve facing him.  Much less precision in timing involved with a front cross in this scenario.  But the Top Spin looks cooler on the video so I guess if you're going for style points . . .

Probably not a move I'd use very often if ever but I love experimenting with new handling moves and I'll throw it in here and there during practice just for fun if there's occasion for it.  Thanks to Steve at Agility Nerd for showing us a fun new move.


  1. Elayne and Strummer,
    So glad you video taped your efforts - thanks for adding to the discussion! Love the Dead or Alive soundtrack too! (that is one of my 80's guilty pleasure songs)

    You can see Strum read the rotation, especially in the second attempt after the slow motions. He drops the bar but you can really see him turn in to you (and hit the entry).

    I think in the ones where it goes wrong you are slightly closer to the weaves and moving forward more and he is pushed off the entrance. It is a tough entrance for a long strided dog with that shallow angled approach. But mostly, my advice would be to do the 360 as more of a pivot than a running circle - it is easier to get done faster too. It will be nice to see if Strummer reads it better.

    Thanks again!

  2. Thanks for the suggestions, we’ll give it another go and try them out. I thought my turns looked wide and loopy in the video but wasn’t sure what the move was supposed to look like.

    I googled ‘Top Spin’ to see if I could find any examples, seems like it would be a move the Europeans do but apparently the Europeans refer to what I would call a Ketschker as a Top Spin or sometimes Absolute Top Spin. There are probably subtle differences between all 3 but I haven’t the time or interest right now in figuring them out. The closest video I could find was this and though she’s approaching the jump with shoulders forward rather than already turned into her dog like in a Ketschker, she’s only rotating 180 degrees rather than the 360. And to be nit picky, in our example I’m only rotating about 270 degrees. But I do see how it looks and feels different from a Ketschker.

    Also in the video she’s changing arms on the landing side and in our example we’re picking the dog up on the same arm. Not sure if that is a defining characteristic of the move either. I guess it all hinges on what people call it in the real world, the original definition is arbitrary anyway.

  3. I don't think I like that top spin thing. It seems to go against everything we've taught our dogs. And pushes into then as they take the jump could cause a disaster as they try to read what you are doing. That's just my opinion.

  4. Yes, it can be inconsistent depending on what you've taught your dog. Strummer's foundation jump training did include having him taking a jump with me facing him so for me it's not inconsistent though could potentially water down the collection cue if I use it too much. It's not any different from a Ketshcker depending how you feel about those. The key for me anyway is to maintain motion towards the jump while turning into him because the verbal cue alone won't send him over the jump if I'm at a standstill. Turning into him is just a collection cue, same as a front cross but more extreme and should happen before he takes the jump but after commitment so he shouldn't have a problem while jumping but of course that depends on good timing.

    There's an example of Top Spin here at about 3:20. Not the only way to handle that sequence but sure looks handy.

  5. And if you watch that video on Youtube you can pause it as she goes through the move and see that she start her rotation long before the dog takes the jump so the dog knows where he's going before take-off. I've long wondered how to get a tight turn in a scenario like that without having to shape the turn and waste yardage. Looks like a great way to get a nice tight turn if you can get your timing right.