Last night I taught a workshop on handling serpentines, threadles and push-throughs. The participants had already attended a class on the introduction of these skills, where we worked one or two skills at a time, so everybody was ready to be pushed a bit more!
The drill I devised was a spin-off of the traditional straight line of jumps. By curving the line, it varies the challenge a bit and offers an increase in difficulty when the handler has to work the jumps from the “outside” of the curve. It doesn't matter if you use wing or wingless jumps (a variety is great). I also recommend playing with expanding or decreasing the distance between jumps.
The first objective is to serpentine the jumps, ideally down and back along the line. Keep in mind that this should be a “no-brainer” to you and your dog. Yes, you cue the line, but shouldn't overly have to work or hold to get your dog to come into you over a jump or push out to take one away from you.
Next, try threadling between the jumps. This means your dog is going to take each jump away from you. Things can get a little tricky at this point, especially when you are trying to get down the line. The best advice is DO NOT rush sending your dog back to the jump. If you make the dog's line too effecient, then you risk getting too far behind and threadles are mostly successful when you stay ahead of your dog's path. This is an example of a place you might have your dog take a little longer line if it allows you to remain proactive and keep them on course further along the line. I am showing the path in black going one direction and red coming back.
Now tackle the push-through, where your dog takes each jump coming towards you. This can also be pretty daunting, so don't strive for too many reps at once. The more confident you are with your cue to send your dog to the back-side of the next jump, and the better your dog reads that cue, the more successful you will be. Note that the dog starts on the “outside” of the line.
Once you feel confident with each of those handling skills and doing them repeatedly, we can up the ante! All I have done in the set-up below is rotate each jump slightly on it's axis. It changes the character of the skills significantly! Now try each exercise with the jump angles changed. You can also see how reversing the direction changes the challenge
Ready for more? Try mixing up the different skills into one sequence. The more confident you get, the longer you can make it.
I would strive to remember and get through a 25-30 obstacle sequences doing all three skills on just these 5 jumps. Enjoy!