Of all the things my friend NAVHDA judge Bob Farris pointed out on a recent visit, the most gratifying was how steady Manny was on flying birds. Not rock-steady, of course, but better than many of the other aspects of the Utility test we're preparing for. And I'm pretty confident he'll get better, especially with the help Bob extended to us.

Bob acquainted me with his version of the "gut hitch," a variation on Rick and Ronnie Smith's half-hitch around the dog's waist. The basic concept is that a dog will stop — and stay stopped — when he feels pressure on his flank. The hitch applies it.

Bob's rig goes from around his waist to his collar, attaching at both points. A checkcord is clipped to the hitch, giving the handler an easy way to apply pressure to the flank from a distance and to the side of the dog. A tug, particularly upward, stops most dogs in their tracks. The advantage to Bob's version is the dog need not drag the entire cord, just the hitch portion, which remains off the ground because it's attached to his waist and collar. When you want to steady him, simply attach the checkcord and tug. If you're close enough, you don't even need the checkcord.

No, it's not really that easy to steady your dog, but this tool makes it easier. Now, go put theory into practice.

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