Posted by: allstaragility | February 24, 2015

Thoughts on Orbital Balance

Dogs are like snowflakes.  You will never find two who are exactly the same, either physically or behaviorally and this is one of my favorite aspects about the challenges in training my own dogs and teaching others.   When we tackle teaching a skill, we may have a perfect picture of the end result in our mind and have an idea of the process we will go through to achieve the goal, but we also have to be aware of how our dog’s unique idiosyncrasies will affect the training process and remain flexible orbitin our training.

For example, let’s view ourselves as the earth and our dog as a moon orbiting around us.  Each has a gravity, so to speak, pulling and repelling the other around the course.  It is ideal that we have the majority influence on the dog’s location around us (calling to side, sending forward or lateral, having them cross in front of or behind us, etc).  It doesn’t work too well the other way around when the dog is the main celestial body and the handler has to go to extremes to get the desired path. 🙂 To work towards this goal, we have to realize our dog has a natural, “default” orbit in relationship to us where he or she prefers to reside and then strive to find balance in expanding or condensing it.  Here is a diagram I created to demonstrate my point:

Dog orbit

It is quite possible that a dog could have a natural orbit that changes depending on factors such as environment (surface, noises, smells, etc), stress (dog and/or handler), and level of arousal.  This is one reason competitors say they have a “different” dog in competition than in training.  Working to find an orbital balance in training in many different environments and scenarios is key!  Find what isn’t necessary comfortable for your dog (sending ahead or coming close to your side) and make it so through sharpening cues and  correct placement of reinforcement.   Here are a few suggestions:

Dog orbit2

I hope this helps give you an “out of this world” perspective of the teamwork with your dog!  If your dog falls into one any of the categories requiring improvement on your foundation recalls (aka recall to heel), I am offering a 2-week online course on the subject that you can work in your own home!  More information can be found HERE.





  1. Great information! THANK YOU!

  2. So true! I have had five of the six types. It can be hard to remember to switch the balance between the different dogs in training. Thanks for the great pictorial reminders,

  3. Yet another type — one that runs RIGHT NEXT to you and doesn’t want any distance — like an obedience Heel! (Even though she was never training for strict heeling!)

    • Hi Rosemarie! That is the dog slightly behind the handler. I didn’t have room to fit him right next to the handler in my diagram. 🙂

  4. Wow! I love the concept of placing the reward AHEAD of you for the dog that tends to lope along behind his handler. It’s such a natural corollary to tossing it out away from you to reinforce distance and/or obstacle focus and rewarding from your hand to reinforce handler focus.

  5. This was great. I have one Sheltie with 2 of these behaviors. Made me chuckle to think there was someone else who could put a finger on him!

  6. Yep. Found my dog on here. Thanks for the tip.

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