We’ve all heard that adage right?  There is no “I” in TEAM.

You and your dog form a team…. and in this case, I hate to say it but you are second to your dog.  You might have signed that entry form, but your dog is the star of the show.

In fact I tell my students that handling is 80% dog / 20% handler.

Stacy with poodle

How you use your 20% is what counts…

…. do you take over the search, thereby taking more than your 20%?

…. do you crowd your dog?

…. do you pull your dog off of odor?

…. do you lose sight of your dog?

All of these things are easy to do…. and they often result in No’s or missed hides.  This is especially prevalent in the land of NW3.  At least in NW1 and NW2 we know how many hides we are looking for!  At NW3, handling starts to become a dance.  However, unlike traditional dance rules, the leader of the dance is allowed to ebb and flow, shifting from the dog to the handler…. as long as the dog is the True Leader.

Handling is an art.

It’s true but it’s also something that develops with time and skill.  It develops as the handler’s eye develops.

The key to handling is OBSERVATION.  Can you SEE a Change of Behavior and can you REACT appropriately.

The second key to handling is can you RESPECT the dog and the dog’s skills…. that means keeping out of the way…. and trusting your dog.

There are nuances of course to proper line handling but if you can OBSERVE and RESPECT as basic fundamental aspects of handling, you will be closer to “P’s” and “Q’s”….  or get them more often.

Let’s talk about each in turn…


This means, can you read a Change of Behavior?  If you can, you an anticipate the dog’s motion.  If you can anticipate their direction of travel you can:

(1) Stay out of the dog’s way

(2) Keep the dog in sight

(3) Reward the dog for being right

(4) Keep from pulling the dog off of odor

(5) Show effective line handling


This means that you trust your dog…. you trust that your dog is true to odor and is doing his best to find source.  If you can respect your dog you can:

(1) Keep your distance from the dog

(2) Believe in your dog’s Changes of Behavior

(3) DANCE with your dog

(4) Observe the 80%/20% rule without taking over

(5) Handle quietly…. no chatter

Remember that handling is an art…. but it stems from humility…. can you give up your “I” in “TEAM”?