Taking The Lead

By Andrea Keepence-Keyte

The Figure Of ‘8’ – Friend Or Foe?

The Figure Of ‘8’ – Friend Or Foe?

The dreaded figure of 8 sometimes raises its ugly head at shows and I have used it a couple of times to split exceptional handlers. It is intended as a training tool and not really expected in competition but it would seem that this pattern is making more and more of an appearance so as handlers it is best to prepare. When you read about the figure of 8 it is advised that it is a pattern used for training purposes only but it is up to the judge on the day which pattern you are asked to do and I suspect that the majority of us are not going to argue about it!

I was asked for this pattern at an open show earlier this year and although a little rusty I felt I did a good job and I did take best overall handler on the day. I feel that there are two important factors to consider when carrying out a figure 8. The first is the exchanges of the lead and swapping sides physically, the second is the actual shape.
Swapping sides and lead exchanges are easy enough to do on the move with practice; with the figure 8 half the battle is remembering where on the figure 8 you swap in front of the dog or behind. This is illustrated nicely in “Junior Handling” by Jacqui Hurley which is a must for any handler!

The shape of the figure 8 is effectively two circles that should be equal in size – there are no corners on a figure of 8, so, the way I combat this is to again take a couple of seconds to access the ring and quickly try to visualise where I am going to make my circles. The ‘circles’ of the figure 8 should be equal in size so ensure that you are using all of the ring while at the same time considering the shape and sizes of each “end” of your figure of 8.

There is much discussion about which direction you should start off in and for me personally I would expect the handler to set off from the right hand side of the judge with the dog in the left hand. To me this is the normal figure 8 and then a ‘reverse’ could be the handler setting off with the dog in the right hand and from the left hand side of the judge.The figure of 8 is a useful tool as it allows you to achieve smooth lead changes and gets your dog used to you swapping sides on the move both in front and behind. I taught myself by starting at a walking pace and then slowing increasing my speed, I also started to practice this pattern without my dog. This pattern is one that tends to fill people with dread but once you’ve ‘got it’ and you’ve practiced it to the point that it all flows smoothly you’ll wonder what it was you were worried about!

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Basically the only real advice I can give you is to practice – practice large figure of 8’s and small ones, try going left and right at the start. With practice I have found that the pattern does get easier and more following and the exchanges also become smoother. Personally, as a judge I would only ask for this if I really could not split handlers. It is a very advanced pattern and one to be mastered as I truly feel it will become more common place during competition – good luck!

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’” – Eleanor Roosevelt
If there is anything you would like me to discuss or research and write about please do email me or contact me through Facebook. Also, don’t forget to email or call me with your news, results and gossip!
Andrea Keepence-Keyte


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Andrea Keepence-Keyte
I have had pet dogs all of my life, it wasn't until I met my husband and we moved in together that we got our first dog together. I really wanted a Labrador but my sister in law had just bred her beagle bitch and was expecting her first litter and my husband had his heart set on a beagle. So I am afraid to say he is completely to blame for what followed!

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  1. Lydia

    As a junior I lived in fear of the figure of 8 😂 as an adult, I have a dog that can nail it, and I STILL fall over my feet!

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