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Alphabet Drills Book


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What is it about? 

The jumping drills in this book are based on patterns from letters of the alphabet. Their purpose is to help you become more imaginative when setting up practice drills for yourself, or for your students, and to familiarize you with common obstacle patterns seen on agility courses. Each letter focuses on specific handling skills or dog skills, and uses a minimal amount of space and a minimal number of jumps (5 jumps is the average).

The intent of using a familiar pattern for each setup, like the outline of an alphabet letter, is to aid you in remembering each pattern of jumps, so that eventually you can associate the pattern of the letter with the associated drills.

Alphabet drills are designed so that they are useful for all levels of agility handlers. If you’re new to the sport, there are drills to help you and your dog learn the basics of front and rear crosses, lead-out pivots, threadles, serpentine handling, pinwheels, 270s, and more—you can truly train the full spectrum of necessary handling skills with this book.

If you’re an advanced competitor, you’ll find more technical drills for maintaining and tuning up your skills, as well as problem solving.

Regardless of which handling method you use, Alphabet Drills will provide years of material for maintaining your agility skills and also training new skills. You’ll never have to worry about what to practice again! Problems getting your dog in the correct entrance of the tunnel? Do the R drills for a week. Wide front crosses or problems with lead-out pivots? T is your drill. Does your dog spin in the wrong direction when you do a rear cross? Work on J drills.

Who wrote it? 

Nancy Gyes has been involved in training for dog sports for the last 25 years. She was active in competition and pet obedience, tracking, and behavior counseling for pet owners before discovering agility in 1990. Since then she has been a full-time international agility instructor, competitor, and seminarian. She and her husband Jim Basic operate Power Paws Agility in San Jose, California. Nancy and Jim and their dogs have won over 70 first-place trophies at national and world championship events.

Nancy has won a total of 12 USDAA and AKC championships, and was the first handler ever to win four consecutive USDAA Grand Prix World Championships: Scud in 1998, Riot in 1999, Wicked in 2000, and Riot again in 2001. Nancy has been the coach of the AKC/USA World Team since 1996, helping that team bring home numerous medals.

She was a member of the AKC/USA World Team seven times (four years with Scud and three years with Riot) and has been on the USA Team for the European Open three times with Ace, winning the bronze medal in 2009.

When was it published- 2011

Who published it? Clean Run



“Nancy’s alphabet drills are an incredible training tool. I regularly use the drills with my own dogs and frequently send students home with “alphabet” homework. The index lists each drill by the skills addressed—an awesome way to break it down! I am so excited to replace my homemade binder with photocopies of each alphabet drill, with a real book.” —Stephanie Spyr, Jump Start Dog Sports

“I use the alphabet drills consistently in training my own dogs and also in teaching weekly agility classes. What a fantastic resource—when I need to sharpen rear crosses, I pull out the J drill; when I have a newbie class ready for their first handling exercises, I pull out the A drill. I pretty much know many drills by heart. Thanks Nancy and Clean Run for putting this all
together for us in one neat book.” —Mary Van Wormer, Nunes Agility Field

“Alphabet drills are wonderful for both the serious agility trainer and the casual agility enthusiast. Creative in concept and comprehensive in scope, they promote good training habits and the development of excellent skills. Linger on L to learn more about lines, circle your way through the O-P-Q cycle, or simply open the book to pick a letter—you will find challenging and fun drills for you and your dog.” —Katie Tolve, competitor

“Nancy’s alphabet drills are fun and easy to set up. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned competitor, you can practice all of your agility skills with these drills.” —Lisa Michelon, Dog Star Agility

“I have spent several hours going through various parts of Nancy Gyes’ new book and have to say—it’s FANTASTIC! The drills are beautifully laid out, progressing from simple to more complex; there is a great table at the end that indicates which drills are best for working on certain configurations/skills; and the appendices on handling techniques (e.g. crosses) are excellent. I can’t wait (when the temps get back into the 80s) to begin working these drills! I love this book as much as I have enjoyed Developing Handling Skills by Linda Mecklenburg—the two together provide a wonderful basis for agility training! Thank you Linda and Nancy, and a million thanks to Clean Run for making these possible!” —Dina

~~Do you ever struggle to come up with new exercises to practice when training? Do you find yourself repeating the same old drill time and time again simply because you cannot think of anything fresh?


Alphabet Drills by Nancy Gyes, international agility instructor and AKC/USA world team coach, will make sure that you never find yourself in that situation again!

Using the letters of the alphabet, Gyes provides hundreds of agility drills, each focusing on a specific handling or dog skill consisting of common obstacle patterns you may encounter in a course. Each drill is designed to use minimal space and equipment so it can be carried out when practising at home or for students in a training session.  The exercises range in difficulty, making them suitable for all levels of agility handler.

Regardless of your handling style or system, this book provides fun and informative material for training sessions for many years to come!

The book starts with some fundamentals to consider before you begin, including what age you should start with your dog, what skills you must already have in place, what height you should jump and what equipment you will need.  Gyes offers some practical advice on how to go about laying out the drills, and provides some helpful hints on getting ready for a training session, how to train effectively and what to do if you have problems. There are also suggestions for further variations for each drill, such as replacing front crosses with rear crosses, working on both sides of the dog and varying your start position.

The next section looks at which drill should you use when, explaining that they were not created from A-Z in order of difficulty.  Each drill contains both simple and more technical exercises and all can be made more complex if necessary.

Gyes takes us through each drill step-by-step with the help of detailed diagrams. She explains the purpose of each drill, what it is specifically designed for as well as possible variations.

Here is a summary of the exercises:

•        A is for are you wondering what to practise today? These 25 exercises use the lowercase ‘a’ to work on one of the most important agility patterns, the four sided box of jumps. This will help you with beginning box work; simple front crosses, threadles (pull ins) on corners, 270s.

•        B is for the double box. An extremely versatile set up for jumping drills, with over 50 variations, this exercise will help you with advanced box work; straight and diagonal lines; 270s, front and rear crosses, 270s with side changes before and after, pull throughs and push throughs; simple lead out pivots; straight-line lead outs.

•        C is for drills on a curve. With 28 variations this exercise can be kept simple or made more complex. Use it work to develop drive and the Go On cue; changes of side on 180s; running the dog “across your feet” (a front cross followed by a rear cross); side changes.

•        D is for dexterity, meaning skilfulness in the use of hands or body. Use this exercise and it’s 22 variations for Serpentine lines of three jumps; front crosses; lead out pivots.

•        E is for figure of eight, one of the most prominent patterns in agility. With 25 variations these exercises can be repeated without stopping to practise side changes and also to work on pinwheels; diagonal work on lead-outs.

•        F is for fun. Ideal for small spaces as not much room is required. With 18 variations, use this drill to practise start line and line ups; lead-out pivots; modified box work with 180 front crosses; pull throughs and push throughs.

•        G is for good dog. The 24 variations of this exercise will help you practise Serpentine and threadle handling (pull ins) ; front and rear crosses through the pentagon; pull throughs and push throughs.

•        H is for hurdle, and the uppercase drill uses five of them to provide 13 variations for practising both front and rear crosses. The lowercase h drills focus on 270s.

•        I is for inspire you to practise, with 16 variations to work on a pull to the front of a jump or push to the back of a jump; serpentine work; lead out pivots, angled jumping.


•        J is for jumping. These 20 drills are inspired by Susan Salo and will help your dog to learn good jumping and rear cross skills, teaching  bounce jump and bend work on an arc and diagonal; lengthening and shortening stride into and out of patterns.


•        K is for kinetic, which means relating to, or produced by, motion. These 19 drills focus on one of the most important lessons of agility – teaching your dog to run in the same direction you are travelling without cutting across your path – as well as the Go On cue; straight lines; side changes on a V; lateral distance on a lead-out.

•        L is for line, and concentrates on the dog’s natural path between obstacles. Use this to work on straight-line dog path examples; pushes; lead out pivots, front crosses, 270s.

•        M is for master, as in your handling will improve if you master these drills. These 37 exercises, using both a regular and italic M, will help you with front cross pull-throughs and threadles (pull ins); serpentines; 180 front crosses; rear crosses.

•        N is for Nancy, the name of the author. These 23 exercises look at lead out pivots; front crosses; some serpentine work; 180 front crosses; pushing to the back of a jump.

•        The letter O is used for circle drills, intended to help your dog learn good jumping technique using the  Star pattern to teach push-throughs and cloverleaf handling; circles; 180 front crosses; bounce jumping on a circle.

•        P is for preference, as this is the author’s favourite drill. These 10 exercises help improve jumping skills. With two extra jumps added to the O, you have a speed line into the star pattern. These 17 exercises help with the Go On cue and side changes.

•        Q is for quite a lot of fun. This exercise can be used as an easy way to finish a session or give your dog a break from more difficult exercises. The dog must shorten his stride between jumps until he is bouncing the last few jumps into the tunnel and then lengthen his stride between jumps to finish

•        R is for right and wRong. This is the first of the drills that includes the tunnel  as part of the main setup. As well as some advice for dogs who love the tunnel and those that don’t, these 15 tunnel drills help with pulling or pushing to the “wrong” end of the tunnel with side changes and reverse flow pivots.

•        S is for salient, meaning leaping, jumping or capering, a word that well describes this drill which has plenty going on in it. The 13 exercises focus on dog jumping skills; rear crosses on arcs; bounce jumping.

•        T is for turn. These 14 exercises will help your dog to turn tightly when you do a front cross as well as lead out pivots; pushing to the back of a jump.

•        U is for up to date and includes 32 sequences you may find in European courses, including  pushing to the back side of a jump with a trap directly on dog’s path; wrapping and serpentine handling in and out with the dog on the back side of a jump; side changes

•        V is for vertex meaning the point of intersection of two sides of an angle. In this case it refers to the angle of the two jumps used in this drill. You can use these 18 variations as exercises for after you teach the 270.

•        W is for weave, providing an easy set up to work weave exit and entries from many angles including 90 degree entries; front crosses into and out of weaves; rear cross entries; pushes at exits.

•        X is for eXecution. This set of 18 exercises work well in a reasonably small space and are particularly useful for threadles (pull ins) as well as front crosses; serpentines; pushes to back side of a jump.

•        Y is for yap, yammer, yikes, yawp, yell and yowl, all of which you hopefully won’t be doing when running these drills! These 17 exercises are designed to be performed without using vocal commands, giving you a chance to isolate your body cues from your verbal cues. They are also great for practicing front and rear crosses into a 180 pattern; push throughs; threadles (pull ins); lead out pivots.

•        Z is for zigzag. These 15 exercises focus on jumping skills involving bouncing on angled jumps around a clock face.

Finally the four appendices look in detail at serpentines, 270s, handling manoeuvres (including a photographic dictionary) and the pattern method of course design.

Alphabet Drills are quick and easy to set up, fun to carry out and allow you to practise all fundamental agility skills. Described by one competitor as, “wonderful for both the serious agility trainer and the casual agility enthusiast. Creative in concept and comprehensive in scope, they promote good training habits and the development of excellent skills. Linger on L to learn more about lines, circle your way through the O-P-Q cycle, or simply open the book to pick a letter—you will find challenging and fun drills for you and your dog.”


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