Archive for the ‘NADAC’ Category

The Border Collie Effect pt 2

January 27, 2014

I continue my publication of notes on course design that I made something like a dozen years ago.

Safe & Square

Spread hurdles, contact obstacles, and arguably the tire should always be presented squarely to the dog, especially in the Novice and Starters classes to be fair, and safe.

The course designer should always visualize the flow of the dog to present the contact obstacles and the spread hurdles safely and squarely. Don’t assume that handlers will have the skill or forethought necessary to correct the dog’s path to make an approach safe for the dog.

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This is a segment of a course found recently at a NADAC trial. It was in the Open ring, and caused many dogs to NQ because the handlers did not have the requisite skill to jog the dog immediately to the right after the spread hurdle in order to create a straight approach to the A-frame.

Most dogs were pushed directly by their handlers towards the A-frame. Something like 30% could not make the ascent, and came off the front end, some of them near the apex of the A-frame. Frankly, it’s the judge’s job to make a course safe for all dogs, no matter how experienced or inexperienced the handlers. This judge complained that the field was smaller she’d been told was available. So she just scrunched down her course until everything fit. She did not have the benefit of an experienced supervising judge to point out to her that she’d made an awful mistake. And so this was the result.

For future reference, the judge is the ultimate authority on the field. An experienced judge would have demanded that the local crew actually move the ring rope so that the course would fit. If the dimensions of the ring are fixed (by hard walls) the judge would have to do an on the spot redesign to make everything safe, and fair. Designing a course on the field takes a lot of skill. All the judge really has to do is walk the course, once set, to see the approaches to all obstacles from the viewpoint of the dogs.

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The presentation of spread hurdles to the dog should is also an issue of fairness and safety. This illustration shows a presentation of the spread hurdle that requires a skillful manipulation of the dog’s path to create a safe approach. The course designer should not put dogs at risk when the handler does not have this skill manufacture a good approach to the spread hurdle.

Don’t mistake this design for challenging. It is merely ugly.

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In this illustration the approach to the spread hurdle has been improved simply by giving the hurdle a rotation to the approach. The dog and handler team are still challenged by the sequence, without a hint of ugly or unsafe. The pipe tunnel is a terrific off-course possibility. The entry to the weave poles begs the question “does the dog know how to make the entry?”

This is clearly advanced design, providing challenge at dogs’ speed, but inappropriate for novice dogs (because of the wrong course option).

Dog’s Path Geometry

Squaring the dog’s approach for a spread hurdle really requires the course designer to understand the way dogs move. It is always a mistake, either as a handler or a course designer to be beguiled by the geometry of the course.

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This illustration shows the spread hurdle presented to the dog in a straight approach from jump #3.  Square and fair, right?

Wrong.

The problem with this line is that nothing on an agility course moves in lines like these excepting maybe the occasional judge’s measuring wheel. If you see a judge measuring a course like this, you can be certain of two things: 1) the standard course time (SCT) will be improperly set, and too low; 2) the judge has no vision of the way dogs move.

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This drawing more realistically depicts the path of the dog. And in this case the illustration more properly reflects the path of a sharp turning Border Collie (and not so much the more reaching path of the bold working Doberman Pincer.)

While this was a bit of a dramatization, we see more subtle variations of the geometry problem all the time.

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time… I guess I got to poke fun of a NADAC judge who didn’t really know how to fit her course into an area smaller that it was intended to fit. But you know, NADAC judges don’t design their own courses. And so their course design skills are going to be a little retarded.

I still hold by the principles I was attempting to illustrate here. Understanding the dog’s path is a science to which both the course designer and the handler should subscribe. When I do handling clinics there’s a bit I often do to entice the handler to understand the dog’s path. The concept is simplified in this illustration:

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It’s a straight line through jumps #2 to #4… right?

This is an example of on-field geometry that might beguile the handler (and course designer) into failing to understand the dog’s path. In truth:

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It’s not a straight line at all. It’s a wild zig-zaggedy line.

More tomorrow, I suppose.

Blog929 (Oh my! Two days in a row!)

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 6

September 26, 2012

The game to be played as the final round of the TDAA Petit Prix, our national championship tournament will be Jumpers. This is a game that doesn’t need much of an introduction as it is a popular format played by every agility venue in the world.

The Game Within the Game at the Petit Prix (you’ll have to see tomorrow’s blog) is the steadiness and overall performance of a dog in this competition. In a departure from all years previous there will be no elimination of dogs from the competition for falling below some arbitrary set-point of accumulated score. That means every dog will compete in every competition.

And, mind you, this is not a winner-take-all round.

At the 2012 Petit Prix the top 40 dogs will be set aside for a final showcase run on the Jumpers course. They will be run by jump height in reverse seed order. This round will be theirs to win or lose. It’s possible, and actually somewhat likely, that some of the exhibitors sitting as spectators during the showcase round will move up into the top 40 on the basis of their performance in the final round.

Jumpers

The Jumpers class measures a dog’s ability to jump and turn and the handler’s ability to exert control and timing in this fast-paced version of the agility game. Though the dog only needs to learn to jump to begin competing, Jumpers is one of the most difficult games to perfect as dogs move at a much greater speed than in other classes.

Briefing

Jumpers courses consist only of hurdles and tunnels, with some limitations between the different venues. The dog is required to run the course in the sequence indicated by the judge.

Follow the numbers. And keep the bars up.

Jumpers is judged according to the performance rules for the respective venue.

Scoring

Jumpers is usually scored Faults, Then Time the winner being the dog with the fewest faults. If two dogs have the same number of Faults, Then Time breaks the tie.

Jumpers can be scored Time, Plus Faults. The winner would be the dog with the lowest score.

Course Design

This is an example of a USDAA Masters course. A USDAA course requires the performance of at least three spread hurdles. These courses are not inconsequential in terms of challenge and handling. You’ll see options and traps and the need for excellent timing and deft handling.

This is an example of a Novice course. Note that it is nested perfectly with the Masters course example. The course designer may want to move out unused obstacles so that the lower levels are not presented with “dummy” jumps.

Excepting play in the AKC (and possibly in USDAA Team/PVP) only tunnels and hurdles may be used on the course. As the level of competition rises, so does the complexity of the course. In addition, as the level of competition increases, the time to perform the course decreases.

This is an example of a Jumpers course designed for play in the TDAA. The spacing between obstacles is considerably tighter than in any other venues. What’s worth remembering about the TDAA is that it is intended for dogs of small stature. And so the Jumpers course especially emphasizes the central idea of the TDAA, to present to the small dog handler challenges that are comparable to what big dog handlers face on any given weekend.

This is an example of an important variation of Jumpers called, appropriately, Jumpers With Weaves. The performance standard for AKC Excellent Jumpers With Weaves requires an unflinching mastery of the course.

This is an example of a DOCNA Jumpers course (arguably it would be suitable for NADAC as well). You’ll note that DOCNA does not use tunnels, and all of the jumps are wingless. In the NADAC-style venues the courses are devoid of challenges that are routine in venues like the USDAA, AKC, and TDAA; you’ll find no options, or traps, hard-about turns, or wicked handling moments. Everything is flow and go. As a consequence, the rates of travel for NADAC and DOCNA are more aggressive and demanding than in any other venue.

Strategies

The basic advice in the Jumpers class is to follow the numbers, and keep the bars up.

Since only jumps and tunnels (where allowed) are used, Jumpers courses tend to be more difficult for handlers to memorize than other types of courses. To be successful in Jumpers, it is more important than ever to remember course flow and sequences rather than individual obstacles.

Also, the handler’s movement and timing are important on Jumpers courses in the control of the dog as the action is coming fast and furious. The handler should be sharp, and timely.

The most common faults in Jumpers are wrong courses and refusal. Thus, emphasis should be placed on considering approaches, angles, and distances to obstacles during the course walk-though.

The key strategy for Jumpers is to train the dog to jump and to be responsive to handling in fast and flowing situations.

Qualifying and Titles

Nearly every venue features Jumpers as a titling class and an element of the respective championship programs.

Qualifying is based on the measured length of the dog’s path; usually at considerably more aggressive rates of travel than the standard classes. Whether the scoring basis is Time+Faults or Faults, Then Time, the score must be equal to or less than the established SCT. The lowest score wins.

Variations

  • Jumpers with Weaves ~ This format is used by the AKC. In a departure from the Jumpers class in most venues, Weave poles are featured in the jumpers course.
  • USDAA Dog Agility Masters® (DAM) tournament Jumpers – The format for DAM Jumpers is different from the Jumpers played in USDAA titling classes: 1) weave poles are often included; 2) a refusal is penalized 2 points; and 3) The scoring system is Time, Plus Faults.
  • Land Rover Drive – This game, also known as Jump and Drive, is perhaps a historical footnote. The Land Rover Drive and Jumping contest grew out of the sponsorship by Land Rover for agility trials in the U.K. The handler loads his dog into a Land Rover, drives a designated course, parks the vehicle in a garage and then jumps out to run his dog over a Jumpers course. The judge will designate the starting point for the Land Rover, the path of the vehicle and the garage where the vehicle must be parked. Dog and handler (and the course clock) start on foot across a starting line designated by the judge.
  • Black and Whites – This British variation is Jumpers for black and white Border Collies only (or black and white dogs with any hint of BC in them).
  • Jumpers with Weaves Plus ~ loosely based on the AKC Jumpers with Weaves titling class, but with multiple weave pole challenges. The Purpose of the game is to complete the course in the specified order, as quickly as possible, without faults.

This is an example of a Jumpers with Weaves Plus course (closely based on a course designed by Ilze Rukis for play in the TDAA in Warrensburg, IL on April 12, 2003).

Premium Blurb

Jumpers is a favorite game in the dog agility world. Courses are made up of jumps and tunnels only, so the play is fast and furious. Follow the numbers and keep the bars up.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

The Architect and the Manager

August 31, 2011

I’m sometimes disheartened by the trick and trap nature of course design in agility, and by the notion that ugly equals challenge. It is small wonder that growing majority of agility competitors in the U.S. are fleeing to CPE where they give out qualifying scores like popcorn.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not daunted by ham-handed flow-breaking challenges. I’m ultimately an architect of my dog’s performance and I know and use the theoretical and practical skills to solve nearly any sequencing challenge. That doesn’t mean I always do. I’m an old man with a fast dog and arthritic knees. A single misstep or an error in timing makes the entire engagement for naught in the all-or-nothing criteria of the International rules course.

At the end of the day, I’m never really hard on myself for getting it wrong. We’ll live to play again tomorrow.

The Europeans seem to be better conceptual agility course designers than Americans. I don’t sense the mean streak. They tend to provide better flow that gets the dog working at full speed, punctuated by the occasional handling challenge that will raise an eyebrow, if not the hair on the back of your neck.

In the U.S. on any given weekend you can see handlers fail with their dogs on some ridiculous challenge that looks like it was designed by someone who has never run an agility dog. I feel like saying to the judge the same thing I occasionally reply to those email scam artists who send out mass emails phishing to steal your money… “I bet your mother is proud of you!”

We’re beguiled and misled by the appearance of the athletic kid with long legs who runs in and forcefully hammers that square peg into the round hole; or by the master handler who eats sleeps and drinks dog agility every waking hour of every day. So he/she qualified. Does that mean everyone else is somehow insufficient and wanting? We can overlook the idea that the lady with creaky knees and the fast dog never ever ever was going to solve that riddle; and neither were 80% of the field. That much is preordained. The riddle was designed for that kid with the long legs or that master handler and even they had to be a bit on the lucky side to solve it.

Monday Morning Letters

The consumer is the ultimate arbiter of the evolution of the sport. That’s theoretical, I know. I’m a huge advocate of the Monday Morning Letter! Rather than fleeing to a low-end agility venue consider writing a letter to the head of your favorite agility organization sharing your experiences on the weekend. Heck, they don’t have much to do on Monday’s anyhow. You’ll be enriching their lives, in a way. If a rep has been inappropriate and rude to you, or if the course design was absolutely OMG silly, it is a good idea to share your observations. Often enough they would not know if you don’t take the time to tell them. And if they hear it enough they might start to believe that they lose even more customers if they don’t get it fixed.;

Be a squeaky wheel. Who knows maybe you can be a catalyst for change.

Too Broad a Brush

We remember those judges who are trick and trap artists and those who are rude and mean-spirited. In the long run, they’ll judge less because they’ll get fewer invites.

There are a lot dog agility judges out there who design marvelous courses that are thoughtful flowing challenges, appropriate by level, and just plain fun to run. I apologize to any and all of them who might feel I’ve splattered them with my critical paint job.

The Architect and the Manager

I’ll be unapologetic about the diatribe I offered above as I present to you below how to solve a butt-ugly approach to the weave poles. My mantra has ever been… “we train for ugly.” You have to admit, there’s plenty of ugly in the world.

In the perfect world we will train our dogs to understand his entry to the weave poles and how to collect himself when given an ugly perpendicular approach. In the sequence I’ve shown here we’ll get a good test of the notion and typically will discover that it’s a fairly low percentage that live in the perfect world.

You must recognize that the dog’s trajectory of movement over jump #3 in no way resembles an orderly approach to the weave poles. Often enough the handler will turn the dog towards the weave poles and then assume the more passive rol of horrified spectator to the dog’s performance. The perpendicular approach is a tricky bit.

An important rule of handling for the weave poles: If the dog requires a managed approach ~ then manage.

To solve the “managed” approach to the weave poles the handler must understand the dog’s path. Let’s figure it out together:

A good starting point for the analysis is the bits of the dog’s path that are known/given. The line through jump #3 (green line) is the trajectory of the dog’s initial approach. The line into the weave poles (red line) is the optimal line for the managed approach.

That means the handler is obligated to create a transitional line to connect the two widely disparate paths. It fits like a puzzle piece.

Seeing the shape of the dog’s path is critical. If you don’t see the dog’s path, how can you expect to conduct him upon it? Also, seeing the dog’s path will recommend the handling solution.

One possible solution is two Front Crosses (actually, it’s an RFP with a healthy transitional movement between the two elements of the movement.)

Finishing the Weave Poles

I shouldn’t leave this tutorial without noting the abrupt right-turning dismount to jump #5. In an ideal world the dog will be trained to finish the weave poles without regard to the handler’s antics. However we should not be surprised by a dog that stops working on the weave poles when the handler stops working on the weave poles.

An important rule of handling for the weave poles: If the dog requires management of the weave poles through completion ~ then manage! Support the dog until the job is done.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore.

Ours is Not to Reason

March 23, 2011

This course was sent to me by Jean from sunny San Diego. It is a very interesting puzzle. I had to redraw this myself and was generally faithful to the presentation from the course map… however I’ve added the “ABC” labels to the three dummy jumps on course, as they deserve a bit of discussion.

The key feature in this course is the “managed approach” challenges… sometimes called a “blind approach”. The obvious bit is the transition from the pipe tunnel at #7 to the counter-side presentation of jump #8. Less obvious is the managed approach to jump #13, coming out of the weave poles.

The approach to jump #8 reminds me of the Jenny Damm pulling hand exercise in which the approach to the jump is completely managed. I actually use this exercise to work with my own students on the technical details of a good Front Cross. But you have to note that Jenny and all of us who study her cruel exercise will make use of a lead-out to be forward of the dog.

The real difficulty is how the handler gets in position with the fast dog. If you can outrun your dog you don’t even worry over the question of how and whether you can get into position. But with the fast dog… note that if the handler loses the foot race from the bottom of the ring (left) then the dog will be inclined to take the #8 jump in the wrong direction if the handler is even a step behind.

I’m not saying it can’t be done of course. The challenge of the course with the fast dog is whether the handler has put down a good distance training foundation for the dog so that he can be half a field away as the dog commits to jump #4. This leaves the handler comfortably forward of the dog; and no matter how fast is the dog the handler should be able to practice the Jenny Damm trick (though to tell you the truth, my own handling solution for the #8 jump would be to have the dog on my right on the approach rather than on my left).

OBTW! Did I mention that all of my Jokers Notebook training workbooks (eBooks) are available on my newly built webstore? I wrote 1200 some odd pages of documentation for distance training in 2010; all of this in the pages of the Jokers Notebook. Train, don’t complain eh?

http://www.dogagility.org/Newstore/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_ID=7

About Dummy Jumps

I am no real fan of dummy jumps gratuitously placed in the dog’s path as a tricky option. My druthers have nothing really to do with the reality of our world. We are at risk of being over-technical in our approach to the game of agility. Wouldn’t it be cool just to release the dog to work without fretting over a continuous series of traps and  gotchas? Well sure, we could all just play NADAC I suppose.

When there are dummy jumps on a course each one deserves a bit of risk analysis.

A)    Dummy jump “A” presents itself twice. In the turn from #3 to #4 the dog must certainly have a look at it (and less so if he had an inefficient turning radius from #2 to #3); and this presentation certainly adds considerable risk to my strategy of being “half a field away” from the dog.

Dummy jump “A” gets another look when the dog comes off of jump #5. If the handler isn’t pushing the line out to jump #6 the dog might curl back to the right on a whim.

B)     Dummy jump “B” complicates the wrap to the “managed approach” jump as the handler may actually solve the approach, only to lose the dog to an immediate wrong course. The pull-through wrap is followed by a hard-aback wrap and lord save us from the dog wanting to run be free have fun.

This dummy too has a second opportunity to snatch your heart away. In the turn from #15 to #16 if the handler doesn’t sell the 90ish˚ turn, the dog might well galloomp to the dummy.

C)    Dummy jump “C” is the least intrusive of the three. It might seem at first look that it’s just out there being pretty, or adding balance to the presentation. But, in fact, after jump #11 if the handler is behind the dog (a condition worth considering after the technical micro-management getting through #7 thru #9)… then the dog might well curl back towards the handler which would invite the dummy rather than out to the weave poles.

The handlers preoccupation with creating the “managed approach” to jump #13 out of the dismount of the weave poles could put the handler OOP after jump #14 (introducing the approach to dummy “C”); and possibly lose the dog to dummy “B” after jump #15.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

I’ve been watching a Sandra Bullock marathon on one of the movie channels (TNT?). It was one of her movies that inspired the title of this blog. Which movie might that be?

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. OMG! My web store is up and running. I still have a lot of work to do there. I’ll be closing down the eJunkie presentation; and we’ll be doing business again with the CFWebstore.

The Pace of the Music

June 27, 2010

I’ve long maintained that play in the TDAA will improve the skills of the small dog handler. The short transition distances between obstacles literally requires the handler to have the same kinds of skills and timing as the big fast dog handler must have in the big dog venues. Look at it like this… it’s the pace of the music. If there are 10′ between the jumps the quick little Corgi will be three strides in the line and 5 in the turn. If there are 21′ between obstacles the same quick little Corgi will be 7 in the line and 9 in the turn.

I don’t really care how fast your little dog is. It’s a huge jump to go from the band that plays a slow-tempo waltz onto a dance floor where they’re playing a quickstep.

What happens to us in competition is what I like to call the $20 a minute lesson. Any fault and foible or even wobbly moment is simply information. It is a test both of the training foundation you’ve put on your dog and the execution of your canny handling plan.

What did you learn in your lesson?

Start-Line Puzzle

This was the opening to my Superior standard 2 class yesterday. By my own reckoning I pretty much set up a sweet little slam into the pipe tunnel from the opening. I figured the riddle was more of a test of the handler’s rear cross (if the dog is quick) at jump #5, as the course veers right after jump #5.

I was ultimately treated to an analysis of how the handler managed the two tricky turns between jumps #1 and #2 and between jumps #2 and #3. As you can see if the turn between jumps #2 and #3 goes too wide the dog’s path will swing around to bring the A-frame into focus rather more generously than the pipe tunnel.

Anything that actually works is right (that’s what I always say). So if this plan works for you, then bless your pointy little head. But don’t you know… there are times when something just a teeny bit different will actually work better.

I know some of you saw this right away and put up with my teasing about handling the two turns in the opening line of jumps. Yep… you had your $20 a minute lesson on this a long time ago.

The opening is a straight line and, as I had intended, a simple slam dunk into the pipe tunnel.

The Intermediate standard class was carefully nested with the Superior. You’ll note that I rotated a couple jumps in the opening so that the opening line should have been easier to see. (I rotated the jumps myself and muttered to myself as I did so “this’ll make it easier for them to see”).

Then, I’ll be darned if the first two handlers who approached the line squared their dogs up with jump #1 and earned a wrong course to the table after jump #1. Too bad I used the title “Just Shoot Me” for my blog a couple days ago. I could use it again. Eh?

Dreams

I had dreams last night. And I wanted to write it down while the images and impressions are still with me. My weblog seems like a good place to do it.

It was nothing more than watching a woman run her dog. She was the amorphous could-be-anybody handler and the dog was a fuzzy dark blur. I watched the same run over and over again and it was nearly in slow motion. There are two bits that I still retain (you know how details in a dream will fade away from you after you awake); In the first part the handler is moving forward intent on a send forward. As the dog surpasses her position she’s putting on the brakes in her forward movement and swinging back with her inside arm (to point in exactly the opposite direction she’s trying to send the dog, mind you). And I can feel the dog in the dream curling back to her, as the handler’s cues manage to produce exactly the opposite effect as intended.

In the second bit the dog is working a magnificent distance from the handler and must make a tight wrapping turn towards the handler. The handler’s response (from this magnificent distance) is simply to turn her body to face the direction the dog needs to turn. Meanwhile the dog casts out in a huge inefficient arc and is slowly enticed out of obstacle focus (magnificent obstacle focus, mind you) by the growing realization that the handler has turned her back on the work and is giving some vague cue for performance while doing so.

As the dog offers performance of some obstacle out there the handler throws out her arms (in the international signal for WTF!) and announces to the world “I had my feet right! I had my feet right!”

Oh, did you now?

I’m pretty sure it was the Fettuccini Alfredo I had for dinner last night. I adore a rich white sauce; but you know it doesn’t always sit well over night. So a tinge of heartburn pushes me out of deep and restful sleep into that state of near awake in which I become easy prey to dreams and haunts.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What is the common name of this bird?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Golf

June 22, 2010

The objective of this game is to run a series of numbered sequences; earning as few faults as possible. The game is scored like golf; meaning that the fewest strokes wins the game. If a sequence is run without faults, then the score for the sequence is 1. Each fault in the sequence will increase the score 1 point. Faulted weave poles must be retried until successfully completed. For any other faulted obstacle the dog must  be directed to continue on course.

Golf is scored points then time. Lowest number of points wins. In case of a tie, the lowest time wins.

Any rules basis can be used to determine what performance constitutes a fault.

This is a fine game for league play and can be integrated nicely into sequencing challenges for group classes.

Hole #1 Par 1

Hole #2 Par 1

Hole #3 Par 1

Hole #4 Par 1

Hole #5 Par 1

No Rest for the Wicked

So… I’m home for a couple days. I’ve just returned from central IL where I led six days of seminar followed by three days of judging. Add to that two travel days… I’m pretty much exhausted. But, like the song says, there’s no rest for the wicked. Early tomorrow morning I’m off for Denver, CO for a two-day handling clinic and two days of judging. I’m home long enough to launder my clothes.

The NADAC trial I judged this past weekend was a lot of fun. I have a number of observations to share about the venue; entirely positive I assure you. But right now I’m running around like a blind dog in a meat house trying to get ready to get out the door in the morning. I expect that some leisurely time sitting around in the airport will allow me to catch up with my notes. Stay tuned.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What is this fellow’s name? And, with what letter of the alphabet is he uniquely associated these days?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Game for the Week ~ Chances

February 15, 2010

Briefing

The purpose of this game is to direct your dog over a simple short course and attempt a distance challenge. This course features separate containment lines for Novice dogs and for Advanced/Masters.

If the handler sends the dog to work (obstacles #5 through #8 on this course) while staying behind the red containment line, a 10 point bonus is earned.

If the handler sends the dog to work (obstacles #4 through #10 on this course) while staying behind the blue containment line, a 20 point bonus is earned.

For the purposes of league play this game will be scored time+faults-bonus.

Errata

It’s important to recognize that in NADAC Chances is not a “giveaway” class. In order to succeed the handler must communicate changes of direction and solve discrimination problems while the dog is working at an impressive distance and typically in flowing generous lines that promote a dog working at full speed.

In NADAC this is a pass/fail class and is not placed. If the judge calls any fault the scribe will mark the score “faulted”; if the dog runs without a fault the scribe will mark the score “no faults”. The dog’s time is handled in a similar fashion. If the dog’s time is equal to our less than 40 seconds the scribe will write a time of “40” on the scribe sheet. If time goes over 40 seconds the scribe writes a time of 41 on the scribe sheet.

Note too that the handler’s containment lines are more thoughtfully drawn for the NADAC Chances class. The NADAC line might suggest reasonable movement for the handler to enhance the dog’s chances for success in the class. As I have the line drawn above… the line is more of a riddle for the handler.

The performance of the distance challenge is not like the traditional gamblers class in venues like the USDAA and TDAA. The most important difference is that the containment line will apply to the dog as well as the handler. While the dog is permitted to cross the line in a reasonable working flow, the handler may not draw the dog across the line to shape a send back into the distance challenge. What constitutes “outside the box” thinking in a traditional gamblers class will earn a fault in NADAC.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

There is a town in Arizona that had a name of only one character. But at the time of incorporation the state had a rule that a town must have a name of at least three characters in length. What was the name of the town then? What is the name of the town now?

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the February Jokers Notebook (or March, if you prefer).

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – Feb 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special02” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Joker’s Notebook #2 ~ Feb 2010

February 2, 2010

The Jokers Notebook for February 2010 has been published! It is now available on our webstore. This Notebook contains four weeks of lesson plans accompanied by a game of the week for each week, comprehensive Instructor’s Notes, and wealth of supplemental resources in the appendices. This work furthers the distance training originally included in the “Go The Distance” training workbook, and updates those methods for more up-to-date training and handling trends.

As has been my custom, the eBook opens in an Acrobat .pdf file. All of the CRCD illustrations (over 100 of them) are included. While reading the book on your computer you can click on the upper-right corner of any course map and immediately spawn the drawing into the Clean Run Course Designer where you can move things around to suit yourself.

TDAA Judges Clinics at Country Dream

You know I was thinking about this… it cost me something on the order of $1000 to travel to Calera for a judging clinic. And NADAC requires that their judges repeat that experience and expense every two years. Judges really don’t make their commitment to the sport for money. It’s clear that it’s a wash. Of course it’s good to have expenses paid. If you really think it through, a judge will spend something like 60 hours designing courses, traveling, judging dogs, and doing paperwork… and might take home about $300 for those efforts. It is not something we do for the money.

You should know that the TDAA will probably adopt a policy requiring existing judges to attend a clinic for continuing education every three years. And so what I would like to do is create an affordable opportunity.

Here’s the deal… I’m going to convert all of our TDAA trials here at Country Dream to judging clinics. And, we’ll charge only $25 for the clinic fee. We don’t actually have big entries at these trials. I figure that prospective and continuing ed judges bringing their dogs will constitute most of the entries on the weekend. Of course we’ll follow the typical format having two days of classroom study and course design, and two days of practical judging.

We do have an inexpensive lodging option here at Country Dream.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who’s buried in Grants Tomb?

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the March Jokers Notebook.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – Feb 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/

Hoopers Rendition

February 1, 2010

Hoopers is a game integral to NADAC play and titling. In this “rendition” we’ve introduced obstacles other than hoops into play. The purpose of the game is to make an introduction for our league players to the basic rules and strategies of the game. On a NADAC “Hoopers” course all of the Test sequences will be comprised solely of hoops.

Briefing

This Hoopers Rendition course consists of Non-Test hoops (shown in purple at the bottom of the course map) and Test sequences.  The Test sequences on this course are:

  • White – three jumps to the weave poles. This is a bonus test; the handler may attempt to remain on the opposite side of the black containment line while the dog performs jump #4 and the weave poles.
  • Brown – Four jumps arranged in box-like fashion.
  • Red – A-frame, tunnel and two jumps.
  • Blue – Two jumps to the dogwalk. This is a bonus test; the handler may attempt to remain on the opposite side of the blue containment line while the dog turns away on jump blue #2 to the dogwalk.
  • Green – From the pipe tunnel under the A-frame into a serpentine of three jumps.

The team must perform three tests and no more. Note that it all begins with the line of non‑test hoops, and returns to that line after each test. Direct the dog as follows:

  • A minimum of three non-test hoops;
  • A test;
  • A minimum of two non-test hoops;
  • A different test;
  • A minimum of one non-test hoops;
  • Another different test;
  • Exit the course by genuinely attempting the finish hoop.

Small dogs will have 60 seconds and big dogs will have 55. When finished, or when the timekeeper signals the end of time, the handler should exit the course by genuinely attempting the finish hoop.

Conduct of the Game

If a test is faulted by a dog going off-course, dropping a bar, or committing a “runout” refusal with all four paws, the team can re-start the test without having to perform additional non-test hoops.  The test can be attempted in a different direction, as long as it is the same test.  All tests (including Bonus Tests) may be re-attempted.  A team can attempt a test up to three times.  For purposes of counting attempts, a test does not start until the dog commits to the first obstacle with four paws.  If a team gives up on a test or is unsuccessful after three tries, the appropriate number of non-test hoops must be performed in order to attempt another test.  The team may not re-attempt a test once they intentionally return to the non-test hoops.

For the purpose of league play the team will earn 10 points for each test completed; and will earn 10 points for each bonus completed successfully.

Scoring and Qualification

Hoopers Rendition is scored Points then Time. Time is a tie-breaker only.

To qualify the dog must earn:

  • Games I – 20 points
  • Games II – 30 points
  • Games III – 30 points

Editor’s Note: These qualifying criteria are established for possible use in the TDAA. We aren’t actually giving qualifying scores in our league play competition. The Games II dog should be given slightly more time for the conduct of the game and thereby differentiating performance from Games III.

Errata and Discussion

  1. Where I find the NADAC rules unclear (or unspecified) is the judge’s interpretation of performance between the conduct of non-test hoops and test hoops. For example, if the dog takes a wrong-course obstacle on the way from the line of non-test hoops to the first hoop in a test… is the handler required to go back to perform the appropriate number of non-test hoops before attempting the desired & correct test?

    The same question for a dog correctly finishing a test… is he faulted on the way back to the line of non-test hoops or on the way to the finish hoop? Perhaps an intrepid NADAC fan can answer this question.

  2. Our league play course has an expanded course time because of the presence of technical obstacles (contacts and weave poles). On a NADAC Hoopers course the standard course times are constant. This is possible because spacing between obstacles is very consistent and true and the criteria for performance at each level is clearly specified. Here’s what you’d expect for  SCT in a NADAC Hoopers class:
Small Dogs Medium Dogs Large Dogs
Elite 48 seconds 44 seconds 40 seconds
Open 48 seconds 44 seconds 40 seconds
Novice 40.8 seconds 37.4 seconds 34 seconds
  1. The qualifying criteria for titling purposes that I’ve described above bears no relation to qualifying in NADAC. NADAC (correct me if I’m wrong) sets a performance requirement for the class and so is scored time-only. I’m unclear as to whether dogs who successfully complete one or more bonuses is placed higher than other dogs that are directed through the simple performance of tests. NADAC players might want to help answer this question.
  2. The NADAC Hoopers course features a canny strategic element. The handler can direct his or her dog through the test sequences in the order and direction of choice. And so it is possible for a clever strategist to find the most economical path and with savvy handling beat dogs that are faster.
  3. I’ve redefined the “refusal” for the purposes of conducting this game in league play. The NADAC guideline says that the test is faulted by: “bypassing a hoop with all four paws.” This is the classical definition of a type of refusal… called the run-by. And so we will incorporate that definition of this game. However we shall not fault a significant hesitation on the approach to any obstacle or turning back or away from the obstacle (which are the other accepted definitions of the refusal.)
  4. Why are we playing this game? We’re going to a NADAC trial in just under two weeks. We want to be ready for NADAC Hoopers!

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Movies based on old Marvel Comics superheroes often pay homage to earlier renditions of the character. In the movie “The Hulk” the bits of homage included a television show, a cameo appearance of some person, and a pair of pants. Please explain the connection of these three details to “The Hulk”.

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the March Jokers Notebook.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – Feb 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/

The Economics of the Agility Training Center

January 28, 2010

When I was in Calera, Oklahoma for the NADAC judges training Sharon Nelson engaged in about a 15 minute demonstration of rubberized contacts. She took a completely green dog that had never been on an A-frame and basically stirred him around on the plank of the full-height A-frame; up and down, back and forth, and around in cute little circles.

I learn by empirical experience. I have to see the proof of a thing before I’ll believe it. And, you know, I’ve seen tens of thousands of agility performances. It was clear to me from that one little demonstration that the rubberized contact is just about the only way to go for the dog’s safety and confidence. You know it’s a funny thing, if a dog feels out of control on a contact obstacle he’ll try to grip with his nails which exactly the wrong thing to do on a slick hard surface. We’ve all seen and heard the out-of-control dog scrabbling against an A-frame contact with his nails. But on this comfortable rubber surface the novice dog’s feet relaxed back so that he comfortably moved around on the pads of his feet. It was awesome.

Finally today I got on the phone with Teresa at www.dogagilitymatting.com. I tallied up the precut parts to cover two dogwalks, a teeter, an A-frame, and a table. According to my calculations it comes up to 380.00ish, and that doesn’t include shipping. Nor does the quote include the 5 gal drum of contact cement; and nevermind labor… that’ll be me (which means that it’s free?)

So I’m muddling through where to get the cash for this transaction, or at the very least how I can place the order without telling Marsha. Oh heck, she’ll have time enough to find out about it when the rolls of rubber arrive.

Running a training center is a heck of a notion, financially. I’ve got about $100K in the building, maybe $10K in equipment; another $10K in the flooring. Most of this is being serviced by mortgage debt. After I sold my old training center I bought this property and all its standing structures outright. So at least those don’t weigh on us financially. There are routine costs associated with running such a property that aren’t always that obvious, including utilities, road maintenance, landscaping, and repairs on standing fixtures. Lordy, it all starts to add up.

I’m a piker compared to what some enterprising souls have committed to get in the dog training game. But I’ve moved (in what I keep calling my semi-retirement) to a part of the world that was hurting economically long before the Bush Depression started. And so we might have people inquire about obedience or agility lessons who’ll balk at the notion of paying $8 an hour for a couple months of training. It boggles the mind.

And yet, I remind myself, this life beats the hell out of working for a living, (no sarcasm or irony intended.)

Bud’s Trivia Corner

In what activity are you engaged if you are holding pictures of King David, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great in your hands?

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the February Distance Notebook.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Go the Distance ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Notebook – Jan 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/


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