Designing for Flow

Herk & Jerk is an expression used by run & gun agility venues in the United States, primarily NADAC and in somewhat equal measure in the copy of a copy clones like ASCA and DOCNA. It tends to mean course design that is overly technical and nearly oppressive.

I’ve practiced technical handling over the years to the extent that there’s not much that really scares me or leaves me dumbstruck in terms of strategy. Yet as a course designer I really want to avoid the overly technical so that everybody can have a fun romp with their dogs. Not everyone is a technical geek like me. And the world is probably better for it.


Here’s a funky little jumping sequence that clearly is overly technical and nearly oppressive. I’ll run this kind of sequence in practice. But it is not the kind of thing to put up

I’m playing with a course edit strategy to cure the oppressive nature of the course. I’m simply going to extend the lines of the course, and add new jumps to take out any degree of turn that approximates a number as high as 180º.


I start with a vision what might happen to the flow of the sequence by extending the lines to break up the one beat (jump) to a turn rhythm of the course to two or three beats to a turn.

The red jumps new and extend the dog’s line. I’ve presented them squarely to the dog’s line as much as possible. The green jump was the only jump that was in the original sequence that is moved.


The finished course doesn’t feel nearly as oppressive as the technical little sequence upon which it was based. Is the actual challenge is comparable? I think maybe so. The chief differences I can see from extending the lines is that the dog gets to get up to working speed and the handler has a breathing space to contemplate his next movement.

I pretty much took out the hard aback 180º turns in the course, favoring instead more of a pinwheel finish. Two 90s equals a single 180 to be sure. But the proximity of the pivotal jump provides the handler a more realistic opportunity to release the dog to work without resorting to constant micro-management.

I’m not sure I’m completely convinced, though it did seem to work on this sequence. The sequence is considerably longer. And I haven’t tried it yet with a sequence with technical obstacles.

Linear Puzzlework


This is a nice straight-working sequence that doesn’t require so much in the way of handling. It’s a couple of nice long straight lines. It is the nature of the long & straight line that the dog can get up to working speed. Indeed, the handler might find opportunity to release the dog to work ahead.


Because of the linear quality of the sequence it’s possible to shift the dog’s path in such a way to mostly limit the degree of turn to a range of 30º to 45º. These more modest turns cause little degradation in the dog’s working speed but add considerably to the handling challenge.

In this renumbered sequence I took liberty to change the shape and placement of the pipe tunnel at #1. The sequence also features a single turn (from jump #8 to #9) in the range of 135º.


Okay, I want to back up a step. Note that in the jump #1 through #3 in this renumbered sequence, we can find a nice straight line that mightn’t have been obvious otherwise. Certainly the handler will want to solve the turn from jump #5 to #6 because the dog will have a good look at jump #2 as a wrong course option. Still the challenge isn’t so great.


With just a bit of fanciful renumbering this course can be quite challenging. One might argue that I’ve turned this set of obstacles into something that is a bit on the oppressive side. What could I do about it?


Using the original extend the line logic I’ve tried to soften the oppressive nature of the two hard-aback serpentine turns. I also took out the turn straight from jump #9 to what is now #11. It was highly desirable in this sequence for the handler to release his dog on to the pipe tunnel to improve the options for the pinwheel and dismount from the sequence.



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