Archive for January, 2009


January 26, 2009

Someone will tell me from time to time after a romp out in the agility ring “That was a complete disaster!” My response will be invariably, “Well you know, the Hindenburg was a disaster. You just had a bumpy game with a dog.”

And yet the word “disaster” is on my mind. My web site has been down for several days now (managed by This is truly not a disaster given the paucity of my business. And I am patient knowing that it’ll be up and running sooner or later.

There is an important business point I need to make here. A half a life-time ago I was a part of the disaster recovery team for Phelps Dodge, a very old and conservative American company (and today owned by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.). When something breaks business can’t stop. It’s not enough to say we’ll fix the broken thing; we must resume, we must recover.

A meteor could have dropped on Phelps Dodge headquarters and within about 24 hours all systems would be restored; and this is in spite of the loss of complete computer systems and possibly even key personnel. And the plan was so thoughtful and detailed that not only would computer systems and data be restored, but the phone system, the copier, and supplies as meticulously defined as paper-clips would be in place. Certainly a large corporation shouldn’t flounder for wont of a paper-clip.

So, in selection of a web service provider, I would like to see a disaster recovery plan. Let’s say a piece of firmware melts down. Now we have to get in touch with the manufacturer (who doesn’t do business on weekends by the bye), and wait for him to Fedex that computer part.

I’m sorry. This has already taken too long. If the computer goes down it should, it must, immediately come back up on an alternate processor. Maybe there’s a business idea here for someone to provide disaster recovery services for all the mom and pop web service providers in the world. I’ll bet you anything that big corporations who do their own web service have exactly this kind of provision as a part of their own disaster recovery planner.

Sunday Clinic


I’m going to document many of the sequences we worked with on the weekend; but wanted to share this straight-away. I ended the clinic on Sunday with kind of a romping sequence. My intention was to make it easy and free and fast. Naturally, it defied my early expectations and became completely challenging in it’s own subtle ways.

The original exercise I designed was all about the #9 through #11 practice with the discrimination. By the afternoon of the clinic I knew this was overly technical and likely to make people frustrated and grumpy. So I added the big sweeping lines around the A-frame which made it quite a fun romp and frankly got the speed and energy up and took considerable tedium out of the drill.

Because the opening is such a straight-line ripper that it’ll be a bit of a trick drawing the dog properly to jump #4 rather than losing him off-course into the pipe tunnel. A dandy response here is a simple static Post Turn pre-cuing the dog to the turn simply by the handler putting on the brakes after jump #3. Some handlers might need something more dramatic like an RFP or a Flip. Other handlers don’t need much of anything as their dogs will faithfully hold a Velcro position no matter where they choose to go.

The next truly interesting moment will be the approach to the pipe tunnel at #9. We might lose a dog or two to the wrong-course option at jump #2/15. More likely will be the handler turning away from the pipe tunnel prematurely causing the dog to draw up onto the A-frame for a wrong course. I often tell my students that when the handler takes the blocking position in a discrimination they are obligated to do only one thing. Block!

The transition from the pipe tunnel at #9, getting back to the A-frame at #11 is one of the technical bits in this course; and the pull-through after jump #10 was a skill we had already practiced on the day. If the handler doesn’t understand his job the dog is inclined to go wrong course after jump #10 either to jump #7 if turning right or back to the tire at #1/16 if turning left (and, of course, we saw both).

The choice of turning right or left at jump #10 had all to do with the handler’s strategy for getting to the #12 pipe tunnel after the dismount of the A-frame. There were several solutions for this interesting transition. The handler might bend, which means he comes dog the A-frame with dog-on-right and simply steps into the dog’s path causing him to bend away into a path that favors the pipe tunnel. With dog-on-left the handler might step forward into a Front Cross or hold the dog on left for a moment for a Post & Tandem approach. Anything that actually work is right.

In a bit a surprise to me the transition from the pipe tunnel at #12 to jump #13 became one of the more challenging moments. Most handlers after getting the dog into the pipe tunnel simply died in terms of movement. They went all flat-footed and awaited the dog shooting out of the tunnel. Four observable results come from this moment of sloth: 1) the turning radius of the dog ranges far too widely after the pipe tunnel; 2) the energy of the dog deflates to reflect the lack of energy of the handler; 3) With nothing productive to do the handler will find a way to fault this simple sequence; 4) The dog will do it just fine and seems unaffected by the handler’s loss of presence. Anyhow, I coached them before the second run that it might be a good idea to step up towards the exit of the pipe tunnel in this sequence being nearby to the dog showing counter rotation to tighten the turn and a quick accelerating step to immediately energize the dog to the race.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

The Clown Can Stay, but the Ferengi in the Gorilla Suit Has to Go!

January 25, 2009

Aside from a four hour clinic today, I have USDAA courses to wrap up for Indy in two weeks, and some course reviewing to do for the TDAA. There’s also a couple of new TDAA games I need to review.

By the way… one free “Small Universe” CD to the first person who can tell me exactly where the title quote comes from (and, it’s not enough to say “Star Trek”).

Course Design and the TDAA


The course pictured here was a Superior course used in the first TDAA Petit Prix in 2004. The course demonstrates a number of the course design considerations that make the TDAA unique from other agility venues.

Straight away you’ll note that the transitional distances between obstacles is considerably tighter than in any other venue. This course shows transitions of as little as 8’. Though as TDAA courses go, this course is a bit on the generous side as far as spacing between obstacles goes. In a straight line of jumps the judge can actually set the spacing between the jumps to as little as 6’ or 8’. Though you’ll note in the case of some kind of technical challenge – a discrimination problem or a trap – the judge is typically going to open up the approach to as much as 12’ to give the handler room to solve.

Another big difference between the TDAA and other venues is that we allow a course to begin (or even end) with a technical obstacle like a contact or the weave poles.

This course was designed on the round which is somewhat unusual in the Americas. But it is a very effective design for maintaining spectator access and appeal. To calculate the area of a circle, the formula is: pi * radius2 (pi = 3.1416). So, if you want to know the area of a circle with a 70’ diameter (which would be a 35’ radius) the calculation would be: (3.1416 * (35 * 35) = 3848.46 ft2.) And you know I didn’t know until the very moment that I did the calculation for this article, that the 70’ diameter circles comes in somewhat less in area than is supposed to be allowed under the TDAA rules (calling for a minimum of 4,000 ft2.)

As you can see, the rather diminutive TDAA equipment fits rather comfortably inside of this small area.

What We’ve Learned about the Smaller Courses

It is no accident that the first three TACh dogs in the TDAA were Yorkies. This organization was created very specifically for the smaller dogs. Many people who handle dogs successfully in the big dog venues do so because issues of timing are inconsequential. They might very well flounder in the TDAA until they have learned to handle the small dog with the same kinds of skills and keenness of timing that big dog handlers face on a weekly basis in another organization.

One of the criticisms of the TDAA (and good excuses to avoid competition in the TDAA) is that the smaller courses tend to slow dogs down. It is actually quite true that a dog’s yards per second (YPS) will go down in the TDAA; but, in fact, dogs don’t actually move slower than on a big dog course. Well, you must wonder how both can be true.

Technical obstacles and technical moments will always slow a dog down. If the number of technical obstacles and technical moments on the TDAA course are the same as on the big dog course the consequences of slowing down will always loom larger on the TDAA course. Think about it this way. On a big dog course the time lost on technical performance is made up on the flat, that expanse of real estate between the obstacles. A TDAA course just does not have as much flat… as will a big dog course.

Many small dogs actually move considerably quicker on a TDAA course than on a big dog course. The reason for this is simple, the courses are more invigorating to the dog – the action comes fast and furious; rather than having eight or ten strides between obstacles, the dog might have two-strides.



MS Vista for all of the wailing about its’ performance and pitfalls is really not a bad interface. It seems though with each new release I lose capabilities that I had before. An interesting thing about it though… the system keeps a stat counter on all of the internal games. In Windows XP only Freecell has a stat-counter. I keep about a 98% win rate in Freecell. I would have thought that my win percent would be as high in Hearts, but it just ain’t so. My rate tends to flicker between 86 & 87%.

Yesterday I logged a rare “Shoot the Moon” game. It’s very hard to do. I’m gratified that it keeps a “Best Game” notation on the stats page (so I really don’t every have to do it again).

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Area of Eclipse and the Ample Posterior

January 24, 2009

When judging a table performance the judge must take into account an interesting formula related to the width of the handler’s back-side. The closer the handler is to the dog and more inclined to hover over the dog in the performance the greater the area of eclipse. And, you will note, the more ample the posterior the greater the area of eclipse.


In this drawing the handler truly is not hovering over the dog in the performance of the table; but the judge absolutely has to improve his position to see the performance and conduct the table count.


You will note the extent to which the area of eclipse expands the closer the handler gets to the table. In a true hovering posture the eclipse is so magnificent that the judge really has to hoof it to get in position and might actually miss a second of performance for which he should have been counting, but can’t because he couldn’t actually see it.


A judge who has assumed a position at any distance from the table can be trapped in the area of eclipse and will have a great distance to travel in order to see the performance and make the table count.

This discussion is a cautionary tale. The judge and course designer should take note that a handler is most likely to hover on the side of the release. So if the course is coming toward the judge it is more likely that the handler might obscure the table performance. A better course design would be to release the dog perpendicular to the judge’s ostensible position.

The exhibitor should also understand this simple line-of-sight discussion. If you really want the judge to count for your dog on the table you should be aware of the judge’s position even when it wasn’t very thoughtfully managed. You should take great care not to obscure the judge’s view of your dog. The judge is just one more obstacle you have to contend with on the course and if you are thoughtful about this, it could save you a second or two on course from time to time. [Note: taking note of the judge’s position for a contact obstacle is quite a different matter and might require slightly different logic.]

A Hot Shower

I have some work to do this afternoon, mostly a bunch of details related to the TDAA judging clinic in Washingtonville this past weekend. I also have some manual labor stuff to do outside… hauling fire-wood around mostly.

First, I’m going to go take my first hot shower since I’ve lived in this log cabin. Yesterday Marsha and I studied the problem; dismantled the handle in the shower; and with a bit of problem solving figured out how to change the water temperature mix. There’s actually little grommet that slides over the gear inside that has a stop that dictates how much hot water gets in the flow. It’s a simple matter of sliding it off the gear, rotating it a bit, and sliding it back on.

Now, if I can figure out how to do this without scalding myself to death… I’m looking forward to my shower.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

A Found Poem #2

January 23, 2009

It was fun having Nancy Gyes dropping by my blog to leave a nice note. I’ve known Nancy and Jim for a number of years. They would come to Arizona in the early ‘90s to show at Good Dog USDAA trials. That’s back when players in the agility world would travel magnificent distances to find agility competition. Well, the world has changed very much.

Nancy and Jim have gone on to become famous characters in the agility world. I might see them every couple years or so. But I live nearly on the East Coast now, and they still live way to hell and gone in northern California.

Nancy’s explanation of her alphabet drills was simple and logical. I look back over the many exercises I’ve created or stolen over the years. And it is quite true I would have to go riffling through an impressive stack of papers to find any one that might tickle the fancy of my memory. I’d better take the Hebrew alphabet before she really takes the idea serious. At least I’d have the NYC market covered.


I use the expression “a found poem” every now and again. What it really means is in the shifting context of agility the opportunity for the practice of fundamentals will invariably present itself. As a coach I figure that I’m completely patient, taking the long view with my students. Even when they are feeling the wind in their hair and figure that they’ve solved the riddle of the game, I seek to take them to a new level.

On any sequence I must ask the questions. What would you practice skill-wise on a sequence like this? What is the killer path? What is the slow-dog handling plan? What is the fast-dog handling plan?


A Front Cross from jump #1 is probably completely conservative and has the handler using up his real estate early in the sequence so that any speed cues he might give down stream are diminutive. Consider a simple Post Turn from #1 to #2 (or better still, a Tandem!) with the handler racing the length of the dogwalk with the dog for a technical Tandem.

You must see that jumps #3 through #6 are a serpentine, although not arranged in the classical Victorian line. Fast dog is behind and pushing, the intrepid handler always weaving in and out of the jumps; slow dog is forward and pulling (Blind Crosses preferred) with the handler weaving in and out of the jumps.


I really like this little sequence. It will often expose the phantom Blind Cross in the long transition between jump #2 and the tire at #3. The options in the turn from jump #4 are also pretty cool. Forward of the dog the handler could slide into a quick Blind Cross (no phantoms here!) and roll the 180 as a Blind Cross as well.

In the fast dog turn at jump #4 the handler shows a layered Tandem and draws back to the landing side of jump #5 possibly for a speed transition and one killer Blind Cross on the fast dog after the tire.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Not Enough Hours in the Day

January 22, 2009

I love the TDAA Petit Prix and I will strive to make it a world-class event so long as it is in my power to do so. I know the world sees the small dog as a ragged little nuisance good mostly for the entry fee… if not so deserving of any respect. The Petit Prix is our chance to show that we love our little guys and will afford for them a competitive venue to showcase their skills.

I’ve wasted several days now trying to get a draft of the 2009 Petit Prix Tournament Rules through the TDAA BOD so that we can move on to the business of preparation. It was a thoughtful document; envisioning a more exciting championship competition and a solution to many of the systemic problems and inequities we’ve had in recent years.

I’m astonished and disappointed in the response of the group. I’ve lost confidence that this is a deliberative body that actually has the moxie to get work done. I value my time. So I’m pretty sure I won’t continue in this fashion. It’s time for me again to consider stepping down from the organization and let them go merrily on their way. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to give up quite yet. I’ll give them 24 more hours.

I hope the rest of the BOD sees pretty quick that somebody has to do the work; otherwise it doesn’t get done. That means I have to sit still for a bit while they beat the crap out of me for daring to propose any kind of change to the system; never mind that last week they were wailing woefully about the problems and inequities in the old system.

Re: Last Dance with DOCNA

This following note was left on Agilityvision some ten days ago. I didn’t see it until yesterday:


Submitted by airetrev on Mon, 01/12/2009 – 5:34am.

Well, Bud…I am SO sorry to see you go!  We have enjoyed our two trials with you…at Sugarbush Farm and at Barto.  After Sugarbush, when I saw you were judging at Barto, I rushed to sign up for the trial.  It was a bit of a hike, but worth it…we had a lot of fun.

I am utterly certain that there is nothing under the sun that I could have “taught” you, being so new to the sport.  So, boring to you, I am sure we were!  But for us, DOCNA and it’s safety emphasis has been the light of our lives.  My dog would never have gotten a Q if not for DOCNA…he is good agility dog, doesn’t off-course very much and very consistent…and he just plain LOVES to do agility!   I think he deserves a Q!  But because of his dysplasia the vet has limited his jump height and the other venues still want him to jump 16″.  If you remember him at all it will be as you dubbed him “funny haircut dog” .  He is an airedale and jumps only 12 “.  (Actually my teachers, Fran and Bill Siebert, and I tried him at 16” once in class, but it seemed too stressful, so we decided not to push it).  So yeah, I have to create a huge arc from the tunnel to wrap to the A-Frame (an even bigger arc than DOCNA would deem necessary) and all that sort of stuff, but it is worth it for the fun of getting to run!

But alas, we won’t have you as a judge again…we can’t do the other venues and you are gone from DOCNA 😦

It was a lot of fun while it lasted, I liked your energy as a judge.  Your good energy in both trials helped us succeed (even if we were god-awful boring!)  We’ll miss  you in DOCNA.  Anne and Trevor (funny haircut dog)


Hey I remember you quite well.. I couldn’t help but notice how much fun you and your dog were having. Your dog had a constant smile. I agree with you that DOCNA is a lot of fun. And I am so sorry that I will no longer judge for that organization. Frankly, I’m running out of organizations that will even let me judge. Someday I’ll tell the several venue stories, and how I manage to burn my bridges before I cross them.

Anyhow, thanks for the note and good luck out there. I’ll let everybody know when CWAGS agility comes online. It’ll be the perfect venue for everybody in the Agility Underground.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

When You Travel With Someone…

January 21, 2009

When you travel with someone you might need to be overhasty and leave before you are actually ready. But when you go alone, you can sleep in and make a leisurely start. That’s a nearly direct quote, I think, from Thoreau or someone like that.

I’m just back from a TDAA judges’ clinic in Washingtonville, OH. And I frankly find myself exhausted mostly because I didn’t get enough sleep. The really scary thing about the TDAA format clinic is that we have two days of study followed by two days of trial. And, we design the courses we use for the trial during the first two days. This is a lot more difficult than you would think. I was up well into the night organizing and printing courses.

I also had myself on more than one writing project that has nothing to do with my web log. If the work is not tedious, it is certainly meticulous. I intend to publish a couple eBooks this year under the brand “Agility Idea Book”. And, as you might expect, they don’t write themselves.

By the bye, Janet and Scott Kemerer were wonderful hosts of the event. Their facility at Four Seasons K9 Athlete center ( is a terrific agility trial site. And, they have Big Ass fans (I think I did a blog on this back on Agilityvision):

My Favorite Course of the Weekend

To tell you the truth, aside from leading a judges clinic, I was also working with two new Judge Advocates (more on this later)… and, running my own dogs. I did not have a spectacular weekend with either dog but good enough. Blue got three games legs and a new GII title; and two standard legs. Hazard also went three games (GIII) and two standards.

With Hazard, I pretty much decided that in the confines of the teacup course I was crowding her too much. And so I resolved in the last standard course that I intended to run with her to make it as much of a distance push as I could. I really don’t care if I qualify mind you; but qualification is a measurement, however blunt the instrument.


Here in the opening I did a couple things. First I sent her out to get the tire, a thing than we practice in routine “around the clock” training. I pretty much knew that I wanted to attend the drop of the teeter with her, so my path narrowed along the opening route which helped apply pressure to keep her on line. Just as the teeter began to drop I told her “Go tunnel!” and took a last pressure step. This might have allowed me to shift to the other side of the A-frame, changing sides along the way. But I had no intention of doing anything like that.


To get set up I gave Hazard a lot of trust to pick up the jump and favor the A-frame; though I held up my arm to get her looking at the top as we do in practice. For my plan, I needed to be ahead just to the extent that we could converge at jump #7.

I wanted all along to work for the layered Tandem at jump #7. Note that I arrived at the jump about the same time she did (which a handler will do, if they want it to actually work) and reserved a step of real estate to sell the turn. Then I faded back to the take-off side and gave subtle pressure to maintain the line out to the chute.


I got to play the whole layering thing over again, with some subtle differences. I actually took the magnet side on the approach to the tunnel/A-frame discrimination with a little counter-rotation for insurance. Note that the dog’s path actually favors the pipe tunnel anyhow.

Now I race for the #7 jump and once again show the layered Tandem. This time, however, when I fade back to the landing side I show some real brakes and frankly a bit of counter rotation as though I might be pulling her back towards the #7/14 jump. When her nose comes back around enough for a fairly square approach to the weave poles I release the RFP and let her get going again.


So at the #17 jump I showed one last little layered Tandem; though I was a bit careful to draw the corner up a couple strides on the landing as insurance that she wouldn’t turn too hard-aback and give the #18 jump a miss. I chickened out a bit on my layering as I stepped in between the weave poles and the collapsed chute whereupon I also had to step inside the #15/8 jump. To tell you the truth I’ve been transitioning Haz to running contacts and she actually missed one on me this weekend (the dogwalk); but not this one. I gave her a “bottom” command in that I really mean this voice. Um, she didn’t assume a position, but at least she ran down through the contact. It reminds me that I’d better go back and fortify “bottom” for a little while in my training.

A couple people who were paying attention told me how much fun it was watching me do the course that way with my dog. At least one person told me I was showing off. You know, I’ve got to look at it like this. Her YPS was faster in this course than any other we ran on the weekend. Hazard is a dog that does not like micro-management or having me hover over her at all. And knowing this, I just need to trust her. Practice the way you compete; compete the way you practice.

Are You Ready for Some Football?

I can’t tell you how excited I am by the Arizona Cardinals have won the NFC championship and are headed for the Super Bowl. I am an Arizona boy though clearly displaced in the world. Arizona has never had a pro football team in position to become a national champion. If you track back on the Cardinals I believe they won the NFL championship in 1947 or 1948. That was before I was born.

After the movie “Invincible” with Mark Walburg I found myself a surreptitious Eagles supporter and had great empathy for the Philly fans. I rooted for them all year. And then, to hear them boo their team and whine and cry like great babies after they lost the NFC championship game… let’s just say I lost my empathy and my respect for those fans. They don’t even know what long suffering means. They don’t deserve a championship team. Maybe they’ll learn how to act if they have to wait another 60 years.

Speaking of Yiddish!

Nancy Gyes picked up on my blog post… What if Nancy Gyes Was Jewish. And made comment to it. WordPress keeps some interesting statistics including what search terms were used for people to find my blog. “Nancy Gyes” appears just about as often as “Distance Handling” though sometimes they appear in the same search expression.

Another search engine term that has been hitting my blog stats is “Concentrates the mind” which, as it happens, to be a part of the Sam Johnson quote I put in my blog several weeks back… “The prospect of hanging concentrates the mind”. If you think about it, this is a 19th century variation on extreme penalties being a deterrent to criminal acts. And I do believe the quotation is getting attention in our present culture in the anticipation of criminal prosecution of our former executive branch for crimes committed while in office.

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Designing for Flow

January 19, 2009

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.


Agility Underground

January 15, 2009

I’ve heard several times now about the existence of an Agility Underground. This is, by my understanding, a group of people scattered around the country who train independently and have a huge desire to play agility with their dogs in the company of other people who approach our sport with a sense of fun.

So my real question is… why does such a movement need to be underground? Why should it be a guilty pleasure to approach our sport with the idea of having fun with our dogs without ambition or self promotion?

I considered posing the question on AGILEDOGS. But I resisted the impulse. I am fairly certain that I’d get a number of responses from people who dismiss the notion. It would invite a fair amount of rhetoric from people who aren’t fun to be around at all. And many of them would claim that they are having fun; so what’s the big deal?

None of this is intended to be a cranky diatribe. The agility world is what it is. And it follows and conforms to very natural pressures of economy and human nature. To protest against nature, even our own, is simple folly.

Nevertheless, I’m left wondering at the fate of the Agility Underground. What are they to do? To apply the words of an influential fellow I knew many years ago I ask… Will they paint their naked bodies blue and hide in holes in the ground? It all seems a bit extreme to me.

Is there an option? An outlet? A venue?

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at


January 13, 2009

Okay, I’m going to show you a magic trick. You’re going to take one piece of paper and turn it into an 8-page booklet. I call it a BigLittleBook. First I’m going to give you instructions, then I’ll give you a link to download a Word Template. And, just so you know, the template is a bit of a puzzle if you don’t have the instructions first.

Take yourself a piece of paper, and number each side with four panels, like this:


The front side is panels #1 and #2… but you turn the page upside down to label #3 and #4. Then flip the page over, and the same numbering logic applies to #5 through #8. It’s important that #5 and #6 are at the top of the page, on the same end as #1 and #2 on the other side.


Now you just fold it up; top & bottom, then lengthwise. You’ll see that the bottom has folds in it, so you should trim off about a 16th of an inch so the pages get to turn. I also like to put a spine staple in it.

Now if you number your new book (8 pages!) starting at page 1 and straight through to the end you’ll find that the panels you numbered initially have just about nothing to do with the page numbers. So if you want to create your own book… you need to know what panel corresponds with what page in the finished booklet.

This really isn’t as hard as a Rubik’s cube. But I’ve never really had much patience for that kind of riddle. The onliest one I ever solved some might have called cheating. I peeled off all the little labels and put them where they needed to be, and was quite proud of myself, mind you. Oh, anyhow… I’ll give you this cheat: A correspondence table:

Page 1 = panel 2

Page 2 = panel 5

Page 3 = panel 8

Page 4 = panel 3

Page 5 = panel 4

Page 6 = panel 7

Page 7 = panel 6

Page 8 = panel 1

Okay, here’s a link to the template:

The next thing you need to know is how to print this thing.

  • First you print page 1
  • Then you turn it around and print page 2 on the bottom of the first print
  • Then you print page 3 on the back of the page (note that it should be at the top of the paper, directly behind the page #1 print)
  • Finally you print page 4 on the only open slot you have left

Finally, follow the folding, trimming and stapling instructions above. Voila! You’ve made your first BigLittleBook.

My First BiglittleBook

Back when I was in high school in Tucson, AZ we published a cartoon newspaper for Amphitheater High School. Of course, I didn’t’ go to Amphi… I went to Canyon Del Oro. Canyon tended to be kids whose parents were a little more wealthy (not mine, actually). And a bunch of country kids went to Amphi and did FFA and 4H and that kind of stuff. So we published this kind of underground lampoon and distributed it under kids’ windshield wipers at Amphi. Frankly it wasn’t very kindly. I did a cartoon strip called “Jethro and Bucky!” who would do heroic things like root out the greasers who used the boys bathrooms as dens of perdition (smoking cigarets).

Bells and Whistles

For my niece Angi’s benefit I’ve got to show the statistical aberration of blog hits in the past few days. On January 10th I posted a note on AGILEDOGS Listserv about my survey on the impact of today’s economy on dog agility (see . It created a high water mark on January 11th with 424 views of my weblog on that day. The formal top mark was on January 6th, with 148 views.


Angi has been doing some work for my on my website and has suggested that I shouldn’t use a public domain blog engine to publish elements of my web page and indeed, that I should move the blog to my own web site.

To tell the truth what I like about WordPress is that it has wonderful tools, including the statistical tracking tools. I have also observed that some people put up WordPress pages and don’t have their own domain at all. I guess that’s rather doing it on the cheap. Why not?

When writing the “Managing Your Tubes” bit ( ) I was basically geeking out about the implications of some of the tools available to me on the internet. The paradigm is constantly shifting. By the way, while the hosting company for my website has statistical tools they are not actually as flexible or as accessible as those provided by WordPress. And trust me, they provide no sophisticated formatting or page creation tools.

I was a bit reluctant to leave where I formerly kept my blog. Eric’s site came close to becoming a real community of agility people. After struggling with technical difficulties and down time I ventured to WordPress just to have an avenue. Now it would be very difficult for me to go back because I find myself in a much much wider community of bloggers and frankly have tools that weren’t available on Agilityvision.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

The List Maker

January 12, 2009

Back when I was in high school I had this teacher, a fellow named Webster, who would occasionally go on a diatribe about picayune minded “list makers”–people who had to make a list every day just to manage their lives. It was an inspiring kind of sermon to a knucklehead like me against establishment and status quo the ilk of which was quite common in the 60’s. You really have to put the times in perspective what with an undercurrent of radicalism in the world and hippies running amuck everywhere. War was bad and love was good.

So for the longest while I felt vaguely guilty resorting to the creation of any kind of list, whether it be intended for a grocery shopping expedition or writing a content plan for a book (I was a technical writer, remember). About 20 years ago I completely rebelled against Mr. Webster’s idiot notion. Plan your work, and work your plan. It is the key to sanity in this rather technical world.

Today I’m writing a packing list for travel; an item on my TO DO List. I’m comfortable with the notion that Mr. Webster can go straight to hell. And you can tell him I said so.

I haven’t completely gone to the dark side mind you. I’m still a Democrat (allowing some of you to observe that I’m still a knucklehead.) And I still believe that war is bad and love is good. But there is no excellent reason for running my life on every idiot rant of an old hippy.

Like the old song says, “He can’t even run his own life. I’ll be damned if he’ll run mine.” – from “Sunshine”, Jonathan Edwards (1971).


And the show must go on. Even though I’m out of town for some six days, we still have a Thursday night fun run here, AND we have a four hour split-group on Sunday. I have some obligation to move equipment around and leave a plan for sequencing.


The set of equipment on the floor is a “What do you make of this” sort of riddle. I can arbitrarily design an interesting sequence. But the sequence isn’t intended to teach a skill. However, it may expose a weakness, and so may be used to teach a skill. Did you follow that logic?

My design needs to stand for Thursday night, and with subtle tweaks, give a whole new experience on Sunday. Let’s see what I can do. To provide a point of reference the set of the building now is as it was in this blog post:

This makes for an interesting Thursday night course. It has a couple of moments for which the handler should have a thoughtful solution. But in general is a nice running sequence. It measures more like a jumpers course than a standard course… not having a dogwalk, teeter or full set of weave poles could account for the short measurement.

I’ve rotated the A-frame, brought in a couple of new jumps and the table. But otherwise it won’t be much of a change of the set of equipment.


For Sunday we might very well begin with the Thursday night fun run course. It will be an easy tweak to set the floor for split group work. For two hours the Intermediate group will be working at the same time as the Advanced/Masters group.


I probably need to sketch out several additional sequences. Here’s something more for the Novice folks. Though note that there are a couple of interesting moments in both sequences that make perfectly fine riddles even for more advanced handlers.

Writer’s Note

I’m trying to do a blog entry every day. To tell you the truth, outside of blogging, I run from project to project trying to keep up. You can tell in today’s offering that I’m a bit tired. The List Maker discussion from the title proves ultimately that a blog can be used to vent out any hidden thought or fancy that mightn’t ever have a proper context otherwise.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at