A Human Face

I’ve made my way from Racine, WI back to Waterford, OH. I was fortuitously gifted with a bag of CDs for my Live to Run Again collection. And so I listened to The Navigator by Clive Cussler on the way home. It’s an action adventure story in the mold of The Da Venci Code… very entertaining. I only made it as far as about Indianapolis on Sunday evening. So I checked in to a Red Roof (where I got to watch the Academy Awards); and got me a good night sleep. And I finished the trip on Monday morning.

When I drive I work through all kinds of content material for my web log. Most of this very compelling and stimulating stuff I pretty much forget before I ever commit it to writing. So I must say you guys miss some pretty good stuff because I’m an old and forgetful man.

I have a number of observations about the seminar work I did over the weekend, and the TDAA trial. I’ll try to work these out over the next few days.

Camp at Country Dream

Coco Chanel said, “Nature gives you the face you have at 20. Life shapes the face you have at 30. But at 50, you get the face you deserve.” I was trying to remember this quote as I drove. Of course I had to Google it when I got home to get it right and properly credit the quotation. It was my intention to niftily segue to a discussion of our agility camp at Country Dream.

Ultimately, having to explain all of that makes this segue rather ham-handed.

Writing a blog is a lot of fun. It’s like keeping a not-very-private diary. And frankly it gives us a human face. I’d like to think that this is the face that nature gave us. LOL

Following a discussion on AGILEDOGS, a popular internet-based discussion list, some lady has complained about the high price of agility seminars and camps. It led to a heated discussion of the defenders and detractors of seminar and camp pricing philosophies. That got me thinking about what is the difference in my own camp experience, and what others might offer out in the world.

I conduct the most modestly priced agility camp experience in this country. Somebody might observe just to be rude that “You get what you pay for.” But, that is exactly right. My camps are intended to be chiefly recreational. While I dog a bit of skills training—and even dog training—what I really want to accomplish is for everybody who comes to have a hoot of a time with their dogs; to relax some, and enjoy the rural countryside away from the maddening pace of the city.

If you find yourself with a world-class dog and require a high caliber learning experience with an instructor who will sharply focus your training plan and handling philosophy, then you probably should get thee to Gyes or Mah or Mecklenburg or one of their dozens and dozens of imitators (“system” advocates) out in the world.

But if you want an agility vacation with your dog, you should come to me. Indeed, I have cottages for any of those top echelon teachers should they ever want to take a vacation and escape the terrible intense nature of their workaday lives and chill with a bit of recreation. I’ll promise them a brief anonymity and respite from being a heroic expert.

As I gear up for a new camp year I’m looking hard at the consistency of our camps. I’m pretty much committed to the idea that they will not be regimented or overbearing; and instead full of interesting activities throughout the day.

Intellectual Ownership of the Course

That reminds me… early last year I began the practice of bringing out one of my miniature agility course model sets. I’ll plunk it down in the middle of the table and challenge everyone to recreate one of the courses we worked on during the week.


As it happens I began this practice at a camp with a bunch of my hard core students. Some of them have done dozens of my camps or seminars. When I have a group of people very familiar with my handling systems I basically get to spend the week on course strategies (which is a LOT of fun); rather than foundation skills for handlers and dogs.

Well anyhow, they put this course together fairly quickly; and better than drawn. I’m sorry, “better than drawn” means that it more truly resembled the course that was set up on the field rather than the one that was on the course map.


As a group they each remembered elements of the course and spatial relationships between obstacles that became quite vivid as they reconciled their vision of performance when the did the walk-through juxtaposed against the true performance as they ran their dogs. This allowed them to intellectually own the course.

It was a fun experiment. Though I must say that I was a little disappointed because I thought the exercise would be quite difficult.

Follow Up

I must report that I have continued the practice of challenging campers to set up a course that they have worked through at camp. And absolutely never have they demonstrated the same ownership of a course than did that first group of campers. Now I am fascinated with the challenge.

There’s a new activity I’d really like to try. I want to set up a perfectly technical and challenging course and have them walk it directly before lunch. So then we go eat lunch away from the course, and allow them all to chat and carry on and socialize… you know how people lose focus when they’re hungry.

And then I’ll pop out the set of miniatures and challenge them to build the course that they’ve walked. That should be a lot of fun.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.


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