George of the Jungle

When designing for a space that has poles I often find myself singing under my breath the old theme song for George of the Jungle[1]… which includes the important advice “Watch out for that tree!”

The trick to working with posts is to provide adequate room for dog and handler movement all around it, or press a jump or pipe tunnel up against it so that it’s not actually in the handler’s path or the dog’s path.

I find it very difficult to adapt to poles and posts on the fly. The design must be premeditated.

One of the most pressing challenges in designing for a small space is creating any sense of flow whatever. The small space tends to be too crowded and frankly overly technical as though “technical” is the most important objective of the agility challenges. On the contrary, a training sequence should encourage running to allow the dog to discover what agility is really about.

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This sequence has three distinct parts. The first 6 obstacles represent a flow builder in which the handler is encouraged to run with his dog. Then the course takes a turn toward the technical beginning with a series of Front Crosses in the serpentine to the A-frame. After the A-frame through the end of the sequence this is probably more about Rear Crosses. So it becomes an interesting workshop for practicing rather fundamental handler movements for agility.

Considering the Opening Line

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With my own students I’m constantly aware of how they approach the opening of a course or sequence. And I put in considerable teaching to get them to see the opening line. It is frankly sometimes quite a novice error to square the dog for the first hurdle. But you know, even people who understand that if the first hurdle were a jump, seem to lose sight of the concept if the first hurdle is a tire.

Especially as I have small dogs I will study the feet of the tire which tend to be significantly bigger than for a bar hurdle. I want to make sure that my dogs have unfettered room to take off and land. And, as we all know, as we give rotation to the tire the aperture diminishes significantly in size as the approach becomes more oblique.

Lining the dog up for the A-frame (an inadvertent error) predisposes the dog to consider the A-frame. Lining the dog up for the pipe tunnel predisposes the dog to the pipe tunnel. That seems the smarter thing to do… to predispose the dog in the direction of the actual course.

These are reasons you’ll see savvy handlers studying that their dogs see when positioned at the starting line.

Simplifying the Sequence

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So how would this sequence run if we skip the pipe tunnel?

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.


[1] Well, I know the words to the theme song for Tobor the Eighth Man as well. But that’s just me. Chances are more people can sing along with George of the Jungle.

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2 Responses to “George of the Jungle”

  1. Susan Eastwood Says:

    Interesting….when one has no choice BUT to design courses around poles, one can become very adept at it. I work to include flow in courses interspersed with technical stuff. It can be done, usually without quite so many obstacles. Obviously it cannot be the same long loping type of course one can do with a 100′ x 100′ space, but I do manage to make my students breathe heavy on occasion….um from running a course, of course…

    Thanks for the fun seminar this weekend!

    • budhouston Says:

      I expect you’re right Susan… that you become accustomed to it. I think my point was really about premeditation (being thoughtful beforehand). The course designer needs to be thoughtful in the placement of obstacles so that the posts don’t get in the way.

      An interesting phenomena I observed is the “head-bob” in which some handlers engage at a jump. So consider a jump placed just alongside the post… as the handler approaches the jump he leans in, actually challenging the post with his head. (I figure that if the post is stout enough, it will survive the challenge).

      Now it’s got me thinking through simple movement alongside jumps. The head-bob actually represents a “flinch” that is distracting to the dog in his movement. So, we should observe the phenomenon and incorporate it in our teaching. The poles on the training might actually be useful for teaching good movement as the handler could be rewarded with a bump on the head when he flinches in to the jump. 😉

      Regards,
      Bud

      PS It was good seeing you and Chris!

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