Putting a Finer Point on Things

I had to run out and teach my early private lesson and probably rushed my publication of my weblog this morning. I think there were more points to make in the overall analysis of the Truth or Dare question.


I sometimes joke around in exhibitor briefing (I’m such a card, after all) that the course can be taken in the order and direction of the dog’s choosing, or the handler’s, depending on who’s in charge of the team. But it is simply a jest. Many of the true masters of point accumulation have a canny tolerance for their dog’s making a choice which mightn’t have actually been the plan. You’ll note that I’ve numbered the dog’s path in this dog’s choice / Dare sequence as though it were its own numbered course. Truth of the matter is… the plan is actually quite flexible.


This is the same set of obstacles only slightly renumbered to show adaptation for dog’s choice possibilities. Rather than getting into the pipe tunnel the dog drives up the A-frame. Oh heck… that’s okay with me. We’ll go on to the tire back-to-back and after coming back over the dogwalk we’ll pick up the pipe tunnel we’ve left out. Then, on the approach to the A-frame the dog tucks in and takes the pipe tunnel. No worries mate! We’ll do our back-to-back on the pipe tunnel, finish with the A-frame and then go on.

I have to point out this flexibility in the overall plan and mission just so you know that it’s there. It pains me to see a handler try to correct the dog for not taking the planned route, especially when that correction serves no useful purpose in the strategy for point accumulation.

And on a related note… consider the dog that runs past a jump without taking it. There’s really no way on earth that it is profitable from a point accumulation point-of-view to draw the dog back to get back on plan. There are no wrong courses in a point accumulation dog’s choice game. And so it is remarkably silly to waste five seconds for the sake of one point.

That Don’t Make No Sense!

Back-to-back performance of a collapsed tunnel or the teeter often doesn’t make a lot of good sense. The reason we do back-to-back is to shorten the dog’s transitional distance between obstacles. On a one-directional obstacle drawing the dog around for a fresh approach is often a great a distance as the natural and more flowing intervals between obstacles that don’t require a complete 360° redirection of the dog’s path.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Let’s say that your dog has a painfully slow teeter performance or a haphazard weave pole performance. That argues that in a point accumulation game you can give these obstacles a pass during this phase of the game. OTOH, if your intention is to use the game as a warm up for standard classes later in the day, you can actually get your dog on each a couple times so that you can become deliriously happy and have a solid training moment on the obstacle before you make the attempt in the standard classes.

Something Inspirational


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.


2 Responses to “Putting a Finer Point on Things”

  1. Jon Says:


    I’m in total agreement with you on the back to back collapsed tunnels. There’s too much time involved in getting your dog turned around and back in and there’s always the danger of the dog getting wrapped up in the fabric the second time through.

    I have done the teeter back to back as the distance is not as far, the dog is going very slow or stopped at the end of the teeter and the dog can get on the teeter from the side and it’s worth more points than the tunnel. Biggest problem is usually the speed of the teeter. If it’s a slow teeter, then there has to be a jump somewhere around that I can take while the end of the teeter returns to the ground.

    The biggest mistake I’ve seen is handlers repeat weave poles after the dog has popped out in the middle. What usually happens is that the handler rushes the weaves even more and gets a second popout. Unless you have a really exceptional weaving dog, you probably should stick to the other obstacles anyway.


    • budhouston Says:

      Good points. These are things the handler learns the hard way. Of course the first rule of operation must be: “Know thy dog!”


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