The Architect

A very basic teaching point with me is that the handler is the Architect of the dog’s path. What does that really mean?

Too many handlers in agility run from obstacle to obstacle in a connect the dots fashion, simply hoping for the best as they muddle along. The problem with “hope for the best” is that hope is a lottery more inclined to disappoint than reward.

Instead, it is important for the handler to visualize the dog’s path and apply her skill at shaping the path on course.


The opening of this sequence has been at the back of my head for a very long time. USDAA judge Sally Sheridan set this up in a Grand Prix regional qualifier course in Phoenix back in 1992 or thereabouts. At the time we all muddled through it. I must have done okay because my little 13” Sheltie Winston won the 18” division on the weekend. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. But, I digress.


In order to understand the dog’s path the handler must think in straight lines and sharp well-defined corners. I find that handlers who think of the dog’s path as rounded shapes tend to misunderstand their timing events with fuzzy indifference. The dog’s corner is an event. Moreover the dog’s corner is a timing event; which means, whatever you’re going to do to turn the dog… do it now.

Line #1 is a given. If you think about it the line the handler is most interested in creating is line #3. So where lines #2 and #3 join constitutes the timing event that creates a square and unambiguous approach to the pipe tunnel.

Camp Tomorrow!

I guess I need to take the sequence above and turn it into an evaluation course for my campers. Typically this first peek (the entertainment round!) tells me just about everything I need to know about a group of students and pretty much sets the stage for where we need to go. I’ll have a list of training topics as long as my arm.


Okay… this course works for me. It’s not terribly efficient as course design goes, and it lacks a couple of obstacles that would make it a regulation course. I omitted the table because several of these campers compete in NADAC. NADAC, ASCA, and DOCNA people will cry if you put a table in their course. It would require dog training that they tend to ignore. As far as that goes… I’ll get them at the start line on this course; because if you don’t have a pretty solid stay at the start, then you’ll be throwing cards into a hat to solve the opening.

I have a heap of work to do today. I’ve been sitting in my office watching Kory settle in his crate and so I thought I’d write a bit to my blog. Watch my blog this week! With Eric Larson coming I’m going to try to convince him to put some shorts up on U-Tube that I can link through my blog.


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


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