Getting in Touch with my Inner Calendar

Okay, I’ve spent the morning sifting through the avalanche of my in-basket making sure that I have all of my commitments on the calendar. I’ve just had the second “bump” on my calendar in two years (meaning that I committed to two things on the same weekend).

To tell you the truth it’s easier to be dominated by my watch than by my calendar. All I have to do is roll my wrist over and have a good look at the time. But working with a calendar is really quite different. I’ve had a couple good systems over the years. Though there’s something about “moving” and “getting a new computer” that upset careful systems. To tell the truth the best system I ever used had nothing to do with a computer whatsoever. I kept my future calendar in a three-ring binder that was always in my briefcase and just about 3 seconds away from any query. But now my calendar is a task split between two people, and something on the order of three computer systems, not even including email.

The secret to being organized is that you touch a thing only once, and file it away appropriately. It’s like some people’s vision of a Front Cross. It’s one thing to intellectually understand it… it’s quite another to make the body actually do it. <sigh>

So shoot me.

Honoring the Dog’s Path

I’m on a mission with certain of my students to make them understand what I means when I say “Honor Your Dog’s Path”. The handler by turning away from the work at hand is a clear signal to a dog that he should not do that work.

A dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path

The dog turns when the handler turns

These are fundamentally “Laws of a Dog in Motion”. You cannot be a good handler if you don’t understand these laws. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Your dog can learn to compensate for your lack of discipline. Many dogs learn quite well to read the correct resolution to a handler’s conflicted signal. They learn this thing by a series of corrections and disappointments as they try to interpret the handler’s cues.

Dog’s naturally engage in “compensatory learning”. They learn to compensate for the ills of the handler. The upshot of this is that the handler will create a bond with his own dog that is more based on the dog’s clever nature than the handler’s understanding of communication with any dog. A good handler should be able to run just about any dog successfully, simply by understanding movement that is natural.

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This is a simple example of what I’m talking about. Don’t think I’m being completely silly here… I’ve watched about a million agility performances in my lifetime. And I submit that this is more common than rare.

The handler takes a lead-out forward of the dog and curls up at the #3 jump to show the straight line through jumps#3 and #4. The dog curls in and gives the jump a miss altogether. This handling actually fails on several levels. Chances are the lead-out was too far forward of the dog (not leaving the handler room for productive movement). Certainly the idea that it’s a straight line from jump #3 to #4 is a complete illusion. And finally… the handler did not “honor the dog’s path”.

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A simple analysis of the dog’s path shows his true line of approach from jump #2. The angle of the approach is dictated by his landing point and his turning radius. Note that the handler’s movement (path drawn) has very little to do with the path that the dog should strike in order to be successful in this simple sequence.

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Straighten up and fly right… is the advice that I give my students. I’ll lay thin little sticks on the field to demonstrate the dog’s path. The handler should work in a crisp clean line parallel to the dog’s intended path. If the dog works in a path parallel to the handler’s path then shouldn’t the handler’s path parallel the dog’s path? Think about it.

This is meat and potatoes handling.

Teacup Camp

We’re planning to another teacup warm-up for the Petit Prix beginning September 29 through October 2, with a trial on October 3 & 4. After that we’ll be on the road for the Petit Prix in Racine.

We don’t have much of commitment to the 4 days of teacup training as it stands. I’d be inclined to cancel it but frankly want the final warm-up for my own teacup dog (Hazard). So if you want a delightful last-minute tune up prior to the nationals with a lot of personal attention in (apparently) not very crowded conditions you should get in touch. We’ll get you into the camp.

If you’re interested in camp September 29-October 2, please let Marsha know as soon as possible (MarshaHouston@hughes.net).

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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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