Mini-Clinic Puzzle

Marsha was away for the weekend, attending a TDAA trial up in Delaware, OH with our girl Hazard. Last weekend… Marsha went up to Washingtonville, for another TDAA trial. Ordinarily I would have done these… but Marsha really needed something fun to do; and I was happy to turn it over to her.

Hazard’s been shutting down on us a bit n over the past six months or so. It is an enigmatic phenomenon. I can almost put my finger on the instant she started to lose steam. We were at a USDAA trial in Columbus awhile back. On Saturday she was on fire. We qualified in about every class we ran. And she gave a respectable “tear up the course” run in the Steeplechase. But then on Sunday she had turned a corner. Some switch had been flipped. We were moved to the “other” ring in Steeplechase. And after about three jumps she simply shut down on me, and didn’t so much as respond as I ran forward.

So our mission prior to the Petit Prix is to find the love of the game again for Hazard. The riddle of Hazard’s motivation remains. We’re thinking that our best bet is for Marsha to handle her as she is more mollified by Marsha’s attention than mine. I can’t tell you how much that pains me. But we really want to do the right thing for this Sheltie Ranch girl.

So I was alone today to do our twice monthly mini-clinic. I had Beginners and Intermediate from 10:00 ‘til noon; and advanced dogs and handler form noon ‘til 4:00. I didn’t have much of a lesson plan. Usually if there’s anyone teaching with me I’ll write a meticulous and detailed plan for the day. When I’m on my own however, I’m completely content with winging the instruction.


This was one of the exercises that I set up. Predictably, the challenging moments related to the two pipe tunnels: the off-side approach to the #6 pipe tunnel and the roll around the wrong-course tunnel in the transition from jump #8 to jump #9.

The real problem with the approach to the #6 pipe tunnel is that almost everyone wanted to handle it in fast dog mode… meaning for the most part that they had to take a Post & Tandem approach. I was a little torn by this observation (and had to take note of the number of wrong courses the handling produced). Should I teach them how to do a Post & Tandem? Or, should I show them how to handle the sequence. I settle on the latter advice.

Basically what I told everyone is that they should work forward of the dog for a simple Front Cross (that would be slow dog handling. Eh?) The results were quite remarkable. All the dogs ran faster (because the handler had to run to be forward of the dog. D’oh.) While I had to work with a couple of them on the mechanics of the Front Cross, in general a handler running will make the dog run faster and straighten the lines nice.

In the turn from jump #8 to #9 I specified a simple Post Turn. Of course this yielded a number of upstream considerations, like: The handler should make the approach to jump #7 with dog on right… but have dog on left for jump #8. Teaching is more interesting when you’re teaching contrary to the impulse and instinct of the handler.

Bless Ya’ll

… who read my BLOG on Sunday. Lord knows you should be in church.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at

2 Responses to “Mini-Clinic Puzzle”

  1. Teri Says:

    Probably. LOL

  2. Michelle Says:

    What’s going on with Hazard is very much what has been going on with Presley He was running fast and doing all the obstacles and then at one trial he just quit running; he finally took the release at the start line but would bypass all the contact obstacles. I could tell he was doing the jumps for me and the tunnels for himself. I couldn’t figure out the problem. I think he may have had a bad teeter experience, feeling too much bounce as it hit the ground, and thought he might be genralizing that to all the contacts. We went to the vet and everything is OK as far as she can tell. I even xrayed his spine to see if there was anything going on there. Just minimal very early arthritic changes.
    So I have been working with him to motivate him with play and jackpots. He will sometimes do the aframe or dogwalk, but never the teeter. I dropped him to 4″ as soon as he turned 7 in May. I’ve added a supplement to his diet (Synovi G3) that really helped Starr when she was lame. I also noticed that he doesn’t run and chase Elvis as much as he used to when we go to the park.
    Last weekend though I did see a chnage for the better; he chased Elvis for a short while and in general seems happier. I’m not sure what to make of his changes or how to work with him We are just taking it day by day and I am trying to note his “happiness”. We don’t do agility everyday nor do we drill when we do. I keep it short and try and give him lots of reinforcement – play and jackpots.
    Keep posting about how Hazard is doing and what you guys are doing with her, maybe I’ll learn something to help Presley.

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