Archive for October, 2009

Here Be Dragons – A Masters Gamble

October 31, 2009

I told you a couple of days ago that I lost an hour or so of work when my computer hiccoughed. This was a look at a USDAA Masters Gamble that I judged (as a stand-in) for the trial in Nashville, TN a week ago. Here it is:


This gamble had a relatively low qualifying rate. But dogs of every jump height did manage the interesting change of directions, and the qualifying performance. IMHO it was a combination of foundation training for the dog, and canny handler aptitude.


The handling that I liked best was what I call a layered Tandem. Note that the handler works to the landing side of jump #2 in a path parallel to the dog’s; but at a lateral distance so that, at the corner, the handler can show movement to convince the dog into the left turn.

The interesting thing about this moment is that a fairly large number of handlers did convince their dogs to turn to the left. However, after making the turn too many of them simply ran the line (rather back towards jump #1). So by not giving any focus to the #3 jump the dog doesn’t have much reason to want to do it. This explains why I drew the little red man facing and pointing towards the #3 jump.


Some handlers solved the riddle by some “outside the box” thinking; by drawing the dog into a tight wrap with a Front Cross after jump #1 the handler was able to introduce jump #2 at a tight slice with a line that fairly favored the approach to jump #3. I was somewhat lenient about the refusal at jump #2, giving the handler some latitude to draw the dog into the Cross even though the question of whether the dog had started the approach to jump #2 tended to be a bit fuzzy at times.


The handling that failed most often was the raw Rear Cross. An important attribute to the Rear Cross is that it creates a tightened turn on the landing side of the jump. And in this puzzle the handler shouldn’t really be ordering a tightened turn, at all.


I shouldn’t leave this riddle without a discussion of “consequential path”. A significant number of handlers put their dogs on the red-line approach as shown in this illustration. Note that the consequence of the given approach leads to a right turn being the natural turning direction after jump #2. That means the handler would have to fight or be especially compelling to get the dog to turn to the left.

The blue line shows an approach to jump #1 at a fairly aggressive slice… creating an approach to jump #2 that modestly favors a left turn as the natural turning direction.


“When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Call for Moratorium on Round-Ups

Stuff White People Like


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

Heinz 57

October 30, 2009

In the context of ongoing League Play I get to play a lot of games that aren’t much in the mainstream. Many of these are an absolute hoot and would make extraordinary fun for the canny handlers to play in the TDAA. This is a game that Marsha and I invented some five years ago… we just wanted a game called “Heinz 57” because it is a term sometimes applied to the all-American muttly dog. This is the game we came up with.



The purpose of this game is to score 57 points as quickly as possible. For the purpose of point accumulation, point values are:

  • 1 pt for Jumps
  • 2 pts for pipe tunnels and the tire
  • 3 pts for contact obstacles and the weave poles
  • The collapsed tunnel is a doubling obstacle

Obstacles can be taken twice for points, but back-to-back performances are never allowed. Another obstacle must be performed before the dog can be redirected to an obstacle (whether or not it was faulted). The collapsed chute has a special value, it is a doubling obstacle, and can be taken twice, like any obstacle, and can be taken at any time during the dog’s run. If the dog touches the table at any time scoring ends and the run is over.

No specific faults are associated with the weave poles. However, any error must be fixed or the dog will not earn points for the obstacle.

With the exception of jumps, if a dog commits to any obstacle he is required to reattempt that obstacle until it is not faulted to keep the handler from doing something unsafe for the dog should the dog volunteer for an obstacle unaccounted for by the handler’s strategy. No new points will be awarded until that obstacle has been performed.

In this course the dog getting on the table marks the finish of the course. The table becomes live after the dog has earned one point (the Mr. Banks Rule). The handler should exercise caution when directing the dog to obstacles near the table because if the dog gets on, then the game is over, without regard to the handler’s intentions.

Scoring and Qualification

Heinz 57 is scored points then time. 57 points is the benchmark. Any amount over or under 57 will be subtracted from 57 to determine the dog’s final score. 57 points are required to qualify at any level.



This depicts a Heinz 57 dog. Heinz 57 Original Watercolor painted in 2009; 4 x 4-1/8; Watercolor on board; Unframed; $800. Available at:; Code: 09_00206.

More Art


The Nietzsche Family Circus

The Nietzsche Family Circus pairs a randomized Family Circus cartoon with a randomized Friedrich Nietzsche quote:


Morality is: the mediocre are worth
more than the exceptions.


One must still have chaos in oneself
to be able to give birth to a dancing star.


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


October 29, 2009

Mulligans… yep, I want a do over!

I’m afraid that I wrote this long and rather insightful blog yesterday about a Masters gamble I judged over the weekend. And then the fates and the psycho fickleness of MS Word caused my system to crash… and I lost the entire file. I probably could have just sat down and rewrote the whole thing. But it was about three hours of work out the window and I was pretty depressed about the whole thing.

Instead, I turned my attention to more mundane matters, like chores and getting caught up on some of the work on my desk.

Just a couple of quick notes:

Updating my 2010 Calendar

I actually have a pretty good looking calendar on my computer, but it hasn’t been available in updated form for people to look at in quite a long time. Marsha and I are fairly busy updating what our training and camp schedule will look like next year. And so you’ll have to wait a few days before I can make the link public.

Work Study at Country Dream

All of our training, classes and camps, will now have a Work Study payment option. I’ve put up a permanent page for you to look at: I’m quite serious that just about anyone who is willing to work hard will be able to … with just about everything paid for, but the cost of travel to get here.

Rethinking the Web Store

Over the last couple of years I’ve had great trouble with my web store. It has crashed several times and the servers have been hacked. And my technical support really hasn’t helped me keep up with it. So I’m working now about dropping the web store and moving all eBook product sales to a service provider rather than doing it myself.

I’m off to a really slow start:


I have to go train my dog now… and set the building up for the evening fun run. I’ll try to catch up again tomorrow. Maybe I’ll rewrite that weblog entry that I lost yesterday (or just shoot myself).



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

Nashville Cats

October 27, 2009

It certainly was an adventure, a last minute emergency call to be a stand-in judge in Nashville, TN. The people in that part of the world are genuinely salt-of-the-Earth very hospitable and friendly. And, they have some great agility dogs, by the way.

Taking the field with another judge’s courses is really quite different you know. Typically the judge on the field is also the designer and the architect of every challenge and so must on some level take responsibility for the designs of those challenges. So judging for someone else I mostly had to make every effort to honestly present the challenges intended by the designing judge.

I was favorably impressed by the courses that I had the opportunity to judge. There might have been little things where I’d think to myself “I wouldn’t have done this!” The real truth is that it wouldn’t have occurred to be to do such things. I’ve believed for a long time that most judges have their own reference library of interesting moments and challenges which will appear routinely in their course design work. To be sure there are also some accidental moments of the found poem created serendipitously in the final attempt to stitch and bind the course into a finished product.

IMHO, this course designer had real flow and rhythm, serving up challenges that looked harder on paper than they ran in competition.

A Jumpers Riddle

So I spent the entire weekend watching handlers making their various strategic assaults on courses designed by another judge. I’m convinced as much as ever that almost all errors on course are handler errors. And I’ll probably share snippets with you over the next several days of some of my observations.

There are little course segments that I find fascinating. And surely they’ll show up in my own classes and maybe even seminars.


Here was an interesting closing to the Masters/PIII Jumpers course. I’ve renumbered just the closing element. This closing yielded three moments that delivered a significant number of NQ faults. Each deserves a moment of reflection:

  • The turn into the pipe tunnel at #3 yielded a predictable number of wrong course faults as the dog went into the wrong end of the pipe tunnel. Unfortunately I’m not showing the chain of events that brought dog and handler to this moment. But I will try to state this as a matter of probability (if not obviousness)… the dog was far more likely to take the wrong course entry to the pipe tunnel if the handler approached the moment with dog on right.
  • The change of directions from jump #7 to #8 yielded a fair number of refusals at jump #8. The dog comes accelerating out of the pinwheel in a line that nowhere near address jump #8. The most elegant solution was for the handler to assume a position with dog on right on the landing side of jump #7 for a neat little Front Cross to jump #8. Less successful (but successful for many nonetheless) was for the handler to push or bend or use a Get Out on the landing side of jump #7, with dog on left.
  • The jump that yielded the most faults is probably the least obvious in this sequence… jump #5. I’ve observed for many years that the pinwheel is a problematic arrangement of jumps, mostly because most handlers don’t actually appreciate the shape of the dog’s path… and don’t necessarily understand the handler’s “job” in the pinwheel. So we got a good number of refusal faults at jump #5 and just about every time because the handler failed to support the dog out to the jump. There were certainly other factors at work here. The handler was surely consumed by his or her need to get position downfield to solve the #7 to #8 transition. And also, being a wingless jump #5 had less visual acuity for the dog. After jump #4 if the handler is showing no interest in jump #5… why would the dog take it?

A Lesson Plan?


The jumper segment is just about the right size to fit into my training building. Of course if I want to practice the jumping sequence with my own students I need to wedge in some other obstacles that don’t detract from the intended challenges of the original Jumpers course.

I’d also like to use this set of the floor to play with the Sunday Masters/PIII Gamble. I’ll talk about that tomorrow I suppose.



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

Starters Jumpers Opening

October 23, 2009

I thought that I would share this interesting opening to a Starters Jumpers course. Just a little bit of course analysis would serve to enhance the chances for success.


In the illustration I drew a red line through the center of the first two jumps to demonstrate that they don’t precisely line up with jump #3. We had several dogs on that path that gave a refusal at jump #3. While refusals are not faulted at the Starters level it still takes time to correct a missed jump.


We also had an appreciable percentage of dogs going wrong-course into the wrong side of the pipe tunnel at #5. For your benefit I drew another line in the illustration to show you which end of the pipe tunnel is probably presented to the dog without the intervention or advice of the handler to give other information about the possible direction of the course.


What I’ve observed here in Nashville (after day 1 of 3) is a reliance on fast dog handling… that means that the handler takes a behind and pushing working relationship to his dog. Note here that the Post & Tandem approach solves the subtle turn to jump #3 quite neatly. The real problem with this handling is that the Tandem has an accelerating quality and frankly puts the handler behind the dog by the time the dog gets to the landing side of jump #4… making the turn to the left-side entry (and correct entry) to the pipe tunnel at #5 problematic.

So, the handler solves the first riddle, but fails the second for being OOP.

Keeping it Simple


Let me offer a possible handling solution to this opening. Note here that the handler is not going to attack the first two jumps in a straight line, but will instead seek a corner of approach in a turn between the first two hurdles that creates a straight line through jumps #2 and #3. You could call this a vee-set.

In the illustration the black lines and figures represent the opening line. The red figures and lines represent the approach to jump #2 out of the handler’s Front Cross (or you could say “Lead Out Pivot”).


An important attribute of our vee-set opening is that it gets the dog ahead of the handler in the pinwheel. And, as we all know, the faster the dog the dog is in a pinwheel, the farther ahead the handler gets.

So you see, the handler is easily forward of the dog for a easy peasy Front Cross on the landing side of jump #4 to direct the dog into the correct entry of the pipe tunnel at #5.



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

A Mad Rush

October 22, 2009

Yesterday I was contacted by Music City K9, in Nashville, TN for an emergency judging fill-in assignment. Today I spent about 8 hours driving. Tomorrow, and over the weekend, I get to judge another judge’s courses. It wasn’t a terrible imposition. I had to rearrange some commitments over the weekend. This is something I’ve done three or four times over the years.

Nobody has actually commented that I didn’t actually know what day it was yesterday (I asserted in my blog that it was Thursday. But you know, today’s Thurday too.)

It makes me wonder when it was exactly I stopped keeping track of the days of the week.


I received word yesterday that my old friend Zak, a Coonhound has died. It’s true that I plied his affection with doughnuts. Barbara Ray, his mom, figured that he must have been a beat cop in a former life. Whenever Zak saw me, about once a week, he’d curl his lips back in a charming imitation of Elvis Presley in a wonderful smile of recognition. In agility Zak was mostly just sensible. He never saw much necessity for actually running through the work except for maybe the last three obstacles as he remembered that he would get a treat then, and maybe even a doughnut.



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

Tabula Rasa

October 21, 2009

I sat down this morning intent on designing a working set of equipment for the Sunday mini-clinic that would be fresh and challenging and allow us to address a variety of handling and dog training skills. Faced with the blank screen I just didn’t really know how to start. I’ve only been designing lesson plans for twenty years, you know.

Then I remembered that I have this product that I’ve been selling on my web store for something over a year: Agility Training ~ Concepts and Design ~For a Small Universe ~ Volume I (available at So I opened up the .pdf and went hunting for oblong sequences. I’m determined to split the floor length-wise on Sunday.

Small Universe is really kind of a cool tool. It has hundreds of training sequences for different spaces. Once you find the sequence you like just click on the square in the upper-right corner of the picture and it will spawn straightaway into the Clean Run Course Designer. Then you can mirror it, nudge stuff around, replace equipment, and even design a variety of different sequences using the same set of equipment.


This one is kind of interesting it provides for some implicit layering or distance work with the pipe tunnel tucked under the dogwalk. There’s also some subtle play with the Hobday box arrangement on the dismount of the dogwalk.


I’m not completely thrilled with this set. However I do want to do some discrimination work with my students and so the tunnel/A-frame is a nice central focus. The problem with the set is that it won’t be terribly easy to find a variety of sequencing options… at least not enough to keep a group occupied and interested for up to two hours. But, I’ll give myself permission to subtly move things around from sequence to sequence so that it continues to be fresh and compelling.


Note that I’ve substituted some equipment in the sequence. Mostly what I’ll move around as we work will be the pipe tunnel and jumps #3 and #4.


These days I typically will do a sanity check for spacing before I commit to the set of the floor. In CRCD you can set the dog’s path properties to show the interval spacing between obstacles. This is something that I routinely do when I’m reviewing courses for the TDAA. It tends to flag when obstacles are too far apart or too close together. Close together is fine in the TDAA… but when I’m designing for mixed group classes or for courses in competition I always design with that leggy fast Doberman in mind. Make it safe for him, and it’ll be safe and fair for everyone.

Finished Product?


I got the two working sets side-by-side on the floor. I also added a set of 12 weave poles in that little dead space between the two working sets. The weave poles will be a shared obstacle, which means that it can be used by either side… though not at the same time.

From here I’ll design a series of five or six training exercises for both sides of the building. Note that my students will be waiting stage left in queue.

Thursday Night Fun Run


This evening (Thursday) I’ll have students showing up for our Thursday night fun run. So I sat down with the set of equipment for the weekend determined to find a standard course sequence that has nice flow and subtle challenge. This is what I came up with. It really wouldn’t be a legal course in most venues. There’s no teeter… and it’s very unusual to finish a course with a contact obstacle. But it will serve for our evening fun.

Mostly I’m just being lazy. I’d like to have very little equipment movement between tonight’s work and the Sunday mini-clinic.

I Made This!


When I initially combined the original two sequences on the same course map I had the dog’s path properties set to connect to numbers. And this is what I got as I put the two together. I’ll have to remember this the next time I have a discussion about the angry lines of a course. LOL!





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

On the Home Front

October 20, 2009

On Sunday night we had a killing frost. It was the final twist of a week that had been cold, wet and just on the edge of depressing. That unhappy weather was followed by a warming trend a blissful little Indian Summer that let me outside in nothing more than a tee-shirt without getting terribly chilled.

So I turned down the garden today. The leaves of the tomato and pepper plants had all curled up dead. I managed to salvage a quart or two of jalapeno peppers, a half dozen or so bell peppers, and four fat green tomatoes. And I dug up my potato crop and was very pleased to have a nice bunch of white potatoes with pale thin skin. This was my first attempt at growing potatoes and wanted to see how they grew… so I didn’t plant so many. Next year I’m bound to plant a lot more.

I broke the soil up with a spade and a garden tiller. And I added a heap of compost. I’m intent on improving the soil every year as what passes for “topsoil” around here would make dandy potters clay.

Attack of the Japanese Beetle

About mid-day the Japanese beetles began to swarm up out of the woods. It made just being outside somewhat unpleasant. Marsha and I spent awhile vacuuming them out of our windows inside the house. We literally filled up a vacuum bag with them that in the evening we threw in the fire-pit outside.

This reminds me of the first day in New Hampshire last year at the 2008 Petit Prix. It was only the one day that they were so annoying outside. So I’m hopeful that the “swarming” event is pretty much over already.

I hate the Japanese Beetle and I figure we should find the guy that brought them over here (to control aphids?) and string him up. These are not the gentle lady bugs of my youth. And like so many things in today’s world they represent a world in which nature is out of balance.

That reminds me you know… I’ve had a tomato garden just about every year for like three decades or so. And you know this is the very first time my tomato garden was not ravaged by the rhinoceros caterpillar. In fact, I didn’t see a single caterpillar on my tomato plants all year long. Now, I’ve cursed these bugs for years. But something just doesn’t seem right about not having them. I can’t tell you what it means. I certainly don’t know.



The table is an obstacle that provides the opportunity for a lead-out from the dog. It’s a funny opportunity… somewhat unlike leaving the dog at the start line. At the start-line the judge doesn’t count. And, of course, the handler isn’t faced with table faults at the start line. These are curious pressures.

I’d like use this sequence, beginning on the table, to use a lateral path lead-out. You’ll have to humor me here for a moment.


The traditional lead-out has the handler moving forward on the dog’s line. Note that this gives the handler terrific advantage forward of the dog at jump #2; but in this illustration the advantage might have completely evaporated by the time dog and handler get to the landing side of jump #3. So the lead-out wasn’t all that effective.


In the lateral path lead-out the handler gets the advantage in real estate where it’s needed which is lateral to the dog’s opening path.

If you don’t practice it, you can’t own it.

Cartoon by Terrence Nowcki, Jr.



“The imagination is the greatest antidote to boredom,” R.A. Shoaf


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

Tunnel Wrap to A-frame

October 19, 2009

You know, to tell you the truth one of the real difficulties of the tunnel wrap to A-frame is the implicit handler’s riddle: Does the handler know how to make the performance of the A-frame safe for his dog. And I’m always surprised at how many handlers are completely unconscious in their role as “architect” of the dog’s path.

The problem is so universal that the new raft of AKC rules seeks to forbid judges from using a tunnel wrap back up and over the A-frame (when the tunnel is under the A-frame) in their course designs. I teach the “skill” to my own students who might compete in other venues where there is no such restriction.

Bad Handling


Out of the performance of the tunnel the dog’s first vision of the handler is mashing back towards the A-frame (and tunnel, frankly) in such a way that the dog gets no support for any kind of path that might have made the performance safe and fair.

I show the consequential dog’s path as dumping off the side of the A‑frame; but that’s probably unrealistic. Few dogs will have sufficient impetus coming out of the tunnel to actually dump. More likely they will scratch and claw in an effort to get up and over the apex of the A-frame… not having sufficient oomph to stride up and over in a run.

To tell you the truth, some handlers get away with this terrible handling all the time. They are covered by a dog who comes barreling out of the tunnel so that by simple dint of their momentum they’ll find enough room for an approach that allows them to get back up to speed. Or, the dog is powerful enough in his back leg to gather and frog jump up onto the ramp… though there is a real possibility of a missed up contact when the dog is asked to frog-jump into the performance (for those venues that account for the up-contact).

Good Handling

All handling should really begin with a visualization of the dog’s path. The handler is the architect of the dog’s path and must understand his own discipline in order to conduct his dog upon that path.


In the tunnel wrap to the A-frame the handler must visualize a corner of approach to the A-frame that a) gives the dog sufficient approach to get up steam to get up and over and b) is square enough that the dog’s forward impulsion doesn’t dump him over the side. I’ve put an “X” out on the field so that you can see what I’ve visualized for the dog. Some dog’s might require a bit less of an approach; and some, more of an approach. Know thy dog.

You’ll note that the corner of the approach was not perfectly square. Indeed, I’ve drawn the line inside-corner to opposite-corner. Note that for small dogs the diagonal line actually reduces the slope of the ramp (This is a mathematical consideration. You can take my word for it, or do the math yourself.)

Supporting the dog to the corner is important. The dog tends to move in a path parallel to the handlers path. The dog gets his directional cues from the set of the handler’s shoulders hips and toes.

Note the picture of the handler as the dog emerges from the pipe tunnel. The handler is moving and facing in the direction of the “X” corner on the flat; supporting the dog’s movement in that direction.


When the dog arrives at the corner of approach… the handler will conduct a Front Cross. You’ll note that I have the handler leading back towards the A‑frame with his inside shoulder without changing lead hands. I know this is contrary to the way many handlers do a Front Cross. There’s a hidden lesson in sublime movement here.

The dog turns when the handler turns; and so, when the dog gets to the corner of approach and only when he gets to the corner, the handler will conduct the Cross.


Note that the handler’s opposite lead comes up only after completing the rotation of the Cross.

I try to teach my own students that the handler should accelerate out of the Front Cross. A dog gets his speed cue from the handler’s speed cue. So especially on the approach to the A-frame the handler will want to give a terrific speed cue with his movement… moving with intent and determination. You’ve got everything lined up… attack the A-frame.

Dare to Double

Dare to Double is an interesting dog’s choice game in which winning the game is a matter of multiple performances of the A-frame. Dare to Double is a popular TDAA titling game; so I should like to contain this discussion to the performance of the teacup A-frame.

Some will say that this is an arduous game for small dogs. I’ve heard the observation that the poor little guys will be “clawing and struggling to the top” on their fifth and sixth performance of the A-frame in this class.

I’m hoping that my discussion above helps to shed some light on why small dogs will struggle on the A-frame. Frankly the problem with performance is about 95% of the time complete handler error.

One of the philosophical questions we should ask ourselves in agility is whether testing to see if the handler knows how to keep the game safe and fair for his dog is the kind of riddle the course designer should be posing. The real problem with this philosophical question is that we would have to ban dog’s choice games altogether if we believe that we should never challenge the handler to be a savvy conductor of the dog.

On the other hand, if all of our games were “follow the numbers” so that safe and square were entirely the purview of the course designer then handlers would never learn. You’ll note that some of the best handlers in our game come from venues like the TDAA and the USDAA in which an implicit foundation of dog’s choice games have trained a wicked smart handler who has come to understand his or role as the architect of the dog’s path.

Dear handler: Do you want the course to be safe and square for your dog? Good! Just remember that it’s your job.

Used drawing, new text, by Jess.



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

What Do You Make of This?

October 17, 2009

Fashioning a lesson play is often a game of “What Do You Make of This?” I’d very much not like to spend the day moving equipment around. And so with a single set of equipment I should like to examine a variety of challenges and handling skills without making the whole thing seem repetitive or boring.

For our Sunday mini-clinic I have several parts of the floor that will each have a different set of equipment.


This first sequence features at least a couple interesting riddles. The approach to jump #2 is at quite a depressed angle. Either the handler needs to open up the approach or trust that his dog understands the jump even when presented at such an angle.

In the transition between jumps #4 and #5 the handler needs to give the #8 dummy jump a miss. There might be a couple ways to do this: → the approach to jump #4 could be vee-set; → the handler could use a static post at jump #4 drawing the dog out of obstacle focus (and away from jump #8); → the handler might use an RFP on the landing side of jump #4.

If you want to have a bit  of fun with the sequence, encourage your advanced handlers to layer to the opposite side of jump #4 while the dog does the closing sweep of jumps after the table performance.


What I always look for in an opening like this is that the handler has the sense to line his dog up for the course… rather than squaring to the first jump. Sometimes teaching is a game of repetition.

Given downfield considerations the turn from jump #2 to #3 suggests a Front Cross. Tho a number of my students live and die (mostly die) with behind and pushing logic and handling (meaning they’ll post from #2 to #3 and push off in Tandem for the turn to jump #4).

Out of the #3 to #8 pinwheel the handler will probably want to Front Cross on the landing side of jump #7 in order to have dog on right for the wrapping turn at jump #8. Many handlers will force the turn against the natural turning direction (turning the dog right instead of left) resulting in a longer path, and considerably more risk.


While jump #2 has a challenging oblique presentation, mostly the opening of this sequence all the way through jump #6 is intended to build up very nice ripper of a run for the dog. And then, of course, it concludes with this interesting technical bit in which the handler must direct the dog through two wrong-course options to get  him into the counter-side entry to the #7 pipe tunnel.


Finally handlers get a good look at the serpentine sequence that cuts through the center of this set of obstacles.

Of course some of my students may be looking to use the Blind Cross to solve the serpentine. But frankly, I use the serpentine to teach the Blind Cross. It really doesn’t make much sense in this sequence. I’m afraid I’d have to publish a rather elaborate paper to explain why it doesn’t.

However, I’ve given a kindly approach to jump #7 with the dog in an obedience position on the table. So the handler should be able to take a modest lead-out before starting the dog, into a quick Front Cross to solve the turn from jump #7 to #8. No big deal at all.

I didn’t mean to overlook the oblique approach to jump #2. But that’s been an ongoing theme in this lesson plan.


This sequence introduces the dreaded threadle. Take note that dog on right on the approach to jump #4 will have an extraordinary high fail rate. Frankly the best handling for the threadle (is what I call a serpentine Front Cross (#4 to #5); the handler begins with a simple Front Cross, and then continues to draw the dog around on a tight Post for the approach to jump #5. If you analyze the dog’s path it describes something of an “S” shape… thus the serpentine Front Cross nomenclature.

One last little wrap at  jump #8 will finish the sequence. But it’s quite a handling riddle because the handler probably wants dog on right for the approach to jump #8, and dog on left for the approach to jump #9. This requires a fairly advanced combination movement.


The opening line to the table might be handled in a couple different ways: → Post through the first three jumps and Tandem to the table; #4 to #5) → Or, a neat little Front Cross on the landing side of jump #2.

Oh my… I’ve given them another threadle from jump #6 to #7. There might be a couple of solutions to this. I see a Bend & Post; but frankly I still like the concept of the serpentine Front Cross.

Once the sequence is solved, the handler gets to take the dog on a ripper run around the outside. Watch out for that table though. Never take options for granted.

End Notes

I’m not done with the lesson plan yet. I’ll share more tomorrow.

It looks like I’m back in the business of designing training plans. While I have a modest number of students in this part of the world I’m pretty much going to do the same for them that I did back in when I was doing the big training center thing..

Coming next month I’ll be adding two training nights during the week, and reintroducing league play. Our league play now will be run under the rules and sanction of the CWAGS CCAP program. I will probably hit Agiledogs this week with a call for other training centers around the country to join our league play so that we can compare notes in terms of performance. We’ll see how that develops.


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