Nashville Cats

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.

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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?

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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.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at www.dogagility.org/store.

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One Response to “Nashville Cats”

  1. Susan Eastwood Says:

    HA! I was in Nashville that weekend too! My Sweet Adelines Chorus was competing at the SAI International Convention at the Sommit Center….Had I known I could have stopped by and said hi!

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