Training With Games

The group of campers I worked with this week are from the Cincinnati & northern Kentucky area who’ve been interested students for awhile. If I had a training challenge with them it was to suggest that their handling philosophy should not be more suited for young kids with long legs who run with their dogs. Indeed, there wasn’t a young long legged kid in the bunch. And so this fit neatly with the distance curriculum with which I’ve been hammering my own students all through the winter and into the spring.

You know, distance skills are to a measurable extent a matter of dog training. On the other hand there is a significant handler training task as well. The handler who has been conditioned to running alongside his dog (actually training the dog to run alongside him/her) often doesn’t even know which direction to face or which direction to run when the dog is working at a distance.

I tend to take the long view on these training issues. I’m pretty sure that I can teach the handler to straighten up and fly right if I were to use a shock collar as a conditioning tool (not on the dog, of course); but that wouldn’t make my students keen to want to work with me, no matter how effective the tool.

At any rate I’m pretty sure I assigned everyone a bit of homework to improve their play in agility. And I’ll look forward to seeing the results of this work. You realize of course that an instructor always knows which of his students are doing their homework.

As I wrapped up camp yesterday I told my campers that it was more than likely that my students would get a game based on the set of the floor just as the equipment sat as we finished. It’s been four camp weeks in a row, complete with evening classes and weekend clinics and I really wasn’t much fit or in a temperament to move equipment around.

Spring Projects

I have a person coming next week taking the “cottage package”. That means she’ll stay in one of the cabins down by the pond, and take a couple hours of privates with me each day. It is a vacation visit for her with a bit of time for her favorite hobby.

I’ve plenty to do of course. This morning I’ve been working at getting my garden in. The over-night freezes are pretty much done with, so the plants I’ve been nurturing under grow lights need to get their roots into real soil. My garden is somewhat unconventional as I subscribe to the “square foot” method, packing in the plants for optimum performance and pretty much ignoring the advice on the seed packets proclaiming that simple vegetable plants need to have about 18” of elbow room from their nearest neighbors. Oh posh.

Also, I’m post-hole digging at the front drive for my mailbox that was run down by some bubba with his truck on fire last week. The post-lady won’t deliver my mail if I don’t actually have a mail box. The fella that knocked it down said he’d come back up in a couple days. But it’s been over a week and I haven’t seen hide nor hair of him.

Contemptible dishonesty raises my blood pressure just a tiny bit. And you might make a case that young country boys can be naturally (and contemptibly) dishonest. But let’s don’t make this a matter of cultural prejudice at all. This ain’t my first rodeo. I’ve found that city people from the corporate culture can be just as contemptibly dishonest and sometimes more slickly so. I’ve felt the sting of contemptible dishonesty over the years. You’d just think that I’d learn. Frankly, I’d rather go on trusting people and rely on the simple proposition that if somebody is bad in their dealings with me… I just won’t deal with them any more. If that makes me naive, so be it.

Okay, so I’ve got to get back down and finish that post hole. I feel like the guy in the movie Armageddon who had to drill his hole on that asteroid through an iron ore plate. The spot I picked to be the new and right spot for my mailbox is on the edge of the drive that has been a crushed granite bed for the driveway for several years. I’m fairly good about getting a new load of granite every time my drive gets a bit threadbare. It makes for a bear of a post-hole digging job though. I had to get my big iron bar spud pole for pounding, crushing, and loosening the rock as I work… I hope it don’t kill me.

Colors ~ Country Dream Style


The game Colors comes to us from Canine Performance Events (CPE). I see it from time to time in the TDAA as well. The concept seems to be that the handler has a choice of which of two or three courses he will run his dog for titling purposes. I suppose my biggest criticism of the class is that the sequence as often quite unchallenging, which suggests a bit of a low standard for qualification.

From a course designer’s point of view it probably isn’t much different from designing a pairs class or even a team relay in which there are multiple sequence options laid out on the course. Though in pairs or teams the designer has to take come care to allow for a hand-off transition between the various elements. In Colors the sequences start and stop as would a standard class.

What I really wanted to do with the game is design sequences that are just a bit on the challenging side acknowledging the proposition that a true Masters handler might like the thrill of solving a significant riddle. And so I settled on a slightly different format for the rules… thus the “Country Dream” variation. Exhibitors will actually run all three courses and then throw away one of the three runs; using their best two in a Time Plus Faults format.

The three sequences aren’t perfectly balanced in terms of the number of obstacles or the technical merit of the obstacles in the sequence. This isn’t really a down-side consideration. What it really means is that the handler had better try to make the simplest of the three sequence one of his “keepers”.

In the conduct of the class there might be a couple different ways to do both the walkthrough and the running. For example the judge might specify that handlers will walk all three; and then as a class everyone would run A, then B, then C. However, with my own students I took pity. There is a bit of a stereo quality to the three sequences in which a handler might get his head completely turned around and lose track of which one he was working. And so we walked all three, and then ran “A”. I gave them no more than a minute to review (walk) B; and we ran that one. Then, we did the same fire drill with course “C”.

It turned out to be quite a fun league play class. For the purpose of qualification, if that’s ever a consideration, what I would do is measure all three courses and then base SCT on 2/3 of the overall course length for the respective jump height. Scoring, as I suggested earlier, would be Time, Plus faults measured against SCT.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What was the name if this animated character? Who was the film director?

The first correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the April Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – April 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special04” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

2 Responses to “Training With Games”

  1. Chris Moore Says:

    He’s Avatar, from Wizards, directed by Ralph Bakshi.
    Wizards - Avatar and Elinore #2

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