This game derives its name from a great Olympic champion of the springboard and platform dive, Greg Louganis. His name is often borrowed to describe a dog that plunges into space from some high point above the yellow contact zone on the down-side of a contact obstacle.


The dog’s time will begin only when he crosses the starting line after the second contact obstacle. However, bonus points may be earned if the handler honors any of the handler containments shown on the course marked by the text “10 Pt Bonus” and “20 Pt Bonus”. As the text suggests, if the handler leads out to the 10 Pt Bonus line the dog will earn a 10 point bonus. If the handler leads out to the 20 Pt Bonus line the dog will earn a 20 point bonus.

After the dog gets to the table a new opportunity for bonus points is available. If the handler leads out to the 10 Pt Bonus line the dog will earn a 10 point bonus. If the handler leads out to the 20 Pt Bonus line the dog will earn a 20 point bonus.

Note that the dog’s time is based on the jumping sequence only. Time has no impact while attempting either of the two bonuses.

Should the dog miss any downside contact or leave one of the contact obstacles after committing all four paws, then all respective points are lost. Although the opening is not timed, the handler will forfeit any possible bonus if he returns to reset a dog left behind.

The first bonuses are “all or nothing”. If the dog fails to perform either or misses a contact, no bonus can be earned. No faults will be given the dog for missing a contact or failing to perform one of the contact obstacles.

The bonus is intrinsically tied to the lead-out. After setting the dog if the handler must return to the dog to enforce the stay, then all bonuses for that element are lost.

Louganis is scored Time plus Faults less Bonus. Faults include:

• 5 faults for dropped bars and wrong courses

• 10 faults for failure to perform

• Elimination for two or more failures

• Refusals are not faulted

The dog with the lowest score wins.

Louganis as Training

I tend to begin distance seminar work with a simple statement of the obvious. The first job of distance training for the dog is to teach him the performance of the obstacles. A dog might seem to have, for example, a good 2o2o performance on a contact obstacle. But it doesn’t take too much of a nudge or a test to figure out that he only has the 2o2o reliably when his person is shaping him into position or striking a pose relatively nearby (that is, hovering over the dog’s head).

Certainly the arrangement of contact obstacles in a straight line is a preposterous notion; it is not something that you’ll see in competition because it would require some poor judge to race Border Collies all the morning long in order to get a view of the contacts. Yet it is that very preposterousness that makes it a useful training foil.

In the drawing above I’ve left the bonus lines from the game and have even added a new one for a third-in-a-row contact obstacle. This will just fit inside my training building. We don’t actually get bonuses for training exercises.  Right?  [Okay… you just go on thinking that. I’ll see you in competition.]

Note on Prerequisite Skills

Clearly the training relies on a foundation of other important skills. I’ll need a lead-out to be sure. And I should not lose sight of my obligation as a dog trainer to hold pretty clear criteria for the dog to stay until released. If there is a complication it will be in how I give evidence of my dismay at a broken stay while maintaining a “safety first” attitude about the dogwalk (we don’t want the dog dismounting on the center ramp… for example). The association (of my dismay) needs to be tied closely to the event.

On a broken stay my instinct will be to take my dog by his collar on the dismount of the dogwalk and march him ignominiously back to his starting position and rely on his inherent cleverness to make the association with the broken stay. I could be wrong about that… but I’ve been wrong before.

The Steps

All training of the dog should begin with a modest goal and incremental steps to advancement.

So we’ll start with a single obstacle. Part of the predicament is in making a presentation of the dogwalk while I have a forward position. I’ll rely on my belief that arm up is obstacle focus and arm down is handler focus. So I shall use the attitude of my lead as a factor in communication. If the dog comes around the ramp without attempting the ascent I should be starting more to the front. This is an indication, by the way, that the handler has in his training program made his proximity an integral part of the performance on the approach which harkens back to another training error.

In this drawing I’m showing the handler beginning the training about half-way down the length of the dogwalk. Note too that the handler is working at a modest lateral distance from the ramp and not studying to hover over the obstacle while forward of the dog.

If you have already mastered a static lead-out with the dog then you should be practicing a measured lead-out with movement on the dismount. That means that the handler will study to be in continued motion while the dog assumes the unambiguous finish.

When we introduce the second contact obstacle there is greater potential for the dog breaking the 2o2o in an error of anticipation. But we take it in modest incremental steps pretty much as we did in the introduction of the single contact obstacle. Make sure to break off and deny the reward if the dog does not stay until released.

It would be a good idea to alternate between rewarding only the performance of the dogwalk with rewarding the culmination of the two contact obstacles. A good way to deal with any error of anticipation is to introduce the uncertainty of the outcome. And it would make the dog keener to maintain the first performance if he knows that he’ll be rewarded for it from time to time.

Advanced Studies

I’ve continued with this training protocol for pages and pages. But I’m going to reserve the documentation of the more advanced training of the Louganis suite for a future Jokers Notebook.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

When I was a kid growing up in southern Arizona there was a fellow who drove around to schools showing off different desert animals. His mission was a furtherance of the understanding of these animals and their delicate riparian habitat.

What was this fellow’s name? What organization did he represent? And what did he call his Studebaker station wagon?

And yes… that is a porcupine that he’s holding.

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

4 Responses to “Louganis”

  1. mariann jackson Says:

    hal gras of the arizona sonona desert museum drove the desert ark. a station wagon was preferred by the porcupines. he was also know to have carried a mountion lion names george l.

    • budhouston Says:

      That’s right. I remember Hal Gras very well and saw him in person four or five times at least; and many times on local television. One time he held up a lynx and asked us all what animal it might be. My young friend Eddie Padilla blurted out… “A bob lion!” Funny what you remember.

  2. mariann jackson Says:

    i never saw him in person having grown up in northen ohio but i seem to remember he was on tv a couple of times. when i was little i never missed an animal program.

  3. Erica Says:

    Our Tuesday night skills class played Louganis, and I think we all surprised ourselves at seeing just what our dogs can do, if only given the unemcumbered opportunity to do it.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: