A Standard Course for a Small Space

I’m in Boot Camp mode with my students. I have to set something up for the Thursday evening class to work on some basic handling skills. At the same time I’m very interested in putting up a course of Masters quality in a small space. This is not an easy course design assignment. I want comfortable working room between the obstacles; I want Masters challenges; and I want flow. Also, being kind of lazy, I wanted not to move a lot of equipment around from the set of the floor from last week. And, don’t you know, I want to cram all of this in a ridiculously small space… 60′ by 80′.

Here’s what I came up with for this week:

This is a course that measures 185 yards. And, I managed to stuff it all into a hard-sided box. There is in the course a high reliance on pipe tunnels. And, there’s a good reason for this. I have at least one student who absolutely cannot approach the performance of a pipe tunnel without turning her feet away from the approach (her toes curl up like the wicked witch of the East). This is a wonderful opportunity to give her a good workout on giving focus on the obstacle on which the dog is working. Frankly two or three of these pipe tunnels might have been jumps. But there is something about the pipe tunnel that inspires degradation in really basic handler discipline… and so the lesson shall be about pipe tunnels.

I didn’t build into this course a lot of counter-side pipe tunnel discriminations except in very subtle fashion. That doesn’t mean we won’t be doing some counter-side pipe tunnel work in sequencing in this set of the floor.


I had a really fun time this past weekend showing my pups down at Queen City. I went 50% qualification-wise (6 for 12); pretty much evenly distributed between the two dogs, one in Excellent (Hazard) and one in Novice (Kory). They are two completely different stories performance-wise. Hazard is a worried little girl and works at a worried pace. Though capable of much greater speed, out in the world it is a labor dragging her around the course. Kory is a study in explosive desire and a completely different kind of riddle, I can assure you.

If the weekend taught me anything it is that I have some work to do developing the teamwork that is necessary to direct a dog in agility. It’s just information and I’m not dismayed by it. It’s just a fact. I’ve been so focused in teaching skills with Kory that I’ve probably not done enough in basic handling drills. And I’ll remedy that over the next few months. And I’m afraid the same is true in my relationship with Hazard. Marsha has been handling her almost exclusively for over a year. And I have to reassert my partnership with her. We’ve been testing the proposition that she is more worried when running with me than with Marsha. Well, maybe it’s more a matter that she feels safer (somehow?) with Marsha than with me. So I practiced things like carrying her into the ring and plopping her down just in the instant before we took off on course. It seemed to have fairly good effect on the weekend.

Team is a thing that is earned through practice and competition both. I’ve felt it many times in my agility career; with Winston the Wonder dog; with Bogie & Birdie. And now I have it to earn again with Hazard, and to build from scratch with Kory.

So many of us who’ve played this game have experienced the phenomena; when you first start with a dog you struggle and struggle and everything seems ungainly and impossible. But something happens over time that you each begin to understand the other. Eventually you become like an old married couple out on the floor dancing; each understanding every subtle movement and nuance of the other. It is an amazing transformation.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

I confess. This one’s going to be hard for most of you. Who is this fellow?

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 “A Standard Course for a Small Space”

  1. Ronni Says:

    Montgomery Clift.

    p.s. thanks for the clue!

  2. Bernie Says:

    He looks like Tom Cruise in this picture.

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