Archive for September, 2010

Much Ado

September 29, 2010

Much has been made about the performance of the tire. I’ve even heard the suggestion that at “today’s speeds” the tire is a dangerous obstacle. With this in mind I’ve always been careful with the tire to carefully condition an independent performance which includes a basic objective for the dog to square up in his approach for the performance.

The basic “conditioning” exercise (as in building a “conditioned” response) is the around the clock exercise. Note that the distance of the send from each of the clock positions is a matter of how advanced the work. When beginning the training the handler would obviously begin much closer with a smaller clock face.

The handler begins at 6:00 and gradually moves along the face of the clock. Note that by the time we get to the 9:00 position (on conversely, the 3:00 position on the other side. the dog really doesn’t have an open view of the aperture of the tire and must square himself up for the approach. Don’t expect the dog to actually understand this if you haven’t taught it to him.

The basic training of the tire allows the handler to direct the dog to the tire without fretting about squaring the approach. This exercise originally came from a discussion of the “control position”; which is a position the handler is obligated to gain for overall success of the mission. The answer, in this case, was to be alongside the dog as the dog arrives at jump #4 and, in the case of this exercise, the handler arrives at the jump with dog on left.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

This airplane was called “Songbird” by its owner. What kind of plane is it? Who flew this plane?

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

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

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Call Direct & Send

September 26, 2010

I’ve been giving all of the games that will be played at the TDAA Petit Prix a good workout over the past few weeks. In the TDAA trial I’m judging this weekend all of the games are games we’ll be playing at the Petit Prix. While the courses I’m using aren’t the same, obviously, I’m holding rigorously to the rules of play so that I understand them inside and out.

Briefing

This is a simple follow-the-numbers game with bonuses for certain distance elements.

The dog will earn bonuses for each of the distance elements:

  • The Call (10 pts), taking a lead-out beyond the containment line for jumps #1 and #2;
  • The Direct (10 pts), handler stays on the opposite side of the containment line as the  dog does #11 through #13;
  • The Send (15 points), handler stays on the opposite side of the containment line as the dog does #6 through #9.

There is no penalty for failing to perform any one of the three distance elements.

Qualifying

Call Direct & Send is played time, plus faults, minus bonus. The dog will qualify if the score is equal to or less than the established SCT after faults are added and bonuses are subtracted. SCT is based on rates of travel respective to the level and jump height of the dog.

Discussion

Traditionally Call Direct & Send is based on a Jumpers course; and is called “Jumpers CDS”. But in the interest of nesting I based the course on the set of obstacles on the floor from the standard classes.

The qualifying criterion stated in the briefing is really a bit of a give away; (that’s right, I gave away the farm). By rights the qualifying set point should be based on the rates of travel from the standard classes but adjusted with some expectation of success. For example GIII might be reduced by 25 points; GII by 20; and GI by 15. It still would not be absolutely necessary to earn any or all of the distance bonuses; but the bonuses would certainly add insurance in a time plus faults less bonus scoring basis.

At the Petit Prix the question of qualifying is mostly irrelevant. The competitor’s ambition is to actually win or place highly in the class. Out in the hinterlands we often err in the set-points for qualification whether it’s a matter of skunking the class or giving away the farm. If I err I’d prefer that it be the latter.

Only about 10% of the dogs than ran earned all three bonuses in spite of the fact that all three were rather simple in nature. The one that stymied the class the most was the “send” as shown here. The biggest difficulty was that so many handlers didn’t know how to give focus and pressure forward to the #7 pipe tunnel. As the handler arrives at the line she’ll turn sideways (actually facing on to the #9 jump) while making the send to the #7 pipe tunnel. Also, in the diminutive bit of real estate in the post turning sequence from the chute to the #6 jump more often than not the handler was slamming on her brakes at the #6 jump forward of the dog… which is not a good ingredient for success in the send.

While I would be personally confident in making the dead-away send to the pipe tunnel (it’s only 10′, after all) I might entertain an accelerating movement like a Tandem Turn through jump #5. This makes the whole thing more robust and more energetic and certainly gives the handler a lot more real estate to be a working member of the team.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What is the “alias” of this comic book villain?

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

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Simple Sequencing

September 25, 2010

This is a working set that has a couple interesting moments.

My intention from the beginning was to force a technical Front Cross as the dog dismounts each of the contact obstacles. It is small wonder that some of my students defy those basic expectations, choosing instead to draw the dog into the pinwheel from the outside and then step in behind in a Tandem Turn.

So after the entertainment round we actually got to practice the technical Front cross. And you know, it’s easier done if the dog actually assumes a 2o2o on the contact. If the dog has a running contact then a contact obstacle, particularly the A-frame, is an accelerator. It can be hard to change the dog’s mind and direction.

Although the sequence features a couple of tunnel-trap discriminations we really didn’t have a lot of trouble with the wrong course and so didn’t spend any time talking about how to handle it.

Okay, there is some merit to entering the pinwheel from the Tandem position. This is basic “own the pinwheel” exercise. The handler uses the Tandem to introduce because it creates separation and acceleration. Note that in the drawing the handler reserves room to take a couple steps so he doesn’t get hung up and trapped behind the jump.

On the Road ~ Medina, OH

I’m settled in to a Red Roof. I’ll be judging a TDAA trial here this weekend. I think it has been about four years since I was here last. I’d bet you I could use the same courses, and nobody would notice.

Because of this darned flu/cold haunting me I’m keeping myself medicated which means I’m a bit dull & slow; or at least duller and slower than usual if you can imagine. The weather is weird. It’s warm and breezy, and though there are clouds running across the sky, the world is a bit crackly from the lack of decent rain. As I drove up from Marietta it seemed like a landscape from Constantine or something. But that could just be the meds.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What does this fellow:

Have in common with this character?

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

BLOG654

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

The Championship Round

September 23, 2010

I’m doing a warm-up workshop at Argus Ranch in the couple days prior to the TDAA Petit Prix this year. I have done so for several years, and it’s always great fun for me. It is a format and venue that allows me to get my own dog warmed up for the competition. Any time I do a “small dog” workshop I spend quite a bit of time exploring handling and training discipline that makes the small dog more competitive and successful. But we cannot escape a discussion of killer games strategies.

This is the championship round. To gain this round the top 40 dogs from the Semi-Finals are advanced based on their competitive scores from the Semi-Finals. The slate is wiped clean in respect to all points earned in the qualifying rounds. Everything will now ride on performance in one game:

  • Super Dog, judged by Wayne van Deusen

This round will determine the Petit Prix Champion for each score height. I won’t actually share with you right now the killer strategy. I mean, really, why would I give my competition any insight into what mightn’t be so obvious? But I promise after the competition I’ll return to the discussion.

The course drawn below isn’t the layout from the Petit Prix. So if you come up with an effective strategy you’ll just have to generalize. Super Dog is one of those kinds of games that allow or require a random distribution of obstacles. It would be a great pick-up game based on a standard course without moving any equipment.

I’m going to get my campers to play the game today. It’s always fun getting people who do mainly AKC to play any “game” as all most of them really understand is “follow the numbers”. It’s like to make their brains explode.

Super Dog is a strategic point accumulation game. In concept it is based on the old PACMAN computer game that if the smiley ate a “power pill”, it could move faster and gobble up things in its path.

The point accumulation period is 50 seconds for small dogs and 45 seconds for big dogs. Time starts when the dog crosses any point of the start line at handler’s choice. Point accumulation ends at SCT seconds with a whistle and the team must cross the finish line to stop time. Super dog is scored points with time as a tie breaker.

There are two designated sequences strategically placed on the course that includes contacts, weaves, tunnels and jumps. The designated sequence is “The Power Pill”. Each may be taken only twice. The team may begin with a Power Pill sequence from the start line.

Scoring

  • Weaves: 7
  • Contacts: 5
  • Tires and tunnel: 3
  • Jumps: 1

During regular play, obstacles may not be taken back-to-back.

When the dog has successfully completed the Power Pill sequence the next four obstacles taken by the dog have a ten-fold point value (70-50-30-10). While the Power Pill is in effect, obstacles may be taken back-to-back. Once the four obstacles have been taken, scoring reverts to regular values.

Only regular value points are awarded for Power Pill obstacles. Power Pill obstacles may not be scored for ten fold values. If Power Pill obstacles are taken while the Power Pill is in effect they count as one of the four obstacles but given only the regular point value. The Power Pill is in effect only when the power pill obstacles have been correctly performed. The obstacles in the Power Pill may be taken in any order and direction. If a jump bar in the Power Ill is dropped then the that Power Pill is out of play for the remainder of the game.

No points are awarded for faulted obstacles. Jump bars are not reset. While the Power Pill is in effect, an attempted obstacle counts as one of the four obstacles even if points are not awarded.

Qualifying Criteria

Super Dog is scored points then time. Time is a tie-breaker only.

  • Games I: 150 points
  • Games II: 250 points
  • Games III: 350 points

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

The little hole with a plug in it at the back of my fishing boat was actually invented by an American president. Who was the inventor?

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

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Weave Pole Warm-Up Drill

September 22, 2010

Last night we were treated to a full moon in the early evening sky. Jupiter was brassy and bright and unblinking underneath. The terrible dry heat of summer is pretty much over and some of my trees are showing grateful early fall colors. I sat out on the porch for awhile in a rare moment of serenity and relaxation.

I have a private camp going this week with a handful of agility enthusiasts from central Pennsylvania. A touch of a flu or a cold or something has descended on me; and so I am over medicated on antihistamines.

My schedule is getting ready to really heat up. So I won’t be able to be sitting out on the porch a whole lot. The world has gone and gotten itself in a huge hurry. And I wonder for a moment how I got caught up in the hurry.

Warm-Ups

I want to share with you a weave pole warm-up or two. In case you’re bored and want to try something slightly challenging.

The intention of this exercise is to practice the entry to the weave poles unshaped and unattended by the handler. With this in mind the handler will turn the dog away after jump #5 while layering to the opposite side of jump #5 (staying inside of the pinwheel).

If there is a prerequisite skill, aside from the performance of the weave poles, it is the ability to turn the dog away without attending the dog’s movement; in other words, without dragging the dog through the turn. This might be accomplished with simple directionals. In this case it’s a “Right” turn on the dismount of the jump. The “relative” directional skill is a Tandem Turn, showing the change of directions on the landing side of the jump.

In the Tandem the handler uses pure movement to communicate the turn away his position. The handler should approach the jump from a parallel lateral path and at the moment of the turn show a strong step and rotation of his body to communicate the turn to the dog. These physical cues are good handling habit even when the handler is using absolute directionals.

Note that in this exercise the handler probably begins near to the dog for the initial performance of the weave poles. When entering the pinwheel the handler drives the dog through jump #2. There’s a real possibility here that the dog will get sufficiently forward of the handler that any real estate for good movement is exhausted when the dog comes back towards the handler. And so the moment of the Tandem could be spoiled by a handler not moving in convincing fashion or coming to a complete stop to await the dog.

In this exercise the intention is to test the dog’s understanding of the weave pole entry from a very difficult blind approach. After entering the pinwheel the handler will turn the dog away after jump #6 to seek out the entry as an independent performance.

The corner of approach to the weave poles is actually 12′ or 15′ out on the flat after the dismount of jump #6. So the handler  might

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What does the front of this T-Shirt say?

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

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Power and Speed

September 19, 2010

Power and Speed is the Iron Dog competition of dog agility games. The game demonstrates the ability of the handler to exercise tight control (power) through a part of the course, then show loose control (speed) over another part of the course.

Briefing

Each handler and dog runs the course, split into two sections: Power and Speed.

Power – This section contains all of the contact obstacles. This section of the course is not timed. However, a dog will earn a 5-second time fault for any mistake. If, for example, a dog misses a down contact his score would be 5 for the Power section. Obviously, the ideal score for the Power section is 0.

The Power section is numbered red 1 through 6 for this course.

Speed – The Speed section contains a straightforward jumping sequence. The goal is for the dog to run the course as fast as possible, preferably with no faults.

The Speed section is numbered white 1 through 11 for this course. The time commences on the approach to jump #1. Time ends when the dog gets his feet up on the table.

Qualifying

Qualifying at all levels is based on a SCT from the Speed section of the course. Power and Speed is scored time plus faults: faults from the Power section plus time from the Speed section; plus faults from the Speed section. The lowest score wins.

The dog will qualify if the score after adding faults is less than the SCT (respective to the level and jump height of the dog)

Making Excuses

Okay, you can see that writing to my blog has fallen dramatically in my list of priorities. I think I could have been better with my time management… except that a couple weeks ago I was called to fill in for an emergency TDAA judging clinic. The clinic was already scheduled but the presenter was not able to fulfill the obligation because of family health issues. Those are six days that I’ll never get back!

In the mean-time I’ve been nearly wall-to-wall with weekend clinics and resort visits (that’s when a group comes to stay in a cabin and schedules a series of privates with me). I’ve been designing courses for my own upcoming judging assignments; and of course I’ve been working with the judges for the 2010 TDAA Petit Prix to finish up their courses and understand the games they’ll be judging (40+ hours of work in that task).

Meanwhile I’ve set a target of ten new pages for the Jokers Notebook every day (yeah right… I’m lucky to write two); and I’ve had the TOP SECRET TOP DOG project going on. I’d love to tell you more about that. But like I said, it’s top secret. And the thing that really scares me is not taking care of travel arrangements and so forth for a fairly busy schedule up and coming. I have to keep my nose down in my calendar quite a bit.

You know, my garden has really suffered from this crunch in my schedule. It’s been overgrown now with weeds and tall grasses. While I had successful potato and sweet corn crops most everything else suffered from inattention. I have routine chores to do around the property and I have my own classes to teach here.

So back to the blog… you know a real stopper for me is having to write that “Google-proof” contest at the last minute. I always wind up looking in the back of my head for some obscure thing that I know that might make a good trivia question. Then I have to rewrite it so it really is tough to “google”. What I’m finding out is that the internet is a powerful research engine; and people can be very clever about finding out something they don’t actually know. Every now and then I stump the field. In blog 647 I put up a picture of Otis Sistrunk and asked what University he attended. Well… he was not a college grad. So when asked the question he would say “the University of Mars”. He played for Oakland, btw, back in the Kenny “the Snake” Stabler days.

Okay… I have a Sunday mini-clinic today. I need to get myself out there. I’m hoping to do a bit of training with my own dogs before the mob gets here.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

It is a liquid at room temp.

It has the ability to hold other liquids.

It is 98.9 % transparent

It is very brittle at low temp.

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

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

Sweet ‘n Low

September 7, 2010

I write from time to time that the handler is the architect of the dog’s path. What does that really mean to anybody? All of my own handling comes from an analysis of the dog’s path. If I don’t see the dog’s path or if I don’t understand it… then how can I conduct him upon it?

When I used the CRCD path tool to describe the dog’s path for this sequence I had to give a chuckle. This is what you get when you select “connect to numbers automatically.” The Clean Run Course Designer uses the same fuzzy logic that many handlers use when arriving at a handling strategy; just run from number to number and hope for the best along the way. It’s what I call “connect-the-dots” handling.

Please note the transition from the #3 pipe tunnel to jump #5. Is this real?

When we run the sequence in competition many handlers will learn the rude truth. If the dog curls out of the pipe tunnel into even a slightly efficient turn the consequential path through jump #4 gives the #5 jump a healthy miss. It’s not even close.

What I should like to do as a handler is see the “corner of approach” that I would like to create if I want the dog’s path to sweep through jumps #4 and #5 so that the jumps are presented to him in logical symmetry.

Note that I’m not specifying the handling to accomplish this feat. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

The handler might also adjust the dog’s approach to jump #5 by sweetening his path on the landing side of jump #4. Note that it’s a two-corner turn and so likely calls for a two-part handler movement or compound directionals at the very least.

The path I’ve drawn here presumes either a pre-cued turn on the landing side of jump #4 or a very efficiently turning Corgi or Sheltie. The long striding dog with no advanced knowledge of the turn will have a considerably wider turn after jump #4.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

By what system did Prof. Harold Hill teach the marching band to play?

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

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

My Boy Kory

September 5, 2010

Here’s a photo of my boy Kory taken a couple weeks ago at an AKC trial up in Cleveland.

He’s looking back in this pic because I’m about three jumps behind sending him forward. Don’t you think he’s just about he handsomest boy you ever did see? Be honest! And man, does he have some legs or what?

All Swell in Denver

Okay, I got called out of town on an emergency judging clinic gig. With 24 hours notice I gave up a fishing holiday I’ve been looking forward to for several months (and won’t be able to make up this year)… and took off for Denver to lead a TDAA judge’s clinic.

Well, it was a fine clinic I suppose; as I hammered them with course design concept and the arcane rules of the TDAA (which precede dumb ass AKC rules by about a decade, mind you). Of course in our unique format, the first two days are classroom and the second two days are a for real trial in which they get to practice all of the duties of a judge.

Judging looks easy to those guys out in the cheap seats. But I’m happy to report that all of my judge candidates were completely stressed and totally exhausted from the experience. That is as it should be.

I’m tired too. And I’m woefully behind on my chores… and my fishing. I’ll be back home tomorrow in the PM. I look forward to seeing Marsha and the dogs.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Why did they bury the Scotsman on the north side of the hill?

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

BLOG650

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

The Agility Underground

September 2, 2010

Is it really possible to fit a regulation agility course into a space as small as 4,800 square feet? That’s the question, to be sure.

Consider a philosophical approach to course design (guidelines) requiring generous spacing between obstacles. This is not a matter of scrunching down a course that originally fit inside a 10,000 sq ft ring until it all gets crammed in. That would not be possible. The design for the smaller space must be thoughtfully approached to work within that space from the onset.

Note too that the design of the course should give adequate room between the ring boundaries, and the obstacles, and the dog’s consequential path. There should also be room for the judge to operate. But in our fictional agility organization we’re going to say that only down contacts are judged. That will make things a lot easier.

Here is a sample course concocted on the fly (I mean literally, I’m on the plane from Detroit to Denver as I write this). It measures all of 165 yards or so. The transitional distances are mostly in the range of 20′. The objective in the design was to allow the course in this small space to flow; encouraging the dog to maintain a robust working speed; with challenges both overt and subtle; without a lot of hard aback herk & jerk.

In this course the dog’s path never contests the ring boundaries. This is a design consideration for large spaces as well. But it’s far easier to accomplish in a 100 x ring with plenty of elbow room than in this small 60 x 80 space.

Designer’s Notes for Making It Work

  • Avoid the use of one-directional hurdles; and omit the collapsed tunnel (an optional obstacle in our fictional venue);
  • Use 4’ jump bars and fewer winged hurdles;
  • Do not use pipe tunnels longer than 15′;
  • Make extensive use of crossing patterns and repeated obstacles (but do try not to be boring… running around and around in a circle);
  • Use a dogwalk with 8′ planks;
  • If allowed, use 6 weave poles rather than 12;
  • Check your spacing using the path tool in CRCD.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Please connect the following sayings/dialog to the correct cartoon/animated character.

Eh, what’s up doc?

Flame on!

Here I come to save the day!

I tought I taw a putty tat!

It’s clobberin’ time!

Magoo, you’ve done it again!

Sufferin’ succotash!

Up, up, and away!

Yabba dabba doo!

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

BLOG649

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/web-store/ . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.