Boot Camp Puzzle

Following is a bit that came from a training session with my “boot camp” students. It evolved from a progressive exercise for teaching the dog a serpentine as though it is a single obstacle with multiple elements.

Ideally the serpentine is introduced to the dog with an aggressive angled approach to the first hurdle. This allows the dog’s path to flatten out through the line of jumps making the overall length of the dog’s path shorter; and allowing the dog to work at a brisk pace.

Too often the course designer will include the serpentine but force a terrible angle which makes the dogs’ initial turn hard aback.  If the dog is moving with any speed at all this will introduce a wobble from which the dog is unlikely to recover before the serpentine is spent. It’s just a matter of physics.

I’ve always considered this an error in course design. But I’m quickly coming to believe that this is actually an opportunity for the clever handler to differentiate himself from the pack.

In this sequence the first jump in the serpentine is introduced at a terrible angle that forces an acute turn from #2 to #3. One of the skills we’ve been working on in the “boot camp” format is a pre-cue at the turning jump. Certainly this has a couple of dependencies. First of all the handler has to be able to arrive at the jump forward of the dog to signal the impending turn. And, of course, the mechanics of the pre-cue itself should be well tested with the dog.

The point of the pre-cue is to get the dog wrapping tightly into the turn while committing over the jump. This will bring the dog into a flat and efficient path as neatly as if the jump had been approached from the aggressive and correct angle in the first place. The dog might not be moving quite as fast initially… but the gently turning serpentine will allow him to get up to a brisk working speed.

Another option would be to draw the dog off the A-frame and shape or wrap around the handler’s body for the flat path trajectory. I believe most would call this a V-set. To tell you the truth this is probably riskier handling and not likely to give better results than the pre-cue turn at the jump.

In any case, it is better to look at the serpentine presented badly as an opportunity to steal a few seconds from the competition rather than a course design flaw.

The Early Bird?

My flight out of Columbus left at 6:40 a.m. this morning. I’m on the plane as I write this. I had to get up at 3:00 a.m. to make the two-hour drive to the airport. Hazard is under the seat and appears content to be with me. I hope to get my internal clock right over the next day or two.

I begin the week with two days of mini-clinics. My objective will be to teach the strategies of the games that we’ll be playing in the Petit Prix; using the rules exactly as they will be presented. And of course I’ll have my usual bit to say—and demonstrate—about handler movement in courses of TDAA dimension. And if I have to talk about dog training I’ll do that too. But on the eve of the Petit Prix the hour is late for training ambition.

Through the week I’ll try to apprize my blog of goings on at Argus Ranch, in Auburn, Washington. So do check back.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

You make the call using TDAA rules for performance: A dog starts the performance of the weave poles and then stops mid-way, clearly and significantly hesitating before continuing. What is the fault (if any)? What is the judge’s hand signal for the fault?

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


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream 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.

3 Responses to “Boot Camp Puzzle”

  1. Nancy Hoffman Says:

    It is not a fault, so the judge need not make a hand signal.

  2. Adrienne Says:

    Ditto to Nancy.

    No refusals called on weave poles and they are not required to be done in “one continuous motion” like some organizations call for. Provided the dog finished all poles in the right sides it is a correct performance under TDAA rules.

  3. Nancy Hoffman Says:

    So, I am correct?

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