The Irish Wolf Hound

I didn’t really watch Westminster. I know it’s a big deal in the conformation world. But I was occupied yesterday by other priorities. Busy busy busy. That’s me. I did get a look at the Wolf Hound. What a handsome fellow.

Among the many projects that I’ve got working, I continue to work on the Games Book 3d ed. I’ve managed to take a perfectly silly and fun game (Cherry Picking, below) and document it a completely serious and erudite manner.

The book is at about 500 pages right now. I’m considering marketing it as a beta product. That means I will have to update everyone with the final version. In the mean time, they will all have the most comprehensive reference to agility games that exists in the world today.

I’ll be geeking out the final version of course. That means I want the capability for the reader of the PDF to click on the upper-right corner of the course map and spawn it right away into Clean Run Course Designer. That kinda solves the tabula rasa problem that a lot of people have with designing their own courses.

Cherry Picking

Sometimes called “Picking Cherries” this is a simple game invented by Bud Houston that can be played using the set of equipment from nearly any standard course without having to move equipment around at all. The game was originally designed to teach a unique Snookeresque skill, the ability to move a dog across the field without taking obstacles that might be in his path.


The purpose of this game is to direct the dog only through the performance of the “cherries” which can be defined as “all the round things”: tunnels and tire; and, at the judges discretion, the weave poles.

This is a dog’s choice game, so refusals are not faulted. If the dog takes an obstacle other than a cherry, his game is over and must leave the course.

Course Design

This is an adaptation of a standard course. There was no real attempt to “design” the Cherry Picking course. All the ring crew has to do is pick up any number cones and then define the start and finish line. The judge might turn around the one-directional obstacles or possibly reshape the tunnels to make the challenge more interesting.

Resist the temptation in this game (or any dog’s choice game) to start and/or finish on the table. Defining the start or finish points for a dog will do little more than limit possible strategies.

This is really such a simple game. I’ll often play Pickin’ Cherries to break the tedium of handling drills or when I’m feeling a bit of paralysis by analysis in my students when doing numbered courses.

The purpose of this game is to pick off all of the tunnels on the floor without doing any other obstacle. On this course the start and finish line are a common line. So, we may start anywhere across the front of the course, and finish anywhere on the same line.

Pickin’ Cherries is a dog’s choice game. That means we can pick off the tunnels in the order and direction of our choosing. The game is scored time plus faults. Doing any obstacle other than a pipe tunnel will result in a 5 second fault. Tunnels may be repeated without fault… if you think that’s actually an effective strategy for the game.


Traditionally Cherry Picking is scored Time Only. Dog’s that take an obstacle other than a “round thing” will be scored Elimination.

The game might also be played Time, Plus Faults. In either case the judge will set an aggressive Qualifying Course Time (QCT). If the dog’s score is less than the QCT he will qualify.


This game requires both strategy and skill. The handler might want to cultivate the ability to begin the game by drawing the dog across the field from the start line to pick off the most difficult obstacle. This is a skill that is useful in games like Snooker and certainly in Picking Cherries.

Also look for flow. Dog’s choice games are often won or lost by the brefity of the dog’s path.

In the second example course (above) ~ Most Pickin’ Cherries course are considerably harder than this as we often have to move the dog across the field avoiding obstacles placed obtrusively in the dog’s path. As it happens, this set of the floor makes for about the prettiest Cherries course I’ve ever seen. Two essential strategies emerge, both being the same overall length.

And yet, even from a simple game like this there are lessons to be learned. Either of the two possible strategies must begin with the approach to an obstacle discrimination puzzle. How does a handler solve a discrimination puzzle? What can go wrong in the transition to and from pipe tunnel at the back of the floor (at the top of the course map)?

Judging Notes

Note that in a Time, Plus Faults game the weight of the penalty should coincide in point value with the schedule of faults in the standard classes. And weave pole faults in the games classes should reflect the performance required in the standard classes.

Taking an obstacle that is not in the target group (e.g. “round things”) is equivalent to a wrong course. However, the judge should aggregate the penalty, meaning that the fault is earned for each wrong obstacle performed; otherwise it might be a perfectly acceptable strategy to intentionally take a wrong course line on the course.

Establishing a QCT in any dog’s choice game is a bit of an art form. The easy thing for the judge to do is find one or two possible strategies and them measure them, applying liberal rates of travel from the standard classes in order to set the QCT. We don’t really want to encourage any handler to “heel” his dog around the course so the QCT should be aggressive enough to make the dog actually run. But don’t be so aggressive that all the Yorkies fail the test just because their leg’s are only 3″ long. As a rule of thumb the QCT will be about 20 seconds on the low end, and certainly no more than 30 seconds on the high.


  • Jumps Variation ~ rather than to the round things, the handler must direct the dog to perform all the jumps on course. It’s the judge’s choice whether the tire should be included.
  • Group Choice Team Variation ~ This variation is played by three dog and handler teams. One dog will do all the “round things” (tunnels and tire); one dog will do all contact obstacles; and one dog will do all the jumps. It’s the judge’s choice whether to put the weave poles with the contact obstacles or the “round things”; and it’s the judge’s choice whether to put the tire with the jumps or the “round things.”

Qualifying and Titles

Cherry Picking is a qualifying game only in the TDAA and Top Dog. The dog earns a qualifying score for stopping time at or below the QCT.

Premium Blurb

Picking Cherries is a simple dog’s choice game. The dog might be directed to as quickly as possible get all the tunnels on the course… and nothing else. Picking Cherries is scored Time Only.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Please identify this packaging. Specific trumps generic.


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.


6 Responses to “The Irish Wolf Hound”

  1. Erica Says:

    Looks like a bacon package with the windows to view the representative strips.

  2. Renee Says:

    Alex, I’m going to say… What is straight pin packaging?

  3. Courtenay Says:

    Google tells me it’s cigarrette papers. Bugler, specifically:
    But maybe not. I’ve never smoked, so I don’t know what rolling paper boxes look like..

    • budhouston Says:

      So much for Google-proof. It is indeed the inside view of a pack of Bugler rolling papers. And your link shows the correct picture… It is the 115-count package.

      • Courtenay Says:

        I’m not sure what, if anything, really IS google proof anymore. Not worth the time to try to google, sure, but actually impossible to google? Maybe tiny personal details of non-famous people. I doubt google knows my pet rabbit from 4 years ago’s name, for example. But even then.. scary stuff 🙂

  4. Judy Casserberg Says:

    Cherry Picking looks like a great add on game for a TDAA trial. No course changes.

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