Archive for March, 2011

USDAA Debut for Kory

March 31, 2011

I finally broke away for Kory’s debut in the USDAA. That was last weekend. Originally it was going to be the BRAG trial this February past; but my car accident changed those plans. So I made a long six-hour drive to Barto, PA for an On Target Agility trial.

We began the day Saturday with Starters Gamblers. In spite of dropping two bars and falling down on his chin on the exit from the collapsed tunnel, Kory both qualified and won his class. That’s a nice beginning. The gamble was an inconsequential thing really, jump-tunnel-jump-jump with the tunnel alongside and outside of a wrong-course teeter.

I realized later that I saw him drop neither of the bars. This is an important bit of intelligence. The handler should always see his dog over the bar. And if he doesn’t that means he’s not supporting the dog through the jump. So for the day I changed my ways and he didn’t have another bar down.

Standard – Kory Q’d again and won his class. He broke his 2o/2o on the dogwalk. Later that night I gave myself a long talk with Jesus on the topic. More on that later, I suppose.

Scott Chamberlain’s Grand Prix course was relentlessly technical. I began with little expectation of keeping all the bars up and ready to be pleasantly surprised if I’d avoided all of the wrong course options.

This was the opening… and eliminated about half the class. Some who were “successful” on the sequence got through it doing tedious micro-managing kind of handling. I attacked the sequence with Kory. And it was beautiful. There were a couple more very technical moments in the GP. Sorry for not sharing the entire course with you.

Kory earned 10 faults on this course. The first five came from a popped weave-pole; and the second from a “disappointment induced” refusal on the last jump. Well, he came off his 2o/2o again on the dogwalk. In that moment I petulantly flat-footed my movement towards the final jump and so he whirled back towards me, spinning in front of the final jump, earning the refusal. Like I said… more on this later.

The Persisting Winter

About mid-March we had a mild break in the weather that tantalized us with the possibility that the long winter was done with its torture. So I had the roto-tiller out to prepare most of my garden. And I put out a couple flats of seeds that I’d started in-doors to soak up a bit of real sun.

With expert assist from neighborly friends we took down a giant old oak and trimmed a couple more. Man that’s a lot easier to say than it is to do. The labor has aggravated my right shoulder, giving me considerable pain just about constantly. I’m hoping it’ll go away before too long. I have to take pain meds just to get to sleep. The important thing, I suppose is that I have a good start on next winter’s fire wood. Oak is an excellent hardwood that will burn hot and long.

Last week winter was back; low 40’s during the day and high 20’s at night. I brought the seedling flats for my garden back into the house and put them under a grow light.

I’ve been a bit behind on some TDAA chores.  I’ll blame it on cutting trees, chopping and toting wood. Oak, you see, will warm you several times before it is done.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

The perfect serving of beans will have no more than 239 beans in it. Do you know why that is so?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: OMG! My web store is up and running. I still have a lot of work to do there. I’ve closed the eJunkie store; and will be doing business only with the CFWebstore.

Ours is Not to Reason

March 23, 2011

This course was sent to me by Jean from sunny San Diego. It is a very interesting puzzle. I had to redraw this myself and was generally faithful to the presentation from the course map… however I’ve added the “ABC” labels to the three dummy jumps on course, as they deserve a bit of discussion.

The key feature in this course is the “managed approach” challenges… sometimes called a “blind approach”. The obvious bit is the transition from the pipe tunnel at #7 to the counter-side presentation of jump #8. Less obvious is the managed approach to jump #13, coming out of the weave poles.

The approach to jump #8 reminds me of the Jenny Damm pulling hand exercise in which the approach to the jump is completely managed. I actually use this exercise to work with my own students on the technical details of a good Front Cross. But you have to note that Jenny and all of us who study her cruel exercise will make use of a lead-out to be forward of the dog.

The real difficulty is how the handler gets in position with the fast dog. If you can outrun your dog you don’t even worry over the question of how and whether you can get into position. But with the fast dog… note that if the handler loses the foot race from the bottom of the ring (left) then the dog will be inclined to take the #8 jump in the wrong direction if the handler is even a step behind.

I’m not saying it can’t be done of course. The challenge of the course with the fast dog is whether the handler has put down a good distance training foundation for the dog so that he can be half a field away as the dog commits to jump #4. This leaves the handler comfortably forward of the dog; and no matter how fast is the dog the handler should be able to practice the Jenny Damm trick (though to tell you the truth, my own handling solution for the #8 jump would be to have the dog on my right on the approach rather than on my left).

OBTW! Did I mention that all of my Jokers Notebook training workbooks (eBooks) are available on my newly built webstore? I wrote 1200 some odd pages of documentation for distance training in 2010; all of this in the pages of the Jokers Notebook. Train, don’t complain eh?

About Dummy Jumps

I am no real fan of dummy jumps gratuitously placed in the dog’s path as a tricky option. My druthers have nothing really to do with the reality of our world. We are at risk of being over-technical in our approach to the game of agility. Wouldn’t it be cool just to release the dog to work without fretting over a continuous series of traps and  gotchas? Well sure, we could all just play NADAC I suppose.

When there are dummy jumps on a course each one deserves a bit of risk analysis.

A)    Dummy jump “A” presents itself twice. In the turn from #3 to #4 the dog must certainly have a look at it (and less so if he had an inefficient turning radius from #2 to #3); and this presentation certainly adds considerable risk to my strategy of being “half a field away” from the dog.

Dummy jump “A” gets another look when the dog comes off of jump #5. If the handler isn’t pushing the line out to jump #6 the dog might curl back to the right on a whim.

B)     Dummy jump “B” complicates the wrap to the “managed approach” jump as the handler may actually solve the approach, only to lose the dog to an immediate wrong course. The pull-through wrap is followed by a hard-aback wrap and lord save us from the dog wanting to run be free have fun.

This dummy too has a second opportunity to snatch your heart away. In the turn from #15 to #16 if the handler doesn’t sell the 90ish˚ turn, the dog might well galloomp to the dummy.

C)    Dummy jump “C” is the least intrusive of the three. It might seem at first look that it’s just out there being pretty, or adding balance to the presentation. But, in fact, after jump #11 if the handler is behind the dog (a condition worth considering after the technical micro-management getting through #7 thru #9)… then the dog might well curl back towards the handler which would invite the dummy rather than out to the weave poles.

The handlers preoccupation with creating the “managed approach” to jump #13 out of the dismount of the weave poles could put the handler OOP after jump #14 (introducing the approach to dummy “C”); and possibly lose the dog to dummy “B” after jump #15.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

I’ve been watching a Sandra Bullock marathon on one of the movie channels (TNT?). It was one of her movies that inspired the title of this blog. Which movie might that be?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: OMG! My web store is up and running. I still have a lot of work to do there. I’ll be closing down the eJunkie presentation; and we’ll be doing business again with the CFWebstore.

Peggy’s Puzzle

March 15, 2011

I will collect course maps while I’m out in the world, or my students will bring them to me, so that we can practice challenges that appear in course design which mightn’t actually occur to me. As an instructor if the design of the challenge were always left to my invention they would almost always fit neatly within the confines of my own logic for design; and then my students wouldn’t be adequately prepared for what they’ll see in the real world.

Here’s a thing that was sent to me as a question of directional discrimination. I suppose that means that Peggy has a fast dog and would like to be able to solve by verbal direction or from some station behind the dog or with the handler otherwise out of the picture. In her note to me she wrote “I was at an AKC trial last week and saw this sequence in every course, whether jumpers or standard.”

Note that if the handler can actually outrun his dog… there are few challenges that cannot be solved if the handler has any skill whatsoever. I will not show the slow dog handling options in the discussion below. And even in the first numbered sequence which might be easily solved with a lead-out I will assume a running approach with the handler behind the dog.

For people with fast dogs every wobbly option in the course becomes an ample opportunity to miscue and to NQ. I cannot speak to the logic of the course reviewer that would allow the course designer/judge to inflict this challenge on the field in repetitive fashion. But ours is not to reason why.

The real difficulty here is that the handler must ask the dog to forgo a perfectly good entry to the pipe tunnel to avoid the wrong course. With dog on right the handler is probably disposing the dog to tuck into the wrong course end of the pipe tunnel; so dog-on-left is probably a better option for the approach.

Handling should always begin with a visualization of the dog’s path. The bit we don’t want is clearly the red line. So instead the handler will draw the dog into the blue line which is the converse and will hopefully pull the dog past any approach to the wrong course end of the tunnel. As the dog moves far enough to be out of reasonable danger of the approach the handler turn the dog back and away into the correct entry to the tunnel. This is a Post & Tandem approach to solve.

Sometimes the judge/course designer can be ingeniously evil. You can see here that he’s used the teeter on the approach to the puzzle in an effort to trap the handler with dog-on-right which is precisely what the handler did not want. Note too that the trajectory of the approach to jump #2 changes the dog’s approach to jump #3 so that it favors the wrong course entry to the pipe tunnel to a greater extent.

Nevertheless the description of the dog’s path is pretty much the same as it was with dog-on-left. The question is… what the handler will have to do to create that path. What I’ve drawn here is the handler using a Rear Cross to entice the dog into a right turn after jump #3; whereupon the handler will again use the Tandem on the flat to turn the dog back into the correct entry to the pipe tunnel.

Before we leave this discussion completely I should note that I’d be very interested in whether I could solve with verbal directive only. You’ll note in this drawing that I even begin with the handler on the wrong side to proof the verbal commands. I’m putting the “commands” on the course map approximately where the dog might be when I utter each word.

Registering a Dog with the TDAA On-line!

Effective immediately it will be possible to register a dog with the TDAA online. It’s a slightly imperfect process, but far more efficient that using the USPS to send forms and checks. It will work like this:

  1. On your browser go to:
  2. When the store opens at the top of the screen click on the category TDAA Webstore.
  3. Follow the link to: TDAA Forms and Applications.
  4. Purchase the registration (at the top of the list) as you would in any online web store. This store is very secure.
  5. You will be sent an option to download a form-fill PDF which you’ll send back to the TDAA ( And with any luck you’ll have your dog’s new TDAA number the same day.

This is a great option which will solve some of our registration problems by getting dogs into the system in a timely manner. This will also change the way the trial secretary deals with unregistered dogs. Rather than carrying dogs as “Pending”… the owner/handlers will be directed to the online registration.

We also have in the same area on-line options for:

Each works in the same manner as the dog registration. You pay for it online, get a form-fill PDF, and email it back to the TDAA.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the context of contact training in agility what does the acronym AL1RTO mean?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: OMG! My web store is up and running. I still have a lot of work to do there. I’ll be closing down the eJunkie store; and we’ll be doing business again with the CFWebstore.

Back in the Weave Poles Again

March 13, 2011

[Sung to the tune of “Back in the Saddle Again”]

I suppose that I would prefer that all of my students were ardent back-yard-do-your-homework-dog-training enthusiasts. Weave poles especially are one of those meticulous and time-consuming dog training projects that—when there is a deficit in the thoroughness of training—can be a drag the efficient management of a group class; and an imposition on balance and fairness to other students.

We will approach both discussion and practice of training methodology for the weave poles in the group setting in the optimistic hope that the student can be directed and focused with some inspiration to his or her back yard objectives.

Today we have a Sunday mini-clinic here at country dream focusing on the weave poles.

You’ll note in this setting of the floor that we have two weave pole training fixtures. There is a regular set of weave poles (24″ spacing); and these have the gates wired at either end. There is also on the floor a set of six 2×2 weave poles. We encourage our students to use both/either wires or 2×2 in training their dogs. Though to tell you the truth not everyone (or almost anyone) owns good weave pole training props for the back yard.

This first numbered sequence features extreme oblique approaches to the weave poles. Inasmuch as we are in dog training mode I’ll be after my students to reward their dogs for successful conclusions to the performance. For my more advanced students I’ll probably ask for a rear cross at the #2 weave poles. While it might be a gratuitous risk we’ll make the attempt in the hope that we can entrench the skill against the day it becomes a necessary risk.

When I put up any numbered sequence I’ve found over the years that the “objective will be revealed”.  Attempting to make absolute predictions of either outcome or objective can be a ham-handed approach to lesson planning. Though certainly there are some things that can be anticipated. For example in the transition from the dogwalk at #2 to the weave poles at #5 if the handler feels compelled to run around the pipe tunnel with his dog he’ll likely not be able to gain an elegant control position for the approach to the weave poles. So I’ll have to propose the obvious… that the handler shouldn’t run around the pipe tunnel, allowing the dog to go out and do his work while the handler slides neatly into position to direct the dog from a forward position.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the context of 2×2 weave poles training how would you define the “reward line?” Further, what is the objective?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: I’m redesigning my web store. It’s a lot of work. It’s closed for construction at this very minute.

Directional Discrimination

March 9, 2011

With my boy Kory I’m working on “Directional Discrimination” at a distance.

Note in this exercise I pretty much stay behind jump #1 sending my boy ahead. I’ve developed a very specific timing of the verbal commands. On the approach to jump #2, I’ll say “Jump, Right!” or “Jump, Left!” And then after the jump I’ll say “Tunnel.” The directional is a pre-cue and pretty much allows him to get on the correct lead for the turn.

I have considerable less success with this discrimination at a distance. And possibly chances for success are complicated by the practice I’ve been giving to the alternate tunnel entries. After giving the command to turn to the right, here, Kory will lock focus on that tunnel and I’ll play hell getting him turned completely to the jump.

By the way, this doesn’t mean I can’t get him to turn back neatly to the jump. I’ll simply not be doing this at a distance. In this scenario I’ll have to be in the picture giving cues more powerful and dramatic than simple verbal directive.

This is a discrimination challenge that is a bit more complicated. It’s the ol’ three-headed beast. I’d like to say I’m at 85% with Kory in this… but last week right after making that very brag to a couple of my students he rocked in at something under 50% and wasn’t so impressive. Okay, it’s a reminder that this is a complicated enough and technical enough kind of training objective that it needs to be reinforced in my dailies. And so, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m codifying the performance by daily practice. [Like the old man said “If it don’t work, it ain’t showing off!”]

Home Front

After watching the movie Social Network I took a renewed interest in Facebook. Oh, well, I opened my greatly neglected Facebook account to find something like 94 requests for “friends” and apparently a large collection of farm animals that people were sending me.

I don’t really understand Facebook too much. It’s a torrent of random ‘what the hell am I doing this very minute’ kind of messages; a bunch of stuff that people are “selling” in terms of things they support. And it’s interspersed with people who are closer friends who send nice conversational notes and renewals of longstanding relationship.

My niece posted a couple old pictures of Marsha and me back at my old Dogwood place. Those were kind of fun. But the spare tire I was sporting apparently inspired my grand nephew to send me a link to some kind of weight loss program. Well thanks… that was apparently the missing piece of my life. My younger brother Keev explained it to me more directly a number of years ago. He said “It’s the beer Buddy. It’s the beer.”

I’ve been very busy with TDAA business; oh and I’ve been doing my taxes and working on a couple other big projects at the same time. As a consequence I’ve been something of a cave bear. Every morning when I get up I have to get my head right… contemplating which of the big projects I should focus on for the day. Damn this reminds me of working for a living. I thought this was supposed to be semi-retirement?

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who was the biblical military man whose name has become synonymous with bumbling leadership because he lost a conflict with a vastly inferior force.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: I’m redesigning my web store. It’s a lot of work. It’s closed for construction at this very minute.

The Step in the Layered Tandem

March 6, 2011

I provided a bit of discussion yesterday ( on the Accelerating Step used in a straight-away send.

It is the same manner of movement that compels the dog to turn away in a Tandem Turn. In the illustration below the handler shows the Tandem and then layers to the opposite side of the line of jumps that introduced the movement; thus it is a layered Tandem.

In preparation for the turn the handler reserves enough lateral distance to turn the corner and take a compelling step (the accelerating step) in the new direction of the course.

The dog gets a good view of the handler turning and taking steps in a new direction; and as he turns away to get focus on the next jump the fact that the handler has stopped his forward movement is lost to the dog because he’s facing the other direction.

There is a moment as the dog makes the turn after the #3 hurdle that he’ll need a bit of support from the handler. Even at a distance the handler should face in the direction of the weave poles and give a verbal command for the dog to get in them. The handler can strike a parallel path when the dog gets focus on the weave poles and gets in them.

The accelerating step is always a matter of timing. It is also worth noting that it is a matter of “drama”. The step should be convincing and real. The handler should look to the dog like he is going, even though he does not.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who was the military man who was named after a great American Indian chieftain and who once was in charge of the military school that is now LSU?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: I’m redesigning my web store. It’s a lot of work. It’s closed for construction at this very minute.

The Accelerating Step

March 3, 2011

One of the toughest distance challenges in agility is the dead-away send. That means sending the dog straight down the line forward of you over a series of obstacles.

The method I’ve ever used with my dogs is a simple back-chaining; though I’ve made the introduction both with jumps and with hoops. I’ll use hoops when the dog is really too young to jump.

When sending a dog straight ahead I will use an accelerating step to goose the dog forward at approximately the moment he is passing me. This is probably hard to illustrate.

About the moment the dog comes alongside the handler’s leg the handler takes a robust step forward. As I teach the “Go On” I make this a practice so that the movement too speaks a word or a phrase to the dog.

Note that I’m relying on the notion that the dog feels the thrust of the step… and will quickly put the handler behind (addressing the handler with the end with no eyes, as it were.)  If the handler is too far forward when taking the accelerating step, then the dog is as likely to feel the brakes as he is the acceleration; and the brakes might be more compelling.

Mulligan Stew

Mulligan Stew is probably the invention of Wayne Van Deusen who concocted the game in order to make an end-run around a prohibition against the “Mulligan” in a vote of the TDAA membership. The membership didn’t show much imagination so Wayne was compelled to use his own.


Mulligan Stew may be applied to any game played in competition. After the dog has crossed the finish line the handler has 10 seconds to decide if he will call a Mulligan. The Mulligan run will begin at the end of the class, starting with the jump order for the day. The score of the Mulligan run is the score that will count toward qualifying.

The handler will not have an indication prior to calling for the Mulligan whether or not they have qualified. It is a question of strategy or self doubt: maybe I should have done a blind instead of a front cross or a different strategy would have been better as the current plan fell apart during the game. On the other hand, the handler might know perfectly well that the run can only be salvaged by calling the Mulligan.

Judging Notes

Brief your ring crew for handling Mulligan runs:

Gate Steward Briefing ~ As Mulligans are called the Gate Steward should place an M by the name of the dog and handler on the call sheet. At the end of the class double check with the Scribe that all sheets are in order according to jump height for the Mulligan runs. The jump height order of the day will be used.

Scribe Briefing ~ If a Mulligan is called by the handler a single line is marked through the first half of the scribe sheet from end to end. New scoring will be on the second half of the scribe sheet with a large M at the top of the sheet.

Score Table Briefing ~ There should be only one score per dog and handler. If a Mulligan run was taken an M is at the top of the scribe sheet. The first score is disregarded by a single line marked through it.

Trial Secretary Notes ~ The Mulligan is a class by itself, and should be purchased by the exhibitor. And so you should indicate on each scribe sheet whether the dog is eligible for his person to call the Mulligan. It might also be prudent to indicate this on the Gate Stewards call sheet.

On the other hand you might provide the Mulligan Stew option as a

Qualifying is as stated in the rules for the game.

Secretary’s Note

The game would be listed in the premium as:

“Snooker with Mulligan Stew” or “What’s My Line with Mulligan Stew”

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Name a county(somewhere in the United States) that has been at one time or another, in two different states.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check7  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.