Reuben and Sparrow

I’m all set now to get out the door in the morning to Indianapolis for a USDAA trial. Today I did a bit of mowing in the lower field, but didn’t actually set anything up to give Kory some work. I’m not too concerned about it. I manage to get Kory a bit of work every time I teach a class or do a private lesson. He’s a solid demo dog.

The weekend should be a lot of fun. Scott Chamberlain is the judge. He tends to put up technical courses. And I like the challenge. My boy isn’t in Masters yet; so we get the gentled-down version of the Chamberlain thing.

The weekend will be a test of my gather & drive handling system. Just to define terms: in general I’ll work Kory at a distance but gather him in for technical instruction at control points in the course, before driving him on again.

Here’s a simple exercise to demonstrate the handling:

The only place here I need to be close to Kory would be on the landing side of jump #2 in the transition past the dummy winged-jump to jump #3. So I’d probably open this sequence with a Blind Cross and then draw him very close to my left hip on the landing side of jump #2 for a flat curl to present jump #3. After managing this technical moment, I can release him on to work and pretty much direct with verbal directionals.

The most important reminder for me will be to maintain constant and fluid motion. Handlers with fast dogs who work well at a distance often get bogged down in their movement and wind up flat-footed like a stump in the swamp. Movement is both motive and direction.


The handler’s movement is intrinsic to basic communication with the dog. Movement is direction. Movement is motive.

Snakes N′ Ladders


Snakes N′ Ladders is a strategic game that has Snakes (tunnels) and Ladders (contact obstacles and weave poles.) The objective is to complete all Ladders and cross the finish line as quickly as possible.

For more information on Snakes N′ Ladders go to:


  • The dog can start with any obstacle.
  • To successfully complete the course the dog must perform all Ladders without faults and cross the finish line before the expiration of time.
  • The finish line is not complete until all Ladders have been performed.
  • At least one Snake—but any number of Snakes—must be performed between the Ladders. Individual Snakes may be performed any number of times.
  • Each individual Ladder may be performed only once.
  • Missed contacts or failure to complete will result in course faults. Performance faults are the same as in the standard classes.
  • If a dog completes one Snake the handler is not obligated to finish any subsequent Snake that the dog might touch or select before going on to a Ladder.
  • If a dog starts a contact obstacle, that obstacle is now the obstacle of choice. The handler must direct the dog to complete in that direction before moving on.
  • If a dog leaves a contact obstacle prior to completion the dog will be faulted according to the DOCNA fault table. The handler may choose to go on or use the training in the ring guidelines. Training in the ring will be scored Elimination.
  • If a dog starts the weave poles, that obstacle is not the obstacle of choice. The handler must direct the dog to complete in that direction before moving on. Back-weaving will be faulted according to the DOCNA fault table.


The dog will be eliminated when:

  • Any two Ladders are performed in succession without taking a Snake between.
  • A Ladder previously performed is attempted again, whether by intention, or wrong course.


Snakes N’ Ladders is scored Faults Then Time.  No placement will be given for a score of Elimination (E) or No Time (NT).

Course Design

The difficulty in the design of this class is creating a balance for performance of the technical obstacles, with plenty of flow options for pipe tunnels in between, without actually giving away the farm in terms of challenge and overall flow.

While a superior strategy for solving the course might emerge fairly early in the class, the distribution of obstacles should lend itself to a variety of possible solutions.

The weave pole requirement for Snakes N’ Ladders at the Beginner level includes three sets of 5-6 poles. At the Intern and specialist level the dog is required to perform one set of 10-12 weave poles.


Following is a few simple reminders of efficient attacks on the course:

·        The fastest way to complete the course is with only 11 obstacles: three contacts, three sets of weave poles, and five tunnels.

·        The fastest way to complete: begin with either a contact or weave poles.

·        Once you have completed the three contacts and three sets of weave poles get off the course to stop your time

And of course, it’s worth remembering: every time you do either a weave or contact, you must do a tunnel.

Qualifying and Titles

Snakes N’ Ladders is an eligible qualifying game for play in both Dogs on Course in North America (DOCNA) and the Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA).


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. Be sure to check out my distance training series: The Jokers Notebook; an (inexpensive) elaboration and improvement on the work I did in Go the Distance.


One Response to “Reuben and Sparrow”

  1. Judy Casserberg Says:

    Snakes and Ladders is a fun game. We played it at a UKI trial this winter – or it may have suppose to have been Spring but this is MN.

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