Archive for July, 2011

The Monster of Holdout Spring

July 29, 2011

It was early 1969. My Boy Scout troop was in the second day of a three-day hike around Galiuro Mountain in Southern Arizona. Our progress had slowed a bit. Some of the younger boys had tender feet and were having difficulty with blisters. We stopped to treat those blisters. Boy Scouts delight in basic first aid as a survival measure.

But on a hiking trail timing is everything; and we had a specific destination. And we hiked on.

In the early evening we set camp and carefully built a fire. We made a marvelous dinner of chicken and beans and bread, and even a peach cobbler and all of this from a couple Dutch ovens. I remember the Dutch ovens because I had the duty of hiking with one in my gear. They are cast iron, and heavy.

I was the senior scout in our troop; an Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow. And I was older than any other boy. So it was logical that I was recruited for Mr. Gaston’s scheme. Our Scout leader hatched up this idea that around the evening camp fire he would tell a scary story and when it was over I would terrify the boys making eerie noises from the darkness outside of camp.

At the appointed hour I slipped away from the troop. And Mr. Gaston engaged his tale. He told this terrible story of the monster of Holdout Spring, a Lost Dutchman-like gold miner who lost his way in the mountains and went quite mad. The monster would come out of the dark with a hatchet in his skull and a terrible claw of an arm and eat the eye-balls of young boys as his favorite meal.

Ah, it had to be scary. Here we were in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, a mountain away from civilization down in Tucson, and only the scarcest light from a sliver of the moon in a cloudless sky… and a hungry monster prowling in the darkness.

Some bit later, as the boys muddled around a dying fire always the master of timing… from the darkness I let out a baleful croak which could be nothing more than the monster himself in the dark gloom just outside of camp.

To the boy, every last one, they let out a scream and took off running.

I should take some pride in this telling, my masterful timing and the convincing scary wail I made in the night… but for this problem: The scream was not a cry of terror at all, but a war cry! And they took off running not away from me, but right at me.

They were armed, by the way, these boys. Rocks are plentiful in the mountain and most of them had walking sticks made from the stalk of the century plant[1]. I ran clambering in the darkness, scarcely able to see my footing, a fugitive with missiles and spears whizzing by me and not always missing.

It took me maybe ten minutes to lose them. It felt more like two hours. And for a time I truly feared for my life and was the only one anywhere’s near Rincon Peak who was actually terrified.

I don’t remember much more about the night. It was more than forty years ago after all. But I do remember this. One of the boys reported to me later in camp that… “We nearly got him!”

Lordy mercy, I guess they did.

In Particular

Never fire over any one, even if he what is called ‘ducks,’ or stoops to allow of your doing so. A keeper or beater should never be encouraged in, or allowed to ‘duck’ or stoop; the practice is a bad one, and should be for ever discountenanced. If no one fired over a ducked body the habit would soon fall into disuse. Sportsmen and others would do well to bear in mind that an accident deprives the injured man from earning his livelihood, and the poor wife and children suffer: better to forego taking a shot for safety sake and let the bird escape for another day than run any risk. This should be made a hard-and-fast rule.

From Hints on the Use and Handling of Firearms Generally, and the Revolver in Particular
Lieut. H. Onslow Curling ~ 1885


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.

[1]  Some care should be taken when harvesting the stalk of a century plant as a walking stick. Hornets will drill a hole in the stalk and lay their eggs there; and the young hornets will eat the pulp of the stalk as their first meals in life. So, always shake the stalk first. If it does not erupt in an angry buzz, it is safe to break away from the plant.

Ratoza’s Exc JWW

July 28, 2011

On July 15, 2011, AKC judge Paula Ratoza put up the following JWW course at Cleveland All Breed Dog Training Club, in Cleveland, OH.

An interesting note about this course is that it has no crossing patterns; that is, the dog’s path never crosses itself (if the dog has actually been directed to follow the numbers). As such, the course is a complete serpentine. It reminds me of Stuart Mah’s old “oscillation” exercise. I managed three Front Crosses and a single Rear Cross with Kory. This was his first Q in Excellent and he handily won his class.

I might have managed an even four Front Crosses. But I saw the tunnel option after jump #5 as a real problem. He will dive into a pipe tunnel at any distance with real gusto. So I approached jump #5 with a backwards facing pre-cue. Also jump #6 is a single bar wingless with low visual acuity. Kory, being a young lad, will sometimes run past these as though he doesn’t see them. I kept him or right and steadied his approach with a clear presentation. I put the Back Cross in that broad curve from #8 to #11.

If I did something dramatically different from the rest of the field it was that I layered to the opposite sides of jumps #15 and #13 while Kory worked through the weave poles. This left me in marvelous position to manage the turn from #12 to #13 (a part of the course that was most troubling to the class).

The last Front Cross was an “Inside-the-box” Front Cross on the landing side of jump #15.


In drawing the course map I was mostly faithful to Ratoza’s drawing using the annoying baseline grid numbering; and putting single-bar jumps as she indicated. However, I think my jumps must be a foot and a half wider… with 6″ wider bars and 6″ wider wings.

The drawing above, by the way, is what the dog’s path looks like on the course. It’s a bit of analysis I’ll often do of a course to demonstrate “angry lines”. There’s nothing angry about this course. It was a delight to run.

Games of the 2011 Petit Prix ~ Part 2 Redo

Courtney Keys writes a note on my analysis of In and Out ~ “Okay. But what about the bonus points? If you have a very fast dog…. We played this last weekend and I think I got 30 or more bonus points on my 26-second run.

To this I responded with a pedantic and erudite argument about how I wouldn’t support such a lazy rule variation to the game. Then I looked back at the briefing and, sure enough, it was there: “In and Out is scored points then time. Time is a tiebreaker only. If the dog completes the entire course before time runs out, the difference between the dog’s time and the course time becomes bonus points added to the score.

So I went back and deleted my stupid reply/argument. And I hope nobody actually saw it. [Sorry Courtney!]

I also got a note from Don Wolff saying that he would consider doing the first obstacle and then running his dog to the finish line. After slightly more careful analysis of the paragraph than I’d previously managed, I pointed out the “If the dog completes the entire course” part of the passage.

What this realization means to my stated strategy is important. The faulted-loop strategy isn’t a gimme at all; and certainly does not level the playing field as I’d previously surmised. The only way the faulted-loop strategy will carry the day is if the dog can actually manage to earn more than 1 point a second in the additional run of obstacles. It is a gnarly risk/reward analysis indeed.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the story The Shawshank Redemption what was the crime committed by Brooks Hatlen that landed him at Shawshank?


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.

Games of the 2011 Petit Prix ~ Part 2

July 26, 2011

In and Out is a game invented by Sheri Boone. You know, it’s a funny thing, some time back I documented the Rukis variation. And this is a variation I want to avoid, at all costs in the TDAA. The Rukis variation is worded like this:

  • In the Rukis variation, no points are awarded in a faulted loop. Allowing points to be kept within a faulted loop is a flaw of the game and could encourage bad or unsafe execution.

You should know that Ilze Rukis is judging In and Out at the 2011 Petit Prix. How’s that for an interesting twist?

As it turns out, the Rukis variation totally demolishes the original intent of the game; that is, it is no longer a game of strategy. So the rules have morphed over the years to the point that since it’s just a big numbered course it’s pretty silly to award points for obstacles in the numbered sequence. And so we wind up applying an SCT rather than a QCT; and the requirement to repeat a loop makes the repetition just a “loser’s lap” and is an extraordinary penalty.

See my discussion of strategy, after the briefing, below.

In and Out

In and Out is the invention of Sheri Boone. This game was created to encourage handlers to think about motivation and strategy. The game is considered motivating because movement and point accumulation on a course does not stop until time runs out. The game is considered strategic for the sole purpose of accumulating points in a variety of different ways.


The In and Out course is divided into three loops: the inner loop, the in-and-out loop, and the outer loop.

A loop must be completed without fault before the dog can begin the next loop. The judge will call out “fault” when a dog faults an obstacle. Standard faults apply (missed contact, dropped bar, wrong course, missed weave poles); refusals are not faulted. A fault occurring after the last obstacle in a loop is successfully performed will not fault the completed loop.

  • Inner loop – Obstacles 1 thru 7
  • In and out loop – Obstacles 8 thru 15
  • Outer loop – Obstacles 16 thru 22

The dog will earn points for each obstacle performed. Point values shall be:

  • 1 point ~ jumps
  • 3 points ~tunnels and tire
  • 5 points ~ Contact obstacles and weave poles

Points earned in a faulted loop prior to the faulted obstacle are kept; and the dog will earn points for obstacles previously performed each time the loop is restarted.

The Qualifying Course Time (QCT) shall be based upon the rates-of-travel respective to each jump height in the Superior class. At the expiration of time (whistle) the dog may earn no additional points and should be directed to the finish line to stop time.


In and Out is scored points then time. Time is a tiebreaker only. If the dog completes the entire course before time runs out, the difference between the dog’s time and the course time becomes bonus points added to the score.


On this In and Out course 46 points are required to qualify.


Now, returning to the original rules of the game and no variations imposed, let me speak to strategy. As a points-based game in the sample course pictured above there are three loops which have these values:

  • Inner loop ~ 12 points
  • In & Out loop ~ 18 points
  • Outer loop ~ 16 points

With this in mind, we’ll set the qualifying criteria at 46 points. 46 is the value of all three loops and is a reasonable expectation for qualifying: no faults and a clean run.

Here’s the part that you should find interesting… a dog can score more than 46 points!

By not playing the Rukis variation we’ve reintroduced strategy into the game. Take a good look at the course and consider this interesting design feature… As the dog gets to obstacle #10 in the In and Out loop he could close the loop by going on to jump #11; and then all he has left to himself are the last two points of the current loop and the 16 points of the Outer loop. But the handler could, instead, put the dog over the jump straight ahead of him, and then repeat the In and Out loop… which is worth 18 points. If he gets the In and Out loop done before the expiration of time… he’s actually managed to earn 46 points… and more if he goes on with the outer loop or attempts to repeat the In and Out loop yet again.

This is a risk/reward proposition. The handler must be confident that he can do this technical series of obstacles and maybe snatch a couple extra points within the confines of the QCT in order to rise above the pack. The mantra is… just keep running ‘til they blow the whistle.


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.

The Cat’s Mother

July 25, 2011

Okay, back from a USDAA trial at K9 Sports Center in South Boardman, OH. Had a pretty good weekend I think. Though the weekend began with a none-and-done in Snooker (Kory dropped the first bar and committed to the colored obstacle)… it was in some ways nearly perfect. We NQ’d in pairs on my partners wrong course; and we E’d in one of my standard runs as I’d left Kory’s collar on him; he otherwise nailed the course. The cool thing, Kory won the 26″ Steeplechase, both rounds. He had a Q in Starters Snooker and Starters Jumpers, and a Q in Advanced Gamblers and Advanced Standard. It looks like we’re coming together as a team. That pretty much means we are actually communicating with each other on course.

Kory did some stunning distance work. I should share the Starters jumpers course with you to talk about the implications of distance handling. He did the course in like 21 seconds.

I managed a simple objective… not dropping bars. Yah, I said he dropped the bar in Snooker. But it was the first bar of the weekend and he didn’t drop another for the rest of the weekend. What I find interesting about him is that after dropping the bar he kinda looked back at it as though to say “ouch! What was that about?”… and then blithely went on to the unearned colored obstacle.

We’re off next weekend for an AKC trial in Dayton. Trust me I’m not getting smug about how he’s doing. In AKC Kory is now competing in Excellent A which requires an unflinching performance. And at 2 years 5 months of age I’m not heaping any kinds of expectations on his young shoulders.

I know I need to turn my attention to the suite of TDAA games for the Petit Prix as I promised last week. First I have to attend to our own lesson plan and league play game of the week. We’re playing Pole Jacks. I’ll share the course with you below. You should know that my own training objectives are interwoven into whatever game and training we do here. Marsha and I both need work with the weave poles and the teeter. So these obstacles will play a central role in both the game and the lesson plan.

Pole Jacks


Pole Jacks is played like the children’s game of jacks. The performance of a short set of weave poles or performance of the teeter is the bounce of the ball. All other obstacles on the course are jacks, and have specific point values. After bouncing the ball, that is, performing the weave poles, the dog and handler team must pick up the appropriate number of jacks by scoring an equivalent number of points. Note that only the weave poles in the center of the course constitute the bounce. The other set is for performance and points only.

The handler and dog team will bounce “onesies”, bounce “twosies”, and so forth until either they reach “sevensies”, or time expires. The course time shall be 60 seconds.

The following point values are assigned to obstacles:

  • Jumps – 1 point
  • Tunnels and tire – 3 points
  • Contact obstacles, and the weave poles – 5 points

The dog must pick up points equaling the number for which the team is shooting after the bounce. For example, if the team is shooting for 6, they could do a jump and the see-saw, or they could do a tunnel and the tire.

Obstacles valued at 3 or more points may be taken only once for points during the run. 1-point obstacles may be taken as many times as the handler (or dog) chooses. No obstacle may be taken back-to-back.

Dogs will start on either side of the weave poles or on the teeter. Time begins after the dog has made the entry (nose past pole #2); or has four feet up on the teeter.

Time ends at the table.


Pole Jacks is scored points, then time.

If a dog faults during a pick-up, the dog must again bounce (perform the poles), and retry that same number. The judge will call Fault! to let the handler know that he or she has to go back to the weave poles. Faults include:

  • Any of the usual performance faults (missed contact, knocked pole, and so on).
  • Picking up a number greater than the number for which the team is shooting.
  • Performing a 3+ valued obstacle more than once.
  • Performing an obstacle back to back
  • Crossing the line of weave poles after a complete bounce.

Variation Note

While traditionally Pole Jacks is played with the weave poles as the bouncing obstacle, in this variation we will have two bouncing obstacles, the weave poles and the teeter. If the player bounces with the weave poles then the teeter is eligible as a 5 pt scoring obstacle; and if the bounce is with the teeter, then the weave poles is eligible as a 5 pt scoring obstacle.


Pole Jacks is scored Points, Then Time. The team with the highest number of points wins. Time is a tie-breaker only.

  • For a score of 7 (“sevensies”) mark your dance card for Games III.
  • For a score of 6 (“sixies”) mark your dance card for Games II.
  • For a score of 5 (“fivesies”) mark your dance card for Games I.

Good luck. Have fun.

Class Tweak

Though usually I abhor moving equipment between class and league play, it is my intention to tweak the set of equipment for class sequencing work. I’ll want 12 weave poles on the floor. So, I’ll have to get rid of the tire and wind up with the set pictured below. I’ve included here a couple interesting sequences. I’ll have several others designed before class begins.


Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

John Mortimer’s Rumpole of the Bailey borrowed an important expression from the works of H. Rider Haggard. What was it? And, to whom did it refer?

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.


Games of the 2011 Petit Prix ~ Part 1

July 19, 2011

The following is a discussion of Power and Speed; one of the games of the 2011 Petit Prix. The course is dimensioned for play in the TDAA; meaning that the transitional distance between obstacles is very tight but completely appropriate for small fast dogs.

If you are going to practice Power and Speed on the lead-up to the Petit Prix you should pay special attention to the notes included below. This is a fair representation of how the game will be played at the 2011 Petit Prix.

This is the classic design for Power and Speed. The technical obstacles are arranged in an uninteresting sequence crowded over to one side. This is the Power section of the course. The use of the tunnel is for flow purposes only to ensure a nice square approach from the opening line of the section to the last two obstacles.

From a performance point of view the handler can make his way meticulously through the contact obstacles; coming close to making it a training opportunity to remind the dog of his 2o2o. Handlers who’ve taught their dogs to do a running contact have no such luxury.

As this section is not timed, the handler might even leave the dog on the down contact or put the dog on a sit-stay on the approach to the first jump of the Speed section, which is timed.

An important judging note for the weave poles: Too often TDAA judges will fail to judge the weave poles according to the rules of performance for the respective class. In Games III the weave poles should subscribe to the rules of performance for the Superior class.

The Speed section should be a ripping Jumpers course with interesting challenges… pretty much the way the course designer should approach any jumpers course. There’s not a lot of trick and trap in this design. The challenges are subtle and come at full speed.

You’ll note that the spacing between obstacles never measures below about 12′ and probably averages nearly 14′. This is as a TDAA jumpers course should be designed, providing a minimum of 12′ in the turns or in the presence of options. Inasmuch as the course is constantly turning with a number of subtle options the course designer wouldn’t really want to make the spacing any tighter.

Establishing appropriate qualifying criteria is an important part of the puzzle when designing for Power and Speed. Any game with a numbered sequence should be based on the Rates of Travel established for the standard classes. Since the Petit Prix will be based on Games III qualifying criteria, I’ll address how the SCT would be established for Games III.

This course will measure about 192’… or 64 yards. The TDAA Rules and Regulations state:

The Superior rate for standard courses for dogs jumping 4” and 8′′ shall be 1.9 yards per second plus 5 seconds for table performance, and for games courses in a range between 1.9 and 2.3 yards per second.  The Superior rate for standard courses for dogs jumping 12′′ and 16′′ shall be 2.0 yards per second plus 5 seconds for table performance, and for games courses in a range between 2.0 and 2.3 yards per second.  Maximum course time shall be set at 1.5 times the standard course time.

You will note in this paragraph that a range is specified for establishing SCT for games courses. It is in this type of game that the judge would use the range. Since this is a Jumpers course that has nice flow the judge should consider using the number at the top of the range. Thus our calculations for qualifying SCT would be based on these numbers:

  • 4″ dogs 31 seconds
  • 8″ dogs 30 seconds
  • 12″ dogs 28 seconds
  • 16″ dogs 27 seconds

These times might seem aggressive. But the truth of the matter is that the winning dog might be coming in around 18 seconds or less on a course like this. The important thing is that the game not be a giveaway. Dogs should earn their qualifying scores. If the judge uses some silly and arbitrary number for the SCT like 60 seconds that would qualify nearly every dog in the class no matter how ungainly or ugly the performance.

Note that I gave only 16″ the top of the range. And then I stepped down by jump height with the biggest jump between 12″ and 8″. Some would argue for more time for the smaller dogs. In fact this is a twisty and nearly constant turning course. The larger dogs will tend to turn wider than the small dogs and so their true course distance is greater. Should the course have featured long and straight lines, I would have put more difference in time from jump height to jump height.

Power and Speed is scored Time Plus Faults. While the Power section is untimed… it is certainly judged. And any faults earned will be added both to the time and to any faults earned in the Speed section.


Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

Score this performance of the weave poles by Beginner, Intermediate, and Superior rules for performance.

Bonus question: what should the handler have done at the end?

I’d very much like to reserve this question for fairly novice judges. But if you need to show off… go ahead. It’ll be more interesting to wait a couple days before chiming in.

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.

Training Bits

July 14, 2011

I’m a big believer in basic movement to communicate with a dog in agility. Lately I’ve found myself falling into a bad habit, trying to talk my way through everything. While my boy is pretty good with verbal directive, the real power in agility will be in movement.

In this exercise I’m practicing a Tandem Turn, showing a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle (in this case, jump #2). I could give a Right command here. But instead I’ll practice it showing nothing but the movement.

The contiguous alignment of contact obstacles is so I can work on another objective at the same time. I want my boy to stick in the contact while I run forward. An interesting thing about the exercise is that Kory initially found the approach to the teeter very compelling. My correction for a performance error is simply to break off very neutrally.

After the performance of the teeter I’ll step in and give him a game of tug with his favorite now toy, the stuffingless squirrel.

Please note: if your dog doesn’t know a Tandem Turn, you’ll certainly want to teach it. The step I’m showing here is an advanced proofing step in which I layer to the opposite side of the line of jumps. A dog won’t layer the Tandem if he hasn’t been taught a Tandem. If you don’t know how to teach this to your dog, drop me a line.

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

What do John Claypoole and Bruce Banner have in common?


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.


July 12, 2011

We were in Queen City this past weekend, showing in the AKC (Border Terrier Club of America).

I guess my “train for ugly” drill and practice last week gave us back a little edge as we were relaxed and pretty much under control.

Queen City is a fun venue because if you’re showing in Open or in Novice you don’t have to show up until 2:00 pm. Indeed they encourage you to stay away until 2:00 pm. It’s a parking problem. So we can drive the 3 hours on Saturday morning and sleep in on Sunday morning ‘til at least noon. That’s pretty much over for me now, as Kory got his 3rd Standard Q on Saturday. I did not move him up because I was looking forward to the sleep in on Sunday part of the trip.

On Sunday Kory double-Q’d and so we are done with Open. Next week we’re up in Cleveland. My little 2 year old boy is in Excellent A. That should be fun.

Another Open JWW

This is a course that was fraught with options. Just to define terms: an option is a course that makes more sense to the dog than the one the judge actually numbered. In this course note that wrong course options are presented after jumps #2, #5, #6, #7, #9, #13, #15 (minor)… and after the pipe tunnel at #17. That’s a lot of optioning.

The control position in this course really has to be in the sliver of real estate between the #6/7 jumps and the #8/9 jumps. This puts the handler in close proximity to the dog during the heat of directional options. Frankly the #10 through #13 part of the course is a big loop that requires no micro-management, and so the handler should easily be able to layer on the opposite side of the #8/9 jumps to be in position to handler the change of direction after jump #13.

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

During the Battle of the Bulge the German commander demanded the surrender of Bastogne. What was the reply of the General commanding the American 101st?


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.

Etzel’s Open JWW

July 8, 2011

The key to gather and drive handling is to recognize the key control positions on course. Once the handler knows where he needs to be, he’ll find a way to be there. But it can all be a bit of a gamble.

My apologies to AKC judge Howard Etzel.

There are two places on this course that jump out at me as I study the course map. 1) Jumps #15 and #7 are right alongside each other creating a directional discrimination challenge which must be faced twice. 2) After jump #12 the wrong course weave pole trap will tantalize the dog in the transition to jump #13.

Okay, given the identification of the major course challenges it’s clear that the gather and drive handler will pretty much hang out in that bit of real estate just right of the weave poles.

Handling Plan

  • In the opening ~ Send the dog to the #1 pipe tunnel from the vicinity of jump @#2. Use a Front Cross from the landing side of #2 to ensure the turn/bend out of the tunnel and have a dog-on-left for the bit to follow.
  • #4 through #7 ~ Don’t take the turn to jump #5 for granted as the dog will be studying the #12 wrong course option. Note too that if the turn goes wide at jump #13 it will open the approach to jump #15 as a wrong course option after jump #6. It will be necessary to drive/bend the dog on to jump #7; taking a blocking position on #15.
  • #7 through #12 ~ Cue the left turn at jump #7 on the way to the jump to tighten the turn. The handler will layer back on the other side of jumps #5 and #6 while the dog commits through the big looping outrun; in order to establish a gathering position on the landing side of jump #12.
  • #12 through #17 ~ After the initial hard left turn at jump #12 the course turns right and right and right. The handler should continue giving a right turning instruction because the dog will continue to the very end to have wrong course options forward and left. Don’t take this half-moon curl for granted.

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

What is the name of this ship?

Here’s a hint for you.


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.

Tin Cup

July 5, 2011

I may have previously shared the game Tin Cup with you as I toyed with the golf scoring theme. The game represents a refinement of Stuart Mah’s old Miniature Golf documented in Clean Run Magazine and the Book of Agility Games. This adaptation is more like the real game of golf; sans whackadoodle scoring conventions. You can be just like the weekend hacker whacking his way tortuously down the fairway.


The dog will be restarted at a faulted obstacle (or any point previous); and take a one stroke fault. The game will subscribe to USDAA Masters rules for performance. Note: any dog being trained for a 2o2o will be faulted for leaving the teeter without the handler’s release.

Tin Cup is scored strokes only. Lowest number of strokes wins. The game is not timed. The stroke limit for any hole is 9. The handler may give up at any time and take the 9 strokes; or allow the dog to earn them honestly.

A handler will be allowed to take a single Mulligan’s on any hole. We’ll interpret this to mean that the handler may retry the entire hole with his dog.

Hole #1

Hole #2

Hole #3

Hole #4

Hole #5

Hole #6

Hole #7

Hole #8

Hole #9

Psycho Thriller

I return from the Pawsitive Partners trial USDAA trial with a lower Q percentage than I’ve had with a dog in over 20 years. I remember very well that weekend with Winston, long gone now; after a rocky showing at West Valley Dogsports. That one put me in a blue funk with my sorely bruised ego; inspiring me to sulk and behave like a petulant child.

This time’s different. I’m happy to note that I’m a more mature character. The only commonality between the two weekends 22 years apart is that each represented the first weekend in the USDAA Advanced class with a young dog. On the drive home I was in general ecstatic with Kory’s skills and work ethic. At no point did he know we’d messed anything up. Motivation is job #1.

The Indy trial with very technical Scott Chamberlain courses leaves me knowing exactly what it is I need to do. This week’s game is a direct reflection of the plan of action. The sequences have technical moment after technical moment in a tortuous grind of bad flow and dictated management of the dog; often without enough real estate to solve properly.

The game as designed is a real psychological thriller. On any fault the handler has to stop; take the penalty stroke; and then continue from that point. I should apologize to my students because this particular set of equipment was designed expressly for an element of work I need to do with my boy Kory. The teeter was killing us on the weekend; so if he didn’t hold his 2o2o it allowed me to stop (take the penalty stroke) and continue. Consequently it provides an excellent opportunity to have a training moment.

But Tin Cup is not a teaching game… it’s a learning game. There’s no entertainment round and there’s no ad infinitum lah de dah sequence and practice do-over. It becomes a perfect encapsulation of the pressure of competition as we experience it in the real world.

As an instructor this too is useful to me, to see every response of every student to every moment of both success and flaw. It’s not just a matter of training the dog (thought that doesn’t hurt). The handler’s game face is always a fascinating study.

I’m very sorry Rene was absent on the evening! She’d have won the pie.

We only got through 5 holes of the game in something like 2-1/2 hours. I’m going to get Kory out this afternoon and work the last four. I have to make some modest changes of the floor for our Beginner and Advanced Beginner students this evening. It’s nearly impossible to even find good flowing sequences given the cruel set of equipment.

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

According to Gordon Ramsey what are the three most important things in the restaurant business?


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.