Finding my inner Chi

I’ve had an interesting weekend of competition at Dayton, AKC. I went on that wild and familiar roller coaster ride of success and train wreck that we nearly all feel in the sport of agility.

I started the weekend with Time 2 Beat, a fun new AKC game something like (but not quite) the USDAA’s Steeplechase. I nearly nailed the course but for a wrong course option that I never really saw coming. But I was pleased with the run and feeling pretty good about Kory (he went precisely where directed, after all). And then in Excellent A Standard Kory nailed the course got the Q, and won the class. Indeed he beat all dogs, A and B, of any jump height.

You can see the roller coaster pushing ego and confidence to dizzying height. What a ride! … and then it drops; plummets, is more the word.

The Jumpers course in the afternoon was a great train wreck. I would share the blow-by-blow with you. But it is painful to trace back over that bit of calamity.

We were working our dogs out of the hotel room on Saturday. It’s a unique kind of experience the details of which I’ll have to share with you one day. It was better than tenting in the heat out by the parking lot; or even in the crowded crating area in the building. The hotel was less than a mile from the trial site and the timing of walkthroughs and competition by jump height was easily calculable.

Anyhow, in the afternoon while Marsha was down at the trail site romping with her young boy Tempest, I was in the air conditioned room working on this and that… and puzzling through what had happened on the day.

In the evening, by the way, I watched a movie I’ve seen a number of times: The Last Samurai. There’s a bit in the movie in with Nathan Algren is struggling to learn the Japaneze art of the sword and having his head handed to him in match after match. The chief of the village, Nobutada, tells Algren (Tom Cruize) “Too many mind. Mind the sword, mind the people watch, mind the enemy. Too many mind.”

This was along the lines of what I had been thinking. I approached the failed Jumpers course with a dizzying show-boat of a plan. And in recollection I felt no connection with my dog at all.

The Chi of the agility performance is the shared energy and connection between dog and handler. Without Chi it is all struggle and turmoil. And, working at 5-6 YPS the crash is resounding and magnificent.

On Sunday I wiped my mind clean and made it all about Kory and the course. We began with the Standard course. I got a wrong course for failing to finish my work (turn turn turn). I left the course feeling fine and dandy. We were there, in synch, together, but for that little misstep. I was pleased with the run and feeling pretty good about Kory (he went precisely where directed, after all).

In Jumpers I went to the line, muttering to myself “Too Many Mind”; and “Run the dog, not the plan.” You know how to do it… swipe your hand across your face and be in the moment. It was a beautiful run. Some of the turns went wider than intended. But it was clean and fast and Kory won the class.

Agility is constant learning. Both of you learn; you and your dog. It is like learning to dance with a partner. With practice each of you learns to understand each subtle pressure and nuance of movement of the other.


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.


3 Responses to “Finding my inner Chi”

  1. Peggy Johnson Says:

    I was wondering if you could post the course maps from the weekend, particularly the T2B course. Thank you!

  2. Courtenay Says:

    Hey Bud,
    I was gifted a copy of your Games book (2nd ed) and had looked through it…
    Then last night, it saved my bacon! 🙂
    I’m a fairly newbie to agility, my own dog not even having a Starters Q yet, between injuries and reactivity. A trainer in our group was caught out of town with an injured dog, so she asked me to teach her class for her.
    I found the game description and course map for Last of the Mohicans, and made it into an educational, fun class! Afterward, keeping a similar equipment set up, we played Concentration. Coming up with drills isn’t my strong suit, so I was very glad to have this resource.

    • budhouston Says:

      Hi Courtney,

      I’m glad the Games Book worked for you. There are a number of training games in it. Last of the Mohicans is fun… I invented the game for my Novice classes to encourage them to keep moving in agility. Nothing like a good scalping to give somebody encouragement.


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