Archive for September, 2011

Border Collie Factory

September 28, 2011

Man, I’ve been sun-up-to-sun-down busy. We’re getting ready to get out the door for the Petit Prix in Wisconsin. In the mean time I’ve been doing some site maintenance for a TDAA trial we’re having here this weekend. That means mowing, getting the building neatened up, getting our teacup equipment ready, and so forth. I also needed a lesson plan for our Wednesday class. I usually share our lesson plans. But this one will have to escape the scrutiny of history.

This past weekend we went to a USDAA trial in Latrobe, PA. This was a shock to the system and a bit of a waker upper for me. It was a big trial. And something like 80% of the entry… was Border Collie.

While it wasn’t a particularly successful weekend for me and Kory, qualifying wise, I was happy with the development of his skills. I’ll put the bobble here and the bobble there mostly on me.

Funny thing, I went away from the trial promising myself that there’s no way I’m going to put the formidable pressure of competition on my boy, or on myself. The field of dogs in this Border Collie factory consisted of loads of dogs just as fast and as keen as Kory dog; and some of them clearly faster, scary fast. And the handlers for the most part are under-40 athletes keen and reckless themselves. The skills of both dogs and handlers spot on and high caliber.

I seek henceforth for myself is Zen-like objective, simple perfection. I will attend my own teaching, and give best effort every time. In terms of competition, I figure if I ever achieve the state of simple perfection, then I’ll accept the black-and-white measurement of the stopwatch and the score. It is what it is.

I’m a log way from perfection right now; but we’re just getting going.

It’s little wonder that people who’ve declined the dark side have run away to the low end agility venues. We really need a new venue in this country not quite so low end that appeals to the agility fan who wants to play the game with the family dog. We’re waiting!

If I’m disappointed on any level with the USDAA trial in Latrobe, it is being at a well-attended event at which the hosts had a harder time getting ring workers than dinky little trials out in the hinterlands. An agility player who does not volunteer to do some sort of work is a prima donna. I could rant on about the economics and hardships of hosting agility trials. But rational argument has failed to entice the lazy butts. So let me put it like this… everybody notices those who never pitch in to help.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Just In Time

September 23, 2011

Just In Time is a training game for Gamblers, a popular distance skills game. This game is intended to teach an important Gamblers skill, making the approach to the start of a gamble in a timely fashion. This game was first played at Dogwood, Ostrander, Ohio in March 2002.


The objective of this game is to arrive at the table as quickly as possible after the expiration of the point accumulation period.

Just In Time is identical to the point-accumulation period of USDAA Gamblers. The dog has precisely 30 seconds to score points. This is a “dog’s-choice” game. The dog can perform obstacles in the order and direction of his choosing (hopefully, with some collaboration from the handler).

If the dog arrives at the table before the 30-second whistle, time stops and no time bonus can be earned.

Obstacles can be performed only twice for points. Back-to-back performances are permitted.


Just in Time is scored Points, Then Time.

The points system is 1-3-5-7.

  • Jumps are worth 1 point
  • Tunnels and the tire are worth 3 points
  • Contact obstacles are worth 5 points
  • The weave poles are worth 7 points.

When the handler is on the opposite side of the red line from the dog, accumulation points are doubled.

Unproductive loitering near the table is not permitted and shall result in loss of time bonus points.

The dog will earn a time bonus for getting to the table or finish line after the end of the 30-second point-accumulation period.

  • Less than 2 seconds earns 30 time bonus points
  • Less than 4 seconds earns 20 time bonus points
  • Less than 6 seconds earns 10 time bonus points


I intended, with this set of the floor, to provide for the serpentine training sequence using the exercise that I put up in Boise last Sunday ( It was a very successful exercise; and I’d like to start collecting some empirical/statistical numbers to understand not only the initial success of the exercise, but the ongoing retention of the skills we’re teaching to our dogs.

It made for a repetitive format for class. With the more novice class I worked the introduction to a Tandem Turn in the turn to the serpentine; and gradually rotated jumps as we worked. With the more advanced class I pulled the jumps together and did a progressive (exploding) Go On! And once the jumps were blown out, I began rotating the jumps into the serpentine while most everyone worked on layering the turn and working their dogs through the serpentine from a distance.

This was probably too much to jam into an hour’s class. Both the exploding line of jumps and the rotation of jumps in the serpentine should be taken in gradual incremental steps. So I’m not completely satisfied with the delivery of instruction.

I did like the game, however.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Playin’ Around

September 21, 2011

This was a sequence I designed with a thought for putting up in Boise. But it really never happened. Other priorities came to fore. I suppose it is dead boring compared to that makes-the-hair-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck Bicket’s IHC Standard course I played with a few days ago ( There are some interesting bits, though. It won’t fit in my training building. So for now we’ll just have to call it “playing around.”

I’m interested in the not so subtle threadle from #5 to #6. Part of the puzzle is always whether the handler knows where is the control position for a technical movement… and does he know how to get there?

In the transition between #16 and #17 the handler has to be in position to sell the turn with an inviting tunnel just beyond #16. In order to get into position, the fast dog handler will want to be at a healthy lateral distance to his dog during the performance of the A-frame.


Have you ever done that reverse-the-course-like-NADAC thing? Just to see what would happen? I allow judges to follow that practice in the TDAA. Though I always remind them that they don’t have to be married to the reversed sequence and that some things “just won’t make sense!”

But this time… I’m thinking about Carole’s comment: “I watched a video of this course (2nd place dog) and the #10 jump was the backside as noted on the map.  Oh, the zaniness of International courses!

Dang me, now I can’t resist.

In this zany reversal:

  • #3 to #4 is interesting. The pipe tunnel looms large as a wrong course option.
  • The approach to #7 is worse than blind. It makes me wonder if it would ever be practical to allow a jump to be bi-directional… you know, the way they make a pipe tunnel bi-directional. The fun thing about the #7 jump is that neither approach is particularly easy and could be quite a wobbly moment if the handler isn’t artful.
  • #9 to #10 certainly offers the wrong course option at jump #17.
  • The #15 to #17 transition is delightfully zany with a blind/managed approach followed by a threadle. Oh my.
  • And after having survived the previous bit, we turn the dog from #19 to the weave poles at #20 with the #1 jump being an inviting option.

On the Other Hand

Finding an alternate sequence doesn’t always have to be a matter of strict reversal. It’s an intellectual puzzle to be sure. With a little work you can find an interesting sequence that is different in nature from the original… with no equipment movement whatsoever.

Bud’s Google Proof Trivia Contest

This is an armed forces service ribbon. Can you identify what it signifies? Hint: It has an association with the Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts. Is there anything wrong with the picture?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

A Boise Conspiracy

September 19, 2011

On Saturday in Boise we did an exercise with the serpentine and I was able once again to demonstrate that the handling tactic most likely to fail was with the handler working on one side of the serpentine. That strategy, in fact, had an 80% fail rate. And so I showed them as is my habit simple handling that hoisted their success with the serpentine to 80%.

On Sunday with a slightly more advanced group I took a different tactic with the serpentine, endeavoring to show the training steps if the handler/dog trainer wanted to teach a dog the serpentine as though it were a single obstacle, with multiple elements.

Be mindful that there is an important prerequisite skill; and that is to teach the dog to Go On! That means that he should keep his head down and continue working without checking in with the handler for obstacle-by-obstacle micromanagement.

This is a straight line introduction to the Go On! The jumps are arranged very close together with a low jump height. The handler will initially leave the dog on a Stay and lead out to release the dog. Note that the dog trainer tosses a toy or Frisbee in a direct reward line. The toss of the toy should not be a lure to the dog, but a reward. A dog learns next to nothing when being lured; but will learn by heaps when being rewarded for performance.

In subsequent repetitions the handler will move back (not lead out quite so much)… until he is staying behind the first jump, and sending the dog forward.

Once the handler is successfully sending the dog forward for the three jumps we will gradually move the jumps apart a few inches at a time until there is a spacing of about 20′ between the jumps.

Once we have 20′ between the three jumps the dog trainer can insinuate a fourth jump into the 40′ span formerly occupied by only three jumps. When adding a new jump the handler should reintroduce by leading out down the line to support the dog through the entire line of jumps. Then on subsequent repetitions the handler will lead out less and less until he is sending the dog down the entire line of four jumps while remaining behind the first.

Once the handler is sending the dog down the line of four jumps the trainer can begin gradually increasing the space between jumps until the interval is approximately 20′.

Having mastered the dead away send (the toughest distance challenge in agility) by teaching the dog to Go On we can adapt the training set to introduce work on the serpentine. Note that jumps are alternately rotated and only slightly.

The handler/dog trainer should continue using the toss of a toy or Frisbee to reward the dog for working forward. Note that a Frisbee is a better choice of a missile than is a purple octopus.

Continue the rotation of the jumps. Initially we can make big rotations of 15 to 30°; but as we approach the absolutely flat presentation of the serpentine the rotation tweaks should be very slight so that some presentation of a “channel” down the line remains for the dog to see when jumping.

A word on course design: Sometimes the course designer can be completely ham-handed and clueless in the presentation of a serpentine. If the approach to the first jump is completely perpendicular to the line of jumps the inertia of the dog’s movement will introduce a wobble in the turning radius. By the time the wobble is cured, then the serpentine is over; and whatever advantage we might have had in a flat trajectory between jumps has been squandered.

The handler could take some initiative in the badly presented serpentine by creating a vee-set approach to the first jump. This illustration shows the handler drawing the dog in a tight wrap to set up the approach to the serpentine. It will be useful for this handler to have a good “Go On!” if his dog has any speed at all.

This is a marvelous proofing exercise for the serpentine. The handler will work on the opposite side of the first two hurdles (dog on right), using a Tandem Turn to flip the dog away for the approach to the serpentine. The handler is obligated to layer the Tandem, staying on the opposite side of the red line while the dog performs the serpentine, #3 through #5.

After making the turn, the handler should hoof it down the parallel line, giving the dog his directive to Go On!

Land of the Platypus

I remember doing a seminar series in Perth, Australia. At the time I was reminded that the platypus developed in an ecosystem far removed and untainted by exposure to other organisms. Agility handling in Perth was equally removed and differentiated from the mainstream. I taught them a thing they had never considered. In the very first exercise we did, in the entertainment round, they all ran the entire sequence with the dog on heel side (that’s the left side for you who’ve never done obedience). So I introduced them to the interesting concept that they could actually work their dogs in ambidextrous fashion… on either side. I recall that they were excited by this revolutionary concept, and did quite well with it straight away.

I mention Perth in my discussion of Boise because in the vast expanses of the American West exist ecosystems in the agility community that have their own evolution and differentiation as distinct as the Platypus.

The tough thing about places like Boise is that they have too few trials within a reasonable travel distance every year. If I remember rightly, it’s a six hour drive to Salt Lake City. When they do get to a trial they’re under extraordinary pressure. It’s not like, if you drop a bar, you can say “no worries, I’ll get it next week.”

I do not intend this in the least as a criticism of the Boise agility player. They have a small but awesome community of avid fans. I earnestly believe that they should trust their own local coaches; think outside the box; and learn to be playful (and not so serious) in their approach to agility. It is a game in the park on the weekend with a dog, after all.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


September 18, 2011

I was so completely flummoxed with my boy Kory in last week’s class/league play sequence that I’m now pretty much determined to take a new approach to teaching him to wrap a turn (left or right) on a jump.

So here’s the idea. I’m going to isolate the jump wing and basically just teach him to circle it using a “Wrap” verbal. Even as I write this it occurs to me that I might want to have separate verbs for wrapping left and right. Maybe it’s “Wrap” to the left and “Swing” to the right. I dunno. It’s a winter project.

I want the same behavior performance when I put the obstacle together with both wings and a jump bar. “Wrap” means jump, turn tightly (left?) and come back towards me.

Proofing the skill should include the presentation of options forward


In my down time in NY LaGuardia airport I came up with the fanciful bit below. I don’t use many canned sequences anymore in seminar work. Though, I do have a few favorites to pull out from time to time. The fundamentals are always revealed.

This sequence should give me the opportunity to introduce some basics of handling strategy and mechanics. Everything is presented with architectural balance and clean simple lines with only a couple subtle riddles. In the afternoon I should like to do the sequence I described in my post “Agility Handling 101” a couple days ago.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Forbidden Fruit

September 16, 2011

The AKC has these funny guidelines about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed in an agility course. I remember when the 270° was forbidden, back in the day. But then you’d show up at the AKC nationals (or more realistically at competition in Europe)… there would be that forbidden thing built into the course. Fortunately the agility handlers have other venues to hone their skills to prepare them for competition with the FCI in Europe.

Among the forbidden fruit today is the threadle, at least that’s the rumor I subscribe to. The threadle is an arrangement of obstacles having two placed in close proximity and intended to be taken in the same direction. Here’s an obvious and blunt example:

What I’ve been thinking is that the AKC course designer with the repressed artistic desire to put threadles in his course work could craftily disguise them. The trick is to not be overly obvious and blunt.

The threadle challenge is jump #4 to the pipe tunnel at #5. It’s really more than a counter-side tunnel challenge because the solution requires a zig-zagging dogs path; more than just a choice of left and right.

Return to Witch Mountain

From the discussion of Bicket’s IHC Standard that I posted several days ago, I suggested that the numbering of jump #10 must have been an error.

Carole writes a comment to the course: I watched a video of this course (2nd place dog) and the #10 jump was the backside as noted on the map.  Oh, the zaniness of International courses!

Remember that the release to the collapsed tunnel was from the end of the dogwalk, suggesting that in order to have position forward the handler would have to be working the dogwalk at an aggressive lateral distance (or the handler is a long legged kid with a quick step). But even being forward of the dog the handler must have the skill to draw the dog into sharp handler focus to position “X” (not shown in the drawing here, btw)… to open up the approach to jump #10 from the backside; and without losing the dog over the looming wrong course option.

I’d recommend teaching a call to hand for any dog in agility for moments of precision such as this. Zany indeed!

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Agility Handling 101

September 15, 2011

I persist with my novice students teaching fundamental problem solving skills that will enhance their ability to gracefully answer interesting handling riddles. The sequence below isn’t really a novice sequence; but the exercise is fundamental.

We always begin with the entertainment round. So you can appreciate the promise of entertainment: consider the novice handler who will embark on a zigging and zagging sequence like this while tracking along on the same side of his dog without so much as a thought to changing sides. You don’t really know whether to laugh, or to cry.

The dog turns most naturally towards the handler. So the intrepid handler will endeavor to always be on the turning side of the course.

This sequence turns to the right, and then to the left, and then again subtly to the right. How does the handler fulfill his destiny to be the “intrepid handler”?

This is a wonderful exercise for a simple Front Cross. And aside from the discussion of the placement of the handler’s path relative to the dog’s path, and the analysis of lines that might go into the teaching… it’s a wonderful opportunity to actually talk about the mechanics of the simple Front Cross (we might even squeeze in a Blind Cross or two for anyone whose brain is going to explode from the complicated counter-rotation pirouette of the Cross).

Note too that the sequence holds some advanced features, like the depressed approach to the #3 jump; and the presentation of the wrong course option tunnel more surely in the dog’s path than the approach to the #5 pipe tunnel.

Even the handler who disdains a lead-out should follow the basic principle that he should work the side of the turn. This drawing shows a Back Crossing strategy with the handler showing an abrupt change of sides behind his dog on the approach to jump #3, and then again at the #4 tire.

Note that promptly after each Cross the handler will give pressure of movement to agree with the intended object of the dog’s focus.

Nearly overlooked in this discussion is the approach to the table, ending the exercise. The dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path. If the handler makes the dismount of the dogwalk with dog-on-left and has to be so close as to be sitting on the dog’s head, then the handler’s path getting by the #7 jump more favors a wrong course approach to jump #1 than it does an approach to the table. Further, a dog ahead of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position. So this is a very tough approach for the fast dog handler.

A Brief Period Away ~ Discussion

A couple days ago I was doing my “I bane gone so long” lament. Christine Stephansen left a comment on that post:

I wonder where you are when you don’t post. Bet you didn’t know you had such a following! Glad you are caught up.

Not really caught up. Backsliding is more like it.

But don’t you know, sometimes I wonder while I’m out there weed-whacking, or vacuuming the training building how I could possibly document the exhilaration of mind-numbing simple labor into an item of interest for those that read my blog. This past week I spent a few hours cutting (recycling) wood and nailing it up as a new section of wainscot in the training building. 2.2 sections to go (for those of you keeping score).

I know… I should publish a photo of me on the “garden tractor.” One picture obscures a thousand words.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Sequences of Interest

September 13, 2011

From yesterday’s analysis of the Bicket IHC course I’ve extracted several sequences of interest to inflict on my own students. I wanted a minimum amount of equipment movement in the building; mostly because I don’t have a staff of eager minions. If a ton of sandbags have to be moved… I’m the guy who has to do it.

Today in league we’ll play a simple standard course.

Not so Standard

A Brief Period Away

I went over a week without writing to my blog. This is the longest I’ve gone in several years of keeping this journal. I’ve had a hectic schedule of trialing and other obligations and I was getting behind on other real work.

And so I’ve sat down and caught up with my work; putting everything that isn’t the highest priority at the back of the list. Well, there you go. I guess my blog is kind of low on the list if I take a rational look at it all.

I returned from a Wisconsin having only a couple days at home and then went off to Medina Swarm to show my boy Kory at a USDAA trial. And I was supposed to go off to Oregon to attend a TDAA judges’ clinic. But circumstances conspired against me; and I wound up not taking the trip. As a consequence I’m caught up.

On Thursday morning I’m off to Boise, ID for a day of private lessons and a weekend seminar. I look forward to working with the gang up there.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running.

Bicket’s IHC Standard

September 12, 2011

These days I am teaching a handling system that I call “Gather and Go”. There are a small handful of people in the world today that actually understand it. The upshot of the system is that the handler is not a constant micro-manager and releases the dog to work at an appreciable distance and manages to get in a key/control position at precisely the moment required. This system is the wily old cuss’ answer to competing with the young long-legged handler with a fast dog.

I’m a long-time fan of the USDAA. But don’t you know, the course design philosophy of the USDAA these days seems to require a fast young long-legged handler (with a fast dog). There are so many points of micro-management that there don’t seem to be great opportunities to release the dog to work while giving the handler a chance to get control position.

Okay, that was a whiney-butt moment to be sure. At the end of the day I have to go back to the simple premise… train, don’t complain. I’m not giving up on the old man’s handling system. I need to sharpen the criteria for performance in training.

At any rate, I look to the USDAA to give training suggestions for those things for which I need to be prepared. Following is an excellent example.

This is a course from the USDAA SW Regional at Bay Team on September 2, 2011. Other courses from this event and scores and placements from the competition can be found at

Part 1 ~ Start to #3

My distance plan will be to manage the transition between the #10 through 12 jumps (both a, and b). So I intend to layer to the opposite side of the #7 jump, the tire, and the #5 jump while my dog finishes the dogwalk.

Early in the course the course designer plays a reoccurring theme. The first two jumps are presented at an aggressive slant. The handler really needs to take this slice, because if the turn goes too big and wide between the first two jumps, then the #20 jump will be opened up as a wrong course option.

My opening would be to leave my dog, dog-on-left taking a bending position (near the teeter). Bending is the reciprocal of the Post Turn. The handler is on the outside of the curve, rather than on the inside. The step needs to be well timed. Step too early and the dog runs around jump #1, or drops the bar. Step too late and the turn works too wide, opening up the wrong course option.

Part 2 ~ #3 to #5

This theme is revisited on the approach to the #4 jump. If the handler brings the dog around for a squared up presentation, then the wrong course option to the 12a/12b jump is opened up. The handler must take the aggressive slice.

My handling would be dog-on-left after the A-frame. There’s a real danger here. If the dog comes out of position before the handler has a position forward, then the dog might very well curl around the handler’s position, earning a refusal at jump #4. I also want to be close enough to the jump to sell the wrapping turn away. Of course I’ll rely on an absolute directional: “Left.”

After the turn at jump #4 I have to work my dog back in towards me to open up the approach to jump #5. If I push too early he might slide past that jump, for a refusal. Again, I’m in a bending position.

Part 3 ~ #5 to #8

Please note that the approach to the #7 jump is also an aggressive slice. But the handler could open up the approach a bit here without worries of a wrong-course option.

My handling plan would do exactly that, I’ll allow him to curl a bit towards me after the tire. Note that my position will be back towards the #5 jump. My dog needs me for the dismount of the dogwalk… not for the approach. The turn on the flat between the tire and jump #7 has to be an absolute directional: Right!

Note that the position of the #6 on the course map is probably misplaced. I assume the approach to the tire is as drawn with the dog’s path. I was just being faithful to the only drawing I’ve seen of this course.

Part 4 ~ #9 to #12a

This is the downfield technical consideration that has dictated the positioning of the handler. The handler needs a position between the #11 and #12a.

Note that the position of the #10 on the course map is probably misplaced. I assume the approach to the jump is as drawn with the dog’s path. If the judge really intended the blind/managed approach from the backside; there would be an extra technical mention in the discussion below.

In my handling solution I’d look for a keep it simple approach. The drawing looks a little complicated. That’s because there are two crossing patterns in this four-obstacle sequence. I show the handler here holding dog on right from the collapsed tunnel to jump 12a. I’m going to stay on the opposite side of the jump, pushing my dog into a tight right turn, and then draw him back over the jump. I suppose the handler could just as well do a Front Cross on the landing side of jump #11 and be on the inside of the turn through jump 12a.

It will be important to keep the turn wrapping tightly over jump 12b to pull the dog between the #12 jump and the #11 jump and shovel him forward to the #13 jump.

Part 5 ~ #13 to #17

In this section of the course the designer was a little playful with the weave poles. The telling bit will be in the wrap from jump 15b and redirect to the #16 weave poles. In the best of worlds we have trained our dogs to get the entry to the weave poles no matter what the presentation; and then trust in our training. An important reminder: If the dog requires a managed approach, then manage.

I find a note of optimism in my handling plan… I’m really hoping I can outrace my boy to the end of the #15a weave poles in order to pull back for a pre-cue presentation of jump #15b to get a tight wrap. If I’m behind… I’ll opt for a right turn on the #15b jump… and it’ll be messy and cost an extra second or two.

On the dismount of the #16 weave poles I have to push out to create/open up the approach to the #17 jump. It is a blind/managed approach; and the handler absolutely must have a presence down in this corner.

Part 6 ~ #17 to #20

The closing to this course features another blind approach, in the transition from the teeter at #18 to the pipe tunnel at #19. There are no fewer than five obstacles that figure more prominently than does the pipe tunnel. Note that I’m counting the wrong end of the pipe tunnel as one of the five.

And in the transition  from  the #19 pipe tunnel to  the last hurdle on course jump #2 figures as a wrong course option.

In my handling plan I get to the teeter with dog-on-left. After the #17 jump I’m giving a turn (towards me) cue so that my boy doesn’t slice forward for a wrong course at jump #2. This means I’ll have to Back Cross the teeter. I’ll rely on my dog to get and hold his 2o2o finish just so I can slide into position, blocking the approach to the wrong-course pipe tunnel. I’ll draw him tight across my body and find the tunnel. I’ve been working on tunnel/contact discriminations. And I really want to get through this moment without handling or micro-managing the approach to the tunnel.

The send to the tunnel is important… because I’ll want to hold my position near the exit to bend my dog promptly towards jump #20, and without even the appearance of a collision that straightens him out.


All foregoing dialog describes maybe 40 seconds of pure assault on a course that has terrific flow… except for a couple small bits: that one little loop de loop moment at the top of the course; and the curious weave jump weave transition on the right side.

It is typical of USDAA course design that jumps will be set at aggressive slicing angles that invite the refusal when the handler is inattentive or gives a mistimed step. Also, we should look for more of the blind approach puzzles in course work.

You’ll note also the use of combination obstacles in the #12 and #15. This is surely reserved for the International class.

This was an absolutely relentless course that requires constant attention to presentation and pressure. The thing about competing with the kids, of course, is that many of them can race their dogs from point to point and engage in constant micro-management with only a bit of loss in terms of speed and performance.

A course like this demands a certain amount of management because many of the transitions are either without logical flow, or obstacles are set at an aggressive angle of presentation; so there’ll be only modest opportunities to release the dog to work.

And yet the mission of the gather and go handler is to identify those control positions on course and find a way to be there at precisely the right moment; and take even the small opportunities to release the dog and steal a second or two from the micromanagers.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running.

D ~ Quidditch

September 2, 2011

Our lesson plan this week will feature the letter “D” from Nancy Gyes’ alphabet drills; (the CD with all the course maps and the workbook are available at

The lesson plan also features our game for the week… Quidditch. Hairy Pawter’s Quidditch is the invention of Becky Dean and Jean MacKenzie. The game was played for the first time at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, Ohio. The rules for this game didn’t make the publication deadline for the Clean Run Book of Agility Games (2d edition), as these rules were under review by the athletic faculty at Hogwarts at the time. There is no rushing those wizards with tenure. However, the game will be available in the Book of Agility Games, 3d Ed., available soon at

Quidditch ~ send to the Beater variation


Big dogs will have 60 seconds and small dogs 65 seconds to complete three numbered sequences. When time expires the dog[1] should be directed to the table to stop time. The point values for each of the sequences are 15 points (black circles), 20 points (white squares), and 25 points (white circles). Each sequence can be successfully completed only once. The sequences can be taken in any order. Each obstacle has individual point values that are earned by a team if a sequence is only partially completed prior to time expiring.

  • 1 point for jumps
  • 3 points for tunnels
  • 5 points for contact obstacles and weave poles

Upon the successful completion of a sequence the team will have the opportunity to earn bonus points for a successful performance of a tire; the ‘Beater’ bonus, for which the team will earn an additional 25 points. Dogs must be sent through the tire from outside the containment box shown on the course in order to earn the Beater bonus.

Refusals will be faulted on the tire, but nowhere else on course. The initial direction of the dog’s approach to the tire will define the run-out plane of the obstacle for the purpose of judging refusals. If a dog commits a refusal on the tire, the Beater bonus is lost.

After attempting the Beater bonus the team should attempt another sequence. If the team completes each of the different sequences, they will earn a ‘Keeper’ bonus of 50 points in addition to the points of the individual sequences. Note: the bonus points earned or missed by the completion of the tire do not affect ability for a team to earn the Keeper bonus.

A dropped bar, fly-off, some off-courses (see wrong course rule, below) or missed contact will be considered a sequence fault. The team can immediately reattempt the same sequence or move to another sequence.

If a team completes or attempts one sequence more than once the final score for the team will be zero.

When time expires no new points can be earned.

The Bludgers Rule

  1. A Bludger (wrong course obstacle) performed during the performance of an individual sequence shall result in a sequence fault. No points are earned for the performance of any individual obstacle unless the sequence is not completed due to expiration of time.
  2. Performance of a Bludger after the successful completion of a sequence on the way to the Beater (tire) shall be considered a fault of the Beater. The ability for the team to earn the Beater bonus is lost. The team should proceed to the next sequence, or to the table if appropriate.
  3. If the wrong course occurs: Bludgers (wrong courses) shall not be faulted: between the starting line and the first obstacle of a numbered sequence; between the Beater and the first obstacle of a numbered sequence; between the Beater and the table (to stop time).
  4. No points shall be earned for the performance of any Bludger.

Expiration of Time

If the whistle sounds prior to the completion of the three sequences, the dog should be directed to the table. The team will earn individual points for obstacles completed prior to the sounding of the whistle. When the dog touches the table, time will stop. No table performance is required.

The Golden Snitch

If a team successfully completes all three sequences, earns all three 25 point Beater bonuses, and touches the table prior to the 60-second whistle sounding, the team will earn the ‘Golden Snitch’ award of 75 bonus points.


Quidditch is scored Points, Then Time. The dog with the most points wins. In the case of a tie, the dog with the shortest time will be the winner.

A perfect score requires completion of all three sequences and successful performance of the Beater bonus. The scoring notation would look like this: 15-25-20-25-25-25-50-75.

Qualifying and Titles

Use the same course for dogs competing at all levels. The level at which the dog qualifies depends upon the number of points earned:

  • Games I: 55 points
  • Games II: 75 points
  • Games III: 95 points

Bud’s Google Proof Trivia Contest

Is it true that President Obama has vowed to take away guns from American gun owners? Hint:


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] In this variation of the game the dog is naturally the Quaffle. But for the sake of clarity, we’ll just call him a dog.