Player Piano

The rhythm of agility has ever fascinated me; the handler and dog moving with ease and grace in harmonic symphony. The course itself is like the scroll of a pianola, dictating the beat, a composition enticing dancers on the floor into anything from an elegant waltz to an upbeat quick-step (50 bars/minute).

Sometimes the course itself introduces a jangling tone that disturbs the beat. It’s like hearing bad music; the listener winces at the discordant moment. Was it the course… or was it the dancer?

The composer might be completely bloody minded.

Bloody-minded Jumpers!

Being too lazy to move the contact equipment I wanted to put up a Jumpers With Weaves course. I could not help but wince at the discordant moments in this course. I’ve been occupying myself with a course design riddle that we see all too often in agility these days (particularly in USDAA courses) in which the fast dog handler is obligated to be in two places at once, if not three. Certainly the day goes to the young athletic handler who can race his dog from corner to corner to establish handler proximity in the technical moments.

For the rest of us, the mantra is train… don’t complain.

This is a bit of a cowardly notion I suppose. I’ll set this course up for league play. Then I won’t be here to run the course with my boy. I’m off to Springfield, IL in the morning to conduct a four-day TDAA judges’ clinic.

There are three very technical moments in this course. The first bit is in the transition from jump #7 to #8. The handler has a scarce 8 to 10′ to turn the dog with a looming tunnel option. Then the handler has to get to the opposite side of the floor to solve the same sort of option (with the dogwalk looming) in the turn from jump #10 to #11. This is really the tough bit because ideally the handler wants to come out of the turn with dog on right; calling for a perfectly executed serpentine Front Cross. Now the question is whether the handler can establish proximal position for the tricky threadle turn from jump #12 to #13. Ah, bloody-minded indeed.

Without a Paddle

Just so I don’t leave everyone “up the creek”, as it were, I should suggest my handling solution to the course. In order to compete with the young long-legged athletes in our sport some of us old-timers need to rely on superior training and handling skills. That is not to say that we would all succeed with the plan (or even I would succeed). But without a plan we are up the creek, and without a paddle.

A thing I’ve always said about pinwheels is the faster the dog is; the farther ahead the handler gets (and if you’ve been training your dogs for independent work in pinwheels in the exhaustive exercises I put up for this purpose in The Jokers Notebook distance training series… this should be no problem for you.) In this part of the course the handler has to pick the dog up out of the tunnel, sending him forward to “own the pinwheel”. This allows the handler the position he needs to precue the turn from jump #7 to #8.

I show the handler with dog on right coming out of the pipe tunnel. Getting this position might be its own sort of riddle, especially if the handler has to step in to the entry of the pipe tunnel at #3 so closely that he can touch it.

Note too that I show the handler layering at a distance while the dog is engaged in the performance of the weave poles in order to gain the next technical handling position.

Again the handler has a position forward of his dog to precue the turn. The cruel part about this moment is that the handler has to draw the dog around carefully to set the line through jumps #11 and #12. This is a type of Front Cross that I call a serpentine Front Cross. Truly it is a combination movement: Front Cross to Post Turn. The key to the successful Post is to release on the line. Release too soon and the dog is over jump #6. Release too soon and the dog goes from #11 to #4.

The tough part about surviving this moment is that it leaves the handler woefully behind the dog on the approach to jump #12 which is immediately followed by a difficult transition.

At jump #12 the handler is left behind the dog. I’m showing here a Post & Tandem approach to the #13 jump (optimistically showing the dog avoiding the run-out plane of jump #13). The Post needs to be a static Post, with the handler showing brakes to draw the dog back as though going to the dogwalk. At just the right moment the handler will flip the dog away in a Tandem Turn. I may have over-elaborated the turn (dog’s red line). In fact the handler really has to hold the Post opening up the approach to the jump.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Alphabet Drills ~ Letter E

At the heart of our set of obstacles on the floor is a jumping configuration for the letter E, taken from Nancy Gyes alphabet drills. The workbook and CD are available from Clean Run Productions if you’d like to play along. I’ll be going through all of the drills in the next year.

This is a great set of jumps, exploring the relationship between two adjoined pinwheels. I will leave our instructor with a page or two of drills, right out of Gyes’ Alphabet workbook.

The Book of Agility Games

The Book of Agility Games, 3d ed (beta) is now available in our web store.

I have yet to add all of the hypertext links and enable loading of a course directly into CRCD simply by clicking on the picture. However, I’m being besieged by queries after the book. This is a one-of-a-kind reference to all manner of games played in agility, around the world.

Please note that everyone who buys a legal copy will get a coupon towards the Final draft reimbursing you for the cost of the beta.

518 pp.

Follow this link:

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

In what movie based on semi-autographical book by Earnest Hemingway did a notoriously gay actor play the part that was presumably Hemingway? Who was the actor?

Though I’m a huge fan of Hemingway the writer; he was a notorious homophobe, racist and sexist. I suppose he’s rolling over in his grave about the casting in the movie.


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.

2 Responses to “Player Piano”

  1. Linda Says:

    The Hemingway movie is “A Farewell to Arms” with Rock Hudson.

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