The Shootist!

I was in Springfield IL this past weekend for a TDAA trial with a judges’ clinic wrapped around it. I think that I should like to do another handling clinic in that part of the world… oh, indeed I am scheduled to do so soon. As a long time coach in this sport, from time to time I really wanted to stop the trial and put on a good clinic. But you know, one should always be aware of what uniform he is wearing. I was neither invited for the weekend to be a seminar leader (nor was I paid to be so). Consequently I just let my observations burn a smoldering hole in the back of my brain.

We played a game invented by Marquand Cheek called Group Choice. It is the object of this game to do all of the equipment on the field in three distinct groups: contact obstacles; weave poles; and everything else. The handler’s job is to complete each group (in any order) without repeating any equipment or leaving any out. It’s clearly a game related to What’s My Line, but with a slightly more evil slant.

We had a set on the floor that included an arrangement that resembled this. Of course it was set with teacup equipment and so the size of the equipment and spacing between it all was considerably smaller. I just drew it big so that people who own big dogs can relate to the riddle.

What the handler wants to do here is the dogwalk… then the teeter, and then the A-frame. The dog going into the pipe tunnel between the dogwalk and the teeter, or over the jump between the teeter and the A-frame would be a major fault.

The class was nearly skunked for handlers not knowing how to cue their dogs to give a piece of equipment a pass. So let’s study the subject. Anybody who plays Snooker will want to understand this…

What I’m trying to demonstrate here is the handler initiative that would precisely communicate direction to the dog. The handler initially draws the dog off the dogwalk as though going to the pipe tunnel (black figures). Then the handler will do a Front Cross (red figures). As the dog moves out of danger of the pipe tunnel Major Fault the handler will turn back in a second Front Cross… resuming the approach to the teeter.

The common name for this combination movement (Front Cross to Front Cross) is: RFP.

If you really want to wow the crowd, do the counter-rotation movement as a Flip rather than an RFP. The Flip is: Front Cross to Blind Cross. The Flip is a finesse movement and a racing movement. Contrast that to the RFP which is a stodgy control movement.

A Teaching Moment

It might be that a handler can get his dog past these wrong-course obstacles as he makes his way in snookeresque fashion without resorting to any sort of counter-rotation, either an RFP or a Flip.

Think of the counter-rotation as an “insurance movement”. You see? It’s kind of like fire insurance. Think of the money you could save if you didn’t have the extra expense of insurance every month. But know this too… they’re unlikely to sell you the policy while your barn is burning down.

Cultivate a powerful instinct for counter-rotation. The simple purpose of the RFP is to draw the dog sharply towards the handler. If this performance characteristic is ever desirable… then the RFP is the correct tool.

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

Aside from the dubious honor of inventing the game Group Choice what is Marq Cheek’s claim to fame in the history agility in America?


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.

3 Responses to “The Shootist!”

  1. Brenna Says:

    Marq Cheek earned the AKC’s first ever MACH with his Shetland Sheepdog, Wyatt.

    • budhouston Says:

      That is correct, of course. The fun thing about being first is that nobody will ever be able to surpass that unambiguous distinction. Too cool.


  2. Brenna Says:

    I agree. I remember when he did it (and that they did it in three months, which was astonishing). I used to run agility with some odd breeds (Vizsla, Whippet) and I always enjoyed knowing I owned one of the first few of my breeds to accomplish something. I’m pretty sure I won’t go down in history because of it though 🙂

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