Failing to Practice

It’s been a gorgeous week. I got to spend some time outside rebuilding and painting our tractor wagon. The colors were supposed to be John Deere green and yellow. I came close, but not quite.

Early last week we pulled an old maple dining table out of a shed where it’s been hidden for about thirty years. It was a puzzle with, metal clips, four inserts and fold up wings. One of the fold down wings looks like it had to live next to a stove and so is darker than the rest of the table for the extra curing. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Three ladies, Crystal, Sharon and Sharmin, who used to train with me in Delaware came down for a vacation weekend. They stayed in the lower cabin, and by all accounts had a marvelous time. They were kind of roughing it. The television in the cabin doesn’t do anything but play old vhs tapes, so it doesn’t even get turned on. The ladies hung out on the porch while their dogs played in the yard. They came up for a couple private lessons. And I got to meet all their young dogs.

Lesson Plans

I wanted to put up an old basic handling drill. This is based on the old Stuart Mah “Oscillation” exercise. #1 through #6 and then #10 through #14 face the handler with the very basic riddle of the serpentine, how to change sides.

I’m trying to show here the handler using two different Front Crosses to solve the basic serpentine. The first the handler puts outside the box, drawing the dog to a corner of approach to set the square approach to the next two jumps. In the second Front Cross the handler drifts to the landing side of the jump, making the cross inside the box and creating a very different kind of path for the dog.

In the basic exercise, it’s useful to practice crossing behind the dog as well as crossing in front. It’s not about practicing what a handler is comfortable with. It’s more a matter of practicing technical movements that build a balanced repertoire of handling skills.

Failing to practice is practicing to fail.

This set of the floor seems to have plenty of opportunity to solve more advanced handling challenges. This illustration shows a pull-through in the transition from jump #2 to #3. We should also be able to find a threadle or two, work with simple serpentines, counter-side tunnel traps (from a variety of approaches), and proofing contacts at a distance.

An old family saying

Raise no more demons than you can lay down.

I’ve about rested back up from the long series of weekends “out of town”. I guess my worse habit when on the road is stealing hours from my sleep at the back end. Sleeping in is out of the question of course. So if I go to bed a bit late for watching a football game or do another bit of work on the computer, there’s really no making up for it. The cumulative effect over a couple of months is awesome.

At the end of this week I’m off for Springfield, IL. I get to do a distance seminar with a group of students who are apparently terrified by the prospect. So I’m challenged to perform a bit of alchemy, turning terror into “aha”. We’ll see.


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 “Failing to Practice”

  1. Christine Stephansen Says:

    Where did you live in DE? Both of my older kids were born there – we were there from 1987 – 1993.

  2. Christine Says:

    Ah well – Ohio is good too…I lived in Toledo for about 18 months! I’ve been struggling with the concept of training vs. going to class…thinking that going to class was not providing me with a lot of training. Just running through a course on any given class night didn’t seem to give me what I felt like were good learning/training experiences. However, my teacher must have read my mind (and the minds of her other students) because she has just switched to a more skills based method during our class time. Everyone LOVED the change. I think many who have been in agility for a long time forget that the beginners don’t really know what to train! So we are learning specific skills to train in small stations in class. Good plan. Mix up the teaching of running a course with actual skill drills – many of which we can’t do at home because we don’t have the room or the equipment. I, for one, do not want to fail to practice.

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