Too Much of Not Enough

When leading agility classes we often fall into several basic kinds of traps. First of all, the floor is often overly crowded with equipment. I find this nearly inescapable when we do split-group training (two groups of students separated, and working the floor at the same time). And for all the crowding of equipment sometimes we fail to put on the floor a variety of obstacles with which the dog should have plenty of practice. For example:

  • Table ~ often set to the lowest common denominator. Big dogs don’t get to see big tables.
  • Collapsed tunnels and the teeter ~ The biggest problem with these obstacles from the trainer’s POV is that they aren’t bidirectional and so limit sequencing to a one-dimensional sameness.
  • Specialty hurdles ~ We don’t see enough of the panel jump, spread hurdles, and the broad jump. When was the last time you had your dog on a viaduct?

With all of this in mind I’m an advocate for minimalism in the number of obstacles on the floor, but generous in terms of the variety of obstacles.

You can start with a simple concept, as I’ve done here. Aside from the teeter, there’s nothing more exotic than a series of jumps, though I’ve taken the opportunity to make a couple of them winged jumps.

Without really changing the set of the floor I’ve substituted specialty hurdles for the four wingless jumps that were in the drawing.

The use of these hurdles is certainly problematic. The tire, the parallel spread hurdle, and the broad jump all argue for a squared approach; and to a lesser extent present some risk in requiring any abrupt turn on the dismount. Also… now I have two mono-directional obstacles on the field. If I want some true variety I’ll have to reverse the teeter at some point and the broad jump.

Though, to tell the truth, I’d like to exhaust some of the sequencing possibilities before I do any kind of rotation of the equipment. Note that the teeter pretty much dictates the dismount of about any sequence to be run on the set.

What I wound up doing with the training set here is giving everyone a pretty good workout with the broad jump. Each of the sequences shown here have a different objective on the dismount; and each has it’s own whimsical consequential path on the finish.

The reversal of the teeter and broad jump offer a variety of new possibilities.

At this moment I’m inclined to point out that I’m never a complete slave to a lesson plan for raw sequences. I had something different in mind from the very beginning.

I’ve drawn a severe containment area for the handler, who I would expect never to step inside of the box of jumps that surround the broad jump. This is a wonderful test of the Tandem Turn (or lazy absolute directionals) and an opportunity for dogs to work at some distance from the handler.


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.

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