When reviewing courses about the most scathing thing I have to say to novice course designers is something like… “That’s awkward!” It strikes me that I should really define my point of view on both the word and the principles of course design that inspire me to use it.

Rather than taking an example from my large library of resources I endeavored here to make the awkward design myself. It’s easy to be lulled into being okay with a sequence like this. Look how neatly the Clean Run Course Designer draws the dog’s path as though this is a simple little romp for the dog.

Now, you must know, CRCD is a retarded robot and hasn’t the slightest idea about how dogs move. The dog’s path calculated here is an algorithm that brings the dog’s path square to each obstacle by number. That’s not the way it works in real life.

The course designer (and frankly, savvy handlers) should think in very linear terms with the dog’s path. The dismount of a jump is always dictated by the approach. In the dismount the only pertinent variable is the dog’s turning radius. And the turn establishes the line of approach to the next obstacle.

As you can see in this drawing, in which I’ve superimposed the dog’s true path, there is no real approach to jump #4 on the dismount of jump #3 without managing that approach. That’s awkward!

That is not to say that the Master handler will fail in the awkward presentation of the sequence. Indeed, he (or she) spotted it early in the morning when picking up the course map; and he fretted through the fancy handling to precue the turn at jump #3 and draw the dog around for a square look at jump #4 without earning the refusal.

[What! A refusal on a jump? See the Google-Proof Trivia Contest, below.]

The dog’s managed path doesn’t much resemble the whimsical line drawn by the Clean Run Course Designer.

Fixing the Awkward

Sometimes the awkward moment is caused by the imposition of a new sequence on an existing course. This is a practice that we call “nesting”. I’m a big advocate of minimal course changes so that the day can move along in a timely manner. But we don’t need to be lazy about it. There are subtle tweaks that we can take that really don’t constitute a lot of equipment movement and will make the course more generous and flowing.

All I’ve done here is given a modest rotation to jumps #3 and #4; and it’s turned the awkward into an interesting little handling sequence. I even threw in a pipe tunnel under the A-frame to scare everyone (twice). Nobody really minds a handling challenge when the dog’s path has flow and he can be, for the most part, released to work.

Bud’s Google Proof Trivia Contest

Can a dog commit a refusal on a jump in the TDAA?


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.


4 Responses to “Awkward”

  1. Amy S Says:

    Do we answer google proof here? I’ve never actually known the answer, but the answer is no, no refusals on a jump. Contacts and weaves only, and maybe only at the superior level?

  2. Jeff Says:

    Yes, a dog can commit a refusal on a jump (and every other obstacle) in TDAA. However, except for refusals at contact obstacles in the Intermediate and Superior levels, refusals are not called / judged faults in TDAA. (N.B. In some games, a judge may choose to call refusals on a different set of obstacles. Quidditch is such a game, I think; to earn some bonus or other, the dog must be sent to a tire while the handler remains behind a containment line, and refusals of the tire are to be called, negating the bonus.)

  3. Courtney Keys Says:

    Yes, the dog sure can refuse a jump in TDAA. The judges just don’t call it as a fault.

  4. budhouston Says:

    Jeff and Courtney have it right; they didn’t fall for the trick question at all. So for Amy’s sake… yes the dog can commit refusals on all obstacles. In the TDAA we fault the refusal only on contact obstacles and only at the Intermediate and Superior levels.

    Note too Amy, that we do not call refusals on the weave poles. This is very significant for judging purposes. We will fault a wrong entry. But if the dog runs past the weave poles, without making an entry, it’s no harm/no foul and just a waste of time.

    Bud Houston

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