Archive for April, 2012

The Augean Stables

April 29, 2012

What I’ve been thinking about for several days is the cleaning of the Augean stables by Hercules. It was the fifth of his twelve labors. Legend has it that King Augeas was a wealthy but miserly man. He owned 30,000 oxen. And his stables had not been cleaned for 30 years. What a mess it must have been.

Hercules cleaned the stables in a day. He diverted a nearby river and flushed it through the stables. I can’t help but think that it must have been a considerable eco-disaster at the time… as several million tons of oxen poop washed down the river and presumably out into the Mediterranean Sea.

I’ve spent the past three days cleaning up the tractor barn. It’s been a couple three years since I last gave it a good clean-up; and so it really was a piece of work. This week we have a work-study camp here. This is a fun format that we do every couple of years. There will be several people showing up tomorrow. And then, for the next several days we’ll spend half a day training and playing at agility, and half a day working on various projects on the property.

Marsha has been busy mowing and weed whacking and doing some decorative planting. Tomorrow before folks arrive I’ll tidy up my garden and get a last selection of plants in the ground. This is kind of like spiffing up the house before the cleaning lady arrives. We’ll have plenty of interesting things for our campers to work at.

I’ll try to share with you some of the training that we do. I’d really like to share the work with you as well, but I don’t think I can actually do that.

I’ve been getting a bit of work on my garden. I’ve got a number of plants in (a bit early). And I have a bunch of seeds started, waiting to be transplanted. Through the week of gardening and the weekend cleaning up the tractor shed… I’ve spent evenings working on TDAA course reviews, ‘til the wee small hours. I had a bit of a problem with course reviews I did while in Pocatello (yes, even when I’m on the road I have to keep working)… apparently the hotel WiFi crapped out on me… and several reviews that I thought I had sent back to the designing judges were actually moved to my drafts folder. Because of time sensitivity it caused a bit of a schedule emergency by the time I realized what had happened. Ah, technology.

Calendar Stuff

I spent last weekend at Ohio Air Dogs up in Cleveland. It was a very novice group of handlers and dogs. It was a very promising bunch of dogs; and the handlers were keen to learn a thing or two. With novice players I will set a modest pace so as not to overwhelm. I’ll look forward to seeing all of them come along in the next few years. There is a growth and evolution in the agility that is nearly predictable.

This weekend I got at home. But like I said, I’ve been undertaking the fifth labor.

Next weekend I’m in Columbus for a two-day workshop with ARF. I’m really looking forward to this one. They’ve specifically asked for a discrimination clinic. I’ve already got some fun sequencing challenges kicking around in my head for them.

On the following weekend (indeed, beginning on Thursday) I’ll be leading a TDAA judges’ clinic at Happy Dog Ranch, in Ashland City, TN. It’s a small group of prospective judges, new and recertifying. This will be the first of several workouts on games we’ll be playing at the Petit Prix this year.

I don’t have my calendar directly in front of me… I think the next weekend I’ll be showing my own dogs at a USDAA trial in Indianapolis.

Oh Pocatello

In leaving Pocatello I got a handwritten list of email addresses so I could send everyone (who hadn’t received before) the Jokers Notebook Issue #0. I put it in my jacket pocket and zipped it up. There was no way I was going to lose that list!

Here’s a picture of me wearing the jacket. Unfortunately on the flight from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake City I left the jacket in the overhead storage of the plane. By the time I’d walked all the way across the terminal my next flight was already boarding. Only then I realized I’d left my coat. I tried to make arrangements for them to put it in luggage… but it apparently didn’t work out. Two weeks later, still no jacket.

A Standard Course

This was the course I devised for Wednesday night class and league. I ran it clean with Kory, but I think Beth with her old girl Koda had the best run of the night. It was fun to see her solve every technical bit. With Kory I was fighting to reign him in from the subtle options throughout the course, especially in that swing from the weave poles to the A-frame.

I gambled a bit on some distance work. Off the table I sent Kory out over jump #12 and layered to the opposite side of the dogwalk while he came around. I wanted a pre-position on the landing side of jump #16 to be in position for the wrap at jump #17. You may or may not recall that this wrap is high on my training agenda right now. It wasn’t as neat as I’d have liked it. It’s a work in progress.

I’ll share some of our training sets, below:

The white numbered set above was especially fun. It needed to be a more extensive training set. It’s worth noting that handlers who felt compelled to step in and manage the transitions between the two tunnels had the most difficulty with it. With a bit of trust in the dog the handler could manage the transitions from about the 40′ line.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Scribbled Notes

April 23, 2012

People don’t really train their dogs much in agility, I’ve concluded. They train the dog to a rudimentary understanding of obstacles, then tie the dog to their hips and let ‘er rip. I used to joke that Americans do everything the hard way, and we’re good at it!

On the weekend in Pocatello I got to watch a couple very bright and very athletic Dobermans get “handled” through some daunting technical sequences. I confess that I was the designer of those sequences. And I’m not completely ashamed of myself.

These Dobes sent me into a late night ponder on dog agility existentialism. These were intelligent and powerfully athletic dogs with a keen work ethic. They will not be micromanaged and manipulated like some quick little whip of a Sheltie.

Should the dog’s trainer embark on a mission to teach the dog “independent” performance then strength, intelligence and work ethic will lead to success in agility, rather than struggle and frustration.

The Doberman’s power and stride give the illusion of “mission impossible” in a tightly turning wending way. The proposition is balanced by the dog’s innate intelligence. If you tell him, in advance, as mission statement that he will turn tight, it’s a simple task for the athletic dog.

The language to give instruction to the dog is foundation.

With this in mind I’m back to writing a volume for The Jokers Notebook. I want to focus on very specific skills and the training methods for those skills. Whether the dog we play agility with is a Maltese or a Doberman we should be working on a suite of skills that are calculated to release the dog to independent work.

I’m not losing sight of the concept of the team sport in which the handler has an important job in the partnership. What I’m envisioning is a game in which the handler can communicate course to the dog without continuous handling or micromanagement.

A Pull-Through, Close Turn

I’ve written a suite of exercises for this interesting skill. This is a very difficult skill for a dog with a lot of obstacle focus (consider the powerful Doberman). However, we approach the training mission with a clear vision of what we want the dog to understand in the performance… the dog should return to the handler’s position in a neat and deliberate turn.

Obviously we want the command to be a precue. If the dog knows he’s coming back to the handler neat and quick, then there’s really no reason to hit the turning jump in a bull-rush with foot down on the gas pedal. Sorry if that was a mixed metaphor.

Mostly the exercises I’ve written are scribbled notes. I’ll need a few days to sort them all out. I expect they’ll start my next Jokers Notebook for me.

Truly, what I’m anxious to do is get these set up on the lower field and give everything a good test with my boy Kory. I have some bits I’m not comfortable committing to print, without actually working through them in the course of my own homework.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Independent Performance

April 17, 2012

I do go on about “distance” training; we all know that’s true. At this moment, however, I’m convinced that the label is a distracting and misleading concept. What I’ve envisioned all along is nothing more than independent performance. I need to hoist this above independent performance of a single obstacle… to mean something more like an independent performance of agility.

What if we taught the dog his job so that every single moment and movement and obstacle did not have to be a relentless display of micromanagement?

What if?

It’s been over a year since I wrote the last Joker’s Notebook. It’s time for me to begin anew. I have a new message for an old lesson.

A year ago I sent a free copy of the Joker’s Notebook issue 0 to everyone who participated in the 2011 seminar in Pocatello. I was interested in following up on the success and foibles of those who’ve been doing their homework.

All I can say is “Oy vey!” The common response to my gentle inquiry was: “Oh that’s on my computer.” Or “I opened it once.” Or “I looked at an exercise but couldn’t see where I’d ever need that.”

That last response is especially intriguing to me. I look at foundation skills like an exercise in masonry. We lay the foundation like bricks, side-by-side and layer-by-layer and mortar them firmly with practice and patience. And upon this foundation rests the estate of our agility career.

Please do tell… what brick is not necessary in your foundation?

Course Design, Continued

Sometimes I’ll wrap my head around a course concept and hold it in reserve. I’m only actively judging (and consequently actively course designing) in the TDAA and the USDAA these days. Just those two venues allow an amazing diversity in terms of adapting a course concept.

For example…

Here’s a course I designed in anticipation of a USDAA trial (which was actually canceled, by the way. So I don’t feel shy about showing it). This Masters Jumpers course is a fine romp. The central challenge is basically the avoidance of inviting options with a dog working at full speed.

The design was borrowed from a course that I drew when I first learned of the USDAA’s Masters Challenges Jumpers program, which I’ve included below.

This really isn’t the same course at all. Note that it makes use of combination elements and includes the weave poles.  It is also more technical that the Masters Jumpers course, using more arduous turns and at least one blind/managed approach.

I should show you want this would look like when scaled to TDAA dimensions and philosophy. But I have to move on to other more compelling projects today.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Morrow, Cronkite, Wallace and Maddow

April 14, 2012

Mike Wallace died last week. He was a powerfully honest journalist in the tradition of great American journalists through the years from Edward R. Murrow to Walter Cronkite. The role of the honest journalist is to confront wickedness and injustice and to expose the truths and lies of our times and our lives.

I’ll miss Mike Wallace and the standards that he set. He was one of the great journalists of my generation. He was 60 Minutes!

In the past few years I’ve grown fearful that the honest and ardent journalist has become a thing of the past. The optimism and faith of children of the 50’s and 60’s in America has been dashed by the emergence of hate-filled propagandists the likes of which you’ll see on Fox News every day and all day long; and we see hate mongers like Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and Savage enjoy huge popularity on the radio. Now they will brainwash us. Now they will poison us with lies. And it’s not even considered a crime.

I see a light in the darkness. Her name is Rachel Maddow.

Rachel Maddow is emerging as the most important journalist of the 21st Century. She has a simple quality that is rare in today’s world… tell the truth and be not afraid. In today’s struggle for the heart and soul of America, reporting the truth is as dangerous as it is rare. If the truth conflicts with political partisanship, profits of the already rich or with cherished belief systems… then the messenger is liable to be shot.

We are the ones truly responsible for our government. That is what Democracy means. Before the up and coming national elections we all owe it to ourselves and our children to understand the issues of this election, and what side of political issues is taken by those standing for election.

Want to hear the truth? Just once? Find Rachel Maddow’s blog ( or watch her news program on television.


I’m in Pocatello this weekend leading a three-day handling seminar. In case you are wondering exactly where is Pocatello, it is in Idaho, somewhere very near the top of the world. This is the view from the south side of my hotel (The Best Western CottonTree Inn). It’s a stunning view the likes of which are enjoyed throughout the Rocky Mountains.

This is the third year they’ve had me back up here in Pocatello, at the top of the world. That’s me in this pic, by the way. You can tell because the sign is pointing right at me. I’ll have to accept that this is about as grand a marquee as I will get for my public appearances. You’ll have to trust me… it’s an economy of scale kind of deal.

Last night they took me out for a taste of local culture. The destination was kept secret from me right ‘til the last. Well… it was roller derby. I did learn a thing about roller derby. It comes to me as a bit of surprise that it is a legitimate sport that has rules and everything. It’s a tougher sport than dog agility to be sure. One of the ladies, who was supposed to do all the scoring for her team, was knocked down like 40 times by other women with big hips. While it was held in a soccer arena it was a bit seedier a venue than we’re used to in agility. But there were considerably more spectators; some of them resembling extras in a Mad Max movie!

We should consider adding some element to the agility game in which maybe bar setters or chute fluffers will jump out of their seats and knock down handlers as they pass. It really could add to spectator appeal; or so it seems.

We began the day on Friday with this sequence. You might recognize it from sequences I’ve been playing with over the past couple of weeks. I restored the long “L” approach to the threadle transition from jump #4 into the weave poles. It provided a wonderful opportunity to give the lateral lead out both discussion and training.

The day was largely spent exploring the mechanics of pre-cue turns. And we got to play a bit with combination movements. I apologize for not sharing every last bit with you. It was a very long day.

In case you were wondering… this course resembles a steeplechase only in terms of the obstacles used. I found it far more technical than a steeplechase should ever be.

Day 2 started with this sequence. It led to a day-long exploration of the Front Cross and the Tandem Turn.  I don’t do much lecturing, don’t you know. I rely on solid handling exercises that speak to my teaching points. I got to make some interesting notes in my own “What did I learn today” journal.

Tomorrow I want to begin with the following sequence and study. When I got back to the hotel this afternoon I had to search back through previous writing to find it. So I’ll share that writing with you as well.

April 29, 2006


Misdirection is one of the favorite tools of the course designer. The dog is set on an implicit path towards an obstacle… but the course veers away to another.

Here is a course that shows almost constant misdirection. If you trace the path of the dog it is fairly smooth and flowing. And yet, the dog is constantly offered wrong course opportunities should the dog care to allow the direction of his movement to come to a logical conclusion.

The Opening: #1 to #4

You’ll note also that handling options have been limited. For example, the handler cannot easily V-set the turn from jump #2 to jump #3 in order to line up jump #3 and the A‑frame because of the looming presence of the wrong-course pipe tunnel after jump #2.

However, the handler might V-set the turn from jump #1 to jump #2 in order to take the pipe tunnel out of the picture altogether. This opening is a bit problematic and risky because hard-right dismount of the A-frame. If the handler is caught with dog on right at the A-frame then the dog had better have a pretty good “stick” position at the bottom so that the handler can bend around to redirect the dog to jump #5.

It’s worth remembering that the A-frame is an accelerator. The dog will be about as easy to turn as a bowling ball if the handler is on the side away from the turn.

It could be what the handler really needs in the opening is a K.I.S. approach (Keep It Simple[1]): dog-on-right through the first three obstacles into a Front Cross on the landing side of jump #3.

Midcourse: #4 to #7

In the opening the handler has already considered risk reward scenarios for the A-frame. It will be easier to turn the dog away from the pipe tunnel to jump #5 if the handler is on the dog’s right side. However, if the dog has a pretty good stick at the bottom contact the handler might work the A-frame dog-on-right and then step in front of the dog on the dismount to bend the dog away.

The turn from jump #5 to the pipe tunnel at #6 warrants some discussion. The handler might simply Post Turn the dog to the jump. This is about the weakest signal for a turn the handler might give[2], no matter how logical or intuitive it seems. I’ll leave it to your imagination what all might happen when the handler gives too weak of a signal as the dog is dismounting an accelerating obstacle with a pipe tunnel looming.

The handler could, with dog-on-left use an RFP to convince the dog into the turn. So whether the handler uses a Post Turn (that actually works) or with an RFP for insurance, he makes the approach to jump #5 with the dog on his left side. The handler’s options are now to use a Back/Rear Cross at jump #5 (risking bar down, refusal, or inefficient turn) or a Tandem Turn (landing-side cross). It’s worth pausing a moment to consider the attributes of both of these turns. The Back Cross when well-executed creates a tightened turn on the landing side of the jump. The Tandem tends to sweep wide.

Another approach to solving the dismount of the A-frame would be for the handler to use a Front Cross as the dog comes down. This would at least predispose the handler to the dog’s left side, making the turn to the pipe tunnel at #6 logical to the dog. The difficulty in performance will have to do with the dog’s speed relative to the handler’s speed and, once again, the dog’s ability to stick the bottom performance. The handler cannot cross in front of the dog if the handler isn’t actually in front of the dog.

Midcourse: #7 to #11

This is a lot more difficult than it looks[3]. The tire looming in the dog’s path after jump #8 is an obvious misdirection option. However, it is so obvious that not many handlers will overlook it, and will successfully turn their dogs to jump #9. But that’s where the fun starts. If the handler is on the inside of the curve then the dog will come off of jump #9 looking very hard at the A-frame. And even if the handler successfully turns the dog off of the A-frame if the dogs turn goes too wide then he’ll be thinking of the left side of the tunnel.

For the handler who can outrace his dog, this sequence is no great challenge. It could be and should be solved using slow dog handling (putting turning movements forward of the dog). The handler can simply Front Cross after jump #8 to draw the dog back in line for jumps #9 and #10.

What’s not too obvious is that jumps #8 through #10 line up very nicely for the handler clever enough to set the corner of the approach.

The handler taking the dog out of the pipe tunnel at #6 is faced with a long transitional stretch of real estate and will have to know precisely how to set the corner of approach. The handler might pick up the dog on left after jump #7 and push out for a Post Turn approach. Or, the handler could draw the dog through jump #7 on his right side to set the corner with a Tandem on the flat. In either case the handler is predisposed to the dog’s right side. So, the dog had better have a pretty good directional turn cue for jump #10 or the handler had better be prepared with a deft Back Cross.

The Closing: #11 to #16

There might be several pretty good solutions for the closing. The easiest thing might be to simply layer to the landing side of jump #9 for a Front Cross. Now the handler will have dog-on-left for an easy finish. The most persistent error in this handling plan will be for the handler to prematurely pull to get into position for the landing-side Front Cross, consequently drawing the dog away from the tire, and earning a refusal. A bit of discipline, keeping focus on the tire is not too dear a price to pay.

The “fast dog” handlers are more inclined to keep dog on right from the exit of the pipe tunnel at #11 through jump #14.

It’s worthwhile at jump #14 to reexamine the attributes of the Back Cross and the Tandem Turn. The most important attributes of the Back Cross (cross on the take-off side) is that it creates a tightened turn on the landing side of the jump. The Tandem Turn (cross on the landing side) tends to create a wide sweeping turn. A very high percentage of dogs compelled into the turn with a Back Cross will earn a refusal at jump #15. The Tandem Turn is almost certainly a better option. However, if the dog drifts wide after jump #13… then the handler will actually want to tighten the turn after jump #14.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

[1] I never mention the second “S”

[2] The weakest possible signal would be “talking”.

[3] It’s the kind of sequence that I will very often put in my own courses because it asks of every smart aleck with a Border Collie to prove that the dog has a handler.


April 12, 2012

I’m not much of a fashion icon and that’s for sure. I dress for utility and comfort and wouldn’t know a fashion trend if I sat on one. Here’s a man, for example, who buys three dozen white tube socks all of the precise same size and make and throws away all the old socks all at once when packing the new ones into the drawer.

Lately I’ve resumed the habit of wearing suspenders. More accurately I’ve taken to wearing suspenders in lieu of a belt. Any man that wears both belt and suspenders trundles through life with a honking display of primal insecurity; the fear of losing one’s pants!

In the past few decades I’ve noticed in younger men especially a habit for wearing pants low, in major slippage, and prone to a display of arse cleavage; with the roomy bit that should cover the buttocks sagging half-way down the upper leg like an infant’s poopy diapers. No man with any sense of dignity whatsoever would slough through life in this fashion.

Back in my early 20s I wore suspenders, mostly because a belt wouldn’t really do the trick. I was a lean thing then with narrow hips and no ass to speak of. When using a belt it would have to be cinched mightily, else my pants would droop away like a baggy sock that has lost all its elastic.

Then, as my body assumed the musculature of a mature man, it became an easy and practical matter to wear a belt. A waist subtly slighter than the hips is what makes it work.

I miss the suspenders of my youth. Those were the just-post-hippy days and even mundane things were flamboyant and colorful. I had a pair of suspenders colored like a rainbow; and another like an American flag. I also had neat dress suspenders that attached to buttons on the waistbands of my suits. I loved the button suspenders because I always thought of the ones with metal clips to be cheats, kind of like a clip-on bow tie.

Here I am in my late 50s and I find myself returning to suspenders. While I’d be thrilled to report that my hips and ass have dissolved to a narrow 28”; I honestly can’t tell that lie.

Truth is, the girth of my midsection has overpowered my hips. My belly literally wants to push down the waistband of my trousers to a lower latitude no matter how tightly the belt is cinched. Once again suspenders have become the practical accoutrement.

Nearly my whole wardrobe of trousers will go into a box now. I’ll put a big label on it that says “38″” and should my appetite for exercise ever overbalance my love of ice cream, comfort foods and certain beverages… I may get to open that box and assume the bygone wardrobe.

In the meantime I’ll work at building a comfortable and dignified wardrobe that works with the body I have. And, I’ll wear suspenders.

Course Design

Someone asked what I meant by “bloody minded” in my minor diatribe a day or two ago. To tell you the truth it’s an expression a lady from the U.K. used in a discussion with me about course designs that demand the handler to be an Olympic athlete in order to attend a dog through control challenges on a course. Often these challenges are positioned in opposite corners of the ring with a sharp and fast transition from one to the other. At any rate I took a fanciful liking to the expression. So now it’s mine.

You can just imagine the course designer/agility judge sitting at his computer, smoking a cigar (and complaining about his suspenders), feeling arrogantly superior because he designs a wickedly bloody-minded contraption of a course. After the course runs he’ll point out how a handful of 20-somethings managed the course just dandy; and so “train don’t complain” yadda yadda yadda.

Technical courses are guilty pleasures for me. Here’s a bit I concocted using some of the interesting challenge configurations we see in competition these days. And since I design to my own strengths (as I’ve previously confessed) I try to take care to manage the transitions between technical moments so that the dog can continue to be directed to work without onerous trick ‘n trap while giving the handler a reasonable opportunity to come back together with the dog for the next technical moment.

I guess what I’m after is a sense of course design that puts the old folks in our sport on the same technical footing as the young athletic 20-somethings; allowing the cunning and guile of the aging dog trainer to come to balance with the long legs of young kids. The game is about the training foundation and athletic skill of the dog… and shouldn’t require the same from the handler.

I’ll attempt to explain how that philosophy works in this course. You’ll note that the first technical bit really begins on the dismount from the teeter. The handler pushes the dog into a 270° turn from #7 to #8 while maintaining a position for the pull-through after jump #9 back into the teeth of the discrimination riddle. Now thank heavens the handler can rest a bit while the dog is directed at some distance from jump #11 all the way back to the collapsed tunnel at #15. The handler will be in position for sweetening the approach to the weave poles and will race the dog down the length of the poles to attend yet another pull-through from jump #17 back to the pipe tunnel at #18.

Are you following my logic?

Chances Are

Chances are that I will relent when putting this course into competition. This is a terribly challenging design and should be held back for a super-class that tests mettle against mettle and in which nobody cries about the unfairness of life and not getting a Q. Sounds like a job for the USDAA Masters Challenge class to me!

I admire the wide open simplicity of NADAC-style courses for a fine romp with the dog. So at the back of my mind I’m always trying to incorporate expansive flow into a course. And of course in NADAC we have the most awesome distance trained dogs in our sport.

On the other hand, I dismiss the NADAC notion that agility courses should not have technical challenge.

If you want technical, the USDAA is the venue that will curl the hair on the back of your neck. Often USDAA courses are so relentlessly technical that “releasing the dog to work” is a negligible element of the game. I strive for a design somewhere between the magnificent flow of NADAC and the technical challenge of USDAA.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Mining the ICBM

April 11, 2012

I’ve had this idea for a very long time that if I design sequences for my own training I will in complete subliminal fashion design to my own strengths. This goes against the really basic logic that we should train to our weaknesses.

I go out into the world on a regular basis looking for course maps from competitions around the world for courses that have a special quality. That special quality is something in course that makes your stomach lurch and convinces you immediately that Its Completely Bloody Minded (ICBM)!

What I’ll share with you today is how I steal little bloody minded bits from a course to put them into my own training program. The task was complicated today by the lazy course builder (that’d be me) who wanted to put up a unique floor without moving very much equipment. I have a lot of stuff to do today (getting ready to put it on the road in the morning).

South Africa

I’ve been fascinated for many years by South African courses. Unfortunately on the following course I don’t know what course designer to credit, or where when/where the course was run. The internet source described this as a “South African Agility Qualifier”; though I’m not sure what it qualifies for. It might be the simple Q, or some fanciful competition for their national tournament. Who knows? The important thing is that it’s a fertile ICBM, chocked full of tough bits.

I’ve left the dog’s path on this course showing the transitional distances between obstacles. I love that 36 foot run from the #7 pipe tunnel to the A-frame! You’ll note on this course that some of the least generous transitions are reserved for technical bits… like the opening blind/managed approach to jump #2; the counter-side tunnel option in the transition after the tire; the wrap/pull-through from #11 to #12; and the threadle from #17 to #18.

Note to overlook any interesting moment in the course, after the long racetrack run from the tunnel over the A-frame the handler is challenged with a skip-a-jump riddle entering the #9 to #10 pinwheel. The approach to #10 is blind/managed and the handler has to give the wrong-course #13/18 jump a miss.


Following is a bit from a World Team tryout conducted in 2011. The coursemap doesn’t give information about where the competition was conducted.

Ooh, how do you like that transition from jump #4 to the weave poles at #5? The interesting part of this opening puzzle is the long lateral lead-out. There’s a bit of a calculation that the handler of a fast dog might not be in position to manage the threadle. I don’t want to take away the option for turning the dog to the right at jump #4… but that really is the around-the-barn option.

In many ways this is a lovely lovely course. The course designer has a penchant for threadles however. Note the semi-soft threadle from the panel jump at #11 to jump #12. I’ve always considered the threadle a ridiculous flow-breaking curse on the handler. It’s an invitation to the working dog to stop working for a minute in order to be micro-managed through the improbable moment.

This is certainly not as interesting as the South African course; but a fine source for ICBM mining in any case.

Game of the Week

There’s no way I was going to put every crazy-assed thing I saw in the two courses into one course in my small building. But I did grab some interesting bits. From the South African course I’ve only captured the counter-side tunnel trap on the approach to the counter-side tunnel at #7.

And from the AKC course I’m clearly interested in the threadle to the weave poles. And I threw in a second soft-threadle in the transition from jump #16 to #17.

This is not my proudest moment as a course designer. However, my job as an agility instructor is to prepare my students for the madness of the agility world. And after all, it is only a game. We should approach every moment with a sense of humor.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Private Camp

April 7, 2012

This past week I led a private camp here. It was a small group from Cincinnati. And, they were a lot of fun to work train with.

On Wednesday I also had our evening class; and so I put up for them this Steeplechase-style course:

The floor space I used was a bit smaller than usual, what with campers taking extra crating room in the front of the building, and Marsha conducting beginners training in the back. I think I managed to design an interesting course with reasonably generous big dog spacing in about 4800 ft2.

I can’t put up just a “course” without finding a number of interesting sequences in the set of equipment. I had a bit of fun with these.  In the white numbered sequence just about everyone turned their dogs to the left at jump #6; while the turning direction that actually opened up the approach to jump #8 would have to be to the right.

Here’s a bit more for you. I don’t think we got around to running all of the sequences. But it’s better to have too many than too few. I’m actually not bad at just picking out a sequence to run off the top of my head. The downside of doing it that way is that more often than not I don’t capture the sequence that we ran should we want to revisit it at some time in the future. I’ve been recording working sets for something like fifteen years. It’s been handy to use old lesson plans as an active source (most of those are recorded in the pages of The Just For Fun Agility Notebook).

They Can’t all Be Pretty

I spent my evenings for the most part reviewing TDAA courses. I’m nearly caught up (not). I noted on a course that one of the judges designed that the course was all crammed into one side of the field and it didn’t look very pretty. She replied that it was a sacrifice she made for careful nesting and that “they can’t all be pretty.”

I wrote her back that she probably wouldn’t like it much if her hairdresser said the same thing. I know that sounds like an apples and oranges comparison. Courses are a curious kind of art form. Aside from testing the mettle of the dog and handler team the course should give them a fine romp and a memorable experience. And so the course should be served up in an aesthetically pleasing presentation that has balance and visual appeal.

But that’s just me.

Back-Up Bobber

When the bobber bounces so does Kory.

Pocatello Here I Come!

I’ll be heading off for Pocatello, ID early Thursday morning for a three-day seminar. In all my spare time this past week I’ve been sketching out some fun evaluation sequences. I’ll share them with you after I’ve put them up.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.