Mining the ICBM

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.

3 Responses to “Mining the ICBM”

  1. whitewaterwoman Says:

    Hi, Bud: I was intrigued by the South African course so I set it up. Quite a long course with a lot of extremely generous spacing between some of the elements. Here’s a link to video of Belle and me tackling the course.

    • budhouston Says:

      Thanks so much for the video! What most impressed me frankly, is the opening. From a distance you directed your dog through a blind approach in the transition from jump #1 to jump #2. So I’m eager to know what steps you took in your training foundation to train this bit. I’m thinking you mentioned it once before. But this is the trick in action.


      • whitewaterwoman Says:

        Here’s a post about an exercise I created to get the opening:

        Before we ran the course, I tested Belle’s ability to take the back side of the jump when I took a generous lead out, and she was unable to do it. So I spent a little time working the the exercise, and violà! What really surprised me, was that my two older Aussies were also able to pull it off after a little work on the three-jump exercise.

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