Morrow, Cronkite, Wallace and Maddow

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 (http://maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com/) or watch her news program on television.

Pocatello

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

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.

Blog830

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running.  www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

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