Scribbled Notes

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.

One Response to “Scribbled Notes”

  1. T.D. Says:

    Can’t wait to see it.

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