Archive for May, 2012

The Morning Fawn

May 31, 2012

This morning I took the riding lawn mower down to the lower cabin. When I let myself into the fenced yard something in the grass moved. A young fawn bolted and tried to squeeze through the wire fence. She got herself maybe halfway through the 4″ square and became very stuck.

It was a bit of a puzzle. I quickly realized I couldn’t pull her back through the fence, so I went outside of the fence to help her get through.

As I handled her she bleated very loudly a couple times. Just so you know, it sounds kinda like a goat on steroids. The mother deer showed up, but at a distance of 50 or 60 yards. She circled around, but kept that distance.

The fawn held her legs out stiff, and were actually more difficult to get through the fence than the main part of her body. But I got her out. I carried her away, into a small meadow and let her down. Funny, she didn’t run. Instead she folded up and tried to act invisible, even though I was standing right there.

I left her there, and went down to the pond for a bit and did some landscape work around the dock. When I went back up to the cabin the fawn was gone. I presume mom came in and walked her out of there.

I’m sorry I didn’t take my droid with me. I would have liked to get a picture.

An Interesting Sequence

Last night was my last public weekly class in my own training center. After more than twenty years of teaching weekly classes we are moving on to something new and different.

This was one of several sequences I put on the floor. It is subtly more difficult than it looks.

Blog840

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.

Advertisements

CRCD Dog Path Tool ~ Measuring the Course

May 23, 2012

This is a short tutorial on how to use the CRCD Dog Path Tool for course design purposes. The Dog Path Tool is a button icon: The first in the second row on the left side of your screen. This tool has several distinct applications for course design: Freehand drawing (of the dog’s path); Measuring the distance between obstacles; and, Measuring the overall length of a course.

Freehand Drawing

This is a set of equipment laid out on the field. I would like to use the CRCD Dogs Path tool to draw a possible path for the dog. As a course designer, if I’m happy about it in terms of flow and challenge, I will number it and call it a design.

To use the CRCD Dogs Path Tool for freehand drawing, I’ll click on the tool and then:

  1. Make sure that in the drop-down Connection to obstacles list, I’ve selected “Do not connect to obstacles.”
  2. Then click the OK button.

Here I’ve drawn a path for the dog. Note that as you draw you must hold down the left mouse button until the line is completely drawn.

Measuring the Distance Between Obstacles

I’ve gone through and numbered the dog’s path that I had sketched on the course.

The next thing I might want to do is measure the interval distance between obstacles. To do this I could either:

  • Delete the old path, and create a new one, or
  • Right click on the existing path to change it’s properties

To measure interval distances between obstacles the Dog Properties dialog box should be set to:

  • In the Connect to obstacles drop down list, select “Connect to numbers”;
  • In the Jump height widget select a representative jump height. You’ll note that the higher the jump height is set the longer the dog’s turning radius will be measured;
  • In the Number of arrow heads / lengths drop down list select “One per obstacle”;
  • Make sure that the Show path lengths on path checkbox is selected;
  • In the Units list select the measurement you are most comfortable with. When measuring interval distances I like to see either “Decimal Feet”, or “Feet and Inches”;
  • Click the OK button.

This view provides the opportunity to analyze transitional distances between obstacles.  You can move an obstacle (and it’s associated numbers); the interval distance will change even as you move it.

Measuring the overall length of a course

Once all of your equipment is where you want it and you are happy with the interval distances, you can use the CRCD Dogs Path Tool to measure the overall length of your course. You should draw the Start and Finish lines first because the measurement should include the distance between the lines and the start and finish obstacles.

To create the single measuring line you could either:

  • Delete the old path, and create a new one, or
  • Right click on the existing path to change it’s properties

  • In the Connect to obstacles drop down list, make sure “Connect to numbers” is selected;
  • In the Jump height widget select a representative jump height;
  • In the Number of arrow heads / lengths drop down list select “One for whole path”;
  • Make sure that the Show path lengths on path checkbox is selected;
  • In the Units list select the most meaningful measurement. When measuring the length of a course I’ll use “Yards”;
  • Click the OK button.

The measurement can sometimes be hard to find. You may have to move around obstacle numbers in case the measurement number is hiding under it. In this drawing you’ll find the notation of “149” yards in the space between the #10 and #19 jumps.

Note, by the way, that the Start and Finish lines have been drawn with some contemplation as to where the timekeeper should sit to get a clear view of both lines.

Breakdown Training Model

I had intended to write today about a training/teaching model that I call “Breakdown”. This course is based on specific challenges from a USDAA Grand Prix course that someone sent to me.

However, one of my TDAA judges sent a request that I explain how to use the Clean Run Course Designer Dogs Path tool to measure a course. I could take the hour or so it would take to tutor her on this… or I could share the tutorial with the entire TDAA Judges corps. I opt for the latter. This blog then is dedicated to the TDAA Course Design College.

Blog838

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.

The Optimism of Spring

May 18, 2012

This is the first part of a three part series. The Optimism of Spring will be followed by: The Carnage of Summer, and The Wistful Regret of Winter.

We think of a garden “plot” as a bit of scraped earth with seeds carefully sown in a masterfully choreographed dance of nature and intent. The master gardener in the minds eye is a green thumbed wizard who is already planning recipes for the abundance of fruit that will be drawn out of the earth by his planning and labors.

Note that “plot” has more than one useful definition.

For me the garden plot is more a calculating scheme much like the planning of some felony robbery where little effort might return undue and undeserved reward. The plot begins about the end of November when the previous year’s garden plot lays failed, weedy, and unyielding, and waiting to be tilled under.

Some years ago I became an advocate of a scheme called “square foot gardening.” It’s an inviting concept designed to eek vegetables arranged in supposed compatible harmony from every square inch of available earth. I’m only now ready to admit that these gardens are almost impossible to tend, being densely plotted and incredibly labor intensive to weed. It might as well be called “square foot weeding”.

The gardeners’ scheme unfolds with careful calculations of square footage, the “footprint” of an individual plant, and the interval distance required between each and every until a picture unfolds like a pattern on a woven cloth, intricate and geometric. The plan must include engineering of irrigation and the distribution of water so that each plant will get its’ share, and none will be drowned.

My own diabolical plot hatched this past winter is to put a fair share of my garden in containers; and in the tilled earth I will give big expanses between each plant, making them easy to hoe. I will rely on some partnership with the almighty to water my garden when obligations of business and my favorite hobby carry me away from home.

Tending the garden becomes a matter for New Year’s resolutions. The idea of careful maintenance of these plants is in immediate conflict with my working schedule which might have me out of town for weeks on end during my busy season, which is predictably the very busy season of a garden.

I’ll let you know.

Circular Logic

While contemplating the silliness of World Team/International course design, I heard this wheedling voice at the back of my head… “Train, don’t complain.” Okay, fine then.

I immediately took my boy out into the training building and introduced him to a new command. I called it “Circle!” mostly because it has a distinct sound and seemed fitting for a distinct, new skill. The performance I’m trying to teach is for my dog to go around a jump, and take the jump coming towards me. This picture optimistically shows the handler at about 15 or 18′. To be very honest, after a couple of days I’m more at 15 or 18″.

Always uppermost on my mind is training my dog for an independent performance. So these blind/managed approaches might become, simply, blind approaches. The “Blind approach,” to my mind, means simply that there’s no natural or intuitive approach to the next correct obstacle, and so the dog cannot be released to work (which to me is the essence of dog agility.)

If I can actually teach my dog this skill I will not have to manage my dog through these moments of silly course design and can actually release him to work. The first essential rule of distance training is that the dog must understand his job. This then is a new kind of job.

I’ll let you know.

Blog838

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.

Clicker Training Abstinence for the Un-neutered Dog

May 17, 2012

On a list I belong to someone posted an earnest question about when/at what age a dog should be neutered. She was immediately pounced on by a number of people who simply do not believe in neuter/spay. One person even suggested that “abstinence” is the correct and proper way to go.

I intend to be on top of this important and insightful new trend as a dog training topic. Even now I am working through an excruciatingly granular clicker-training regimen to convince a boy dog that he should back away from bitch; DO NOT GO THERE! If I can get this published before Susan Garret gets to it (and turns it into an industry)… then certainly I’ll be able to retire both my debt, and my body.

The clicker seems to be the clear instrument of choice. Or, should I go with a shock collar?

Thanks to Susan Mottice who provided the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahq8x6-AEr0&feature=youtu.be

Wednesday Night Training

I slightly built off of the previous week’s set of the floor. My intention was mostly to give my students some work on the pinwheel. We also got a good workout with the tunnel/dogwalk discrimination at the back of the floor.

Also ~ With Kory

I have my ongoing training objectives with Kory dog. The thing that captures my most passionate interest at the moment is strengthening the power of verbal directions when my dog is coming towards me. Just as background… when at a distance moving forward or lateral his response to verbal directionals is nearly perfect. But, when coming towards me the directionals lose power. I’ll attempt to illustrate:

In this rather simple scenario I release him with a simple Jump! Left! Note that the “Left!” command is a precue; which means I’m telling him before he actually gets to jump #1 that I would like him to make the turn as he comes over.

Because he’s coming towards me the tire is drawn into his focus washing out the simple directive to turn.

The training protocol I’m working with is a simple back-chaining of my starting position. I use the usual simple tools of the dog trainer… he gets a good marker and a game of tug when he gets the mission; and pretty much nothing when he doesn’t get it.

If I expand the sequence I have two moments in which he’s coming towards me that demand a directional command. The first is the bit we’ve practice already, turning from jump #3 to #4. And the next is in the turn from jump #6 to #7.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Blog837

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.

Chamber of Horrors

May 16, 2012

A friend sent me a few courses from the AKC World Team Tryouts in Hopkins, MN. In general these were more technical than the usual offering on an AKC weekend. You might expect that from a “World Team Tryout”… dontcha know.

I stumbled across one course that literally made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. So I must share with you.

This is a course designed by Anne Riba, a judge from northern Illinois. A modest course analysis exposes these technical challenges:

  • Blind/managed approach from #1 to #2 (yep, it starts right out with a demand for micromanagement)
  • A pull-through blind/managed approach from the teeter at #4 to jump #5.
  • A counter-side tunnel discrimination at #9.
  • A rip-saw turn out of the pipe tunnel at #9.
  • A two-jump directional discrimination on the dismount of the dogwalk at #11 (clearly favors dogs with 2o2o contacts; deadly to dogs with running contacts).
  • A tight pull-through from jump #12 to the A-frame at #13.
  • A perpendicular approach to the entry-side weave poles (out of a wrong course trap).

There are two places where one can actually release the dog to work. The first is a two obstacle sequence (#7 to #8); and the next/last is a two-obstacle sequence (#16 to #17).

Where have all the flowers gone?

As a strictly philosophical matter, I really don’t like this course. I’ve invested a lot in teaching my dog to work independently without constant micro-management. This is a course in which a dog with superb independent working skills is of no value whatsoever.

The trend to ridiculously technical has been mostly a USDAA thing the past few years. I’ve noticed that AKC courses—at least where I’ve been showing—tend to be more thoughtful with flow that allows the dog to get up working at full speed so even subtle challenges require spot-on timing on the part of the handler. Consequently, I was surprised to see this chamber of horrors.

Where are we going as a sport? I know for sure that no-one really looks to me for the philosophical underpinnings for course design. I’ll vote with my pocket-book.

I apologize to Anne Riba for the tough review. I know that course reviewers are a powerful influence on what the AKC judge puts up in the world. The role of the course reviewer should be to save the designing judge, not to damn her.

Yes Erica, I Agree

I’ve been remiss on keeping up with my blog. It kinda works like this… I’ve had a long string of weekend obligations. So when I get home I’m caught up in chores and work obligations related to the TDAA.

This past weekend I was in Tennessee leading a TDAA judges clinic. This is ostensibly a 7-1/2 hour drive each way. The return trip was pretty awful. There was a huge rain system… and I was driving along with it; so I couldn’t get out from under it at all. You’ll remember that last year I totaled my Suburban and nearly killed myself. Thus today I’m a more cautious driver in funky weather. I had a recurrent image of hydroplaning so I slowed down about 15 MPH below what I might be driving on a dry road.

Apparently not everyone was driving cautiously. Early in the afternoon I got caught up in a huge highway backup in which I traveled about three miles in three hours. There was apparently a multi-car pipe-up somewhere ahead.

Later in the day I ran into another stopped traffic scene; again, a multi-car accident some miles ahead of me. This time I find myself near a “No U-Turn” crossing. I promptly took the U-turn, drove back about six miles and went off the Interstate and found a country road. After about 30 miles of my Garmin insisting that I take a U-turn to go back to join the stopped traffic, it finally plotted a course forward. I got home at 1:30 in the morning.

In the spirit of Live to Run Again, I spent the trip listening to the first two books of the Hunger Games trilogy. The second book finished neatly as I arrived home.

Blog836

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.

Give Me My Rat!!

May 9, 2012

After work study camp, something over a week ago now, I went up to Cleveland for a two-day seminar at Ohio Air Dogs. And then this weekend past I was in Columbus for a two-day at ARF. I only got a couple days at home. Today I drove to Nashville, TN. I’ll be starting a TDAA four-day judging clinic at Happy Dog Ranch. As I look at my calendar my weekends are fairly booked for quite awhile…

In my days at home, when I’m not traveling or giving a seminar somewhere, I stay pretty busy with chores around the property. I have my garden in. I think I’ll expand it a little bit this next week. It’s been a strange wet start to the spring. I also moved a number of trees here and there on the property. I find young seedlings in the late fall that clearly won’t survive where they’re coming up. So I’ll dig them up and find a new home for them in the spring.

The other excitement is that we’ve adopted a ninth chicken. And it has complicated my life. A former agility student, who is also a college professor down in town, hatched an egg in one of her classes. The prospective foster home fell through… and so she got in touch to see if I wanted the baby chick. Unfortunately all of my growing chickens, nearly full size now, are completely cannibalistic so I have to raise the chick in segregation. And like adult chickens, baby chickens are idiots, only more so.

Oh, I have to tell this story… at ARF this past weekend I loaned a young lady Kory to run in an exercise because her dog came up lame or sick or something. I hander her Kory’s rat and told her to have a game of tug with him as reward when they were done with the sequence. She asked if he had a word to drop it and give it to her. I told her “Just tell him ‘Give me my rat!’” It was really fun to watch as they were done. He tugged with her and she said “Give me my rat!”… over and over again; because he tugged more furiously and just would not let go. Truth be known… that’s what I tell him when I want him to continue tugging. Like I said, it was fun to watch.

I should have my camera/smartphone ready as I travel. This morning as I bumped along the shores of the Ohio River driving across Route 7, I saw a station wagon planted, three-quarters buried in somebody’s front yard down around Ironton. Maybe I’ll get a picture of it on the way back through.

Sketch of a Lesson Plan

I left Marsha with this set of the floor… and no numbered sequences. She had to teach the Wednesday night classes.

The bombshell of the evening is that Marsha announced that we will discontinue operating as a training center. After something like 20 years of teaching classes I’m ready to call it quits.

We’d like to make the facility available as something of a “social club” for local agility fans. Our vision is that it will be more of a community thing; but clearly without the structured classes that is so much a part of my blood. I think that many people want structure, and teaching, and mentoring. We’ll see how it goes. There’s plenty of structure across the river. But from now on, I’m just going to be one of the guys.

I intend to change the set of the building every week; and make available training sequences. And I’ll plan on training with whoever wants to show up on Wednesday evenings. It will be a bit of a different relationship.

We’ll see how it goes. It could be that in a month, it’ll just be me and Marsha training out there.

Blog835

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.

Even Klutzes Have Muscle Memory

May 2, 2012

This week we have a work-study camp going on. That means we train for about 4 hours in the morning, and do general work on the property for four hours in the afternoon. I also have classes this evening. As you can imagine, the week is really wearing me out. But mostly it’s work that I enjoy.

With one of my campers I was explaining how to make an awkward movement more sublime. I told her that she has deeply entrenched muscle memory, without much benefit to performance. She told me “well I’m a klutz!” to which I responded… “Even klutzes have muscle memory!” I just thought you should understand the origin of the phrase and notion.

Naturally I’m thinking about my upcoming seminar with ARF, in Columbus, this weekend. They want to do some “discrimination” work. And so I’m practicing up on some interesting sequences that I’ll subject on my campers and, ultimately, my class this evening. I’ll share with you the set of the floor:

When two obstacles are placed in close proximity you have what is called in our sport a “discrimination challenge”. What you should notice in this exercise is that one is a bit of a three-headed beast. We also have the jump out to the dog’s left, making this a three-part discrimination.

As it turned out this exercise with my campers became something of a discussion on the efficacy and adequacy of a lead-out. For some reason in our sport most handlers like to take a lead-out on every sequence even when the lead-out has no real advantage or purpose, and often raises risk. In this sequence I’d love to just release the dog from the approach to jump #1 and apply good pressure out to the pipe tunnel. The farther forward the dog gets, the greater the handler’s advantage in real estate. If you don’t see it… I can’t much explain it.

This bit begins with a tough turn, possibly pre-cued, from jump #2 to the pipe tunnel at #3. What many handlers will do to manage (micro-manage really) the turn from the pipe tunnel to the dog walk is run to the exit of the pipe tunnel then flap their arms around over their dog’s head as the dog comes out of the pipe tunnel. What I try to train my students to do is step to the right side of the entry of the pipe tunnel and then make the presentation of the dogwalk from 12′ away. The dog needs the handler on the dismount much more than he needs the handler on the approach.

This sequence has a neat little handling sequence on the dismount of the dogwalk. I’ll challenge my evening students to layer to the opposite side of the dogwalk as the dog works away on the closing jumps.

This sequence features an interesting transition from the pipe tunnel at #3 to the dogwalk. I teach this as a robust movement that has the dog on right on the exit of the pipe tunnel, using a Tandem Turn to flip the dog away for a square approach to the dogwalk. It’s a fun movement. Can you do it?

Finally we make a simple approach to the dogwalk. It might be that the handler will need to know an RFP for the approach or, it could be a simple test of the dogs understanding of the verb that cues the obstacle. I find that very few dogs really understand the names of obstacles. However, the exercise won’t really be as dire as it looks on the surface.

Again, the dismount of the dogwalk features an interesting handing sequence. The handler needs a neat Front Cross on the dismount of the dogwalk.

Blog833

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.