Even Klutzes Have Muscle Memory

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.


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.


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