Archive for October, 2012

Move Over Fast Eddie

October 22, 2012

Most of the discussion below has to do with something I saw doing course review (for the TDAA). I tried to explain to the designing judge a fundamental rule for dogs in motion, that “the dismount is dictated by the approach”.

You probably know that I’ve been working on contacts in my training. This is the bit that I put up on the lower field. I tried to create a course design challenge comparable to the dog’s path problem shown in the first illustration.

The real question is… is it an error in course design or a subtle and cruel riddle intended all along by the evil judge?

Surely, you see it?

Just in case you don’t see it… I’ll help out. The red line coming off the dogwalk is the dog’s true path through jump #5. It won’t take much for the dog to run through the plane of jump #6 to earn the refusal.

I set this sequence up for myself, frankly, because I’d very much like to solve these minor kinds of riddles myself in competition.

Before you can solve the riddle of the dog’s path, you have to see the dog’s path.

I’ve thrown away the sleepy/dreamy line drawn by the Clean Run Course Designer. It was a pretty line, but doesn’t much help our analysis.

The dog’s path from jump #5 to jump #6 is a two-corner transition and requires a two-corner solution. What I was playing with in my own practice of this sequence is using the “come-by” to solve. In the “come-by” I ask my dog to circle my body in a clockwise direction (come, by way of the clock).

However there are a number of interesting compound handler movements that will solve. A handler might get away with a simplex movement (single-corner); but that’s all they’re doing, is getting away with it. The fail rate will be considerably higher than for handlers who see both of the turning corners.

Top Dog Agility Players

I’m working at launching a new, very low-key, recreational agility venue. It has been my dream for many years to develop a recreational approach to agility that is affordable to just about anybody who wants to play. And I think I’ve finally got the correct model.

I’ve started a “blog space” for the venue at: http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/. The rules will be published soon.

Look for more information right here in my ongoing web log. I’ll tell it from my heart here. I’ll tell it from my brain there.

Handling Systems

The Handling System is a notion growing in popularity in the dog agility world. A handling system is a form of branding that dictates the handler’s methods for crafting and conducting the game with his dog using the recipe of some notable authority in the sport.

The subscriber to a handling system can be nearly impossible to teach. The more one-dimensional and dogmatic the system is then the less receptive the subscriber to adopt a balanced and rich repertoire of handling skills. A pity!

The downside of any handling system is that it’s really impossible to put into that recipe the rich abundance of thought and skill and love of that “notable authority.” He cannot give you what he is. He can only sketch out that bleak commercial product.

It’s hard to make an argument against the one true way. Always I’m left wondering why a famous handling system doesn’t allow for finding by scientific curiosity the correct mix of skills and methods for the individual dog. Whatever works is right. Right?

I guess an open-ended system is not a system at all. And without the system we defy the mystique of the guru. More the pity.

Blog880

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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Fast Eddie Option

October 18, 2012

In course design for dog agility I would make an argument for speed-building flow in which the handler can release the dog to work. Each riddle of the course deserves subtle presentation so that the dog is working at a breath-taking romp. Even at full speed, or I should say especially at full speed, the riddle might testify to the analytical skill of the handler as much as the physical prowess of the team.

The handler’s role on the agility team might be defined as communicating the order and direction of the course to the dog. While I like a course that allows the handler to release the dog to work; I’m mindful also that the handler has a job to do to fulfill his role on the team. With this in mind, I’d like to share an interesting riddle:

I’ve left on this short sequence the sleepy-dreamy lines of the Clean Run Course Designer. Taken as a picture this is just about as simple a sequence as you can imagine. What the drawing lacks is a true understanding of the dog’s path. I’ll try to explain.

When analyzing the dog’s path I think in linear terms. I like straight lines, and sharp corners. So in this illustration I’ve added an “X” at the terminal of the opening line to demonstrate where the corner of the turn might be. Please note that this “corner” is variable in nature. The corner may shorten the opening line, or lengthen it based on variables like the speed of the dog, the length of his stride, and the cues of the handler.

What is most important to understand is that the “corner” dictates the approach to the next jump. And the dismount on the next jump is dictated by that approach.

The first corner dictates the approach to jump #3 in this sequence. I’ve put another “X” to represent yet another “corner” after jump #3. I’ve also continued the line to show the wrong-course presentation of the pipe tunnel if the handler doesn’t communicate that change of directions to the dog.

I could launch into a pithy lecture of the one true way to handle this counter-side tunnel discrimination. In my heart I believe that whatever works is right. The handler could do a Front Cross, or pre-cue the turn, or vee-set the approach, Post & Tandem, or Flip the turn (Front Cross+Blind Cross+Tandem/Flick). Frankly, as far as that goes, a big wide sloppy turn after jump #2 would bring the dog neatly to the correct entry to the tunnel.

The handler needs to see this picture of the dog’s path. Knowing that there is a turn after jump #3 is important. I guarantee that just about everyone who loses their dog into the wrong end of the tunnel will be surprised that it was logically presented to the dog.

Before I leave this discussion I must return to my comment above about the variability of the “corner” of a turn. You must know that the corner turned by a Doberman will be very different from the corner turned by a Yorkie. It is clear that the turning radius of the turn might contribute to both a different presentation and a different outcome on course. And for the handler who has taught the dog a tight wrapping pre-cued turn the calculation of the corner will influence the dog’s consequential path.

Temecula to Grand Junction

I’ve been on quite a pace these days. A couple weekends ago I was in Temecula, CA for a TDAA club building event. This seminar/trial format was hosted by Jump’n Canines, run by Cindy Valdez. The site is beautiful, on a high vantage overlooking a nearly tropical desert.

This early morning photo I took (from the side of the agility field) doesn’t really do much justice. You can just make out a half-dozen or so hot air balloons coming up in the cool morning air (center left) in the valley below.

Temecula is about equidistant between San Diego and Los Angeles. I made the mistake of booking my flight through LAX. That means I got to re-experience insanely crowded Los Angeles commuter traffic.

Anyhow, I got home fine… but only got to sleep in my bed for two more nights…then it was off to Grand Junction, CO for a three day handling seminar.

This was a cool seminar as I had more auditors than working spots. It was a nice big group of friendly people, lovely to work with; and I’m just so sorry I don’t have pictures to share. I was at K9 PowerSports run by Geoff Teare. You can find them on the web at: www.k9powersports.com.

After a flight home that had me absolutely sappy… I recovered enough to spend a day running down to Athens, OH to see President Obama on one of his frequent trips through Ohio these days. We stood in the longest line ever in the world, for hours and hours to get in. Ultimately, this was the view I had of the President:

Anyhow, the sound system was good and his speech was inspiring. I think I could have watched it on television though.

I got a good view of that, anyhow.

I’ve been away from my blog for some time. To tell you the truth even when I’m on the road I have to continue working on business. I spent my days in airports and on airplanes reviewing courses for the TDAA, for example. Returning home I note my chores have been neglected. I’m earnestly hoping I have a work/study camp coming up soon. But I’m too tired to look at my calendar.

I got to take a picture when Marsha and I took the dogs out for a family walk this evening. I’ll share:

The rainbow was more spectacular in person I think.

Blog879

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.

Temecula

October 4, 2012

I’m heading out in the morning for a TDAA Club Building event in Temecula, California. Temecula is somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego. I don’t know much more than that.

The Club Building event is an interesting format. It is both seminar and trial. That is, in the context of the seminar all of the games we play and courses we run will be genuine qualifying opportunities. I’m looking forward to making new inroads into California where the sun shines all year long; and there’s lots of small dog agility enthusiasts.

We’re always in an uphill battle getting the TDAA established in a new area. There is a lot of uninformed prejudice about what the TDAA is. The truth of the matter is that the TDAA is the toughest agility venue in the States. Think about it. Our courses are appropriately technical, by level, and there’s only about 8′ to 12′ between obstacles.

Aside from the standard, numbered courses, the TDAA is a game players’ venue. Part of my objective on the weekend will be to make an introduction to a number of our games. I think everyone will have a blast.

Anyhow, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Dear John

Hey John, you know that course we were working on together… for the Petit Prix? I’m so sorry but I’ve now published it in my blog. So we need to move on to something else. I just couldn’t resist setting it up in the building to play with (I won’t be running a dog at the Petit Prix).

It was a lot of fun. Great course. The feature is the concave serpentine, taken twice.

But it was really too small for my boy Kory. So I went down on the lower field and set it up, with some tweaking. This is the course I’ve been using all week to work on our contact protocol.

Here’s a YouTube of me running Kory on this course: http://youtu.be/l4zrYTQGCPE

Blog877

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.