Archive for November, 2012

Who is the Top Dog?

November 30, 2012

Only time will tell!

It’s been a hardworking and somewhat bittersweet week. I went back through all the records of the TDAA and identified all the winners of the Petit Prix, by jump height since its inception. We have retroactively conferred upon all of those winners the Teacup National Agility Champions title.

The list of title winners is published here: http://k9tdaa.com/prixresults.php

Bittersweet ~ I have two dogs who are gone over the bridge. Bogie and Birdie had between them five national championships. I miss  my boys.

Hardworking ~ As the league secretary for Top Dog Agility Players I’ve selected two numbered courses and a game (the Minuet) for play. If you would like to play these with us you need to go to www.dogagility.org and download the posting file. It’s a very simple matter: set the course up; play and score it; then report your results.

Since this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, I figured I’d share each of the TDAP events. I’ve cut the standard course to the size of the Queen City competition floor (no actual pressure Erica!) I’ll keep challenging them until they come on board.

113012A86x98 a numbered course

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This is a numbered course, judged under TDAP rules.

Competition shall be conducted by a judge and stewards appointed for specific tasks in conduct of the event. No certification process exists for judges. TDAP will rely on good sense in the selection of experienced persons to perform this task. A judge is initially registered with TDAP upon submitted event results.

The judge or appointed stewards shall observe and signal course or game faults or points. The judge alone will sign off on competition results.

The Event Closing Date is December 21, 2012.

113012B60x90 a game: The Minuet

The Minuet was invented by Bud Houston at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, OH as a physical conditioning exercise for his dogs and a training game for his students. The game was first played in 2001 in Dogwood’s ongoing agility league. On the surface, the Minuet is a simple game with a simple sequence repeated over and over again. In fact, the game will expose every flaw in movement the handler might have as the handler must also repeat his movement over and over again. There will be dropped bars, refusals and even off courses. This game demonstrates a simple principal. Most performance faults are the fault of the handler and not of the dog.

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Briefing

The dog and handler have 50 seconds. Repeat the sequence as a continuous loop until the expiration of time. The dog must go to the table to stop time after the whistle blows to end scoring.

Scoring

The Minuet is scored Points, Then Time.

One point is earned for each completion of the loop. One decimal point is earned for each jump in an uncompleted loop when time expires. For example: In 50 seconds, the dog does 7 complete loops and the first two obstacles in the sequence. The dog’s score shall be 7.2.

If the dog drops a bar, the handler must stop and reset the bar.

If the dog goes off course the current loop is lost. The dog must return to the first obstacle in the loop to resume.

Strategies

Surviving the Minuet requires simple discipline. The handler should work in clean lines through the jumps and show turns only after the dog has committed to each jump. These are simple disciplines that keep the bars up and help prevent refusals. If the handler’s movement gets lazy, something bad is bound to happen.

Please note that in any game with a finite number of possible scores, time to the table will very often determine placement. When the time whistle blows, don’t dawdle. Get to the table as quick as possible.

Qualification

To earn a qualifying score, the dog must score 5 points or more.

113012A70x70 a numbered course

Historical Footnote: This was the first standard course played at the TDAA Petit Prix Eastern Regional in Latrobe, PA on October 26, 2012. The dogs that played on that day will be included in the event results.

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This is a numbered course, judged under the rules of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA). The course requires equipment of the preferred specification. Refer to the rules of the TDAA at: www.k9tdaa.com.

Abridgement to Rules: In this competition, as at the TDAA Petit Prix, event judges are instructed to assign a score of “20” faults for each failure to perform rather than a score of “E”.

Competition shall be conducted by a judge and stewards appointed for specific tasks in conduct of the event. No certification process exists for judges. TDAP will rely on good sense in the selection of experienced persons to perform this task. A judge is initially registered with TDAP upon submitted event results.

The judge or appointed stewards shall observe and signal course or game faults or points. The judge alone will sign off on competition results.

The Event Closing Date is December 21, 2012.

* * *

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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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Thanksgiving

November 22, 2012

This is a time set aside when we might reflect on our good fortune and give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us. I have been blessed with my wife, my friends and family, good neighbors, and my pack of unruly dogs. I have the fortune of my health and my home. I’m keenly aware that not everyone has been blessed with these simple gifts.

For me the celebration is punctuated by the company of family, a feast of turkey and pie, and a bit of entertaining football on the television.

All Work and No Play …

At the risk of becoming a “dull boy” I put my nose down to sending out invitations to agility players across Ohio and Pennsylvania the past several days to join in weekly shared competitions with Top Dog Agility Players. The research was amazing and grueling. You can’t much trust the static lists of “agility clubs”. So I used several intuitive Bing searches to find just about everyone who hosts an agility training community.

This “new venue” isn’t really going to grow very fast. I understand that. Just the idea that there’s a new venue at all makes the brain hurt. Plus it’s the holiday season.

I’ve been waiting a very long time for this. The venue, as a creature of concept, has a colorful history that I may share with you some day. In some ways I’m still waiting for pieces to fall into place. But if they don’t, they don’t. I’ve got it covered. You can’t say I didn’t give it aplenty of chance.

* * *

Yesterday I put aside the work and went out into my training building to put up a new course. I’ve had a couple pretty good workouts with Kory; and even spent a bit of time with our one-year old, Phoenix (I’m teaching him “Left”, since he already has a pretty good understanding of “Right”).  We’ll be attending an AKC trial this weekend up in Zanesville. So it would be nice to look sharp.

I’ve been rebuilding Kory’s contacts. This weekend will be a good test of the protocol.

Matchmaking

Thinking again of Top Dog, one of the real complications in terms of a “world wide” league play is that many people train in small or funny-shaped spaces. I’m committed to the idea that everyone should get to play! That means there’s going to be a bit of a matchmaking puzzle.

Certainly there are plenty of big training centers around the country who have full-sized regulation fields. The full-sized course (100′ by 120′ give or take) will be a regular feature for the League Secretary Picks. But we would also like to accommodate the needs of many smaller fields.

Another complication is the question of equipment. I’m thinking of course of Teacup clubs who may want to engage in TDAP League Play.

I’m pretty sure that it will be good to have course designers out in the world submit interesting courses to put up in the weekly events list. This is the first humble mention. I’ll be proselytizing more fervently before too long.

The Kuliga Puzzle

Just to give you an idea of the complexity of the puzzle… consider the shape of the Kuliga floor (in Cincinnati, Ohio):

The field measures, it appears, 88′ by 53′, with a couple prominent “unusable” areas, and three columns. Now I have a theory, so bear with me on this one. I think it’s possible to use this space for design; and then use that design in fields of comparable size, with none of the obstructions. I’ll demonstrate.

I’ve drawn here a course using regulation sized equipment and reasonably generous spacing.  It’s really not an easy matter. But, if we’re comfortable with the challenge itself… why shouldn’t it work in any field measuring 53′ by 88′, or larger?

Here’s the same course with no trace of Kuliga, except for the field size itself. I could put this up in my own training center.

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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.

Pulling the Trigger

November 16, 2012

Today I pulled the trigger on Top Dog Agility Players. I’m not really ready mind you. My data systems aren’t in place, which is surely a worry. But you should know I’ve waited patiently for a very long time now. I’ve researched it. I’ve refined it.

Here’s the mission statement from the Rules and Regulations:

The purpose of the TDAP is to provide an inexpensive, competitive, games-oriented agility venue for dogs of all sizes without regard to breed or pedigree; and facilitate broad-based league play competition providing a shared experience that spans geographic boundaries.

I’m really looking forward to seeing who wants to come out and play. Frankly, I’d very much like to see clubs all around the world gradually come to compete in the TDAP. Imagine… running the same course as some person in South Africa, another in Norway, and yet another in Japan.

The bit I really am antsy to get working is making field space available for individual competitors to link a YouTube along with their event results. So can you imagine… actually getting to see the person in South Africa, the other in Norway, and that one in Japan running the same course with their dogs that you run with yours? Imagine.

Anyhow

It’s late and I’m tired.

Here’s the Top Dog Agility Players premier event posting:

http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/premier/

Blog883

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.

Designing Games

November 10, 2012

This is a tutorial that is applicable to a variety of games that might be played in the TDAA. The sample happens to be a game called Tunnel Vision. I have presented below both the designer/judge’s course, and the briefing submitted for course review. I’ll have comments on each. My comments below will be written in blue.

To be really fair about this course review, the designer has been given a game that is interesting, but rarely played. Part of our objective in the course review process is to give the rules of the game a good work-out and improve upon our understanding of play, as well as design.

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision is the invention of Darlene Woz, one of the foremost innovators in the field of agility games development. This is the perfect game for clubs that are rich in pipe tunnels and want something really fun and really different to play.

Briefing

Tunnel Vision is played on a course consisting of only pipe tunnels, jumps, and weave poles. The obstacles must be done in the numerical order specified by the judge with these caveats:

•     All obstacles can be taken in either direction.

•     Each clump of tunnels may be performed in any order and in any direction, so long as each of the tunnels is ultimately performed. This could mean that the handler has to adapt his running strategy on the fly if the dog selects a tunnel other than the one intended by the handler.

•     The handler must remain behind the indicated containment line for each group of tunnels.

The judge will specify a separate standard course time for each different skill level competing, for example:

•     Games III:  Large dogs: 40 seconds, Small dogs:45 seconds

•     Games II:   Large dogs: 50 seconds,  Small dogs: 55 seconds

•     Games I:     Large dogs: 60 seconds, Small dogs: 65seconds

If the closing whistle hasn’t blown by the time the dog reaches the jackpot jump (#15 on the sample course), 100 points will be awarded. The dog may then attempt to complete the inner circle of obstacles (sans tunnel groups) for an additional 100 bonus points.

As long as the whistle hasn’t blown by the start of the dog’s inner circle run, the turn may be completed although the dog will finish with some time faults.

Scoring

Tunnel Vision is scored points, minus Faults, Then Time. The winner is the dog with the highest score.

Rules will be used for assigning faults:

•     5 faults for dropped bars or missed weave pole

•     20 faults for wrong-course or failure to perform

•     10 faults for stepping on or over a containment line with one foot

•     20 faults for stepping over a containment line with both feet

•     Refusals are not faulted (no contact obstacles on course)

Any time faults (whole numbers) will be subtracted from the dog’s total score. Any time remaining on the clock (whole numbers) will be added to the dog’s total score.

Qualifying:

Games III:  150 points

Games II:    100 points

Games I:      75 points

* What jumps out at me immediately about the course is that the course designer understands the game and contrived to lay out obstacles to suit the rules of the game. You’ll notice that the sequencing itself, outside of the approaches to the tunnel riddles, is completely contrived and uninteresting. That design is something of a copy of the design given as an example in the Book of Agility Games.

* The most obvious down-side of the design is that it’s almost impossible to nest the design against anything else that might be played on the day. So it’ll cost you a minimum of a half an hour to tear down what was there and build the new course; and a minimum of a half an hour to tear down this one to build the next. You’ve cost everyone a full hour in the conduct of the trial.

* A more interesting and productive approach to course design is to find a nice flowing handling sequence that has already been designed and find the game within the context of that design.  I’ll test that premise…

I went out on my computer and found a random course that I like. That course is right here. 

The course I found was on a different field size than the Tunnel Vision course that was submitted to me for review; so I tweaked it around a bit so that it fit.

After studying the course for a moment I determined to put the Tunnel Vision riddle as you see above. Note that this area is approached (at least) twice in the course. So, rather than having two big areas in this very small floor occupied for the use of the tunnels we use just one space, and approach it twice. [I was thinking about that statement in the description of the game that is for “tunnel rich clubs”. It doesn’t really have to be that way.]

I did some tweaking of the course to give lots of room to approach the tunnel riddle; room to solve; and room to continue once it’s been done.

Unfortunately this course doesn’t really serve as a good Tunnel Vision course. It’s too long; and we have to solve the riddle of the “inner circle” which is taken after the “jackpot” obstacle. So I’ve amended as illustrated below.

You’ll note that I took several obstacles out of play in the white numbered sequence. The original rules of the game leave the impression (intentionally or otherwise) that the dog should run the entire sequence again, sans tunnels. But I seized on the idea of “inner circle” and made a uniquely numbered sequence; so that the obstacles I took out of play are reincorporated into the game.

You have to admit that this is a more interesting kind of sequence than the submitted course. I’m aware that the example in the Book of Agility Games is based on a Jumpers sequence; and the silly writer of the description of the game said “Tunnel Vision is played on a course consisting of only pipe tunnels, jumps, and weave poles”. I think we can move away from that constraint.

* * *

I’m going to gently rewrite the briefing, and discuss the changes I’ve made.

Briefing

Tunnel Vision is played on numbered sequence. The obstacles must be done in the order specified by the judge with these caveats:

•     All obstacles can be taken in either direction.

•     The “clump” of tunnels may be performed in any order and direction, so long as each of the tunnels is ultimately performed.

•     The handler must remain outside the indicated containment lines for each clump of tunnels.

I rewrote the intro paragraph which establishes Tunnel Vision as a Jumpers course. This is a needless constraint. In the bullet list I took out the observation that things will get interesting if the dog chooses the order of tunnel performance, rather than the handler.

The standard course time is based on a path measured by the judge using rates of travel comparable to the standard classes respective to jump height of each dog. The timekeeper will be instructed to blow a whistle at the end of time if the dog has not completed the Jackpot obstacle.

I’ve changed the discussion of course times so that the example course times don’t become a codified requirement of the game. Also I have introduced the idea of the closing “whistle”.

On this course the Jackpot obstacle is the teeter. If the plank has tipped and touched then it has been completed.

The judges briefing should indicate which obstacle is the joker obstacle.

A dog completing the Jackpot obstacle under time earns 100 bonus points. The dog may be directed to the table to stop time; or may be directed to complete the Inner Circle of obstacles for an additional 100 bonus points.

As long as the whistle hasn’t blown by the start of the dog’s inner circle run, the turn may be completed although the dog may finish with some time faults.

Scoring

Tunnel Vision is scored Points, Less Faults, Plus Bonus, Then Time. The winner is the dog with the highest score.

Performance faults will be the same as those used in the standard classes. In addition, faults will be assigned as follows:

  • 10 faults for stepping on or over the containment line with one foot
  • 20 faults for stepping over the containment line with both feet
  • 1 fault for each full second over the course time.

A one point performance bonus will be awarded for each full second under course time.

I’ve removed from scoring the long list of possible performance faults; informing the exhibitor instead that we’ll just use the performance faults that we recognize in the standard classes. This allows the special faults recognized in this class to stand out.

Note that it’s unusual for time to be a matter of faults and bonus. It is an important consideration in this game. As the handler finishes the Jackpot obstacle with his dog he has a choice of going to the table to grab additional bonus points, or go after the “inner circle” for bonus points.

Qualifying

  • Games I ~ a score greater than 95
  • Games II ~ a score greater than 100
  • Games III ~ a score greater than 150

I’m not so sure our qualifying criteria makes great sense. It would be good to see 100 dogs run on the game; with 100 dogs just about everything that can happen, will happen. The Games 1 qualifying criteria was probably too lenient. If the dog has more than one performance fault on course, then he’d better be quick enough to earn bonus points for seconds under course time.

Clearly, no dog who hears the time-keeper’s whistle will qualify. And just as clear, the inner circle is not an optional exercise for the G3 dog.

* * *

I hope this discussion has helped!

The Busy Season

I came off of ten day of travel, work and play attending two TDAA Regional Petit Prix tournaments. I’ll turn my attention back to those tournaments early next week as we study our “Lessons Learned”; and begin planning for next year. Stay tuned eh?

We returned the day before Election Day. You should know that Marsha and I have been busy and involved in this election. Of course we’ve donated money to President Obama’s election campaign and to the DNC. We’ve also made our house available as lodging for volunteers and as a center for telephone canvassing. So on Election Day we joined the troops on the ground for last minute door-to-door canvassing.

For a few days I worked on chores. Chores have no compassion for or understanding of the “Busy Season”. I fixed the door to the chicken coop, for example.

Today begins a Work Study Camp here at Country Dream. Five or six young ladies are here to help out with a couple big chores. They’ll work with me in the morning, and spend the afternoon in agility training. These young ladies by the way are the principal actors in an annual dog training camp at Country Dream called The 4H Teen Dog Experience… or something like that. We make facilities available at a very attractive price. And so they come back to us every year. I’m really looking forward to working with them.

Top Dog Agility Players

You know, my last editorial in the Clean Run Magazine before I sold my share off to Monica Percival was a statement of a dream that dog agility could be inexpensive and affordable enough for just about anybody who owns a dog. I think I’ve finally found the correct model. I’ve continued working at launching this very low-key recreational agility venue.

Refer to my “blog space” for the venue at: http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/. The rules will be published soon. And frankly, even though I’m not completely ready to deal with data management I’ll likely launch the venue at the end of next week.

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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.