Archive for March, 2013

Doesn’t Get Any Better!

March 15, 2013

I’m guessing that Winter is nearly done. Though I haven’t been active on this blog, I have been doing a lot of work, with taxes, with Top Dog Agility Players, and with the Teacup Dogs Agility Association. And the TDAA is really ramping up for the year. I’ve reviewed something like 400 courses in the last couple weeks. It’s work that has to be done and has occupied me from early in the morning to late at night.

Oh, and taxes. Every year I go through this ritual in which I lock myself in my man cave and don’t come out until it’s all done. Okay, so it’s done.

Today is all Top Dog work… and maybe for several more days to come.

Follow along with the Top Dog blog: http://wp.me/p2Pu8l-1q.

The Winter Project

A couple years ago I built a raft, which is basically a wooden frame with six 50-gallon barrels under it. Here’s a picture of it:

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It’s really quite heavy. As you can see I have it hoisted up with a saw horse at each corner. It’s kind of fun to float around on the pond and do some fishing. Kory likes it too. But I’ve found it an unattractive piece of work. So I’ve spent a few idle hours over the winter upgrading the basic features of the raft.

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If it weighed a ton before, it weighs two tons now. I’ve fenced all the corners, added corner seats and painted the whole thing… mostly for the purpose of water proofing. I’m not really done with it at all. I’m going to add a second layer of flooring which will also be water-proofed, and painted a darker color for contrast.  And you’ll be proud to know that the entire raft is built with recycled wood!

It was a real engineering feat to get it up on the John Deere wagon, which I managed to do all by my lonesome. The next engineering feat will be to get it back down to the pond; tip it over to affix the barrels; and then get it in the water.

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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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Besser geht nicht

March 14, 2013

I’d like to share our league courses this week. I’m looking forward to Sunday, and hoping for a sunny day. I was a little whimsical with the course; doing a thing or two you’re not allowed to do in course design for the venues. Let’s face it, this is a Top Dog course. And what we’d like to do is allow our course designers to think, and design, outside the box.

I was faced with a specific puzzle. I wanted a design that would fit in a 70×70 area; and one that would fit in a 50 x 90 area. Unfortunately if you want a course for both, you have to take the lower dimensions on both sides. You wind up with 50 by 70, tops. And here’s what I came up with:

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It’s a fun (looking) little course that makes playful use of pipe tunnels.

At the same time, I want to build a course for a larger area using the equipment here, exactly as set. Here’s what I came up with:

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There are a number of solid training segments to this numbered course. I’m especially interested in the approach my students take to the #5 to #9 sequence. With Kory I’m very likely to be on the approach to the #7 pipe tunnel while trying to direct Kory on the landing side of jump #8. So I don’t really get to handle this. But I’m fairly sure I can talk my way out of it.

In the opening of the course #2 to #3 is a bit interesting too. This might be solved by a solid Front Cross. I’ll take the opportunity to ask Kory to circle behind me in a clock-wise direction. It’s a skill I call “Come By”. We have the reciprocal movement as well in which I ask him to circle behind me in a counter-clockwise direction. And I call this switch.

These skills are becoming routine elements of my teaching now.

Guns

I’m heartsick that we, as a nation, are too sick and retarded to protect ourselves from gun violence. We can’t so much as protect our children.

All guns should be banned, except for maybe hunting rifles. And we should require the purchaser owner to have a hunting license. I’m thinking a new Amendment to the Constitution is what it will take. And maybe we could throw away the one that doesn’t really work.

Truly, we don’t have the will and we don’t have the strength to do the right thing. We are damned to a future of awful violence. We haven’t seen the worst of it yet.

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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.

Internationalization pt 3 ~ Ketschker

March 7, 2013

Okay this movement is all the rage right now. It can be defined as a combination movement: Front Cross followed by a Blind Cross. I’ve been teaching it for about 15years. I originally called it the Mitchell Flip; because the first time I ever saw it was by a student of mine during an RFP[1] exercise. He did this thing that clearly was not an RFP. Though what he did worked in the exercise. Being one never to dismiss a thing that works, I began to study the movement, and then to teach it.

Mitchell went on to train with a smart aleck in the sport who forbade him from using this movement. And so I’ve pretty much trimmed the “Mitchell” from the description of the term and in my own writing now call it the Flip. With some irony I note that the “smart aleck” now, some 15 years later, has incorporate the Flip in her own handling repertoire because she has observed it winning in competition.

I looked back to find where the Flip might have first appeared in my own writing. On my web store, by the way, I have something like five years of unique weekly lesson plans; for three training levels and nested with a weekly league play game. These are documented in the pages of the JFF Agility Notebook; available at: Notebook. Anyhow, here’s a PDF sample page from the October 2000 Notebook: Sample.

About eight years or so ago I got a note from Pati Mah; after she read something I’d written on the Flip to tell me that she had been using the movement for a couple years. So, we really shouldn’t give everything over to the Europeans as the onliest innovators in agility. We’re just slow to adopt in this country.

In the same time period I got a note from somebody in Europe who told me this was a movement they were playing with in Europe, where they call it the Ketschker.

The set of equipment I typically use to teach the Ketschker comes from the opening sequence of a course once used at the AKC Nationals. Correct me if I’m wrong I think it was 1999 or 2000; and I’m pretty sure it was round 4.

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 Do you remember this sequence? Animal Planet covered the event. They showed this bit with Elicia Calhoun and her dog Soni… earning a refusal at the #2 tire. They played that bit over and over again; and she made the same mistake every time. To be fair, she was approaching the riddle as a Vee-Set. Soni went into the fourth round leading the pack. Had Elicia pulled this off, she very likely would have won that year.

The handler starts the Front Cross as the dog commits up through the tire. The handler must pull the dog in the perpendicular transitional line and then commit to the Blind Cross before the dog can actually catch him. The amazing thing about teaching this… most people are successful the first time they every try it. And yet, a big number of them fail when using their default handling plan. Of some 350 masters dogs and their handlers, about 25% of the field failed on this opening.

Only two dogs got to see a Flip to solve this opening at the AKC Nationals that year. And both of them were successful. I even remember the names of the two dogs[2] after all these years.

Video

This YouTube video demonstrates the Ketschker that is used simply to tighten the dog’s turning radius: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-pPuL1agWz4. [Chip, handled by Rosie Ison.]. Note that the handler might simply have drawn the dog on Post. But she gambled, effectively, on the notion that the Post is a softer cue and the dog’s turn might have been much wider than necessary.

Here’s a video complete with schmaltzy music that gives the movement a real workout http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwNSUczy7yo&feature=player_embedded.

Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day

If I were pressed to define what it means I’m not too sure I could come to a definition agreeable to everyone. If you craft a good one, I’ll put it on the Glossary of Agility Terms.

I was going to do a full rant on Internationalization. Indeed, this is third is a series I’ve been working on in anticipation of the Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day Internationalization topic. The first two I wrote were: Part 1; and Part 2.

In a broad sense Internationalization is two-fold: Course challenges, and handling skills. If I sound like I object to the course challenge side of the coin; It is not the challenge itself that I object to. It is the course designer’s bloody-minded approach to placement. Many movements require control position by the handler. That means the handler needs to be right there with his dog to get it done. So imagine that the course designer puts a control position challenge in the upper-right corner of the course map; followed by a diagonal speed building run to the lower-left corner of the ring. Now we’ve created a scenario in which only fast long-legged kids can race from corner to corner keeping pace with their Border Collies. Us old folks are left pitifully out of position just wishing we were there.

Challenge Course

Here’s a very short and interesting course that several clubs are running (under the aegis of Top Dog Agility Players) over the next couple weeks. We’d be delighted if you would join us. Please note… all scores will be aggregated as a single competition. If you want to play drop me a line at Houston.Bud@gmail.com. I’ll send you a score-sheet and give you a heads-up to rules for performance and faults.

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A More Fulsome Grind

This is not a Top Dog course (but could be!) I included this just to make it a more full-length course.

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Course Design College ~ Understanding the Dog’s Path

I’ve been reviewing a lot of courses the past few days. I would very much like to address the course designer’s responsibility for engineering a square and safe approach to contact obstacles.

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This is the kind of thing I’ve been seeing (and way too much of it). Taking the picture at face value you must be thinking “What’s the big deal?” The dog’s path looks perfectly straight and safe for the approach to the dogwalk.

Here’s the problem… the line was drawn by the Clean Run Course Designer. And what you must know is that CRCD is an idiot robot. Note that the corner of approach is out modestly on the left of the jump labeled #2. In truth, there is no corner of approach at all to the jump… you should draw a straight line out of the pipe tunnel through the jump to truly understand the dog’s path.

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This is the dog’s path, more truly rendered. Most dogs will actually manage the up-ramp of the dogwalk just fine. But a dog working at any real speed will get on the ramp out of square and will dump off the ramp, losing footing, about half-way up.

This was not the dog’s fault nor truly the handler’s fault. It was the fault of the course designer.

Most challenges on course are essentially the course designer’s riddle. What is never an appropriate riddle to the competitor is… do you know how to do this without hurting your dog?

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  The problem of approach is really easy enough to fix. The course designer might move the jump more to the south (down); or could rotate the dogwalk in anticipation of the dog’s turning radius.

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All the foregoing being said, this is a perfectly acceptable on-course challenge. The placement of the pipe tunnel will surely protect the dog from too perpendicular an approach from the left side. And now the riddle is a valid one… do you know how to do this without earning the wrong course fault?

And you must know that the dog’s true path favors the wrong course.

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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.


[1] The RFP, don’t you know, can be defined as a combination movement: Front Cross followed by a second Front Cross.

[2] Bogie and Birdie