Archive for May, 2013

Hobday on Steroids

May 23, 2013

I promised to share the Saturday Rollacoaster ride. This was the JWW course put up on Saturday:


There are four Hobday boxes on this course. It is a course that pretty much NQ’d every dog that is actually faster than the handler.

The use of real estate was especially devastating. The course runs the handler from corner to corner up the side; then down the side; then diagonal across the field. From a handling POV the handler must have a presence in or near the box to solve. Try solving this kind of thing from 30 ft away (or more) as I have to do with my dog who is faster than I am.

The audience was enthusiastic on the rare qualifying run. It’s a fun bunch of people in Western PA.

If I were to design such a course for a USDAA Masters Challenge class, I’m sure the course reviewer would ask me to tone it down a bit. Masters Challenge is supposed to be extreme… not crazy.

Without doing a blow-by-blow of the course let me illustrate one little moment in the course. In the dog’s path from jump #7 to jump #8 he is set on a wrong course trajectory to a wrong course at jump #1. In the TDAA, mind you, we require a minimum of 12′ for the handler to solve the wrong course option. So the spacing to solve the wrong course option on this AKC course is pretty much what we ask for in the TDAA. For big fast dogs, it really should be a minimum of 20′. And this “corner-of-the-box” option is presented like 7 times on this course. Good luck with that.

Here’s my run on this course: YouTube.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

A Wild Rollacoaster Ride

May 22, 2013

You know, I’ve seen some nice course design in AKC agility. This venue… I’m sorry, I mean, this agility organization has matured. There are more and more AKC judges out there who design courses that pose interesting central challenges and provide nice flow.

And then there will be weekends like the one I just had showing under a matched pair of judges with an incredible technical streak who manage to humble every driven-dog handler by putting up challenges that only the slower tied-at-the-hip kind of dog will manage to solve.

I’m truly not complaining. I have pretty much decided that for me it will be a long campaign to the MACh because I’m a slow moving arthritic old man and my dog is a driven beast with a great work ethic. Given the qualifying requirements, I’ll be lucky to get to the ACK nationals… ever. I am content in that knowledge. So I approach every every trial weekend like a duffer in golf. The course is a puzzle and I finish happy when I Birdie and just about as happy when go way over par.

The JWW courses from Saturday and Sunday are worth sharing with you, so that you appreciate my definition of “incredibly technical”. I’ll share Sunday’s JWW today. I have a bunch of out of doors chores to do today.

Sunday Rollacoaster

This was the course put up by AKC judge Sherry Jefferson (at Westmorland County Obedience Training Club at B&D in Latrobe, PA). Take a moment to decide how you would try to survive this wild ride.


By my count this course features no fewer than seven wrong course options. An option, mind you, is a course that makes more sense to the dog than the one the judge actually numbered. It is a trap. And at least two of the options are set by gratuitous dummy jumps (as though the 5 naturally occurring options aren’t enough).

There’s not a lot of herk n’ jerk in this course; no wrapping, hard-aback turns, acute angle redirections. This is an important consideration. It means that the dog will get up to full speed when working, and stay there so that every challenge in the course comes at harrowing speed.

Here’s a YouTube of my run with Kory:

We went off-course after jump #17 (stupid gratuitous dummy-jump). Dang… I was already doing my victory dance.

This course was a heap of fun for me. I wish I had it to do over again so that I could have put more urgency in that last left turn after jump #17. Oh well.


Marsha had a very nice weekend with our young boy Phoenix. He’s showing a lot of promise and starting to demonstrate that he’s getting the game. It’s rewarding to see a wild thing like him come along so nicely. He’s actually more steady than Kory was, at the same age. I’m sure she’ll share her exploits on her own blog (

JazzMe UFoo


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

Agility Nerds

May 13, 2013

The weekend before last I had a fun weekend judging USDAA for Sky Blue Events in Indianapolis. They are fun people in that part of the world.

Course design took longer than judging. I worked pretty hard for this trial. I’m mostly enthralled by the problem of “leveling”. That means I want to present to each level of competitor (Starters, Advanced, Masters & Extreme) a course that is appropriate and balanced. I try to have a vision for each level. I had at least one course that my mutterer made me promise to never to do again (the last Masters standard for the record). For the most part though, I loved the courses and watching those Hoosiers solving my riddles.

League Play Game

Okay here’s what we’re playing (from Top Dog, of course).




This is a simple numbered course. If the handler can run the entire course without ever stepping inside the red box, 15 bonus points will be earned. If the handler can run the entire course without ever leaving the red box, 25 bonus points will be earned.

Jumplers is scored: Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus. 0


4″                    60 Seconds
8″                    53 Seconds
12″                  48 Seconds
16″                  43 Seconds
20″+                39 Seconds

If you want to play along with us… click. Visit our web site and see what other courses and games we are running:

The Back Pass

Okay, I have a new agility “movement” for you. There’s not many of us doing it yet. I’ll predict, however, that in ten years it will be a stock movement in the sport of dog agility.

I call it “The Back Pass”. It’s a simple concept: On command, your dog circles your body. The two types of Back Pass are: clockwise, and counter-clockwise. For a couple years I have been studying and practicing the Back Pass and have found a rich variety of possibilities for this movement in agility competition.

In the next few days I will try to video some applications for the Back Pass. Of course I’ll share those with you.

The tricky part that scares the hell out of even experienced dog trainers is that if you ever want to own the Back Pass you’ll actually have to train your dog to circle your body. But I will go out on a limb here and say that it’s just about as complicated as teaching a dog to do the collapsed tunnel. It seems a bit like Mission Impossible at first; but then the dog gets it, and you go on.

Quoth for Agility Nerds

You find the things that you Love, and you love them the most that you can.

~ Wil Wheaton
[Click HERE if you are a nerd.]


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

I Broke the Pull Rope!

May 2, 2013

The long and lingering winter finally released its grip on the world. And so I found myself outside one day in my garden with our ever-faithful tiller. It’s an old machine, actually. Probably been around since the late 60’s; and is in such good shape because it has formerly been owned by persons who valued owning and storing to a greater extent than tilling. Tilling, of course, can be a bit of work.


It took me a couple minutes, yanking away at the pull rope to actually break it. I’ve never actually broke a pull-rope before and it gave me a moment of virile satisfaction that the machine actually broke before I did.

Anyhow, what’s more work than running a roto-tiller? I grabbed myself up a pick and did it the way I used to do when I was younger. I heaved open the dirt and dug a couple trenches. I was satisfied to see that the soil was healthy and full of fat wrigglers. I’ve been amending this soil for years now. So that pleases me.

I’m struck by my ponderous start-up of Top Dog. And you must see the analogy! Here I have a marvelous concept, a machine of great beauty and design. And, it has defied implementation as though I’d broken the pull-rope after just a few good yanks. But, just like my garden I will plant a few frail and optimistic seedlings and see how they grow with just a bit of care and weeding while I go on with the busyness of my life.


Oh I had to share this with you… it is a violet growing in the crook of a tree, at about shoulder-height. I took this picture in my mother-in-laws back yard (Darlene). It is a reminder that beauty and nature are sometimes unexpected.

And Life Goes On

A couple weeks ago now I returned from a weekend running USDAA agility in a marvelous mood. I had a very fun time and began writing in my blog something sappy sounding like “A beautiful morning!” But timing coincided with that awful bombing of the Boston Marathon. I went into a bit of a funk. And a couple days later there was that terrible industrial tragedy down in West, TX. It seemed terribly inappropriate and egocentric for me to gloat and grin about playing a game with a dog while such disasters plague our neighbors.

Life goes on though, don’t you know. While the horror of recent events is bruising to the soul, we have no real choice, you and I, but to go on with our lives unchecked and without fear or particular trepidation. That’s neither bravery nor pluck.

I was impressed by the speed and competence of the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing. Maybe that will be a deterrent to other worthless little anarchist zits. I expect not. We live in a changed world.

A Quest for Perfection

Before going into the last couple trial weekends I appreciate that Marsha has been setting up for me for several weeks some awesomely technical courses. She has an uncanny ability to design things that have little real logic, or flow, or compassion… just like a real agility judge. I’ve written in the past about my propensity for designing within the realm of my own logic. As a consequence I tend to train to my strengths, rather than my weaknesses.

The Velcro game, with the dog tied at your hip, isn’t the game that I play because I really can’t. Don’t get me wrong, back in the day I was a master of this game. Today I have to solve the most gnarly technical challenges with no real warranty that I am going to be anywhere near my dog as I solve them.

The USDAA weekend was an absolute blast. While I was nowhere near perfection, the problem solving part of the game was exhilarating to me. I managed to own two masters gamblers courses and even won the Steeplechase by outlasting all my competition.

We also ran Masters Challenge Jumpers. You know, I’ve heard people complaining about the technical density of these Masters Challenge classes. But I can’t remember having so much fun with a course. I actually got a wrong course, and an “E”, late in the course, in the transition to jump #17. If anything were to change about the game (the USDAA should take note)… it would be in rates of travel. The 4.5 go 5.0 YPS is based on a flow that allows you to release the dog to work. Almost everything in the course that I ran had to do with taking stride off the dog. I think there was only one dog, a very fast and efficiently handled Border Collie who came in under time; and that was by .1 of a second.

The AKC weekend was a different kind of weekend altogether. While I walked away with a couple qualifying scores it was a weekend of one-little-flaw kind of runs. One of the judges, in her course designs ran you from a technical challenge in one corner of the ring to another technical challenge in the long opposite corner of the ring. She was especially fond of the five-and-six sided box with wrong-course option discriminations going in and coming out.

Of course, I was faced with solving these challenges at a magnificent distance. Kory was actually quite amazing. And each “one-little-flaw” was entirely handler. His contacts were solid (thank you Pati Mah!); and he was constantly ready to go and followed my every cue perfectly.

No weekend of competition in agility is complete without coming home with homework. I find that Kory and I have a unique weakness… giving him a direction cue while at a distance as he dismounts a pipe tunnel. This is no big deal for the Velcro handler, who can scoop at the exit and draw the line with movement nearby. I’m already designing a series of exercises to this end.

I also need to add as a developmental/training skill: drawing a static line from a contact obstacle. On two standard courses on the AKC weekend I NQ’d my boy from the dismount of a contact obstacle by earning a refusal (run-by) on the following jump. It’s ironic you know, to survive the snarky technical stuff and then NQ on something that should be simple.

Oh… I had several courses to share with you. But I am on the road at this very minute and didn’t bring any of them with. I’m judging USDAA in Indianapolis for the weekend.

A Beautiful Morning


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.