Pinball Jumpers

I think I’ve invented a new game. And I’m calling it “Pinball Jumpers”. The game is directly owed to two basic facts… One, I’ve got the dogwalk in the lower field and don’t feel like schlepping it off nor, for that matter, do I feel like dragging other contact equipment down to the field. Two, this game will allow me to practice and proof my contact training protocol in the context of a game. I suppose I should also thirdly mention that Marsha has mowed the lower field (while I’ve been out of town) and may want to be rewarded for the chore by having some sequence work set up so she can play with her dog (Phoenix).

The “pinball plunger” is represented by the two red numbered obstacles. This part of the course is un-timed, but faults from this un-timed beginning will be added to the dog’s overall score. It’s a Time, Plus Faults game.

The contact training protocol to which I referred above is a simple matter that I expect my dog to stay in a finish position on a contact obstacle until he gets a verbal release from me. I suppose I should design a half dozen or so training sequences using this opening so that I can give it a good work-out.


This entire course is about “cluster” work. A cluster is a multi-sided box or arrangement of obstacles. A dog enters the cluster on a side, and has multiple dismount options from it. In this course, if you do a bit of counting, the dog’s path passes through 11 cluster challenges. Amazing!

I’m sorry I have to drag out a big important-sounding scientific term… but the word for the day is “discombobulation.” One of the hardest things about cluster work is losing one’s bearings or GPS and in clumsy fashion sending the dog out of the cluster in the wrong direction. On this course, owing to the stereo quality of the passages through the clusters the likelihood of a discombobulated handler is heightened to a significant extent.

This course is has the intentional design element that it will not favor the young handler who can out-run his dog. A barely ambulatory handler with good directional skills should probably be able to direct his dog from the 5 jump cluster after solving the opening, through jump #4.


Because it was hot as hell outside with humidity to match, our Tuesday evening class featured this set of obstacles. You’ll note that this set also features two adjoining clusters.


Pinball Jumpers is surely a variation of Power and Speed; and bears a striking resemblance to Louganis as well. I’ll have it in the growing draft of The Book of Agility Games within the week. I’ve struggled over time with the differentiation between primary game and variation. When does a variation become a game of its own and not a footnote of the primary game? A good example is the relationship between Jumpers and Jumpers With Weaves. I actually have an answer to this question so it isn’t completely rhetorical.

I’ll put this game up as a Top Dog game (Secretary’s Pick) within the next few days.

I’ve just come back from yet another TDAA Judges’ Clinic, way up in Knife River, MN. I’ve done a series of these now, and I’m completely exhausted by the work. We have focused to a large extent on the quality of our judging corps and the principles of course design. It is a work in progress.

This weekend Marsha and I are heading up to attend the 2013 OCTA competition of community theater, in Dayton, Ohio. Imagine that! We’re doing something that isn’t doggie related!


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.


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