Archive for October, 2013

Petit Prix

October 22, 2013

We’ve just arrived in Greensburg, PA for the beginning of a week that will include my favorite agility competition of the year… the TDAA Petit Prix!

The tournament features ten rounds of games and courses. There will be no sudden death penalties or dismissing any dog from the competition. In each round every dog will earn a score based on the overall placement against the field. When the dust settles… the dog with the most points wins.

Seven games and three standard rounds comprise the competition.

I’m thinking that the TDAA has developed the finest games players in the sport of agility. We can play any game imaginable; and we often do. Agility is not just a matter of “follow the numbers”. Anybody can do that. The TDAA challenges our fans with games of strategy and skill, games of cunning and guile, and games of speed.

The Petit Prix is the national tournament. It’s the one event every year where the best of small agility dogs get together to compete in a mix of games that test a variety of skills.

Obviously, I’m excited by the competition.

Tomorrow we start with the warm-up workshop. A few competitors who come early will spend two days training with me in study of the strategies for the games we’ll be playing in the Petit Prix.

I hope to share results of the Petit Prix on a daily basis here in my blog. I’m hoping that I have energy and effort to live up to this ambition. I’d very much like to publish or point to YouTube accounts of the competition. So, if you plan to be there… send me something to link!

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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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Black Hole Night at Class

October 9, 2013

I had a little fun with class last night. I didn’t do that exercise with the sublime technical undercurrent that I chatted about in my blog a couple days ago. No, like I said, we did something fun, instead.

The premise of “Black Hole Night” is basically this… the dog on the floor is never allowed to go into a pipe tunnel. That’s the basic rule. Okay, if you’re an absolute purist the way the rule is supposed to work is that if the dog goes into a pipe tunnel it’s like being sucked into a black hole (and lost, don’t you know). So the handler is instructed to gather his dog and leave the floor. Okay, so that’s not all that much fun. So I gave everybody a choice. If the dog gets into a tunnel the handler has two choices: 1) End of exercise, go back and sit down and wait until your next turn, or 2) The handler can put a finger on the top of his head and spin around once while saying “Oh my God! A two-headed cow!” I relented on that second rule and allowed my student Beverly to say instead “Oh my Garsh!” (sic) “A two headed-cow!”

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This was the basic set of the floor. The way the evening went, we started with very simple sequences which got longer and more varied until the end of class. And it was quite a lot of fun. Needless to say there was a lot of spinning and chanting about two-headed cows going on.

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For my Beginner class (week 7 of 8 mind you)… I changed the equipment on the floor slightly. All of these dogs are too novice to deal with a contact obstacle with a tunnel stuffed under it.

By the end of the hour we were doing sequences of about 8 obstacles (weaving our way through the tunnel slalom out to the A-frame and all the way back to the front of the floor. It was fun. It was interesting to note, and completely predictable, that the obstacles for which these novice dogs showed the least focus, were the jumps.

I know there are a lot of places you can go teach your dog agility where they nit pick “foundation” stuff and it’ll be upward of a year before the dog actually gets to start doing agility (sequencing). But I’m not of that ilk. And I say phooey to those boring-assed training regimens.

As a side note, a couple of my Beginner students are true beginners. You know what that means… it means they’ve never trained a dog to do anything and have no concept of the road in front of them. These are also folks who are least likely to do any homework and so they get bound up in the ego-boo of comparing themselves performance-wise to others in class with them who have considerable more experience and are more likely to do their homework. That’s a terrible thing to do to your ego.

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Okay… got a busy month in front of me. TTYL

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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.

Turning Choices

October 6, 2013

Last weekend I was in Grand Junction, CO for an agility seminar. While the participants were largely novice, they were willing and brought along a nice bunch of dogs to work with. I look forward to working with them again.

Did I mention this is my busy season? I’ve tried to stay up on chores and miscellaneous projects around the property. Sometimes I wish I owned two mules and a 14 year old boy. But it’s just me and Marsha. I’d share my list of chores and projects with you. But you know, it’ll just sound like a bunch of work.

Aside from the torture of physical labor I’ve been reviewing courses until my brain turns numb. And you know, I have a trial coming up next weekend (USDAA) and I’m only just now wrapping the course design process with reviewers. I’ll be on the road by Friday, heading for Louisville. Is it Louisville? I’d better check.

I’ve also been continuing to work with my girl Prim. At the moment I’m concentrating on Left and Right, a back-pass, and the weave poles. And I’m enjoying playing with about a 50’ send. She can be amazing.

And, don’t you know, we have the TDAA Petit Prix coming up. This is my favorite event of the year and I’m really looking forward to the competition. Some of the best small dogs and handlers in this country will converge on Latrobe, PA to show their skills. It’s on the calendar (http://tdaanews.wordpress.com/tdaa-events-calendar/). I hope you are planning on coming! I know that I need to write some white paper notes on the games we’ll be playing, and publish them in this web log. Need to get started on that. The Petit Prix is in about three weeks.

As is our tradition, I’ll be heading up two days early for the Petit Prix Warm-up Workshop. It’s packed full. Of course I intend to give everyone a real intense work-out, and get them primed for the competition.

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For my Tuesday night class I have the set of the floor pictured here. There’s something I saw in a course I was reviewing that I’d like to present as a lesson to my students. I’ve talked about it before… the logic of turning direction when a jump presents a choice of turning directions. Just to pick out an obvious example of turning direction: in the sequence pictured above, what direction should the handler turn his dog after jump #3?

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If you follow my writing at all you probably know that I have an analysis I go through to make an informed decision about turning direction. I take into account things like “natural turning direction”, risk, length of path… and as this exercise illustrates: “consequential path”.

This illustration seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. Though surely when some people put their dogs on course they don’t even do the no-brainer analysis.

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It wouldn’t take much to draw some of the other elements of analysis into turning direction analysis. And yet “consequential path” still makes its own powerful argument. Maybe what it really argues for are handling skills.

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It’s late now and I think I’m just going to go to bed. There are some things I leave for solving while I sleep and I need to get to those.

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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.