The Border Collie Effect pt 3

I continue publication of my course design notes from more than a dozen years ago. Perhaps this will tantalize another reader to critique the writing without actually bothering to read it.

The design notes continue by focusing on different approaches to designing a course from tabula rasa to finished product.

Design from Drawing Lines

What I want to start with is a simple linear kind of progression. I have a line that goes straight up the center of the field. The course will square out to one side; then resume up the field, square out to the other side of the field, and return back downfield in the same fashion.

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I’ll start just by drawing a line. I’m intentionally making the lines and loops very square. This isn’t a requirement of the scribble a line method. It’s just my approach this very moment.

The next task is to put in my technical obstacles for which I’ll need a judging position. This gives me an area to operate so that I don’t have to run up and down the field chasing a bunch of damned Border Collies to see if they get in the contact zones.

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From the looks of this placement, I’ll probably want to get the performance of the A‑frame first, and then back to the dogwalk. That would leave the teeter as the final technical obstacle to be judged.

Okay, now I’m going to put some obstacles out to shape the dog’s path through the lines I’ve drawn, and to make transitions to the technical obstacles.

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Okay, not really too bad. But I really don’t like the transitional distance from the tire to the weave poles, or from the dogwalk to the jump following.  I also only have 14 obstacles on the course. I need to pick it up to 18-20 and make sure I have the required obstacles. I need a table, and I need a collapsed chute.

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Okay, this is a bit more like it. The placement of the table actually gives me a bit of time to drift back down to judge the performance of the teeter. I’ve also rotated the obstacles in the first leg diverging from the center line so that a couple of traps or options are opened up to the dog. In the transition from jump #3 to the triple there will be some dogs who take a hard look at the weave poles. The handler would be wise to Vee the approach to jump #2 to take the weave poles out of the picture and make a nice smooth transition.

In the turn from the tire to the weave poles jump #3 is presented as an off-course opportunity.

The transition from the weave poles to jump #8 I figure is a major handling challenge. Many handlers may be caught with dog on right for the performance of the weave poles. So they may have to cross behind the dog on the exit from the weave poles to turn the dog to jump #8.

Note that I’ve also rotated the jump between the A-frame and the dogwalk so that it is more fairly presented to the dog. Given that the dog is dismounting the A-frame and trying to get a safe approach to the dogwalk, I don’t think it’s a useful challenge to test of a handler knows how to make the transition “safe”.

The series of jumps from the table to the teeter is really a finesse jumping series. It’s a flat serpentine-like sequence. But off-courses beckon at the A-frame after jump #13, and at jump #2 after jump #17. It’s not terrible hard, but is certainly a suitable challenge to Masters level dogs.

Okay, all the course needs now is a start/finish line, field crew, and a bunch of exhibitors antsy to get a qualifying score. Will they see what was in my head when I designed it? Oh, that’s the least important thing in the world. Knowing your own capabilities and the strengths and weaknesses of your own dog are the keys to solving a course like this.

What I like to believe about the course is that the challenges discovered themselves, with a modest bit of tweaking and rotation of jumps. I did my bit in making the approaches to the contact obstacles, the triple and the tire fair and safe. But I kept to my lines and the challenges sprouted like summer beans. And I really enjoy the subtlety of the challenges.

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time… I don’t know that I ever actually put up this course anywhere. Now I’m kind of interested and would like to give it a try. I have maybe one dog in my household who was alive when I wrote that piece. And don’t you know, when you look at a course you’ll always view it through a “me and my dog” filter. In those days I was running my old boys Bogie and Birdie. They’re long gone <sob>. But naturally, I visualize solving the course with my boy Kory.

Frankly this course is a bunch easier than most of the stuff we’re seeing at the Masters/Excellent levels these days. Is that true?

Anyway… more tomorrow.

Blog93- (Three days in a row!)

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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2 Responses to “The Border Collie Effect pt 3”

  1. Zynischer Says:

    All this talk of Border Collies makes me wonder – how is your BC girl coming on? Are you having fun with her?

    • budhouston Says:

      Thank for asking. Prim is settling down enough now that I’m very optimistic that I’ll be able to put some very good skills on her. And she’s going to be wicked fast.

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