The Border Collie Effect pt 4

This is a continuation a discussion of how to create a course from a blank slate from my long ignored course design manuscript.  The scribbled line method in yesterday’s web-log is a tried and true method. And, by the way, it was discussed in Stuart Mah’s Fundamentals of Course Design, published by Clean Run Productions nearly 20 years ago.

Design from Core Constructs

Another approach I take to course design is to begin with a construct that I find particularly fascinating. You know in training with me that I spend a lot of energy in teaching the “Riddle of the Pinwheel”.


Here’s a double pinwheel. I’m not going to make it a training exercise. The obvious thing to do would be to run through it like a figure-eight. Actually, I should be able to visit the elements of the double-pinwheel without requiring everyone to do it in any overt fashion.


Next I’ll add a couple more jumps, to make “Hobday” boxes to join the two pinwheels. The box and the pinwheel are related constructions and I can play with the transitions between the two freely. I’ve also added a doodle drawing to frame the core challenge. Obviously I’ve got too much transitional distance in my “outside the box” loop. I can probably frame that with a tunnel or something.

I also need to figure out where the front of my ring is going to be. And I have to pay a bit of attention to the number of obstacles. Again, I’m shooting for something from 18 to 20.


Okay, I can introduce my core challenge with a simple serpentine down the side. The opening four jumps to the pipe tunnel present just enough challenge that the handler is likely going to be preoccupied with just getting started. So the course will be a great test of mental toughness. The handler must be able to respond to the course following the pipe tunnel.

I borrowed one of the side jumps from the box framing the double pinwheels on the left. I could probably scoot those opening five obstacles more to the right… which would make the off-course opportunity following the third jump more pronounced. But I’m not a mean man, so I won’t. You can bet the dog will see the jump. The handler will have to convince the dog in the turn to jump #4.


This came together rather easily. I added a dummy jump in the transition from jump #14 to jump #15. I also added a new jump and a pipe tunnel following jump #8. I could have done this with just a pipe tunnel. But frankly, I couldn’t get my obstacle count up to 18 without the extra jump.

I rotated the #18 jump just a little bit. It’s an illusion that may cost a few dogs an off-course over jump #11 after jump #17. Just because the #18 jump is rotated 30º sure doesn’t mean that it’s a curling line.

The closing, jump #15 to the end is pretty cruel, mindful that a dog tends curl back to the handler’s position when the handler is behind. The handler will have to either outrun his dog, or find another way to put pressure on the dog’s line on the final outrun.

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves.” – Thomas A. Edison

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time…

Okay, I really belabored the pinwheel without adequately exploring the variety of “core construct” possibilities. For example, this weekend I have a workshop here at my training center. I want to do some work with tunnel/contact discriminations and I have a requirement to put up a progressive sending exercise (exploding line of jumps); and some interesting jumping serpentines. Those are “core constructs” which will dictate the design of the floor.

Also in the course I created above I apparently intentionally included a “dummy” jump. Today I am completely opposed to sticking an otherwise unused obstacle out on the course just to give the dog and handler another opportunity to screw up. It’s a ham-handed design habit that shows little imagination.

And unfortunately, the course doesn’t include all of the required obstacles. Eek!

More tomorrow …

Blog931 – (Four days in a row!)

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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