Archive for August, 2014

The Lesson Plan

August 31, 2014

I’ll often approach development of a lesson plan with some absurd notion of a challenge that forces me and my students to hone a practical handling or dog training skill. Lately I’ve been preoccupied with the pull/push through course challenge and the use of a Back Pass to solve.


This is the initial sketch. The moment of the Back Pass is clearly in the transition from the weave poles to the blind approach pipe tunnel at #4. I’ve got to chuckle just a bit at the presumption of the handler being forward in the gap as the dog dismounts the weave poles. This demonstrates that I design for my own pre-requisite skill set. A more novice students may struggle both with the send to the tire and the call-through the weave poles required for the handler to have the required forward position.

This sequence calls for a second pull/push through in the transition from the pipe tunnel to the backside of jump #5. Ye gods.


While I might be tempted to do an entire class with a diminutive smattering of obstacles on the floor, it really isn’t very practical. As this lesson plan was put up the week before a three-day agility trial I knew I had to have other equipment on the floor.

This sequence/course begins with a contact obstacle the philosophical underpinnings of which require a whole separate article/blog. Let’s just say for now that it’s a protocol for smoothing impulse control.  I’m tempted to end with a contact obstacle as well.

You’ll note that I’ve changed the nature of the pull/push through challenge. Can’t say I like it too much as it’s more like a threadle and might be solved with a simple Front Cross.

In the design of the lesson plan I can pop this drawing on my printer and head out to the training building to set it up. This is lovely exercise in the hottest part of the summer, requiring a light cotton shirt and a tall iced tea. I’ll take Kory with so that he can follow me around the training building optimistically dropping a tennis ball under my feet while I work.


What ultimately gets set up on the floor is this bit. The transition from jump #6 to the opposite side pipe tunnel suited my desire to test the Back Pass for drawing the dog neatly out of obstacle focus for the push/pull through challenge.

I added the tunnel on the other side of the A-frame for a bit of a discrimination challenge (faced twice, mind you). Last week we had a discussion of and tutorial for teaching the dog to discriminate between tunnel and contact on verbal command only. I don’t expect my students to master a thing on its introduction. But I do remind them of why they’d better get going with the training protocol after I’ve made that introduction.

Jump #14 is a bit of a puzzler as there is a choice of turning directions both of which are challenging in their own way.


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.

The Alchemist

August 31, 2014

I’ve been struggling with the implications of the running Back Pass and a variety of applications that have the handler folding through the rotation to give the dog an early dismount. The more you think about this, the more the whole thing resembles a Blind Cross. Rather than engaging in a mind-numbing attempt to differentiate and dignify the two movements as separate, I’m inclined now to accept that they were related all along and have been held apart only by context.

The Back Pass is a skill taught to the dog; The Blind Cross is a handler movement. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to the Back Pass as a movement. Just be mindful of the difference.

I accept the alchemy of the two concepts bonded not only as relations; but as intrinsically related. The discussion could get exciting on this small point. While I’m a considerable advocate of the blind cross as a handling tool, I have long believed that in the presence of a wrong course option, the blind cross is too weak a signal.


This illustration might be both drastic and obvious. Often enough it’s the not-so-obvious wrong course options that catch up the Blind Cross handler. But the illustration serves (and clearly, there’s a lot of Stevie Wonder in the Blind Cross).


Let’s suppose then that the handler uses his clockwise Back Pass command in the moment before committing to the Cross. The ostensible Blind Cross is set upon a verbal cue and not the dog’s pure response to movement.

Mind that this is a complete swag with an incomplete statistical sampling. Though, don’t you know, in my own house are more dogs that know a Back Pass than I could otherwise name out in the rest of the world. So I’ll test and refine with my own dogs; and call the sampling good enough.

A Note to the Future Agility Guru

The most interesting attribute of the Back Pass as a handling movement is that the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus and into handler focus for a tightly controlled movement around the handler’s body.

On the face of it, one would think that the “tightly controlled movement” is the most important/interesting attribute of the movement. But the clever fellow (Guru in training) will recognize that “drops completely out of obstacle focus” is the amazing and important attribute of the movement.

In the age of “Something Wicked This Way Comes” the Back Pass becomes the canny handler’s solution to pull/push through, backside approach, threadle and other impending demons.

There’s about a dozen of us in the whole world studying the Back Pass. I reckon that in ten years it will be required study by serious students of the game.


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.