The End of a Long Stretch

This past weekend I judged a USDAA trial in Ashville, KY. It was a great three-day trial. There are fun and amazing competitors in the area who renew my love of the dog agility game. Amazement, mind you, is provoked not so much by keen top-tier competitors. For me it’s more a matter of the joyful relationships between people and their pups that is fostered by play in this sport. Even when a team is “crashing and burning” by the arbitrary measurement of the rule book, they can show heart and humor and bring a smile to everyone watching. The judge always has the best seat in the house.

And I’m fairly exhausted. My calendar got busy about mid-October and hasn’t relented until just this minute. Even the longest road ends to reveal new roads and fresh destinations.

I’ve lost the sharp edge of discipline with my blog. So I’m challenging myself to repeat an exercise that I did three or four years ago… to publish a blog each day for 100 days. That’s really not as easy as it sounds. So, hang in there with me, and we’ll see if I can’t get it done.

There are some things I’ve been dying to share. I’ll try not to blurt them out all at once… I’ve got to fit 100 days, after all.

Masters Challenge Jumpers

There might be a couple dozen people who recognize the playful use of tunnels in the course from training exercises and games I’ve designed in the past. To be truthful about it, some of the design I hoisted from courses I saw out of South Africa years ago. I apologize for not being able to credit any source of inspiration.

The USDAA’s Masters Challenge classes afford course designers the opportunity to pose absurd and interesting riddles that might seem excessive in a routine titling class. I’m not going far out on a limb to suggest that the USDAA Masters Challenge is a solitary platform for the demonstrating the very best of skill, talent and luck in our sport.

Yes, I’m aware that I used the word “luck” in that sentence. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be good.

Masters Challenge Jumpers

Masters Challenge Jumpers

The transition from jump #4 to jump #5 was clearly the most worrisome moment for most people when walking the course. As it turns out the single obstacle that NQ’d the most teams was jump #6,either as a refusal or as a dropped bar. The most fun bit was the dual back-and-forth puppy cannons from #14 to #15. You’ll probably want to set up this course in the back yard.

I sometimes set up an exercise in seminars that looks a lot like #1 through #6. The exercise is intended to expose the Phantom Blind Cross, an error in which the handler over-rotates his body in the Post, and drops his connection with the dog. This causes the dog to tuck up behind him (as in a Blind Cross) treating the dog to a wrong course into the pipe tunnel (the #14 pipe tunnel on this course).

It wouldn’t be fruitful to treat you to a blow-by-blow of everything that might go wrong on this course. Let’s just say there was plenty of variety and interesting moments, even to those who thought they were home free after the puppy cannon bit. At the end of the day the qualifying rate was solid, surprising and satisfying.

On Another Note

At a trial I was judging in Wisconsin three weekends ago I gently chided a man for getting angry at his dog. The fellow was actually quite a good handler and exciting to watch. But every time he made an error he whirled in anger blaming it all on his dog. I was reminded of this because of my discussion of the Phantom Blind Cross above… on one course the man did exactly as I described… over rotating in a Post Turn and dropping connection with his dog. So, the dog tucked up behind him into a wrong course.

Hunting him down later, I told him he shouldn’t blame everything on his dog, and he shouldn’t be getting mad at a dog that is working his butt off for him. He got a little purple in the face with me and told me he wasn’t angry. My tone was measured and calm… and I told him yes, he was very angry and his dog hit the deck to avoid his wrath.

The man turned his back on me and stalked off. That evening, in the hotel, I had a talk with myself about confronting somebody with anger management issues no matter how gently I did it. I’m always an advocate for the dog.

The last afternoon of the trial this gentleman made a show of praising his dog. It was clearly a somewhat foreign exercise to him. Whether this was for show or for real is unknown to me. Still, I was proud for him that he was trying.

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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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4 Responses to “The End of a Long Stretch”

  1. Bernadette Says:

    That Course looks interesting! Would love to see a video of how it ran. 🙂

  2. Kathy Says:

    I get disheartened by handlers that get angry or give up on their dog during a run that hasn’t gone as planned. Good for you for saying something to this handler. Sounds like you made an impact on him and hopefully his dog will reap the benefits.

  3. Susan Says:

    always enjoy your blogs and your writing style. Interesting story about the ‘angry man’. thanks.

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