Archive for March, 2017

Using the Front of the Ring in Course Design

March 28, 2017

The purpose of the Course Design College topics is to share design tips with all of our judges. Making the teaching point one judge at a time is useful. But sharing with all of our judges is practical.

After a long road trip I’m catching up on TDAA course reviews (and other work as well). I’d like to share with you an important observation about course design for the TDAA.

I got this course for review in an upcoming trial:


Aside from small technical notations, what really jumps out about this course is that the designer pretty much disdained the use of the front of the ring, thereby making a small space even smaller. It’s not really a bad course concept, but the back of the ring feels very cramped. The course designer is asking the handler to demonstrate some fairly technical skills with barely enough room to work.

Don’t you know, we design for some pretty small spaces in the TDAA. A design flaw when you have 10K square feet can be forgiven. Make the same mistake in 2K square feet and the compression can be awesome and unforgiving.

I’m going to redesign this course and barely tweak the placement of the equipment to demonstrate how using the front of the ring might alleviate the compression:


The intention was to demonstrate how using the front of the ring distributes the flow and frankly results in a smoother more balanced design. Note that borders have also been applied to the course map, and course numbering was changed from baseline to Cartesian.

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Distance Progressions

March 12, 2017

Distance training is nearly always a matter of modest and incremental progression. The mission is to teach the dog to work independently, without constant micro-management. I’ve taken the set of our training floor (for this week) to show several possible distance exercises.

Dead-Away Send

By way of example of incremental progression, I’ll show a simple exercise in which the dog is taught a dead-away send into a pipe tunnel.

We have video of the three jumps to tunnel distance progression here:


The dog’s trainer might begin near to the tunnel whilst sending the dog to the performance; gradually backing up with each successful repetition until the send incorporates the jump.


There’s no real reason to limit the objective to a single jump. The training might span more than one or two training sessions with the dog. The dog trainer continues to back up in successive repetitions until the send incorporates two jump.


Not to set too low a bar… the dog’s trainer should take advantage of the patterning implicit in these training sessions. Continue to incrementally add new distance to the send. A three jump send to the tunnel is immodest. But modesty is not our objective.

I went through this progression without discussion of the handler. While the handler isn’t much involved in the performance he (or she) is certainly a part. What the dog’s trainer should contemplate is the “picture” of the handler making the send. This is what I look like when I’m making the send (facing, pointing, focus, lift of the arm, and so forth). This is what I sound like when I’m making the send (timely clear enunciation). This picture is intended to speak to the dog and complete the command phrase.

Certainly if the handler didn’t want the dog to go ahead to the tunnel, the picture would look quite different.

Progressive Lateral

Another type of incremental progression is the lateral distance exercise. A dog’s path in agility tends to work parallel to the dog’s path. But paths can be parallel at a respectable distance. And so the dog trainer’s objective is to earn a lot of respect.

We have video of the pinwheel to the teeter lateral distance progression here:


In this simple sequence the early objective is to turn the dog through a three jump pinwheel, to finish on the teeter. The overall objective is for the dog trainer to send the dog through the pinwheel unattended and commit the dog to the performance of the teeter without hovering over the performance

Note that the handler begins the pinwheel from the “tandem” side, meaning that the handler starts on the side away from the turn and crosses behind the dog on the landing side. The Tandem turn is a handler movement that boosts the dog’s speed and creates separation (and consequently… distance)


Incrementally the dog trainer lengthens the lateral distance he is working, parallel to the dog. In this drawing the original path is drawn in a pale shaded color so you can see how the dog trainer allows the dog to work at a greater distance.

Note too that the handler makes his approach to the first jump at a distance lateral to the dog.


And again, the dog trainer increases his lateral distance to the dog. Again the previous path is shown in a pale shaded color.


Earlier I pointed out that the dog trainer makes the approach to the first jump at a lateral distance. The objective is to give enough room so that when the dog comes up over the jump the handler has room to step and sell the turn without getting caught behind the jump. Now, as the dog turns away to engage the pinwheel the handler layers to the opposite side of the entire pinwheel. The handler works parallel to the dog at a fairly impressive distance.


Just as a bit of proofing we’ve added to the exercise a pipe tunnel that will allow the dog trainer to proof the exercise with a new variable.

Independent Weaves

A variety of independent performance skills might be approached using progression methodology. The weave poles are of particular interest to the dog trainer.

We have video of the 180 weave pole distance progression here:


There’s always a question with the weave poles whether the handler should shape the approach or trust the dog to know his job (get in, and go through).

Begin the progressing training by modestly shaping the approach to the weave poles.


Like all progressions the handler will gradually make the send from farther and farther back down the line of approach. In this exercise the entry is virtually at 180°.


Ultimately the handler should be able to send the dog from an impressive to gain the entry to the weave poles. Note that the dog must learn to collect himself to make the entry in a controlled manner.

Set of the Floor


It should come as no surprise that the set of the floor for these training sessions is based on a National Dog Agility League course. This is the 60′ x 90′ Masters game. The game is “Time Warp”. A dog doing the pinwheel and weave poles without fault and with the handler on the opposite side of the containment line will earn a 10 point bonus. The game is scored Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus.

Kory’s run on this course:

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.