Archive for November, 2017

Training International Agility Skills; Part 3

November 16, 2017

This continues the discussion of “International” agility skills in training and competition.

It is inescapable that skills learned in practice for International competition will have application to all forms of agility. In today’s discussion we will use the November 2017 NDAL 50×70 Fast & Fun league course. Fast & Fun suggests a deliberate softening of technical challenges with more of an emphasis on flow and speed.

Judge for yourself:

November 2017 NDAL 50×70 Fast & Fun

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Certainly this course  lives up to its billing. It is fast, with modest challenges, and pretty much allows the dog to move at his best working speed.

The player skilled at international methods isn’t typically concerned with “surviving” a sequence. It is all about the efficiency of the attack. An efficient wrapping turn at a jump, for example, might steal a second from the field. And so these moments are approached with bold calculation.

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The turn from jump #2 to the pipe tunnel at #3 is an opportunity to practice skills which might inspire the dog into a tight wrapping turn on the jump. For our training purposes we will practice a Ketchker in this turn.

The Ketchker is a combination movement which begins with a pre-cue Front Cross which folds neatly into a Blind Cross. Both theory and ambition suggests that the dog will come over the jump already committing into the turn.

I’ll share a video of both training and practice of the Ketchker:

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Another interesting moment in the course is the closing. The turn from jump #18 to #19 is problematic. I’ve drawn two lines on this course to demonstrate how a long and inefficient path (drawn in blue) will measure against a tight and efficient path (in red).

When you walk a course different handling concepts might compete for your attention. The handler might get the neat red line with a Front Cross, especially if the intention to Cross is shown to the dog as a pre-cue.

But we want to practice something just a bit radical. This moment too will be solved with a Ketchker. Rather than a Blind Cross as the second part of the movement, the handler will use a Back Pass. This is not the time to talk about what makes a these different. But they are.

Here’s how it unfolded in practice:

The Competition

Oh, this competition hasn’t been run yet. More than 200 dogs compete in the NDAL 50×70 Fast & Fun each month. Most of the franchise teams report their results on the last day of the month just to give the NDAL Secretary a good reason to stay up all night for a couple days.

When all the results are in, I’ll be sure to share them with you here. We have a bunch of dogs with mad skills. So the extent of my ambition is to post a score in the top 20 of this class.

The handler’s strategy/analysis offered above doesn’t answer all of the riddles on this course. The initial performance of the A-frame both in terms of approach and dismount will be wicked and fun. And the tightness of the turn at jump #16 will be an interesting moment in the course both in terms of how the handler accomplishes the task and… how the handler manages to be in position.  I look forward to seeing how these are solved by our league teams. It is fun to watch the YouTube recordings find inspiration in handlers on the other side of the world solving these same riddles.

Invitation to Play

New clubs are always welcome to join us for play in the NDAL. You can download the November 2017 50×70 Fast & Fun scorekeeping worksheet here:

http://www.dogagility.org/documents/Events/Scoresheet110117B50x70.xls

You still have time to field a team for the November 50×70! A team score is made up of the top five scores from your agility club (whether you run only five dogs, or if you run 50).

Contact us for information on registering a dog or establishing a league franchise.

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Training the Puppy

I could not resist including a video in which we introduced the Ketchker to our young dog Pip in our crowded little basement agility playground:

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

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Training International Agility Skills; Part 2

November 14, 2017

This continues the discussion of “International” agility skills in training and competition. We rely on the International courses played in the NDAL as a basis for training these skills and comparing our own performance with other dogs around the world.

Refer also to this discussion on International agility challenges: Masters Challenge.

Also, for the sake of reference, refer to: Art of the Natural Handler.

August 2017 NDAL 50×50 International

In this study I’m going back to an International course for which I was the “Game Master”, or course designer. I’ve always believed that a course designer will design to their own sense of a rational standard. So in an obscure way, the designer gives himself advantage. In the real world the course designer doesn’t much get to show his own solutions to the riddle. But in the NDAL it’s quite a different matter. Everybody gets to play.

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This is the course that I designed. The chief challenge is a pull-through, which asks the handler to draw the dog between obstacles to get to the next correct obstacle.

The Opening

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The first four obstacles features two “pull-through” challenges. The handling riddle on this course is clearly a matter of how to draw the dog between two inviting/wrong course tunnel entries for the performance of a jump that is set through the narrow passage between them.

On the dismount of the #1 pipe tunnel the handler must draw the dog out of the “cluster” without performance of several inviting wrong course options. And after jump #3, the handler must again draw the dog through that cluster.

Unrelenting

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The course continues in unrelenting fashion. The handler and dog are faced with two more “pull-through” challenges, differentiated only by a change of directions. But that’s what we do in agility… we work the dog both on the right and on the left.

On the approach to the #6 pipe tunnel the dog is faced with a wrong-course jump, and three wrong course pipe tunnel entries.

And, on the dismount of the #6 pipe tunnel all of those wrong course opportunities remain.

A Ripper Closing

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The closing is a bit of a ripper. The final romp begins with yet another pull-through to an extended pinwheel or speed circle all the way around the outside. And the course ends with a hard-aback turn from jump #16 to the closing #17 pipe tunnel. This last bit shouldn’t really be considered too lightly… because the efficiency of that final turn might make a difference in placement.

The Competition

I’ll begin the discussion of how the completion unfolded in the NDAL with my performance with my dog Kory. It’s worth the look to see if I’ve designed the course to my own advantage.

This is Kory, a Border Collie jumping only 16″ on this day (he usually jumps 20″). Kory finished this International course with zero faults in 33.24 seconds:

There’s no question that I relied mainly on a Back Pass to solve the Pull-Through challenges. The dog drops completely out of obstacle focus for a Back Pass, which makes every Pull-Through a “no handling” solution.

The right turn at jump #16 surely cost us a couple seconds. It seemed like a nifty idea when we walked the course. But I should have worked for a tight left turn on this course.

Kory finished in 20th place. So much for advantage.

7th Place

Representing K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma was Flicka, a Border Collie handled by Frances Scriminger. Flicka and Frances finished this course with zero faults, in a time of 29.88 seconds:

Aside from a gratuitous and broken “down stay” at the start (which, all on its own, deserves a long rambling blog about how to start a course)… Frances shows a mastery of lead hand direction of the dog. She drops her hand close to her body to draw her dog past the wrong course options; she lifts her arm when sending her dog away to work. The tight turn at jump #16 was magnificent.

3rd Place

Representing Wicked West Australians in Banjup, Western Australia was Ripley, a Border Collie handled by Nic Ford. Ripley and Nic finished this course with zero faults, in a time of 28.22 seconds:

Having made observations about Frances Scriminger’s arms… I’m nearly baffled by Nic Ford… who appears to be arm-less in her handling of Ripley. Her arms pretty much dangle akimbo except to occasionally flip up to goose her dog forward. To be sure, her footwork is always quite precise and aimed with unerring focus to the course. Nic solved the modest layered distance work on this course, trusting in a parallel path to Ripley.

Worth noting is the very effective turning pre-cue at jump #16; presented to in a backy-uppy Front Cross, a little fist pump, and an odd-sound vocalization.

The Winning Run

The winning dog was Mick, yet another Border Collie, handled by Laurie Bowen. Mick and Laurie finished with course with zero faults, in 27.08 seconds:

Laurie is an unhurried, but precise handler. The attitude of her arms seems to tell the tale. When her arm is down her dog attends her tightly; when the arm comes up Mick works out and away. And, Laurie gives a backy-uppy precue for the tight turn at jump #16, with a bit of drama and emphasis.

I’m slightly fascinated by the backward presentation of the #6 pipe tunnel. Was this a precue for turning tightly left on the dismount?

You can see all of the performances of the August 2017 50×50 below. Most performances are graced with a YouTube recording:

http://www.dogagility.org/Documents/Results/Standings080117B50x50.pdf

Invitation to Play

New clubs are always welcome to join us for play in the NDAL. Note that our courses are forever open to record your dog’s performance. You can download the August 2017 50×50 Masters scorekeeping worksheet here:

http://www.dogagility.org/documents/Events/Scoresheet080117a50x50.xls

This course is always open for play. Your dogs score (and with any luck, a YouTube recording) will be included with the results of this event. However, it’s too late to compete in League Play.

Contact use for information on registering a dog or establishing a league franchise.

Follow us on Facebook

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Training International Agility Skills; Part_1

November 7, 2017

I’m embarking on a study, to be published as a series dedicated to training sets and competition that focus on International challenges in dog agility. The framework for this study will be the courses we run in the National Dog Agility League (NDAL).

Because we run league courses in our own training center, each league course provides a context for training. We are keen to understand the challenges posed and how we might develop and perfect the handling to successfully master those challenges.

Refer also to this discussion on International agility challenges: Masters Challenge.

September 2017 NDAL 50×50 International

It is a peculiar twist that the International League courses are based on a field that measures 50′ by 50′. While less than ideal for true International coursework, it is adequate for training. Note that all of the NDAL leagues are based on “footprint”, or the size of the working area. This league was designed specifically for a club that uses this working space.

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Our study begins with the International league competition from September, on a course Designed by Christina Wakefield.

Breakdown

Our Game Master, Christina Wakefield, did not overwhelm dog and handler with technical challenges. Instead, the design allows the dog to get up a good working speed before presenting a couple very advanced and technical handling challenges.

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The opening, #1 through #6 is reasonably uneventful. The dog starts with a wrong course option to the pipe tunnel after jump #1; and is faced with a modest wrong course option into the opposite side of that same pipe tunnel after the A-frame.

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The dismount of the pipe tunnel calls the dog into a 180º turn back to jump #7. The A-frame presents a very modest wrong course option. Moreover, the handler is presented with a riddle of sides as the dog will be entering a clock-wise three-legged pinwheel.

A more important consideration will be the efficiency of the turn. The handler needs to turn the dog neatly, and possibly pre-cue the dog to the turn.

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The intermezzo sequence #8 through #13 is largely without challenge. After jump #9 the wrong course option to the pipe tunnel is a very real trap for the unwary. Mostly in this sequence the handler will be preoccupied with getting into position to handle the wild ride that follows jump #13.

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On the dismount of the #13 pipe tunnel the handler is faced with a pull-through to a backside to jump #14. Out of the three-legged pinwheel the handler will threadle the dog from jump #16 to #17.

Solving the Course

The International NDAL league is to me a puzzle. Playing to win isn’t really in the wheel-house. But, since this my blog I humbly offer my performances to public scrutiny. That being said, I’ll follow my own efforts with the performances of the dogs and handlers who actually won the competition.

This is Kory, a Border Collie who ran this course with zero faults in a time of 33.13 seconds. Kory finished in 18th place overall:

On this course I made liberal use of the Back Pass. An important attribute of the Back Pass is that the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus, allowing the handler to define a corner of approach. I continue to study this interesting skill… without much input from my contemporaries. I don’t expect it to catch fire in the United States until it comes to us from Europe, in ten years or so.

Meat and Potatoes

This is Chase, a Sheltie handled by Lydia Hofmann, representing Agility Dream Dogs in Albion, NY. Chase and Lydia finished this course with zero faults in a time of 30.04 seconds, finishing in 6th place overall.

I offer this video mostly to demonstrate that good old fashioned “meat & potatoes” handling is often adequate to the task of solving advanced technical challenges.

It’s also worth observing that Chase beat my dog by only three seconds… which represented twelve placement slots. To be sure, speed and efficiency have everything to do with placement.

Power of Pre-Cue

This is Mick, a Border Collie handled by Laurie Bowen, representing Sit, Stay, ‘N Play in Stroudsburg, PA. Mick and Laurie finished this course with zero faults in a time of 28.42 seconds. Mick finished this course in third place.

I’m struck by the constant pre-cue signal that Laurie uses when running Mick. It’s a subtle but simple thing based on the elevation of her lead. When the lead is low it signals Mick to turn in and stay tight and when the lead is high it means to go on and stay out. The consequence is the efficiency of Mick turning to the course. Mick, while fast and keen to work, will beat a faster dog by taking the  more efficient path.

Laurie doesn’t actually give a lot of speed cue by racing her dog and “being in a hurry”.

A Winning Run

This is Ripley, a Border Collie handled by Nic Ford, representing Wicked West Australians in Banjup, Western Australia. Ripley and Nic finished this course with zero faults in 27.62 seconds, finishing in first place.

Nic runs Ripley in an unfrantic manner, but in complete attack mode. Nic is in a hurry.

At jump #4 Nic uses a Ketchker to precue the change of direction to Ripley and tighten his turn; and does so again at the intermezzo turn to the A-frame at jump #11.

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I extracted this picture from the video, so you can see the efficacy of the movement. Ripley is clearly curling into the turn as he’s coming over the bar. To be sure, the handler steals only 10ths of a second with this movement. But those 10ths make the difference between “pretty good” and the “best”.

On the landing side of jump #14 Nic does a layered/landing-side blind… which is pretty bold considering that the approach to jump #14 was a backside. This is a sequence transition worth study and practice.

Invitation to Play

New clubs are always welcome to join us for play in the NDAL. Note that our courses are forever open to record your dog’s performance. You can download the September 2017 50×50 Masters scorekeeping worksheet here:
Scoresheet090117a50x50.xls

Contact us for information on registering a dog or establishing a league franchise.

Follow us on Facebook

Quoth

And Those Who Were Seen Dancing Were Thought To Be Insane By Those Who Could Not Hear the Music.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.