Training International Agility Skills; Part 2

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.


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


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.




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



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:

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:

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.

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