Archive for July, 2022

Handling Plan for a Novice Course

July 7, 2022

You have spent considerable time training the young dog, preparing for competition. In your first time in the ring you are likely to be presented with a course that is less complex than the sequencing that you have been practicing.

That being said, let’s take nothing for granted. Allow me to share with you a Novice course that was recently played in competition.

This is a tough course for novice dogs, and probably presents an inappropriate challenge. What strikes me immediately is the wrong-course trap presented to the dog after jump #4. This trap features two contact obstacles, with the wrong-course A‑frame inviting and compelling to the dog.

The handler who has spent time teaching the dog skills for independent performance must learn to seek out the control position. On this course I have marked the control position with a big red “X” after jump #4. The handler’s job here will be to turn the dog—away from the A-frame—to address the teeter. The handling plan must obtain that objective.

I want to say straightaway that I will not do a lead-out with a Novice dog. My rule has ever been that the dog must demonstrate to me that I have to do the lead-out. The day that he burns me in competition I’ll give my dog a grin and a wink and there foreverafter incorporate the lead-out. Until that day, we will always wind up and go.

You’ll note that I begin this course with a Back Pass. This is a sling-shot opening that starts the course off with vibrant movement. [The Back Pass was introduced in the Joker’s Notebook, module #2

The approach to the tire is at a considerable oblique angle. Students of the Jokers Notebook began practicing an exercise called “Around the Clock” which is specifically intended to teach a dog to seek out and square up for an obtstacle. regardless of the angle of approach.

Here’s a video of the teaching method:

Note that I personally assume a two-on/two-off finish on the dogwalk. We taught our dogs this skill using the Sternberg Method (Both the “Around the Clock” exercise and the Sternberg method were introduced in the Joker’s Notebook, module #3

During the performance of the dogwalk the handler increases lateral distance to the dog. This is what allows the handler to arrive at the control position on this course. The handler must keep pressure on the #3 jump; which is why the red line representing the handler’s movement is drawn straight at the jump. (The concept of progressive lateral distance on contacts was introduced in Joker’s Notebook module #10 but started work in earnest in module #13

Here’s a video of the teaching method for lateral distance on the dogwalk:

Please note that on the course map I’ve shown two lines dismounting the #3 jump. I learned a long time ago in my judging / course designing career that the turning radius for the small dog can be considerably different depending on the size and speed of the dog. The small dog will make a much neater turn that the big dog, and set a trajectory that favors the A-frame to a greater extent than the big dog’s turn.

A Simple Front Cross

The entire handling plan to this point has been to allow the handler to arrive at the control position forward of the dog. As the dog comes over jump #4 the handler, who should be forward of the dog, can conduct the dog into the turn with a simple front cross.

I have long observed an important discipline. I will not say the name of an obstacle until I have the dog’s nose pointed at the obstacle. Where the nose goes, the rest of the dog tends to follow along. This discipline really defines the handler’s job, which is, to get the dog aimed in the right direction.

The Rest of the Course

The rest of the course is relatively straight-forward. Success fill come from keeping good pressure of every obstacle in turn. Both the table and the long jump deserve considerable attention and pressure from the handler. Note that the table doesn’t demand a lead-out from the handler.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston We’re putting together a new class for the Joker’s Notebook series. Let me know if you’re interested in playing with us.