Archive for the ‘Course and Sequence Design’ Category

The Border Collie Effect pt 4

January 29, 2014

This is a continuation a discussion of how to create a course from a blank slate from my long ignored course design manuscript.  The scribbled line method in yesterday’s web-log is a tried and true method. And, by the way, it was discussed in Stuart Mah’s Fundamentals of Course Design, published by Clean Run Productions nearly 20 years ago.

Design from Core Constructs

Another approach I take to course design is to begin with a construct that I find particularly fascinating. You know in training with me that I spend a lot of energy in teaching the “Riddle of the Pinwheel”.


Here’s a double pinwheel. I’m not going to make it a training exercise. The obvious thing to do would be to run through it like a figure-eight. Actually, I should be able to visit the elements of the double-pinwheel without requiring everyone to do it in any overt fashion.


Next I’ll add a couple more jumps, to make “Hobday” boxes to join the two pinwheels. The box and the pinwheel are related constructions and I can play with the transitions between the two freely. I’ve also added a doodle drawing to frame the core challenge. Obviously I’ve got too much transitional distance in my “outside the box” loop. I can probably frame that with a tunnel or something.

I also need to figure out where the front of my ring is going to be. And I have to pay a bit of attention to the number of obstacles. Again, I’m shooting for something from 18 to 20.


Okay, I can introduce my core challenge with a simple serpentine down the side. The opening four jumps to the pipe tunnel present just enough challenge that the handler is likely going to be preoccupied with just getting started. So the course will be a great test of mental toughness. The handler must be able to respond to the course following the pipe tunnel.

I borrowed one of the side jumps from the box framing the double pinwheels on the left. I could probably scoot those opening five obstacles more to the right… which would make the off-course opportunity following the third jump more pronounced. But I’m not a mean man, so I won’t. You can bet the dog will see the jump. The handler will have to convince the dog in the turn to jump #4.


This came together rather easily. I added a dummy jump in the transition from jump #14 to jump #15. I also added a new jump and a pipe tunnel following jump #8. I could have done this with just a pipe tunnel. But frankly, I couldn’t get my obstacle count up to 18 without the extra jump.

I rotated the #18 jump just a little bit. It’s an illusion that may cost a few dogs an off-course over jump #11 after jump #17. Just because the #18 jump is rotated 30º sure doesn’t mean that it’s a curling line.

The closing, jump #15 to the end is pretty cruel, mindful that a dog tends curl back to the handler’s position when the handler is behind. The handler will have to either outrun his dog, or find another way to put pressure on the dog’s line on the final outrun.

“If we did all the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astonish ourselves.” – Thomas A. Edison

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time…

Okay, I really belabored the pinwheel without adequately exploring the variety of “core construct” possibilities. For example, this weekend I have a workshop here at my training center. I want to do some work with tunnel/contact discriminations and I have a requirement to put up a progressive sending exercise (exploding line of jumps); and some interesting jumping serpentines. Those are “core constructs” which will dictate the design of the floor.

Also in the course I created above I apparently intentionally included a “dummy” jump. Today I am completely opposed to sticking an otherwise unused obstacle out on the course just to give the dog and handler another opportunity to screw up. It’s a ham-handed design habit that shows little imagination.

And unfortunately, the course doesn’t include all of the required obstacles. Eek!

More tomorrow …

Blog931 – (Four days in a row!)

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.


The Border Collie Effect pt 3

January 28, 2014

I continue publication of my course design notes from more than a dozen years ago. Perhaps this will tantalize another reader to critique the writing without actually bothering to read it.

The design notes continue by focusing on different approaches to designing a course from tabula rasa to finished product.

Design from Drawing Lines

What I want to start with is a simple linear kind of progression. I have a line that goes straight up the center of the field. The course will square out to one side; then resume up the field, square out to the other side of the field, and return back downfield in the same fashion.


I’ll start just by drawing a line. I’m intentionally making the lines and loops very square. This isn’t a requirement of the scribble a line method. It’s just my approach this very moment.

The next task is to put in my technical obstacles for which I’ll need a judging position. This gives me an area to operate so that I don’t have to run up and down the field chasing a bunch of damned Border Collies to see if they get in the contact zones.

From the looks of this placement, I’ll probably want to get the performance of the A‑frame first, and then back to the dogwalk. That would leave the teeter as the final technical obstacle to be judged.

Okay, now I’m going to put some obstacles out to shape the dog’s path through the lines I’ve drawn, and to make transitions to the technical obstacles.


Okay, not really too bad. But I really don’t like the transitional distance from the tire to the weave poles, or from the dogwalk to the jump following.  I also only have 14 obstacles on the course. I need to pick it up to 18-20 and make sure I have the required obstacles. I need a table, and I need a collapsed chute.


Okay, this is a bit more like it. The placement of the table actually gives me a bit of time to drift back down to judge the performance of the teeter. I’ve also rotated the obstacles in the first leg diverging from the center line so that a couple of traps or options are opened up to the dog. In the transition from jump #3 to the triple there will be some dogs who take a hard look at the weave poles. The handler would be wise to Vee the approach to jump #2 to take the weave poles out of the picture and make a nice smooth transition.

In the turn from the tire to the weave poles jump #3 is presented as an off-course opportunity.

The transition from the weave poles to jump #8 I figure is a major handling challenge. Many handlers may be caught with dog on right for the performance of the weave poles. So they may have to cross behind the dog on the exit from the weave poles to turn the dog to jump #8.

Note that I’ve also rotated the jump between the A-frame and the dogwalk so that it is more fairly presented to the dog. Given that the dog is dismounting the A-frame and trying to get a safe approach to the dogwalk, I don’t think it’s a useful challenge to test of a handler knows how to make the transition “safe”.

The series of jumps from the table to the teeter is really a finesse jumping series. It’s a flat serpentine-like sequence. But off-courses beckon at the A-frame after jump #13, and at jump #2 after jump #17. It’s not terrible hard, but is certainly a suitable challenge to Masters level dogs.

Okay, all the course needs now is a start/finish line, field crew, and a bunch of exhibitors antsy to get a qualifying score. Will they see what was in my head when I designed it? Oh, that’s the least important thing in the world. Knowing your own capabilities and the strengths and weaknesses of your own dog are the keys to solving a course like this.

What I like to believe about the course is that the challenges discovered themselves, with a modest bit of tweaking and rotation of jumps. I did my bit in making the approaches to the contact obstacles, the triple and the tire fair and safe. But I kept to my lines and the challenges sprouted like summer beans. And I really enjoy the subtlety of the challenges.

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time… I don’t know that I ever actually put up this course anywhere. Now I’m kind of interested and would like to give it a try. I have maybe one dog in my household who was alive when I wrote that piece. And don’t you know, when you look at a course you’ll always view it through a “me and my dog” filter. In those days I was running my old boys Bogie and Birdie. They’re long gone <sob>. But naturally, I visualize solving the course with my boy Kory.

Frankly this course is a bunch easier than most of the stuff we’re seeing at the Masters/Excellent levels these days. Is that true?

Anyway… more tomorrow.

Blog93- (Three days in a row!)

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

The Border Collie Effect pt 2

January 27, 2014

I continue my publication of notes on course design that I made something like a dozen years ago.

Safe & Square

Spread hurdles, contact obstacles, and arguably the tire should always be presented squarely to the dog, especially in the Novice and Starters classes to be fair, and safe.

The course designer should always visualize the flow of the dog to present the contact obstacles and the spread hurdles safely and squarely. Don’t assume that handlers will have the skill or forethought necessary to correct the dog’s path to make an approach safe for the dog.


This is a segment of a course found recently at a NADAC trial. It was in the Open ring, and caused many dogs to NQ because the handlers did not have the requisite skill to jog the dog immediately to the right after the spread hurdle in order to create a straight approach to the A-frame.

Most dogs were pushed directly by their handlers towards the A-frame. Something like 30% could not make the ascent, and came off the front end, some of them near the apex of the A-frame. Frankly, it’s the judge’s job to make a course safe for all dogs, no matter how experienced or inexperienced the handlers. This judge complained that the field was smaller she’d been told was available. So she just scrunched down her course until everything fit. She did not have the benefit of an experienced supervising judge to point out to her that she’d made an awful mistake. And so this was the result.

For future reference, the judge is the ultimate authority on the field. An experienced judge would have demanded that the local crew actually move the ring rope so that the course would fit. If the dimensions of the ring are fixed (by hard walls) the judge would have to do an on the spot redesign to make everything safe, and fair. Designing a course on the field takes a lot of skill. All the judge really has to do is walk the course, once set, to see the approaches to all obstacles from the viewpoint of the dogs.


The presentation of spread hurdles to the dog should is also an issue of fairness and safety. This illustration shows a presentation of the spread hurdle that requires a skillful manipulation of the dog’s path to create a safe approach. The course designer should not put dogs at risk when the handler does not have this skill manufacture a good approach to the spread hurdle.

Don’t mistake this design for challenging. It is merely ugly.


In this illustration the approach to the spread hurdle has been improved simply by giving the hurdle a rotation to the approach. The dog and handler team are still challenged by the sequence, without a hint of ugly or unsafe. The pipe tunnel is a terrific off-course possibility. The entry to the weave poles begs the question “does the dog know how to make the entry?”

This is clearly advanced design, providing challenge at dogs’ speed, but inappropriate for novice dogs (because of the wrong course option).

Dog’s Path Geometry

Squaring the dog’s approach for a spread hurdle really requires the course designer to understand the way dogs move. It is always a mistake, either as a handler or a course designer to be beguiled by the geometry of the course.


This illustration shows the spread hurdle presented to the dog in a straight approach from jump #3.  Square and fair, right?


The problem with this line is that nothing on an agility course moves in lines like these excepting maybe the occasional judge’s measuring wheel. If you see a judge measuring a course like this, you can be certain of two things: 1) the standard course time (SCT) will be improperly set, and too low; 2) the judge has no vision of the way dogs move.


This drawing more realistically depicts the path of the dog. And in this case the illustration more properly reflects the path of a sharp turning Border Collie (and not so much the more reaching path of the bold working Doberman Pincer.)

While this was a bit of a dramatization, we see more subtle variations of the geometry problem all the time.

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time… I guess I got to poke fun of a NADAC judge who didn’t really know how to fit her course into an area smaller that it was intended to fit. But you know, NADAC judges don’t design their own courses. And so their course design skills are going to be a little retarded.

I still hold by the principles I was attempting to illustrate here. Understanding the dog’s path is a science to which both the course designer and the handler should subscribe. When I do handling clinics there’s a bit I often do to entice the handler to understand the dog’s path. The concept is simplified in this illustration:


It’s a straight line through jumps #2 to #4… right?

This is an example of on-field geometry that might beguile the handler (and course designer) into failing to understand the dog’s path. In truth:


It’s not a straight line at all. It’s a wild zig-zaggedy line.

More tomorrow, I suppose.

Blog929 (Oh my! Two days in a row!)

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

The Border Collie Effect on Pipe Tunnels

January 26, 2014

More than a dozen years ago I started a collection of writings on course design for dog agility (under the working title “The Border Collie Effect on Pipe Tunnels”) It never coalesced into a finish product. But now that I pick it up again this writing is surely amusing fodder for my long ignored web log. I’ve been working recently on designing courses for my own upcoming judging assignments and have been reviewing a ton of TDAA courses. Course design is always a good topic.  

What I thought I might do is present the drawings and associated text and then update the script with current thinking (See “Time Capsule Review,” below.) Twelve years is a long time in a young sport like dog agility.

The working title of the piece: The Border Collie Effect on Pipe Tunnels might have evoked obvious associations a dozen years ago, but stretches the imagination today. To be sure only a dozen years ago pipe tunnels often were not adequately bagged and bound. When a dog with tremendous inner combustion got in, the tunnel would get banged around pretty good. Often the pipe tunnel that you saw when you walked the course didn’t much resemble the pipe tunnel you came upon when you ran your dog as the tunnel likely had a new GPS address and was shaped differently.

These days most pipe tunnels in competition are bagged by about a ton of dead weight, to the extent that they actually pose a hazard to the dog with too much energy and too much trust.

Designing for Flow

April 1, 2002

The most important obligation of the course designer is to create flow for the dog. In order to do so we must understand how dogs move. Without that essential understanding it is unlikely that the designer can create a course that is safe and fair.

The dog nearly always moves in parallel with the handler. If the dog is ahead of the handler, he will curl back to the handler’s position.


In the course segment shown here you see a long line from the end of the seesaw through jump #11. If the dog is at all faster than the handler, it is unlikely that the dog will reach jump #11 without an off-course penalty, or a refusal, unless the handler has a superb Go On (continue in a straight line) directional. Remember that the contact obstacles, and often the weave poles dictate the starting position of the handler. Most handlers will closely attend the dog’s performance of the teeter, to see that the dog hits the contact. Most significantly, that means that the handler has no advantage in real estate, forward of the dog.

This is an error in course design. Most typically this error appears on Novice courses, as the designer does not understand the curling-back effect of the dog working ahead of his handler. The designer thinks that he’s giving the Novice dog a nice straight line with no awful turns. When in fact some gentle turns would be a blessing for the dog and handler team.

It would be easy enough to redesign this opening to accommodate the dog’s tendency to curl-back to the handler. This might mean readjusting the balance of the course. But there is no sense in including any long outruns in a course that doom most dogs in the field to failure.


A better design would be to make the opening line curl naturally, for the benefit of the dog, as in this illustration. The dog’s flow will naturally follow the path the handler must take.

Unfortunately, in fixing the dog’s line we’ve presented a rather difficult challenge for the Novice handler and his dog. Obstacles #8 through #10 require the dog to work on the handler’s right side. For obstacles #11 through #14, the dog should be on the handler’s left.

So we’ve left the handler with a very technical turn. Coming off of a double spread-hurdle with the dog on the wrong side, the Novice handler is not likely to have the requisite skill to affect a cross behind the dog. Most will try some kind of ugly Back Cross at the double, risking a bar down, or a refusal. This is too much of a challenge for the Novice dog and handler, but probably fine for Open/Advanced or Masters/Excellent dogs and handlers.


For Novice teams the best way to soften a difficult corner requiring a change of sides is to use a pipe tunnel. In this illustration the pipe tunnel is presented so that the handler can do a Front Cross or a simple Post Turn to get the dog into the tunnel. The tunnel allows the handler to set up for the dog-on-left performance of the balance of the sequence.

The double-bar hurdle is usually a required obstacle. So the course designer needs to find some other place to put it. In this case the double was moved to follow tunnel, providing a nice straight approach and not grinding the dog into a hard turn after.

Time Capsule Review

Back to present time… I have several misdoubts about the initial writing. What really reaches out to grab me is how sympathetic I was to handlers without much skill or training foundation for their dogs.

The proposition that a long straight line is killer remains true today. For the designing judge this might be a very core riddle to his course design. Does the handler understand the risk of being behind in the line?

Also, in the initial illustration the sequence begins with the teeter. What I said then is true today. Many handlers will be glued against their dogs in the performance of the teeter or any other technical obstacle, putting them sorely at risk in the riddle to follow. Looking at the first drawing I can guarantee you that today I’d be positioned somewhere around the #10 jump while my dog is finishing up the teeter. At least this would be true in the ideal / “I trained my dog” world.

More on course design tomorrow.     


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

Dr. Dolittle

December 20, 2013

A pull/push-through is a course design feature that has the handler drawing the dog between two perfectly good obstacles both of which are wrong-course choices. This really reminds me of an old exercise I used to put up in seminar work (I believe I stole the concept from Nancy Gyes who ran a variation of the exercise):


The end goal of this handling exercise was to introduce the RFP as a control movement. What’s really cool about this old exercise is that it’s now fair game in the USDAA’s Masters Challenge class. Better get practicing.


The push/pull-through is as likely to be a matter of wrapping the dog pretty much as in a threadle. However the target obstacle will be beyond the gap, and not necessarily presented squarely to the dog. In this example the #3 jump is virtually a back‑side approach.


In this example the wrap doesn’t turn immediately to the push/pull-through. They are separate events so that the moment of the challenge resembles more the handling exercise I showed above.

What is most interesting about this example is the long transitional distance from jump #3 to jump #4. This will be a common feature of the push/pull-through.


This is a slightly more subtle application of the push/pull-through. The 270° transition from jump #2 to #3 sets up both the #1 jump and the pipe tunnel as wrong course options. The push/pull-through has the handler drawing the dog between the pipe tunnel and the #2 jump. It’s worth noting that the pipe tunnel itself constitutes a backside approach.

Background Color

The final example above features an obstacle “cluster”. I wrote to some extent on this design feature of the Masters Challenge classes in my blog posting called Sensitivity. These challenging classes will borrow from European course design conventions. One of the chief differences from traditional American design is that the Europeans seldom reuse an obstacle. I suppose this goes to a granularity in scoring. If a dog drops a jump bar the designer wants to be sure that the dog has another opportunity to drop a bar. And this opportunity is lost if the jump has been reused. The obstacle cluster is a cagey design feature that allows a gang of obstacles to occupy a small place in space.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.


December 19, 2013

I’m doing an end-of-year inventory of course design challenges. I have a couple judging assignments coming up early next year (USDAA). I’m delighted with the Masters Challenge class which essentially allows any evil thing I’ve ever imagined. Today’s topic is the threadle.

In its most simple form the threadle is represented by two jumps set on a common plane, side-by-side with a small space left between them. Oh, and both jumps are intended to be taken in the same relative direction.

Simple threadle


It’s worth noting that the Threadle in itself requires a “backside” approach to the second jump in the combination. Backside approach is the emerging common term to describe a jump (or other obstacle) that is presented with no clear natural approach, preventing the handler from simply releasing the dog to work. It is also known as a “managed approach” and a “blind approach”.


 A survival strategy for handlers with big dogs that don’t have tight & neat turning abilities is to turn away from the gap, rather than into it. Surely this strategy sacrifices a bit of time by increasing the distance on the flat. This approach also removes much of the risk associated with solving the threadle through the gap; but it introduces some risk that didn’t exist in the raw threadle. For example, it might be too easy for the dog to back-jump the #1 jump in this illustration.


A course designer might be pouty about any handler not following his prescription for dictated handling (as though the “big dog that doesn’t have tight & neat turning abilities” is some kind of a threat to the field.) And so they’ll engage in design conventions to defeat the around-Robin-Hood’s-barn strategy.

Here, for example, the course designer has rotated the jump introducing the threadle, making a left turn problematic and increasing both the distance of the transition and the opportunity for a back-jump of jump #1.


The course designer might use other tricks to defeat the alternate approach to solving the threadle. In this illustration the designer did two things worth noting. First of all, a wrong course obstacle has been placed to thwart a left turn and the angle of approach to the jump introducing the threadle has been set at an angle that invites the traditional handling of the puzzle.

Any Obstacle Threadle


A threadle doesn’t have to be a pair of jumps. Just about any obstacle might be a part of the course designer’s conspiracy. This illustration just scratches the surface. Note that in the transition from the pipe tunnel into the weave poles the “entry side” of the weave poles is offered to the dog; so unless the dog is an amazing creature who absolutely understands his job in the weave poles then the handler might consider a bit of shaping to make the approach (and so, execute the dictated dance of the threadle).

The transition from the weave poles to the jump begs the question… was the handler able to get to the weave poles with dog-on-right?

Soft Threadle


At first glance you’d have to believe that the challenge has softened in this combination threadle because the intro jumps have been eased back to take out a dimension of depth in the approach to each subsequent jump.

The set of these jumps has introduced the real possibility of a run-out refusal. This challenge did not exist in the simple threadle because the dog had no capacity for approach to the subsequent jump and therefore the subsequent jump is not eligible for a refusal call before the dog actually turns back to the gap. However in the case of a (so-called) “soft” threadle the refusal plane of each subsequent jump is live before the dog actually turns back.  

The threadle may be soft, but the heart is hard.

Obviously, from a handling POV the dog needs to be geared down through this series of jumps to draw in the turning radius.

Hard Threadle


This combination threadle increases the depth of the transition from the introducing jump to the subsequent jump. You might argue that this is no longer a threadle at all, but now a series of “back-side approach” riddles. But inasmuch as the solution calls for the Zee-shaped transition I’ll call it a threadle.


The next step after “hard” is “a whole bunch harder”. In this series threadle the dog will get a square look at the wrong side of both of the subsequent jumps. After drawing the lines (always a marvelous illusion!) it doesn’t really seem like such a hard thing to do.

Course Design Considerations


The course designer has a broad measure of control of the approach to the threadle challenge. And considerable attention should be given to the consequence of the approach. In the illustration the dog has a depressed-angle approach from the table. In general this disposes the dog to the right-turning through-the-gap solution. Though a more depressed angle will introduce to a greater extent the wrong course challenge of the second jump of the threadle.

Certainly the threadle challenge will be messy if the depressed-angle approach is from right to left. That means that the handler will be fighting against the natural turning direction while faced with doing a rather precise and technical handling thing.


Note that a threadle absolutely requires the handler to be in a control position. It is a challenge that requires micromanagement. The dog cannot be released to work. In the design of the challenge the course designer should understand that when two control positions are positioned with a fast transition between them, then only the young long-legged handlers who can outrun their dogs will survive the challenge. So if the course designer’s ambition is to thwart old men with arthritic knees, like me, then this is a dandy way to do it.

Comments Invited

If you have anything to add to the discussion of the threadle, I’d love to hear about it and share with the readers of this blog. I know that I pretty much left out any discussion of handling; because mostly I’m interested in the design aspects right now.

I didn’t talk about the dismount of the threadle except in the limited discussions of combination threadles above. If you think about it, the dismount of a threadle is pretty much the same kind of riddle as the dismount of any obstacle or sequence. And so I didn’t give it the discussion that it might deserve.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

Variations on Dare to Double

November 29, 2013

For a prospective TDAA judge I assembled a document containing three distinctly different variations of the game Dare to Double in order for her to understand how the game might be played. My original objective was to find on my computer an example of the game with a “robust” briefing. And of course I stumbled across two interesting variations.

To summarize:

Example #1 is a course design and briefing from a trial I judged in August of 2009. This is the most common version of Dare to Double. What makes it distinctive is a rule declaring that “A warning whistle is blown 15 seconds prior to the expiration of time.” Of course the table isn’t live until that whistle blows. This is a favorite game in the TDAA. The most canny competitors have a doubling strategy for the opening; and a rule-of-thumb strategy for the last 15 seconds. If this variation has a down-side, it is that fast dogs with excellent A-frame skills (and a handler who gets the math) will always rule the game.

Example #2 features a variation of Dare to Double designed by TDAA judge Victor Garcia. This game was played in competition at the Petit Prix Warm-up Workshop held in conjunction with the 2013 Petit Prix in Latrobe, PA, and using the rules of the Petit Prix. What makes this different from the “common” version is that there is no warning whistle. And so the competitor is left with trusting to an internal clock as to when to go to the table. But to tell the truth this version exposes and encourages the popular “Double ’til the end of time” strategy. The essence of the strategy is to work on doubling ’til the bitter end, and don’t go to the table, accepting the loss of half the points as a push.

Example #3 and last example is the “Flanigan” variation of Dare to Double. In this variation the dog is limited to two performances of the doubling obstacle; introducing an amazing challenge of timing strategy. Doubling ’til the end of time isn’t a good option. This variation offers the possibility that good timing and performance might very well prevail over speed.

Dare to Double example #1 ~ common



Dare to Double is a simple dog’s choice game, which means that he will earn points for taking obstacles in the order and direction of his own choosing. The team has 50 seconds to accumulate as many points as possible. The game begins at a start line designated by the judge and ends at the table. If the dog gets to the table before time expires, he keeps all points, if he fails to do so half the points are lost.

The value of scoring obstacles is based on a simple 1-3-5-7 system:

  • 1 point for jumps
  • 3 points for tunnels and tire
  • 5 points for teeter, dogwalk and weave poles

Scoring obstacles can be taken only twice for points. Back-to-back performances are allowed. Jumps that are knocked down will not be reset.

The A-frame has a special value (Note that the A-frame was not included in this list above). It is the doubling obstacle. During the run, a handler may double his current points by performing the doubling obstacle. A successful performance doubles all points earned up to that time. If, however, the dog faults the A-frame, then the dog loses half of his existing points.The dog may double points any time, as many times as time allows. The only restriction on doubling is that the A-frame cannot be performed back-to-back. The dog must do another obstacle, for points, before attempting to double point values again.

A warning whistle is blown 15 seconds prior to the expiration of time.

Scoring and Qualifying

Dare to Double is scored points then time. The winner is the dog finishing with the most points. In case of a tie, time is the tiebreaker. The table is live during the entire run. If the dog gets on the table at any time, scoring ends. To qualify:

Games I – 40 points
Games II – 80 points
Games III – 160 points


Dare to Double example #2 ~ sans warning whistle



The objective is to score as many points as possible in the given time: 12″16dogs 50 seconds; 4″8 dogs 55 seconds. The table stops time and is live at all times.  A dog arriving at the table after time expires is “Faulted” half of all points. Jumps are 1 point; Tire and Tunnels 3 points; Dog Walk, Teeter and Weaves 5 points. Obstacles can only be taken twice for points.  Back to back performance is permitted.

The A Frame is the Doubling obstacle: During the run a dog will earn “Double” all points by successfully performing the A Frame. On a missed down contact on the A Frame, the dog is “Faulted” losing half of all points. Points can be doubled at any time and as often as the handler wishes. The A Frame is eligible for doubling only after any other point has been earned. When the A-frame is not eligible for doubling the dog may still Fault half of points in the performance.


Dare to Double is scored Points, then Time. GI dogs need 50 points to qualify; GII dogs need 100 points to qualify; GIII dogs need 150 points to qualify


Dare to Double example #3 ~ Flanigan Variation



The game begins at the designated start-line, and ends at the table. Big dogs have 50 seconds to accumulate as many points as possible; Small dogs have 55. The dog must get to the table before course time elapses. If the dog gets to the table before time expires, he keeps all points accumulated on course. If the dog fails to do so, half of the points are lost. There will be no warning whistle. If the dog hits the table at any time during the run, scoring and time will cease.

Obstacles can be taken only twice during point accumulation. Back-to-back is permitted. Jumps that are knocked down will not be reset. Jumps = 1 point; tunnels and tire = 3 points; contact obstacles and the weave poles = 5 points.

During the run, all current points can be doubled by performing the A-frame. A successful performance doubles all points. If, however, the dog faults the A-frame, half of the existing points are lost. In the Flanigan Variation the A-frame can be performed only twice during the dog’s run, and an obstacle must be completed for points between each performance of the doubling obstacle.

Scoring and Qualifying

Dare to Double is scored Points, Then Time.

  • Games I => 40 points
  • Games II => 70 points
  • Games III => 100 points


In the traditional Dare to Double you can double as often as you want, so long as you score points in between performances of the A-frame. The savvy player will quickly get the fundamental underlying math. Basically you get a handful of points on your dog and then start doubling until the end of time.

But the Flanigan variation is something else entirely; you only get to do the A-frame twice for double points. Now, if you double too early it lowers your capacity to score the most points. If you double too late time may expire and you’ll lose half your points. It is certainly a canny game of timing.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.


November 15, 2013

From notes on an airline napkin:

I’ve taken a long journey on a short road.

The person in agility is inextricably bound by two import roles. He is both dog trainer and handler. One is not more important than the other. While handling is fundamental to directing an agility dog, training is the coup de grace.


I’m preparing for a healthy weekend workshop. The theme of the workshop is “weaving” in these parts: teaching the entry without shaping or management; the dismount; and fantastic footwork (using Susan Garrett’s thinly split poles method). I think I have the right mix of exercises. More often than not, when the lesson plan contemplates a specific skill to be taught the dog, the outcome of the training is a pointer to homework.


You may recognize this as the “Shark Bait” exercise. It’s a beginning point for the weekend workshop.

Another TDAA Course Review YouTube


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.


November 12, 2013

I’m deep in course review duties for the TDAA, trying to catch up. I’d like to share a part of a review from this morning, which I have captured in a YouTube video:

I apologize for the background noise. I was watching Morning Joe while working.


I’ve been busy trying to upgrade my writing / blogging tools for me new Windows 8 computer. It’s been an adventure. One tool I’ve needed is a new screen/video capture. Frankly, I’m most interested in Freeware; though if I find something that really works well, I wouldn’t mind upgrading to a commercial package.

Doing a web-search is always a crapshoot. A lot of stuff that purports to be “free” is just a crippled version of the software that makes you buy before you can even test how it works. The only thing that was free… was the download. Other packages are like Trojan Horses that will drag a bunch of painful utilities that constantly pop-up and replace default software; change your home page; put worthless menu bars on your internet browser, and so forth. So, you gotta be careful.

The screen/video capture software that I found is something called Active Presenter. It’s a fully functional editor with an option to upgrade to a more robust commercial system.

Weekend Workshop

We have a weekend workshop scheduled for this Sunday. Our topic is weave poles, with an intention to build speed, and faultless performance; while looking at common challenges that we see in competition.

I need to get on with the design of the lesson plan. And, of course, I need to clean up the building, set the floor, and test elements of the lesson plan. I’d better get moving.

If you are interested in getting your dog in this workshop (2 or 3 hours Sunday afternoon) you should get in touch with Marsha: We’ll cut off registration with the workshop fills.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.

Show Me Pretty

November 6, 2013

Just now I am returning from Dallas where I spent four days conducting a TDAA Judges clinic. Following directly on about five days of Petit Prix activities I’m a bit sleep deprived, but otherwise unscathed… in case you were wondering.

I left the group in Dallas pleased and pleasantly surprised by their testing scores. And, I left them with a bit of advice in course design. I appreciate that a judge and course designer might want to show me how they can conjure an interesting course with technical challenges that curl the hair on the back of your neck. But what I’d like for them all to do early on is dismiss all such thought and show me that they can design something pretty, with flow and logic. When that challenge is met the designer might, with some subtle tweak, introduce to the design a riddle or two appropriate to the skill level of the intended class.

At Country Dream we have discontinued week-day evening classes for the next few months; though we expect to schedule a few weekend workshops so that our few students don’t languish through the winter months. I’m anxious to get back to a regular schedule of play and a focused training plan with my own dogs. And since I’m not terribly busy over the winter months it’s really going to be a matter of me getting off my arse and putting up the playground.

I’ll share with you a course that I borrowed from a design by TDAA judge Debbie Vogel over the weekend. I’m going to put this one up in the building as soon as I have the time and energy to do so:


I’m completely aware that the course doesn’t include much in the way of a “Masters level” challenge. But without much imagination, we could do so. I’ll share with you in the next few days.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.