Archive for the ‘Houston’s Book of Agility Games’ Category

And miles to go before I sleep

December 22, 2011

I have a list of chores to do for the day. I’m thinking I’d like to get outside! Yesterday was remarkably warm for late December. Last year at this time it had been below freezing for nearly a month already. There are a couple good outdoor chores for me; so I think I’ll strap on the boots and get out there.

But first…

Notes on Contact Donut

There’s no question about it Linda Northrup’s game Contact Donut is a marvelous training game. My boy Kory managed, in the game (http://wp.me/pmSZZ-VH) two complete laps around the course with 4X multipliers all the way. Oh I ain’t bragging. There are only about 450 NADAC agility players in this country who could do the same trick without breaking a sweat.

Still, I was proud of my boy. Although the pipe tunnels were presented like shark bait (http://wp.me/pmSZZ-Gd) all the way, Kory took and held every bottom contact until released. Though to tell you the truth he leaned towards me so mightily at every contact that my release was consistently: Right! Tunnel!

We played the game with a simple 50 second QCT for all dogs.

Tell you the truth, I found the judging and scoring task wicked cumbersome. Okay, so we give 1 point for jumps and tunnels and 5 points for contact obstacles. The bonuses are for contacts only from containment areas allowing 1X, 2X, 3X and 4X the 5 point value. On top of that the judge is required to signal faults.

Any game that requires a scribe’s transcription of a judge yelling numbers to reflect the dog’s performance lends itself to scribing errors; especially when the judge’s speech sounds like a callers dialog at a tobacco auction. We should consider a simpler system that allows the game to be played with a minimum of verbalization from the judge without changing one bit rewards for performance or how dogs would be placed based on their earned score.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Refusals and wrong courses are not faulted. The time required to recover is typically ample penalty enough.
  • Don’t use jumps at all in the game. Make a design that utilizes another pipe tunnel, or a collapsed tunnel, or even hoops.
  • The judge’s call will only be for contact obstacles. There are only four possible values: 5, 10, 15 and 20. That means the judge would have only four calls per loop. And frankly… it would be possible and practical to go to 1, 2, 3 and 4 as the value of the calls.
  • With all of this in mind, the scoring basis would be Points, Then Time (as compared to Points, Less Faults, Then Time).

Notes on Class

What I discovered many years ago is that if you design with training notions in mind, the set of the floor will be stodgy and contrived. And frankly it will be damned difficult to find a game in the mechanical layout. It’s far easier work to take the opposite view.

The fun thing about playing games every week is that the design of the floor begins with the game. Discovering the training sequences from the set of the floor is like a “found poem”. You can trace whimsical paths for the dog and in so doing create sobering challenges for the handler.

My litmus for a worthwhile training sequence is that it will be based upon flow, but will own some implicit handling riddle at its core.

The Joker’s Notebook Issue #2

This notebook is a ready resource for the dog agility enthusiast who is intent on a quality distance training program and for instructors who will provide distance training for motivated students of the game. This Notebook contains four weeks of lesson plans accompanied by a game of the week for each week, comprehensive Instructor’s Notes, and wealth of supplemental resources in the appendices. This work furthers the distance training originally included in the “Go The Distance” training workbook, and updates those methods for more up-to-date training and handling trends.

127 pp.

The Jokers Notebook is the natural progression and evolutions of Bud Houston’s distance training originally published as Go the Distance. These lesson plans and exercises are suitable for classroom instruction or back yard training by the intrepid enthusiast of dog agility.

Retail Price: $14.00; Our Price: $10.00; You Save $4.00!

Jokers Notebook #2 is an electronic book for download only.

http://www.dogagility.org/Newstore/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=80&ParentCat=7

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


It is Not the Mountain We Conquer

December 21, 2011

I have been busy. While it’s my “down” season I have a list of chores longer than your arm in preparation for the new year. Prominent in my list of tasks is unfinished business for the TDAA. We can expect a slate of rules changes and rewrites of the Judges’ Guidelines and Course Design Guidelines by March 15th of next year. Of course that means that all of these changes have to be presented to our membership by the first of the year… which means that this isn’t much of a “down” season, at all.

In the mean time I’m staying current with posting trial premiums and course review. Our set of the floor this week comes from a review of courses submitted by Courtney Keys, a TDAA judge. One of the games she had to design design was Contact Donut. This is a game that I’ve believed for many years is not ready for primetime. So that forced me to engage in a bit of analysis to find a way to heft the game into a state worthy of competition. I think we managed to pull it off. Following is the documentation for the game as it will appear in the Book of Agility Games.

Contact Donut

Contact Donut is the invention of Linda Northrop. This exceedingly simple game tests reliable contact performance at speed and is appropriate as a training tool at the intermediate level. The game also allows the handler to experiment with working his dog at a distance.

Briefing

The objective of Contact Donut is to accumulate as many points as possible by running a circular course composed mostly of tunnels and contacts in a period specified by the judge: appropriate to the rates of travel for the organization with some built-in expectation of success working at a distance.

The dog begins at a designated start line in the circle or donut of obstacles and on completion will begin again and continue until the end of course time. A whistle will end course time; the dog and handler must get to the table to stop time.

Bonus points are awarded for the performance of contact obstacles if the handler can direct his dog to perform the course while remaining in any of three concentric containment areas (the donut hole) at the center of the course. If the handler steps out of the donut at any time the dog will earn no bonus.

Scoring

Contact Donut is scored Points + Bonus – Faults, Then Time. The dog with the most points is the winner. Time is a tiebreaker only.

Values are assigned to the obstacles as follows: 5 points for contact obstacles; 1 point for tunnels and jumps.

Three bonus containment areas are shown on the course. Bonuses are awarded for contact obstacles only. The handler must be inside of the respective containment area both for the ascent of the contact obstacle and for the descent. Four paws constitutes commitment on the ascent.

  • 2x multiplier ~ from a 10’ containment line contacts are valued at 10 points
  • 3x multiplier ~ from a 15’ containment line contacts are valued at 15 points
  • 4x multiplier ~ from a 20’ containment line contacts are valued at 20 points

On any fault the dog will be charged according to the fault schedule of the respective venue. They dog may not earn a bonus on a faulted obstacle. It is the judge’s call whether refusals will be faulted.

Course Design

This is a Contact Donut course designed by Bud Houston for league play at Topdog Agility Players in Waterford, Ohio. The dummy obstacles are more a matter of nesting the course for class. And for the game, they certainly add interest and complexity.

Note that the #1 jump is rotated so that the handler can make the initial send into the course from the containment region of the field. In the course the #9 pipe tunnel is drawn up into the field to accommodate the repeated loops of the course.

For this course small dogs are given a Qualifying Course Time (QCT) of 60 seconds and big dogs a QCT of 55 seconds.

This Contact Donut course utilizes the traditional three contact obstacles, using the crossover with straight over planks in lieu of the dogwalk. This game allows the handler to work closely on the dog’s contacts, or for a more advanced dog, to work the dog at a distance.

In the Contact Donut course the contact obstacles are typically placed on the sides of the course, while tunnels are used to soften or direct the turns in the corners. The “Donut Hole” should be a clearly defined area in the center of the circle of obstacles.

Qualifying

Establishing qualifying criteria is a tricky business. There needs to be a balance between level, jump height, and expectation of success working at distance. Here’s a possible schedule:

  • Games I ~ 35 points
  • Games II ~ 50 points
  • Games III ~ 65 points

The Games I qualifier in this schedule is based on a single performance of the loop with 10 bonus points. Games II will require 25 bonus points and/or more than one completed loop. Games III requires 40 bonus points and/or more than one completed loop. Only a lot of experience with competition will prove this schedule. We have neither the expectation to skunk the field, nor any desire to give away the farm.

Variations

Northrop’s Traditional Variation ~ In the game as originally designed by Linda Northrop the handler was expected to stand in a “donut hole” roughly the size of an agility table at the center of the course. Handling from the donut hole earned a 15 pt bonus. And, the course was not run as a continuous loop. The original of the game is relegated to the status of “variation” mostly to make it a more rigorous game for competition rather than a game that is mostly a training exercise.

In this variation time was traditionally stopped by taking the dog to the donut hole in the center of the course. This element is no longer recognized, simply to make more efficient use of the ring in competition.

In this variation scoring ceases if time elapses or the dog commits any fault.

The Courtney Keys Team Variation ~ In this variation of Contact Donut the game is played by two, or more, dog and handler teams. Bonuses and objective are essentially the same. However, when a dog commits a fault the alternate dog, or next dog, is expected to begin the course from the start.

In this variation faults points are not earned by the team. Instead, as mentioned above, the next dog is expected to begin the course from the beginning.

This variation should include for the purpose of qualification: Each dog is expected to successfully complete at least one contact obstacles; and the complete loop must be completed at least once.

The handler of the active dog has an option to “bail” the course with his dog. For example the handler of the first dog could pull the dog away from an approach to the teeter (for whatever reason)… and the second handler will begin the course from the beginning. This will allow the avoidance of some terrible fault in order to switch. The judge might require the handler to yell “Switch!” or something.

Premium Blurbs

Contact Donut ~ is a distance game in which the dog earns bonus points on contact obstacles while the handler works at a distance. The course is arranged in a loop and will be repeated until the expiration of time.

Contact Donut ~ The Courtney Keys Team Variation is a team variation of the game intended to be played by two or more dog and handler teams. Contact Donut ~ is a distance game in which the dog earns bonus points on contact obstacles while the handler works at a distance. The course is arranged in a loop and will be repeated until the expiration of time.

Contact Donut ~ Northrop’s Traditional Variation is a training game probably not ready for prime time as a game of competition. The objective of the game is for the handler to work away from the dog while the dog demonstrates his skill on contact obstacles at a magnificent distance.

Never Give Up; Never Surrender

Quoth

“It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”

~ Edmund Hillary

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Training Games

November 17, 2011

I am an advocate of games in agility training. Games test the skills of both dog and handler. They promote a playful approach to the sport. I find playing agility for the fun of it is obvious on the one hand, but radical on the other. Below I’ve illustrated Four-Leaf Clover, one of my favorites, a distance training game.

Meet Me In Gahanna!

I’ll be judging TDAA at ARF in Gahanna Ohio this weekend. If you aren’t signed up for it, I’m pretty sure they have day of show entries! ARF Dog Training Center is located at 1000 Morrison Road, Suite I, Gahanna, Ohio 43230. The Trial Secretary is Suzanne Terrant doctpets@yahoo.com.

One of the games we’ll be playing is…

Four-Leaf Clover

This is a delightful training game concocted by Canada’s M.J. Thuot. This is a directional game mostly intended for Novice dogs and handlers. It can be played individually or in teams of two or three. This is just the ticket for tunnel enthusiastic dogs. Perfect for a Corgi, eh?

Briefing

The dog runs the numbered sequence beginning with the weave poles (the stem of the clover) and then performs each of the leaves of the clover. Note: Although the clover is numbered the leaves can be performed in the order of the handler’s choosing. The dog earns a 5 point bonus for each element performed without fault while the handler remains in the box. Tunnels are bidirectional. A dog that earns all five bonuses will earn an additional 25-point bonus.

Qualifying course times are:

Games I           4″ / 8″ dogs         43 seconds
                        12′′ / 16′′ dogs     41 seconds
Games II          4″ / 8″ dogs         38 seconds
                        12′′ / 16′′ dogs     34 seconds
Games III         4″ / 8″dogs          31 seconds
                          12′′ / 16′′ dogs     28 seconds

Scoring and Qualifying

Four-Leaf Clover is scored Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonuses. The judge will signal both faults and bonuses. Faults will be added to the dog’s score; bonuses earned subtracted.

The dog earns a qualifying score if the final score is equal to or less than the QCT

Discussion

This was obviously designed for play in the TDAA. You can tell by the short transitional distance between the obstacles and the diminutive size of the equipment. It would be possible, I suppose, for a dog to qualify without doing any of the distance challenges. But that handler wouldn’t be distinguishing himself in this game. Given the five distance challenges and the possibility of an additional 25 bonus points, it’s very likely that some dogs will have a negative over-all score.

Though I’ve been playing the game for years I think I noticed just for the first time the little bit in the intro paragraph “It can be played individually or in teams of two or three.” I don’t think I’ve ever played it with teams. I’ll have to cogitate on that one.

Four-Leaf Clover for the Big Guys

If you have a field of excellent distance working dogs this is romping design. Remember that the clover doesn’t have to be taken in the numbered order. The order the leaves of the clover are entirely up to the handler. There might be a bit of strategy for picking the order.

The Club Trainer

There are a variety of categories of trainers in the dog agility game. The Club Trainer is one of the most prevalent. Typically these come from the established Dog Training Club (DTC) or Obedience Training Club (OTC). However, it might even be a club that was established specifically to do agility. The Club Trainer is a volunteer position and sometimes even an elected position.

The difference between the Club Trainer and the franchise holder is strictly a matter of ownership. And there’s the respect (to quote Hamlet) to make calamity of life so long!

To give the Club Trainer his respect, a great number of them are very knowledgeable about training dogs and handlers to be successful in agility. They understand the importance of foundation work; they understand dog training and how to create a conditioned response; they understand the role of relationship between the agility handler/trainer in the development of the team.

But, like they say, a dead clock is right twice a day.

The real problem with the Club Trainer is that the students they are charged to serve are not their customers. The Club Trainer doesn’t pay the bills. He never looks at bottom line. He holds up measures for success that have very little to do with the viability of agility training as a business.

The break-out attribute of the Club Trainer is his ability to treat his students (and customers) with compassion and respect.

Nobody Gets My Joke

I’ve been saying that they aught to send Jerry Sandusky to Uganda for the disposition of his troubling legal matters. But nobody seems to get the joke.

Speaking of punishment… If the Philadelphia Eagles lose another football game they’ll likely take Michael Vick, hook him up to a bunch of car batteries, and throw him in the pool. I think Michael actually invented the trick for dogs that can’t win. It’s cheaper than euthanasia.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Player Piano

October 18, 2011

The rhythm of agility has ever fascinated me; the handler and dog moving with ease and grace in harmonic symphony. The course itself is like the scroll of a pianola, dictating the beat, a composition enticing dancers on the floor into anything from an elegant waltz to an upbeat quick-step (50 bars/minute).

Sometimes the course itself introduces a jangling tone that disturbs the beat. It’s like hearing bad music; the listener winces at the discordant moment. Was it the course… or was it the dancer?

The composer might be completely bloody minded.

Bloody-minded Jumpers!

Being too lazy to move the contact equipment I wanted to put up a Jumpers With Weaves course. I could not help but wince at the discordant moments in this course. I’ve been occupying myself with a course design riddle that we see all too often in agility these days (particularly in USDAA courses) in which the fast dog handler is obligated to be in two places at once, if not three. Certainly the day goes to the young athletic handler who can race his dog from corner to corner to establish handler proximity in the technical moments.

For the rest of us, the mantra is train… don’t complain.

This is a bit of a cowardly notion I suppose. I’ll set this course up for league play. Then I won’t be here to run the course with my boy. I’m off to Springfield, IL in the morning to conduct a four-day TDAA judges’ clinic.

There are three very technical moments in this course. The first bit is in the transition from jump #7 to #8. The handler has a scarce 8 to 10′ to turn the dog with a looming tunnel option. Then the handler has to get to the opposite side of the floor to solve the same sort of option (with the dogwalk looming) in the turn from jump #10 to #11. This is really the tough bit because ideally the handler wants to come out of the turn with dog on right; calling for a perfectly executed serpentine Front Cross. Now the question is whether the handler can establish proximal position for the tricky threadle turn from jump #12 to #13. Ah, bloody-minded indeed.

Without a Paddle

Just so I don’t leave everyone “up the creek”, as it were, I should suggest my handling solution to the course. In order to compete with the young long-legged athletes in our sport some of us old-timers need to rely on superior training and handling skills. That is not to say that we would all succeed with the plan (or even I would succeed). But without a plan we are up the creek, and without a paddle.

A thing I’ve always said about pinwheels is the faster the dog is; the farther ahead the handler gets (and if you’ve been training your dogs for independent work in pinwheels in the exhaustive exercises I put up for this purpose in The Jokers Notebook distance training series… this should be no problem for you.) In this part of the course the handler has to pick the dog up out of the tunnel, sending him forward to “own the pinwheel”. This allows the handler the position he needs to precue the turn from jump #7 to #8.

I show the handler with dog on right coming out of the pipe tunnel. Getting this position might be its own sort of riddle, especially if the handler has to step in to the entry of the pipe tunnel at #3 so closely that he can touch it.

Note too that I show the handler layering at a distance while the dog is engaged in the performance of the weave poles in order to gain the next technical handling position.

Again the handler has a position forward of his dog to precue the turn. The cruel part about this moment is that the handler has to draw the dog around carefully to set the line through jumps #11 and #12. This is a type of Front Cross that I call a serpentine Front Cross. Truly it is a combination movement: Front Cross to Post Turn. The key to the successful Post is to release on the line. Release too soon and the dog is over jump #6. Release too soon and the dog goes from #11 to #4.

The tough part about surviving this moment is that it leaves the handler woefully behind the dog on the approach to jump #12 which is immediately followed by a difficult transition.

At jump #12 the handler is left behind the dog. I’m showing here a Post & Tandem approach to the #13 jump (optimistically showing the dog avoiding the run-out plane of jump #13). The Post needs to be a static Post, with the handler showing brakes to draw the dog back as though going to the dogwalk. At just the right moment the handler will flip the dog away in a Tandem Turn. I may have over-elaborated the turn (dog’s red line). In fact the handler really has to hold the Post opening up the approach to the jump.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Alphabet Drills ~ Letter E

At the heart of our set of obstacles on the floor is a jumping configuration for the letter E, taken from Nancy Gyes alphabet drills. The workbook and CD are available from Clean Run Productions if you’d like to play along. I’ll be going through all of the drills in the next year.

This is a great set of jumps, exploring the relationship between two adjoined pinwheels. I will leave our instructor with a page or two of drills, right out of Gyes’ Alphabet workbook.

The Book of Agility Games

The Book of Agility Games, 3d ed (beta) is now available in our web store.

I have yet to add all of the hypertext links and enable loading of a course directly into CRCD simply by clicking on the picture. However, I’m being besieged by queries after the book. This is a one-of-a-kind reference to all manner of games played in agility, around the world.

Please note that everyone who buys a legal copy will get a coupon towards the Final draft reimbursing you for the cost of the beta.

518 pp.

Follow this link: http://www.dogagility.org/Newstore/

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

In what movie based on semi-autographical book by Earnest Hemingway did a notoriously gay actor play the part that was presumably Hemingway? Who was the actor?

Though I’m a huge fan of Hemingway the writer; he was a notorious homophobe, racist and sexist. I suppose he’s rolling over in his grave about the casting in the movie.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Tunnel Tangle

October 17, 2011

I was reviewing courses by TDAA judge Victor Garcia last week… and thought it would be fun to steal his set for a Tunnelers class and plunk it in the middle of a game that we’ll have to call Tunnel Tangle. This is not the Tunnel Tangle that was run at the Petit Prix… but, it was Wednesday, and I had to do my Wednesday night class. This seems like a nice ‘n easy maybe even relaxing kind of game to play after the drama of the Petit Prix.

This was the course I set up. We mostly ran it clean in league. We ran the game Faults, Then Time.

The Book of Agility Games

The Book of Agility Games, 3d ed (beta) is now available in our web store.

I have yet to add all of the hypertext links and enable loading of a course directly into CRCD simply by clicking on the picture. However, I’m being besieged by queries after the book. This is a one-of-a-kind reference to all manner of games played in agility, around the world.

Please note that everyone who buys a legal copy will get a coupon towards the Final draft reimbursing you for the cost of the beta.

518 pp.

Follow this link: http://www.dogagility.org/Newstore/

Bud’s Google-Proof Trivia Contest

I was wondering at the pressure of competition that makes people’s brains explode. It reminded me of an old “law” of gasses suggesting that increased pressure and reduces volume and increased volume reduces pressure. What is the name given that law?

Blog774

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston BudHouston@hughes.net. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.