Archive for the ‘Jokers Notebook’ Category

Agility Nerds

May 13, 2013

The weekend before last I had a fun weekend judging USDAA for Sky Blue Events in Indianapolis. They are fun people in that part of the world.

Course design took longer than judging. I worked pretty hard for this trial. I’m mostly enthralled by the problem of “leveling”. That means I want to present to each level of competitor (Starters, Advanced, Masters & Extreme) a course that is appropriate and balanced. I try to have a vision for each level. I had at least one course that my mutterer made me promise to never to do again (the last Masters standard for the record). For the most part though, I loved the courses and watching those Hoosiers solving my riddles.

League Play Game

Okay here’s what we’re playing (from Top Dog, of course).




This is a simple numbered course. If the handler can run the entire course without ever stepping inside the red box, 15 bonus points will be earned. If the handler can run the entire course without ever leaving the red box, 25 bonus points will be earned.

Jumplers is scored: Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus. 0


4″                    60 Seconds
8″                    53 Seconds
12″                  48 Seconds
16″                  43 Seconds
20″+                39 Seconds

If you want to play along with us… click. Visit our web site and see what other courses and games we are running:

The Back Pass

Okay, I have a new agility “movement” for you. There’s not many of us doing it yet. I’ll predict, however, that in ten years it will be a stock movement in the sport of dog agility.

I call it “The Back Pass”. It’s a simple concept: On command, your dog circles your body. The two types of Back Pass are: clockwise, and counter-clockwise. For a couple years I have been studying and practicing the Back Pass and have found a rich variety of possibilities for this movement in agility competition.

In the next few days I will try to video some applications for the Back Pass. Of course I’ll share those with you.

The tricky part that scares the hell out of even experienced dog trainers is that if you ever want to own the Back Pass you’ll actually have to train your dog to circle your body. But I will go out on a limb here and say that it’s just about as complicated as teaching a dog to do the collapsed tunnel. It seems a bit like Mission Impossible at first; but then the dog gets it, and you go on.

Quoth for Agility Nerds

You find the things that you Love, and you love them the most that you can.

~ Wil Wheaton
[Click HERE if you are a nerd.]


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.

Backyard Zen ~ enlightenment through meditation and insight

December 6, 2012

The purest expression I can make as a dog trainer is in those private moments with my dog in the back yard. I come to the task presumably equipped with some objective. And I am prepared to take small thoughtful steps to accomplish that desired goal. My mind is uncluttered, and unfettered.

I begin with a vision of the immediate objective that is well focused and granular. That one tangible goal however is a small bit that is completely influenced by and tied to my philosophy of dog training.

Let me try to give a bit of definition to the idea of a training philosophy, specifically as that philosophy is applied to dog agility:

  • Teach your dog in the context of play; it’s all an extension of the game.
  • Allow your dog to think; allow your dog to offer; allow your dog to solve the puzzle.
  • Be happy when your dog is right. Be neutral when he is wrong.
  • Be patient and undemanding. You have the advantage of knowing exactly how long it takes for a dog to learn a thing.
  • Foundation is never a completed task.

Down to Earth

That sounded a bit lofty I suppose. But it was short; and that’s what I was going for. None of this is really very complicated. Funny, I’m gearing up for foundation training with four dogs through the upcoming winter. We have three rescues pup in our house: an 8 week-old (Katness), a one-year old (Phoenix), and a two-year old (Haymitch). I also have my boy Kory who is nearly four now. I have training plans for all of them for the upcoming winter.

For the baby pup we’ll be doing the Two Minute Dog Trainer thing. That’s the name of Marsha’s blog, don’t you know (

My attention is going more to Phoenix and Haymitch. Both of them are on a program for wicked good distance skills. My guiding objective is to make them both perfect dogs for an old man. That means I have absolutely no intention of wearing a dog on my hip when we do agility. The dog has to be out there working. My job is to give direction… not to micromanage.

I could go through a list of everything we’re going to do from a training POV. But you know, I’ve already put most of it in writing. It’s all in the Joker’s Notebook, issue #0.

With Kory I’m doing new stuff. Right now I’m teaching him to do a Switch. I should define: The command “Switch” means that I want him to circle my body tightly in a counter-clockwise direction.

I know this seems like a curious objective. You’re just going to have to trust me. I expect in ten years everybody with a fast (and trainable) dog will have both the Switch and the ComeBy in their basic foundation training. The upshot of the skill is that on course I can create corners and set lines without handling. Ooh, what a concept.

I’ll draw a picture to tantalize you:

BLOG886_01The green figures showing the handler sending the dog out to do the pinwheel (you’ve taught that to your dog, right?) The red figures shows the handler turning around to assume a post position, actually facing the pipe tunnel, and calling the dog to Switch as he comes over jump #4. You’ll note that the dog’s path coming over jump #4 favors the wrong course side of the pipe tunnel.

Due Diligence

This is Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day! And today’s topic is Backyard Training. You will find a index to a fine family of posts on the topic here:


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.

Move Over Fast Eddie

October 22, 2012

Most of the discussion below has to do with something I saw doing course review (for the TDAA). I tried to explain to the designing judge a fundamental rule for dogs in motion, that “the dismount is dictated by the approach”.

You probably know that I’ve been working on contacts in my training. This is the bit that I put up on the lower field. I tried to create a course design challenge comparable to the dog’s path problem shown in the first illustration.

The real question is… is it an error in course design or a subtle and cruel riddle intended all along by the evil judge?

Surely, you see it?

Just in case you don’t see it… I’ll help out. The red line coming off the dogwalk is the dog’s true path through jump #5. It won’t take much for the dog to run through the plane of jump #6 to earn the refusal.

I set this sequence up for myself, frankly, because I’d very much like to solve these minor kinds of riddles myself in competition.

Before you can solve the riddle of the dog’s path, you have to see the dog’s path.

I’ve thrown away the sleepy/dreamy line drawn by the Clean Run Course Designer. It was a pretty line, but doesn’t much help our analysis.

The dog’s path from jump #5 to jump #6 is a two-corner transition and requires a two-corner solution. What I was playing with in my own practice of this sequence is using the “come-by” to solve. In the “come-by” I ask my dog to circle my body in a clockwise direction (come, by way of the clock).

However there are a number of interesting compound handler movements that will solve. A handler might get away with a simplex movement (single-corner); but that’s all they’re doing, is getting away with it. The fail rate will be considerably higher than for handlers who see both of the turning corners.

Top Dog Agility Players

I’m working at launching a new, very low-key, recreational agility venue. It has been my dream for many years to develop a recreational approach to agility that is affordable to just about anybody who wants to play. And I think I’ve finally got the correct model.

I’ve started a “blog space” for the venue at: The rules will be published soon.

Look for more information right here in my ongoing web log. I’ll tell it from my heart here. I’ll tell it from my brain there.

Handling Systems

The Handling System is a notion growing in popularity in the dog agility world. A handling system is a form of branding that dictates the handler’s methods for crafting and conducting the game with his dog using the recipe of some notable authority in the sport.

The subscriber to a handling system can be nearly impossible to teach. The more one-dimensional and dogmatic the system is then the less receptive the subscriber to adopt a balanced and rich repertoire of handling skills. A pity!

The downside of any handling system is that it’s really impossible to put into that recipe the rich abundance of thought and skill and love of that “notable authority.” He cannot give you what he is. He can only sketch out that bleak commercial product.

It’s hard to make an argument against the one true way. Always I’m left wondering why a famous handling system doesn’t allow for finding by scientific curiosity the correct mix of skills and methods for the individual dog. Whatever works is right. Right?

I guess an open-ended system is not a system at all. And without the system we defy the mystique of the guru. More the pity.


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.

Triangular Pressure

September 6, 2012

I’ve mostly been an advocate for the notion that a dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path. Indeed I’ve codified that notion in what I call the Laws of a Dog in Motion. In those same laws is a secondary notion that “a dog forward of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position”.

I’ve been struggling with the “framing” of a fundamental handling concept that I call Triangular Pressure for handling in dog agility. I’m finding more and more that “parallel” is largely an illusion.

In this drawing I’m showing handler movement and pressure relative to both dog and destination. The illustration shows ideal handler movement, particularly in the case of a very novice dog, or a fast dog with excellent distance skills. I know those two cases seem at polar opposites of “type”. The real difference between the two, mind you, would be the length of the handler’s path. For the slower novice dog the handler is likely to meet the dog at the confluence of the triangle; for the fast dog with distance skill, the handler is likely to take no more than a step, or two.

This drawing suggests handler pressure on the dog’s path for a lengthened line of jumps. The handler does not apply pressure to each jump discretely. Instead the entire line is handled as a unit with a common vanishing point perspective.

I’ve drawn the handler’s path in two colors to illustrate length of path as a relative matter depending on the speed of the handler versus the speed of the dog. I think a lot about that imbalance these days.

In a curvilinear arrangement of jumps the handler’s pressure is probably a more complicated matter. The only reason I’m sharing this picture with you, incidentally, is that I relish the illusion of the curve and want you to get a good look at it before I draw my own lines.

The illusion of the curve contributes to a fuzzy understanding of the mission; and of course creates fuzzy over-complicated handling.

The handler in the illustration has set a converging vanishing point on the landing side of jump #3; and a finishing converging point on the landing side of the final jump. While the length of the dog’s path is given, the length of the handler’s path depends on the handler’s speed relative to the dog. So the handling does not depend on the length of the handler’s path, but in the direction of the handler’s path. The timing event (for changing paths) is the dog’s commitment over jump #3.

In a pinwheel the handler should treat each jump as a unique moment of triangular pressure. Indeed, the most common error in a “pinwheel” is for the handler to fail to give pressure to each jump.

The pressure the handler gives to each jump in a pinwheel is sometimes as slight as a single step (or two); and certainly must include “what is the handler facing?”, “what is the handler moving towards?”, and “what is the handler looking/pointing at?” And all of this is conveyed in a blink… a small moment in time.

I’d still like to dispel the illusion of the “curve”. This is more important to handling success in a pinwheel than in a gently curving series of jumps. Each corner is a timing event to the handler. And the corners ultimately form a square to the disciplined handler.


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.

Blending Foundation Exercises

August 13, 2012

A very basic exercise I do with a young dog is the “exploding” line of jumps. The objective is to teach the dog a “Go On” directional. And for the young dog the exercise establishes an understanding of the game in which he has permission to work at a distance.

This begs the question, how do you teach the “Go On” directive to a dog that is not young (say a dog that is two years old, or older)?

We’ll back up a step to look at another related exercise, the progressive send. This is a simple dog training exercise. The handler begins close to the jump sending the dog, and moves back a few inches at a time. It’s very basic stuff, limited only by the size of your back yard.

What I would like to do is blend the progressive send with the exploding line of jumps.

Now the send is back-chained. The handler continues to gradually move back down the line, insinuating a new hurdle when he’s gained maybe 14′. When the line of jumps has reached four or five… then they can be exploded a few inches extra at a time.


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.

Distance Foundation

August 12, 2012

I had an interesting conversation with a student in a private lesson. She told me that she wanted to enter her dog(s) into the distance program at her training center, but was not allowed because her dog had not attended/graduated from a series of “foundation” classes. The horrible thought lept into my mind that the “foundation” class is where the dog’s prospects for working at a distance from the handler are utterly destroyed. The dog learns to run agility tied to the handler’s hip. The opportunity to learn to work at a distance from the handler as a part of his “foundation” is completely lost. Distance becomes a matter of painful remediation.

Consequently I ignored every opportunity to focus on “handling” and devoted our time together exclusively to distance training topics.

I want to share a couple bits with you, mostly in order for me to document a thing or two that I might have learned.

Blending Distance Foundation Exercises

I had a student once who had bought my Jokers Notebook, issue #0. That is as some of you know the foundation issue to the Jokers Notebook series. I asked her how she was doing with the exercises. She said that she had tried a couple of them. <sigh>

So here’s the deal. The foundation book is not a mixed-bag potpourri of options and occasionals. All of the exercises are intended as a homogenous whole and all must be approached with grueling consistency and continuity until the esential skills are owned by the dog.

Easy for me to say, I’m sure.

Because we’re doing “everything” in terms of foundation you’ll find that different exercises have relationships. In one exercise you might be doing an advanced proofing exercise for one skill, and using that skill as a springboard/prerequisite to practice another skill. For example:

Progressive Sending: Pipe Tunnel

This is a simple exercise you might do with all obstacles. The handler begins close to the obstacle, sends the dog forward for the performance, and over time moves back farther and farther until the dog is being sent from a magnificent distance to the performance. Certainly, early on the tunnel is a fun exercise to practice progressives sending.

A Simple Progressive Tandem

In this sequence I specify handling. It is simple enough. The handler will start with dog on left until the dog gets into the tunnel. On the exit of the tunnel, however, the handler will pick up the dog on his right lead. At jump #5 the handler will do a Tandem Turn (crossing behind the dog on the landing side of the jump)

This exercise depends on a strong send to the pipe tunnel at #3 so that the handler can appear at the corner of the turn at jump #5 at precisely the moment the dog arrives at that jump. The faster the dog is, the more important it is for the dog to have the sending skill to the tunnel.

In the progression of the exercise I’ll typically associate a displaceable “wing” at the corner jump (#5) to get the dog off the handler’s hip. This is especially difficult for handlers who train where there are no winged jumps. The idea of the dog being 5′ away can make their heads explode.

In the next bit I’ll take the wing away. But I’ll ask the handler to visualize the wing and to conduct the turn from this modest lateral distance. I have to remind the handler that the dog turns “when” the handler turns, not “where” the handler turns.

The next step is quite an advancement; but a logical one. The handler will “layer” the tandem. The handler shows the turn at the corner but doesn’t cross around behind the jump at the corner. Instead he will move in a path parallel to the dog, which should neatly drive the dog to the pipe tunnel at #8.

Saw It On Facebook!

I hope this is covered by the Affordable Health Care Act!


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.

CPE Jackpot Challenge

July 5, 2012

The CPE Nationals sounded like quite a party… a six ring circus with 670 dogs, give or take. A colleague of mine sent on to me the Jackpot distance challenge, which I’ll share with you below:

Off the Cuff Analysis

I can only offer a description of what I would do to solve this distance challenge. Here’s my step-by-step.

  • Arrive cool and collected. This is a thing I always remind myself in a gambler class. The whistle announcing the end of point accumulation and the count-down of the gambler clock should not inspire hurry or panic or dread.
  • I’m thinking that the distance work begins with the presentation of the pipe tunnel. I want to send my dog the length of the tunnel to get it. The reason for this is straight-forward… I want a close proximity to my dog as he comes out of the tunnel. If the handler is racing the dog the length of the tunnel there’s too much that can go wrong with the pressure of movement, particularly if the dog is ahead of the handler.
  • Out of the tunnel I want to draw my dog as though we were going on to the tire. What I’m hoping to convey in the drawing above is the handler doing a Tandem Turn (crossing behind the dog on the flat) to turn away to the #2 jump.
  • Out of the Tandem I have a small bit of real estate to keep pressure out to the teeter. I’ll want to show zero inclination to turn here… just keep my pressure flat and out. Note that I show the handler stepping up to the line that parallels the #1 pipe tunnel. The other line, that parallels jump #2 is a gotchaline, put there to fool the tourists and invites them to step in too far. If you step in, then you have to step out, and that “stepping out” stands a good chance of spoiling the gamble.
  • Well heck, if you’ve made it this far don’t spoil it with a fly-off or a missed contact on the teeter. If you have a running contact stay smooth and parallel out to the side; If you have a 2o2o say your magic word and insist upon it.
  • The course designer relents a bit with the containment line on the dismount of the teeter. The line encroaches on the table and allows the handler to give pressure of movement to give the dog good focus to the last obstacle.

Note that I’ve banked my whole success in the distance challenge on the Tandem Turn from the pipe tunnel to jump #2. I’m thinking that a lot of people will run forward to try to make this send with a Front Cross which will have the handler all flat footed and easily committed over the gotcha/tourist line.

I’m completely aware that the #2 jump is a blind/managed approach which seems to be the god-awful fad and plague of our day. This is a handling challenge that demands micro-management. I’d be completely happy in life if both numbered courses and the routine distance challenge were sequences in which one could release the dog to work. But, we have to play in the real world.

Electricity and Storm Chores

Yes, the power is still out at my place. And we are living a grim existence. I dragged the Homelite 4400 Watt generator out of the tractor shed and by some freak of luck the thing actually works. I didn’t even have to replace the spark plug. Two gallons of gas make it roar (very loudly) for about 12 hours. It hasn’t been doing any grand duty. We run a fan, a small refrigerator, phone & internet, a television and a dvd player. I expect it could run a lot more. I’d be reluctant to try to run the house with it; even if I knew how to feed the electricity from the generator to it.

We have two poles down on our property (between the road and the meter… an important distinction). Yesterday the electric crews were here cutting down trees in the right-of-way. They didn’t show up today. I reckon it could be another week. I can hear the generators running down in Watertown. The coop guys will probably attend to me after getting electric back into town.

I spent today clearing the roadway down by the lower cabin. I have a little 16″ Poulan chain saw. In the roadway is a very big oak tree and a pretty big white pine which toppled over together only just avoiding smashing through the roof of the cabin. I worked like eight hours on the project today and after stacking several tons of bramble and stacking new firewood… I reckon I’m only about half done just opening the roadway enough for a vehicle to have passage. Chain-sawing a downed tree is a science to which I had crash-course schooling today. At one point my chain-saw was pinched and held by a 6″ branch. I had to go fetch an axe to cut through the branch and relieve the pressure and have my chainsaw back.

In case you were wondering, the 2-cycle oil mix for the Poulan is 40:1. Also the blade lubricant gets used up at nearly the same rate as a full tank of gas. Always wear gloves. Don’t stack the pine with the oak.

Needles to say, I’m behind on a bunch of my other obligations.

Tomorrow I’ll be on the road about noon to take off for Indianapolis and a USDAA trial there. I’m really looking forward to an air-conditioned room at the La Quinta. Marsha, I believe, will be heading in to stay a few days with her mother. She doesn’t trust herself to be at the mercy of the temperamental generator.

I’m sitting outside as I write this. We’ve turned off the generator for the day. I’m getting a relatively cool breeze. But I can’t sleep out here and will go back in soon to sweat through another night in the basement (where it is cooler than up stairs). I’m on battery… so I’ll have to hurry to get this posted.


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.

Happy Tails

July 2, 2012

It was a very interesting trip for me to New York. It was very fun working with this community of USDAA enthusiasts.

While I was away my home was slammed by fierce winds that knocked down hundreds of trees on our property. We are without electricity even after I’ve returned.

I might spend a minute elaborating on our many dependencies on devices that are powered by electricity. For now I’ll allow you to use your imagination.

Believe it or not, I sat down to read a book since I felt myself deprived of every other conceivable recreation. The book is My Antonia by Willa Cather. I’ll be danged if I wasn’t a full paragraph into the book before I had to drag out my dictionary and look up a word (catafalque). You know, I read that book something like 30 years ago. You’d think I wouldn’t have to look up the words, anymore.

I’d better hurry write & publish this. My battery is only good for about 3 hours.

A Gambler Riddle

I’m reminded that the designer of the gambler’s riddle doesn’t really have to get mean or tricky. What might seem a gimme can be perfectly and appropriately challenging to the field. While this gamble yielded qualifiers at every jump height (and in PIII and Vets) it was anything but a gimme.

It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote that people will fail to direct their dogs in a pinwheel because they don’t understand what direction to face. The handler is conditioned to turn to face as though he’s moving parallel with his dog even when he is not moving. For example, after getting the dog over jump #1 the handler will turn to face jump #4. So a fair number of handlers failed simply because they would not so much as face the approach to the teeter.

Very subtly in this distance challenge the containment line is set at an increasing oblique. On the dismount of the teeter the handler should be able to apply a bit of pressure of movement to keep the dog out to the left side of the pipe tunnel. This distance challenge demands that the handler reserve a bit of real estate to have room to take a step or two and apply that pressure.

What Kind of Moron

… buys an electric chainsaw?


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 Pill-bug/Pinwheel Exercise

June 14, 2012

I had a private camp here this week, working with a group of ladies from Ft. Wayne, IN. Fairly early on the instruction revolved around distance training.

We fall into this interesting pattern in agility. By focusing on the technical and handling we dispose the dog to come to an understanding that the game is supposed to be played at the hip of the handler. If the dog is tied to the handler’s hip, then his speed will always be limited to the speed of the handler and of the hip.

The dog’s trainer should endeavor instead, and early in the dog’s training, to give permission to work at a distance. If we dispose the dog to come to this understanding of the game, then the game can be played at the speed of the dog.

Following is a simple exercise intended solely to tear apart the Velcro fabric that sticks the dog against the handler. Remember that Velcro is a two-part fabric. And it takes both parts for a good stick.

This is a form of the exploding pinwheel exercise. We use a pipe tunnel rolled up like a garden pill-bug to shape the dog’s movement at a distance. Initially the dog has few options except to work through the jumps to make his way back to the handler.

Only gradually are the jumps moved away from the pipe tunnel at the center of the exercise. As the jumps are spread apart the pipe tunnel should be opened up, just a bit at a time.

The biggest difficulty I have with students who are introduced to this exercise early on is that they won’t know which direction to face when sending a dog into a pinwheel. The handler is conditioned to face his shoulders as though moving parallel to the dog. However, if not actually moving, the handler should face each jump, in turn, as the dog works his way around the pinwheel. Note that for the first three jumps the handler pretty much faces the same direction.

Now the pinwheel is fully exploded and the pipe tunnel at the center has been opened up to its full size. I’ve brought in a second pipe tunnel to create a handling flow to introduce the approach to the pinwheel.

I don’t really like the idea of standing still while the dog is working at a distance. Part of the riddle becomes how to use the available real estate to maintain motion while the dog is working. The movement should be disciplined, always providing pressure to whatever obstacle the dog is working.

I should have mentioned early that at each step in exploding the pinwheel the handler should work the dog in both directions so that the skill is owned ambidextrously.

Here I’ve reversed the direction of the previous exercise. Well, that’s not all I’ve done. Since we have a dog working at a modest distance, we might as well ask him to do something a bit more advanced. This might call for a bit of development in the prerequisite skill… weaving at a distance. Some dogs won’t understand a handler working 20′ at a distance if the dog hasn’t been prepared for this possibility in training.


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.


June 5, 2012

You must know that I have to rely on considerable distance work in agility. I just don’t move the way I once did. Kory put on quite a show on the weekend, working generally at a spectacular distance. Of course, nobody really wanted to be me. I’ve said for a very long time that working at a distance is like throwing cards into a hat on a windy day. And that’s how the weekend went for us. We were at about 50% qualifying vs 50% crashing & burning in spectacular fashion.

Following is the Round 2 Steeplechase, designed by USDAA judge Richard Deppe. The following account is the anatomy of my crash ‘n burn on the course.

The key to using distance work to survive technical bits is to make those technical bits control points. That means the handler will have a close proximity to the dog to demonstrate, by handling the direction of the course. When walking the course I was torn between the blind/managed approach to the long jump and getting Kory to see the oblique presentation of jump #11 on the dismount of the A-frame. Oh, I could give him a good “Right” command from some distance, to be sure.  He would be just as likely to turn hard into a wrong course pipe tunnel (#12) with that strategy.

So, I decided to trust in Kory’s turning radius at jump #8 to carry him out wide enough for a square approach to the long jump. I got the judges whistle as I turned him over jump #11 into the pipe tunnel. I hadn’t even bothered to watch the performance of the long jump. The judge confirmed that he had a cross-cut performance (a refusal) on the hurdle.

So, I just left the course without finishing. What would be the fun in that?

To tell you the truth, a Steeplechase course is typically a wide open zing compared to Masters standard, or the Grand Prix. When the technical control points are presented on either end of a span, as in this course… I simply will not be able to be in both places. I don’t believe that many judges consider old arthritic farts like me in their course design. It’s all about the long legged youngsters.

I’m not daunted, mind you. Because I had a lot of fun this past weekend. And I’m fully aware that Kory is a very young dog, getting better all the time. My only real regret is that I didn’t capture the big cash winnings so I could stop at McDonalds on the way home.

It also occurs to me that I’ve never done “around the clock” training with the long jump [though I’ve asserted in writing that I’ve done around the clock with all agility obstacles.] I’m thinking I’ll take this project into my training program. Imagine actually training your dog to completely understand which approach/dismount is correct on the long jump. Now there’s a thought.


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.