Archive for the ‘TDAA’ Category

Short Sequencing (in the basement)

February 18, 2015

Our space in the basement isn’t really all that big. I’m antsy to get out in the training building and put together some of the skills we’ve been working on. But don’t you know we’re living through the Blizzard of 2015; so I’m content to continue in the basement until the world thaws out a bit.

Here’s a very short YouTube: http://youtu.be/dD-pDyxoBB0

I’m about ready to bring in another set of 2x weave poles. Cedar’s intro to weaves is about six months earlier than I did with Kory. But she’s like a learning machine and I thought… what the hell, why not?!

This has a bit of a Teacup flavor to it. And indeed we intend to show her in the TDAA. But I would like her to excel in other flavors of agility as well. The TDAA sharpens the handler’s timing and awareness in a way that none of the big dog venues can accomplish with a small dog.  An important mission of the TDAA is to give the small dog handler a taste of timing skills that handlers of big & fast dogs have to master for day-to-day survival in the big-dog flavors of agility.

I ran across this old video of me running a loaner dog in a jumpers course (out at Zona’s place in Arvada, Colorado!) http://youtu.be/WljrZe_sf9U

Play in the TDAA is not for the faint of heart.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

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Our Girl Cedar

December 18, 2014

Cedar, I’ve decided, is a smooth-coat Sheltie. Her coloring is certainly a mahogany. The Sheltie “mask” is evident on her face. The white tips and chest blaze finish up the coloration. But there’s no undercoat and, frankly, no overcoat either. And those big bat ears are never going to tip. She’ll be 20 weeks old tomorrow.

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Cedar will not be rushed into competition. We intend to take it all slow and easy. Most likely she’ll see her first competition in the TDAA where dogs are small and friendly. The important thing about TDAA agility is that it will make her sharp in a way that’s not possible in big dog agility play.

Her training foundation will be as complete as we are capable. We’re obviously putting a high premium on independent performance. She’ll be a free spirit in a Velcro world.

Right now the emphasis is teaching directional… “Left” and “Right” and “Go On!”  We’re also making basic obstacle introductions. Pretty soon I’m going to add the Back Pass to the mix. Though I think I really need to blog up how to teach this skill and why I think it’s going to be an important handling/dog skill over the next decade.

40 Hour Work Week

You know the old joke that goes “How can you tell when a politician is lying?” Well, these days it’s a bit more complicated than watching to see if their lips move. They’re all getting real clever with language. Do you remember when they foisted the “Patriot Act” on us? That was the legislation that committed us to 12 years of a ridiculous war that cannot be won. There’s never been anything patriotic about the Patriot Act. It’s just a clever bit of language crafted to shame and pressure.

Today however we have the unique opportunity to see who is lying to us and, frankly, who is betraying the middle class. Every one of them who is spouting some sound-bite about “We need to restore the 40 hour work week!” … is a liar and a rat fink.

Here’s the deal, what they’d like to do is redefine a “part time” employee, who doesn’t get any of the perks of a full time employee as somebody who works less than 40 hours a week. That means if you work 38 hours a week, then you’re a temp. That really works out for the American corporation! They get to save a whole bunch of money (while screwing a whole bunch of working people.)

You don’t have to go far to see who wants to lie to you and betray you. Flip over to Fox Network. They are fond of liars and promote them at every opportunity.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

On the Road to the Petit Prix

October 14, 2014

I’m on a flight from Seattle to Chicago as I write this, returning from the TDAA Judges Clinic and trial in Lynnwood, Washington. I get to be home for one day before getting on the road for Latrobe, the warm-up workshop, and the Petit Prix.

We had a great clinic in Lynnwood. They were, for the most part, well prepared for the testing, and approached the work with palpable enthusiasm and electricity. The trial on the weekend was fun/interesting as well. They have a great community of players in that part of the world. They are very supportive of each other and dedicated to the prospect of having a bit of fun with their dogs. You gotta love it.

Training Your Dog

We’ve made a Facebook page for our young rescue Cedar. Over the next couple of years I’ll share some of her foundation training on that page. I’ve got several recordings that I need to get up on the page. This is a busy time of year for me. I just need to make time.

Here’s a video http://youtu.be/DZhjKSdZ0VA.

I was thinking about this up in Lynnwood. Back when I started doing agility about all of us were dog trainers. We ran agility out in an open park in the middle of the city with nothing but a thin flutter of plastic ribbon defining the sides of the ring. It was inconceivable that a dog would be out there with us who didn’t have a prompt happy recall. These days… we surround the agility field with impenetrable fencing, even to the extent that entry and exit gates are tightly shut. What happened to dog training?

Cedar’s FB page.

Heinz 57

I want to share with you a discussion we had about Heinz 57, one of the games we played on the weekend. I had my own learning moment with the game. You may know that the tradition is to put the chute (doubler) at the front of the ring so that the handler can neatly finish with the doubler, score a point, and head to the table to stop the clock.

During course review I was well on my way to pointing out this “tradition” when in virtually the same breath noted that the math could be very different with the chute at the back of the ring as the handler should reserve the performance of some obstacles (adding up to 57, of course) for the transition from chute to table.

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Briefing

The purpose of Heinz 57 is to score 57 points as quickly as possible. For the purpose of point accumulation, point values are:

  • 1 pt for jumps
  • 2 pts for tunnels and tire
  • 3 pts for contact obstacles
  • 5pts for weave poles
  • The collapsed chute is doubling obstacle

Obstacles can be taken twice for points. Back-to-back performances are not allowed. Another obstacle must be performed before the dog can be redirected back to an obstacle (whether or not it was faulted). The collapsed chute has a special value, it is a doubling obstacle, and can be taken twice, like any obstacle, and can be taken at any time during the dog’s run. No specific faults are associated with the weave poles, however, any error must be fixed or the dog will not earn points for that obstacle.

With the exception of jumps, if a dog commits to any obstacle with all four paws he is required to complete the performance of that obstacle, whether or not it was faulted. A faulted obstacle may be repeated, but only after another obstacle has been attempted.

In this course the dog getting on the table marks the finish of the course. The table becomes live after the dog has earned one point. The handler should exercise caution when directing the dog to obstacles near the table because if the dog gets on, then the game is over.

Heinz 57 is scored points then time. 57 points is the benchmark. Any amount over or under 57 will be subtracted from 57 to determine the dog’s final score.

4″/8″  /  12″/16″

Games I –        55 sec  /  50 sec

Games II –      50 sec /  45 sec

Games III –     45 sec /  40 sec

Qualifying

57 points is required to qualify

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Snooker ~ Petit Prix Warmup

October 7, 2014

This is part of a continuing series, Games of the TDAA’s 2014 Petit Prix. Today I’ll talk briefly about Snooker, a familiar game in our agility culture.

On first glance, the closeness of the obstacles feels a bit daunting. In other agility organizations everything is spaced for the long-striding dogs who will cover 20′ or so in two or three strides. This gives us an opportunity to remember the Mission of the TDAA:

The purpose of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association is to provide a competitive venue for dogs of small stature without regard to breed or pedigree, and to encourage course challenges that are comparable to the course challenges which face large dog handlers in other popular venues.

So there you have it. There’s nothing easy about the TDAA. We have a high standard for performance and spacing between obstacles so that small dog handlers face the kinds of challenges that big dog handlers face on any given weekend of play… in the big dog agility organizations.

Snooker

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Snooker is a two-part game. Each part is played and scored on a different basis. The objective of the opening sequence (the first part) is to score as many points as possible by alternately performing all of the red hurdles; and scoring points from the numbered sequence. The objective of the second parts is to run a short numbered sequence without fault.

Time starts when the dog crosses the start line.  Time stops when the dog crosses the finish line after the horn sounds or after completing the closing sequence. 12” and 16” dogs have 45 seconds; 4” and 8” dogs have 50 seconds.

Opening Sequence:  The game begins with an opportunity for the dog and handler team to earn points by successfully performing red obstacles, always jumps, valued at 1 point each. A successfully performed red earns the team the right to attempt one of the colored (non red) obstacles on the course, valued at 2 to 7 points. The team earns those points if the dog successfully performs the selected colored obstacle.

This is a 4-of-4 red format. All four red hurdles must be attempted.

When performing the combination obstacles, both obstacles must be attempted before going on to the next red or starting the closing.  If the first obstacle of the combo is faulted, the dog must be directed to perform the second obstacle even though no points can be earned.

In the opening all obstacles are bi-directional in;  combination obstacles can be taken in any order or direction.

Closing Sequence:  After the opening sequence, the team will perform all colored obstacles in the numerical sequence indicated by their point value (#2, then #3, then #4, and so forth, through #7). The dog and handler team will earn the value assigned to each of these obstacles as long as the obstacle is not faulted.

In the closing, combination obstacles must be taken in the numbered order and direction.

Scoring

Snooker is scored Points, Then Time.

Qualifying

  • Games I 35 points
  • Games II and III 37 points

Strategies of the Game

There are old pilots.  There are bold pilots…  There are no old bold pilots.
~ Chuck Yeager

There are two essential strategies of this game: Flow and Greed.

Flow

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I’ve drawn here a basic/logical flow strategy. The circled numbers represent the value of the obstacles; the square numbers represent the intended sequence. I recognize that the wrap from the fourth red hurdle to the A-frame is a bit of a technical moment in the flow… but there’s nothing out there really for the dog to attack after that final red hurdle except for the A-frame.

This course measures about 80 yards. Note that I’ve included the transition from the last “non-red” obstacle to the #2 jump because that is an important part of the puzzle.

Note that in this strategy the dog will still have to do the first four obstacles of the numbered sequence to earn a qualifying score. Anything after that is gravy.

There are other flow strategies that might be contemplated. It’s important for the handler and competitor to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his dog. Find something fast and smooth with as little technical churn as possible.  And, where you can be a little greedy, what can it hurt?

Greed

I had to share the old Chuck Yaeger quote above. I am always reminded of it when I thing about the “Greed” strategy. That being said, it is the greedy player who wins the game.

I will not endeavor to draw a path for the “Greed” strategy. The greediest opening would be all four of the #7 obstacles. Inasmuch as the approach to the A-frame is a problem from the two red hurdles to the left… maybe these can settle for a performance of the #5 or #6 (a combination).

Final Words

Remember that if you do the #2 jump after your last red hurdle, you’ll have to do the #2 jump again to begin the numbered sequence.

Let the judge be the judge. Don’t call faults on yourself.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Pinball Wizard

September 22, 2014

Pinball Wizard is a game invented by Margaret Hendershot, played for the first time at a TDAA trial in Washingtonville, OH in July, 2009. The game seems a bit like Dare to Double, but with some important differences that the canny competitor should appreciate.

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Briefing

The goal is to accumulate as many points as possible within course time: 50 seconds for big dogs and 55 seconds for small dogs.

The start obstacle is the dogwalk; in either direction. After successfully completing the start obstacle, the team continues to accumulate points by completing obstacles of the handler’s/dog’s choosing.

  • Jumps – 1 point
  • Tire, tunnels (other than the bonus), and weaves – 3 points
  • Contacts (other than the start) – 5 points

All scoring obstacles may be completed twice for points; triggers and bonuses can be taken many times. No obstacle may be taken back-to-back. The table is always live. If the dog touches the table it is a tilt and play ends.

Once the start obstacle has been completed, the triggers become active. Triggers open the bonus obstacles allowing the dog to triple all points earned. The bonus is the two tunnels marked bonus, in any order and any direction.

The bonus may be earned three times during play. The successful completion of the bonus triples all points accumulated each time it is completed.

To reactivate the triggers after completing the bonus, at least one point must be earned. A whistle sounds at the end of point accumulation. The dog should be directed to the table to stop time.

If a fault is called, point accumulation continues, but the triggers becomes dormant. The dog must do the dogwalk/start again to reactivate the triggers. Faults include the usual performance faults like: knocked bar, missed contact, starting the weave poles without completing. These special faults also apply:

  • taking a bonus tunnel without taking one of the triggers first;
  • taking an obstacle between the trigger obstacle and the bonus obstacle (including back-jumping the trigger);
  • jumping the trigger when it is not active.

Knocking a trigger bar means that trigger is out of play for the rest of the game. The remaining trigger may still be used.

Scoring

Pinball Wizard is scored Points, Then Time.

Qualifying

Games 1: 50 points
Games 2: 100 points
Games 3: 150 points

Strategy

It’s true that this game feels a lot like Dare-to-Double as the dog gets to multiply points previously earned multiple times. An important difference between the two games is that the dog is penalized for any fault in Pinball Wizard by having to repeat the time-consuming/zero value start obstacle (the dogwalk).

The Mental Game

It would be fairly easy to lose heart on any fault, knowing that your strategy has unraveled and your dog probably won’t be able to earn the points to qualify.

Your dog will not be the only dog to fault in Pinball Wizard. There will be a bunch of faults out there. What differentiates the field of players at the Petit Prix is the ability of the handler to pick himself up and go on. The fault wasn’t crushing. Melting down on a fault is crushing.

Simple Math Strategy

The key to a dog’s choice game is that it should be resolved to a plan as clear and precise as any numbered course. Plan to run without fault.

Two Bonus Strategy

The game might be approached with the simple math to achieve a qualifying score:

17 * 3 = 51; + 1 = 52 * 3 = 156

This strategy requires the dog to do trigger and bonus only twice. The dog needs to begin with a minimum of 17 points to get to a GIII qualifying score.

15 * 3 = 45 + 5 =50 * 3 = 150

Three Bonus Strategy

Three bonuses will surely yield more points than only two. The burning question shall be… how many points should be scored before engaging in the bonus strategy.

6 * 3 = 18; + 1 = 19; * 3 = 57 + 1 =58 * 3 = 174

In this strategy the dog begins with only six points, and picks off a single point before returning to the trigger and bonus. Note that this can be done with a fairly economical 12 obstacles, raising the possibility that the trigger and bonus might be approached a fourth time.

12 * 3 = 36+ 5 = 41+ 3 = 123+ 3 = 126 * 3 = 378

This strategy is a bit more ambitious. Not only does the dog begin with 12 points, but gets more transitional points between trigger and bonus performances.

The Finish

There is no good reason to run for the table as soon as your strategy is exhausted. There is no real downside to getting to the table after the whistle has blown to end point accumulation. You might take another shot at trigger and bonus. Or, at the very least, continue accumulating points for the simple performance of obstacles until the whistle blows.

Analysis

I wrote the following bit way back in July of 2009. Apparently we played the game in League to give it a workout:

* * *

It’s a funny thing. I went into this pretty much imagining that I had figured out the killer strategy before the first dog had run. Here’s my logic… since it takes 150 points to qualify at the GIII level… then it makes sense to collect pretty much precisely just enough in the opening salvo so that it would add up to a qualifying score if tripled only twice. That would be I figure 16 or 17 points.

And then, as we diligently pursued this line of reasoning… all of our dogs timed out smack in the middle of the third tripler.

We sat and pondered this for awhile and arrived at an interesting conclusion… It would be considerably better points-wise to go into the bonus period with a more modest accumulation of points, say 10 or 12. That will allow time to get the third tripler. That means instead of having a score hovering just above 150 points… the dog would have a score more in the range of 350 +.

Now, what you have to take into consideration is that we were not running on a TDAA course. We were running on a big dog course. So had we all scored our third tripler using the initial logic… then our scores would have been more in the vicinity of 450+ points.

We learned some other interesting things as well… like why it doesn’t pay to melt down when the judge calls a fault.

This was a very cool game and likely a keeper in the TDAA.

Variations

  • Pinball Wizard is often confused by judges/course designers with Wild West Pinball. So it will appear in the world with elements of the latter game utterly distorting and obscuring the original Margaret Hendershot game.
  • Timing Variation ~ time begins when the dog dismounts the dogwalk… rather than when the dog commits to the dogwalk.

Premium Blurb

Pinball Wizard a dog’s choice point accumulation game with on-the-field bonuses that triple all of the dog’s points. The game starts with a performance of the dogwalk; rather like pulling back the plunger on a pinball table before releasing the pinball onto the table and racking up points.

Homegrown Tomatoes

Courtesy of Kory Kruckmeyer: “Guy Clark on an old old Austin City Limits, with “Home Grown Tomatoes”, his 2nd most famous song.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-QzLIjL1u4

Do tell… what’s Guy Clark’s most famous song?

Homegrown Garlic

This is heirloom garlic given to me by Cookie Nee.

Garlic

She gave me something else that I’ll always remember. She says, “In the ground on Columbus Day, and harvest on the Fourth of July!” This is like old farmer timing wisdom… and is easy to remember. The timing has always been a complete mystery to me.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Tag 10

September 21, 2014

There are agility handlers who have difficulty with so-called “dog’s choice” games because a path has not been clearly plotted for them. It seems a bit unsettling to randomly and haphazardly commit the dog through the performance of obstacles.

The key to a dog’s choice game is that it should be resolved to a plan as clear and precise as any numbered course.

Games of the 2014 Petit Prix

We’ve played this game before, at the Petit Prix. It was the 2008 Petit Prix Semifinal Game, on October 10, 2008, judged by Diane Jensen,

The following rules for Tag 10 are a preview to those that will be used at the Petit Prix being faithful to the inventors’ (Martin Gadsby and Lisa Brownschilde) original vision of the game.

Briefing

Small dogs will have 60 seconds, Big dogs 55 seconds for each team to accumulate as many 10-point sets as possible.

  • Jumps  2 points
  • Tunnels            3 points
  • Contacts          5 points
  • Weave poles    5 points

Play starts with a “tag” (performance of a tire) and ends with a “tag” after the time whistle blows.  The logic of the game is simple:

  1. After the initial “tag”,
  2. the team gathers a 10-point set (exactly 10 points),
  3. then “tag”,
  4. gather another 10-point set (no more, no less than 10 points),
  5. then “tag” and so on until the whistle blows
  6. at which time the team should quickly “tag” to stop time.

Each 10-point set must be unique.  The team may not repeat a sequence—either forward or in reverse.  Dogs cannot take the same obstacle back-to-back.  They can take the same obstacle twice (and only twice) in a sequence as long as a different obstacle is taken in between.

Scoring

Tag 10 is scored points then time.  Time is a tiebreaker only.  Each 10-point set earns the team a score of 1.

If the team “tags” after a non-unique set, the judge will call “COPY” which means that set does not count.

If the dog Tags with more or less than 10 points, no points for the set shall be awarded. The judge may call “TAG”; but it’s not the judge’s job to do the math. The score-keeping table will sort out the bodies.

If the dog is in the middle of accumulating a set when time is called, the points earned in that set will be converted to a decimal score. For example, 4.6 points are earned for the fourth attempted set in which 6 obstacle points were accumulated. If the team does not stop time by “tagging,” they will keep their points but their time will be 999 seconds.

If a dog faults an obstacle, no points are awarded for that obstacle. The dog must perform another obstacle before repeating the faulted obstacle. If a bar is dropped the jump is out of play.

Qualifying

Games I           Two sets (at least 20 points)

Games II         Three sets (at least 30 points)

Games III        Four sets (at least 40 points)

Sample Course

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This is not the actual Tag 10 course that will be run at the Petit Prix.

Tag 10 requires the dog to score in books of 10 points. It is a good idea to immediately understand how to put together ten points:

  • Technical obstacles (contacts and weave poles); So, two technical obstacles = 10 points;
  • Jumps = 2 points and tunnels = 3 points; So, two tunnel/jump combinations = 10 points.
  • Putting together the first two: A technical obstacle and a tunnel/jump combination =10 points
  • Five jumps = 10 points.

You can’t make five points with jumps alone.

You can’t make five or 10 points with tunnels alone. If you score three tunnels, you are in a pickle. There’s nothing else to do but Tag away the tunnels (even though you lose all the points). Don’t waste time standing in the middle of the ring pulling your hair out.

Strategy of the Game ~ A Smooth Road

Your strategy for the game must be to find something smooth that delivers up blocks of 10 at your dog’s best working speed. Any fifth grader can make combinations of obstacles that add up to 10 points. It is the master handler who recognizes those that are quick business.

Two things to take into consideration in a point accumulation game like this will be the economy of the path and the relative difficulty of the obstacles on that path.

Take the fastest smoothest books of ten first. There is no sense in going after tough tens with there are quick tens to pick up by the bushel basket.

The thing to do, then, is plot as many unique 2-tunnel and 2-jump sequences as possible as the opening gambit. When these are exhausted look for a technical obstacle paired with a jump and tunnel. And finally look for two technical obstacles.

Given this strategy, we’ll use the sample course to visualize what the dog might do in 55/60 seconds.

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On this course are three tunnels. The entry to the collapsed tunnel/chute is so far removed from the rest of the action it should probably be used only once during the 2-tunnel & 2-jump part of the strategy. One of these two paths might be the smoothest opening of the course.

Be aware that the transitional distance between these books of ten, to and from the tire, may decide the winning score in Tag 10.

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The judge has a mind like a steel trap and will call “COPY” if you repeat a sequence either forward, or in reverse.

On the sample course envision at least four unique combinations for the two-jump & two-tunnel strategy after the opening. The plan must insist on conducting all of these, because these will comfortably produce the points required to qualify at the Games III level.

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At this point you have all of your fast and easy books of 10. Now you plan to work until somebody blows a whistle.

In your plan, visualize the books of Ten with the longer path and using the technical obstacles. Failing to have a plan will leave you flat-footed and feeling silly (in front of God and everybody).

When they blow the whistle… head for a last “Tag” of the tire. Don’t dawdle in this last moment. You can bet a lot of dogs have your dog’s exact score… and time is the tie-breaker.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Meet Me in Latrobe

September 16, 2014

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Here’s a picture from our front porch that I took a couple days ago. Fall has arrived with an abrupt turn in the temperature, chilling just enough to scare the tomatoes and make the humming birds consider the southern horizon. It’s a beautiful view and begs for sitting on the porch in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, wearing your robe a bit longer into the day than most people do.

Petit Prix

Hey, I have a couple events up and coming that will take me to Latrobe, PA. Obviously, there is the 2014 TDAA Petit Prix my very favorite agility event. That’s like six weeks away. For two days before the Petit Prix we’ll be doing the warm-up workshop. I get to work with canny competitors to gear them up for the tournament and give them a competitive edge in understanding the strategies of the games we’ll be playing. There might be a couple working slots still available. Contact Marsha Houston.Marsha@gmail.com for information.

Top Dog

This Saturday we’re doing a Top Dog league intro in Latrobe. I have no idea if anybody is actually going to show up. I didn’t take advanced reservations (because it’s not my league). But we’re going to film it with our vague notion of a reality show; and we’re going to play three games. It’ll be fun discovering who the Latrobe league team will be for the September Top Dog Challenge.

Now, if you’ve read down this far you’re actually reading my blog. I can loosen my tongue and not have to sound like I’m selling something. I have this vision you know, of an inexpensive/recreational approach to the game of dog agility. These are terms that easily slip off the tongue but don’t have much real definition in the world.

So let me put it like this, I’m a semi-retired man living in a cabin in the country. I have half a dozen continuing students. My wife and I run a small but very fun agility organization. And I subsist by the occasional seminar and selling ebooks for training dogs in agility. And you know, I can’t really afford to do dog agility like I want to. Agility trialing is like 10 times more expensive than a golfing habit.

I’m trying to create in Top Dog a model for play of the game that is as inexpensive and natural as a pick-up game of softball in the corner lot. Very few people really understand Top Dog. There’s plenty of information out there; I know because I’ve published it. But dang, we’re in the age of information over-load.  Being semi-retired I’m not in any hurry. I know that this new lonely outcast idea has to be built a brick at a time, a dog at a time, a club at a time.

Top Dog Challenge at Home

The weekend following the Top Dog intro in Latrobe, I’m going to invite a bunch of people to our place here in Watertown to run the challenge courses. This might be the last bit we can do outside this year.

Class Plan

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I pulled out an old skills exercise for our class this past week. This set-up is used for teaching the Tandem Turn which, as you should know, is a form of the rear cross in which the handler crosses behind his dog on the dismount of an obstacle, or on the flat.

We filmed most of the exercises (I bought a new camera last month!) I’m thinking that I want to make a DVD though I have no experience or particular expertise at that kind of publishing. I do know how to teach people to be master handlers… and that is the bit I’d like to share. It seems like a lot of work and bandwidth to put it all up as YouTube.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Ripsaw

May 12, 2014

“Ripsaw” is terminology that I pretty much made up to apply to a sequence that uses a pipe tunnel that sets the handler up to run into his dog on the exit of the tunnel. This is easy to illustrate:

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In this sequence the handler probably wants to try to get the dog on his right side on the exit of the tunnel. Without drawing the lines myself I’m trusting that you’ll see that the dog’s path and the handler’s path cross like a scissor cut on the exit of the tunnel. This is a recipe for collision.

When I review courses I typically try to discourage this convention. But I’ve noticed in the real world that it occurs often enough. From time to time I’ll intentionally put the rip-saw tunnel into play in my own classes; but not without a discussion about how it should be handled.

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This is a fun sequence that features no fewer than two ripsaw tunnels. It’s a bit on the technical side; be content that I’m considering this for some USDAA Masters Challenge course down the line.

Without belaboring the handling advice, I find the thing I most often have to teach in a sequence like this is that the handler points more with his toes than with his arm and hand. So picture the handler in the transition from the #6 pipe tunnel to the #7… running the dog past the #7 tunnel, pointing at it with his hand, but ignoring it completely with his feet. <heavy sigh>

On the Road Again

I’m about set for a long road trip. This next weekend I’ll be in Pottstown, IL for a TDAA trial at Dinky Dogs! And then it’s on to Golden, CO for the Western Petit Prix. I’ll do the usual two-day warm-up workshop before the three day event. I’m actually competing with two dogs, Hazard and Haymitch; though I’m not holding out to be terribly competitive on these old creaky knees. I’ll also be bringing along my by Kory. He’s been carrying is rear left leg and so the trip will be nothing but crate rest for him.

The Petit Prix is about my favorite competition in agility. We don’t have any sudden death events. Everybody gets to stay in the game ‘til the very end and will ultimately be measured for placement by overall performance. Some of the finest small dog athletes in the country will be in attendance. It’s like small dog agility heaven.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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:

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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.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Petit Prix

October 22, 2013

We’ve just arrived in Greensburg, PA for the beginning of a week that will include my favorite agility competition of the year… the TDAA Petit Prix!

The tournament features ten rounds of games and courses. There will be no sudden death penalties or dismissing any dog from the competition. In each round every dog will earn a score based on the overall placement against the field. When the dust settles… the dog with the most points wins.

Seven games and three standard rounds comprise the competition.

I’m thinking that the TDAA has developed the finest games players in the sport of agility. We can play any game imaginable; and we often do. Agility is not just a matter of “follow the numbers”. Anybody can do that. The TDAA challenges our fans with games of strategy and skill, games of cunning and guile, and games of speed.

The Petit Prix is the national tournament. It’s the one event every year where the best of small agility dogs get together to compete in a mix of games that test a variety of skills.

Obviously, I’m excited by the competition.

Tomorrow we start with the warm-up workshop. A few competitors who come early will spend two days training with me in study of the strategies for the games we’ll be playing in the Petit Prix.

I hope to share results of the Petit Prix on a daily basis here in my blog. I’m hoping that I have energy and effort to live up to this ambition. I’d very much like to publish or point to YouTube accounts of the competition. So, if you plan to be there… send me something to link!

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.