Posts Tagged ‘Nesting Courses’

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 6

September 26, 2012

The game to be played as the final round of the TDAA Petit Prix, our national championship tournament will be Jumpers. This is a game that doesn’t need much of an introduction as it is a popular format played by every agility venue in the world.

The Game Within the Game at the Petit Prix (you’ll have to see tomorrow’s blog) is the steadiness and overall performance of a dog in this competition. In a departure from all years previous there will be no elimination of dogs from the competition for falling below some arbitrary set-point of accumulated score. That means every dog will compete in every competition.

And, mind you, this is not a winner-take-all round.

At the 2012 Petit Prix the top 40 dogs will be set aside for a final showcase run on the Jumpers course. They will be run by jump height in reverse seed order. This round will be theirs to win or lose. It’s possible, and actually somewhat likely, that some of the exhibitors sitting as spectators during the showcase round will move up into the top 40 on the basis of their performance in the final round.

Jumpers

The Jumpers class measures a dog’s ability to jump and turn and the handler’s ability to exert control and timing in this fast-paced version of the agility game. Though the dog only needs to learn to jump to begin competing, Jumpers is one of the most difficult games to perfect as dogs move at a much greater speed than in other classes.

Briefing

Jumpers courses consist only of hurdles and tunnels, with some limitations between the different venues. The dog is required to run the course in the sequence indicated by the judge.

Follow the numbers. And keep the bars up.

Jumpers is judged according to the performance rules for the respective venue.

Scoring

Jumpers is usually scored Faults, Then Time the winner being the dog with the fewest faults. If two dogs have the same number of Faults, Then Time breaks the tie.

Jumpers can be scored Time, Plus Faults. The winner would be the dog with the lowest score.

Course Design

This is an example of a USDAA Masters course. A USDAA course requires the performance of at least three spread hurdles. These courses are not inconsequential in terms of challenge and handling. You’ll see options and traps and the need for excellent timing and deft handling.

This is an example of a Novice course. Note that it is nested perfectly with the Masters course example. The course designer may want to move out unused obstacles so that the lower levels are not presented with “dummy” jumps.

Excepting play in the AKC (and possibly in USDAA Team/PVP) only tunnels and hurdles may be used on the course. As the level of competition rises, so does the complexity of the course. In addition, as the level of competition increases, the time to perform the course decreases.

This is an example of a Jumpers course designed for play in the TDAA. The spacing between obstacles is considerably tighter than in any other venues. What’s worth remembering about the TDAA is that it is intended for dogs of small stature. And so the Jumpers course especially emphasizes the central idea of the TDAA, to present to the small dog handler challenges that are comparable to what big dog handlers face on any given weekend.

This is an example of an important variation of Jumpers called, appropriately, Jumpers With Weaves. The performance standard for AKC Excellent Jumpers With Weaves requires an unflinching mastery of the course.

This is an example of a DOCNA Jumpers course (arguably it would be suitable for NADAC as well). You’ll note that DOCNA does not use tunnels, and all of the jumps are wingless. In the NADAC-style venues the courses are devoid of challenges that are routine in venues like the USDAA, AKC, and TDAA; you’ll find no options, or traps, hard-about turns, or wicked handling moments. Everything is flow and go. As a consequence, the rates of travel for NADAC and DOCNA are more aggressive and demanding than in any other venue.

Strategies

The basic advice in the Jumpers class is to follow the numbers, and keep the bars up.

Since only jumps and tunnels (where allowed) are used, Jumpers courses tend to be more difficult for handlers to memorize than other types of courses. To be successful in Jumpers, it is more important than ever to remember course flow and sequences rather than individual obstacles.

Also, the handler’s movement and timing are important on Jumpers courses in the control of the dog as the action is coming fast and furious. The handler should be sharp, and timely.

The most common faults in Jumpers are wrong courses and refusal. Thus, emphasis should be placed on considering approaches, angles, and distances to obstacles during the course walk-though.

The key strategy for Jumpers is to train the dog to jump and to be responsive to handling in fast and flowing situations.

Qualifying and Titles

Nearly every venue features Jumpers as a titling class and an element of the respective championship programs.

Qualifying is based on the measured length of the dog’s path; usually at considerably more aggressive rates of travel than the standard classes. Whether the scoring basis is Time+Faults or Faults, Then Time, the score must be equal to or less than the established SCT. The lowest score wins.

Variations

  • Jumpers with Weaves ~ This format is used by the AKC. In a departure from the Jumpers class in most venues, Weave poles are featured in the jumpers course.
  • USDAA Dog Agility Masters® (DAM) tournament Jumpers – The format for DAM Jumpers is different from the Jumpers played in USDAA titling classes: 1) weave poles are often included; 2) a refusal is penalized 2 points; and 3) The scoring system is Time, Plus Faults.
  • Land Rover Drive – This game, also known as Jump and Drive, is perhaps a historical footnote. The Land Rover Drive and Jumping contest grew out of the sponsorship by Land Rover for agility trials in the U.K. The handler loads his dog into a Land Rover, drives a designated course, parks the vehicle in a garage and then jumps out to run his dog over a Jumpers course. The judge will designate the starting point for the Land Rover, the path of the vehicle and the garage where the vehicle must be parked. Dog and handler (and the course clock) start on foot across a starting line designated by the judge.
  • Black and Whites – This British variation is Jumpers for black and white Border Collies only (or black and white dogs with any hint of BC in them).
  • Jumpers with Weaves Plus ~ loosely based on the AKC Jumpers with Weaves titling class, but with multiple weave pole challenges. The Purpose of the game is to complete the course in the specified order, as quickly as possible, without faults.

This is an example of a Jumpers with Weaves Plus course (closely based on a course designed by Ilze Rukis for play in the TDAA in Warrensburg, IL on April 12, 2003).

Premium Blurb

Jumpers is a favorite game in the dog agility world. Courses are made up of jumps and tunnels only, so the play is fast and furious. Follow the numbers and keep the bars up.

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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.

Games of the Petit Prix ~ Part 4

September 24, 2012

The TDAA seeks a balance in the types of games played in the Petit Prix, our national tournament. Heinz 57, described in some detail below, is a relatively simple game that is a test of the steadiness of the dog and handler team. It is a game of arithmetic, a simple calculation of obstacle values, multiplied by two along the way, to arrive at precisely 57 points.

A dog who faults an obstacle is not lost! However the handler had better be very capable of recalculating his arithmetic on the run.

This is a continuing series that provides a careful analysis of the games to be played at the 2012 Petit Prix. The 2012 Petit Prix will be run in two regions. All winners from either venue will be recognized as our national champions for 2012. A dog may compete in either tournament; or both.

Heinz 57

Heinz 57 is the invention of Bud and Marsha Houston. The premise for the invention of the game was silly enough… they started with the name of the game and made up the game to fit the name. It turns out to be an interesting application of math to solve the qualifying criteria.

Briefing

The purpose of this game 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 pipe tunnels and the tire
  • 3 pts for contact obstacles
  • 5 pts for weave poles
  • The collapsed chute is doubling obstacle

Obstacles can be taken twice for points; back-to-back performances are never allowed. Another obstacle must be performed before the dog can be redirected to an obstacle (whether or not it was faulted). The collapsed tunnel has a special value, it is a doubling obstacle. The collapsed tunnel can be taken twice; and cannot be taken back-to-back.

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

The table marks the finish of the course. The table becomes live after the dog has earned one point (the Mr. Banks rule). The handler should exercise caution when directing the dog to obstacles near the table because if the dog gets on, then scoring ceases, without regard to the handler’s intentions.

Scoring

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. Time is a tie-breaker only; but in a game like this time is a very important tie-breaker.

Course Design

Heinz 57 requires a random distribution of unnumbered obstacles. It is a game that could easily be nested from the set of equipment another game or course with little equipment movement.

This Heinz 57 course was put up as a Team Gambler in a USDAA Dog Agility Masters Tournament. The course is closely nested with a Masters standard class previously run.

You’ll note in this design the collapsed tunnel is placed at considerable distance from the table. The handler’s strategy for point accumulation will have to carefully account for obstacles to be taken, or avoided, moving from the second performance of the doubling obstacle to the table.

In a kindly course design the handler should be coming out of the collapsed tunnel with 56 points… anything more than 1 more point will NQ the team. The judge’s design might place the chute in a friendly position towards the front of the ring, providing for a one-point obstacle on the way to the finish.

This course was designed to easily pick up one final point at the end of play and head for the table to end time. This TDAA course illustrates: as the point accumulation can be quite modest Heinz 57 can be played in a relatively few obstacles and in a small space.

This Heinz 57 course, also a teacup design, has placed the collapsed tunnel at a considerable distance from the table with a lot of obstacles between the tunnel and the table. The riddle isn’t quite as easy as it looks, as the dog needs to earn an odd number of points before getting to the table.

Qualifying

The qualifying criteria for Heinz 57 shall be:

  • All levels – a score of 57

Strategy

The essential strategy of Heinz 57 is to find the most efficient path that scores the required number of points in the least amount of time. The game will surely be won by the best time to the table or finish line.

Heinz 57 is a game of arithmetic. The scoring mantra is “13 & Double, 2 and Double, 1 and Done”. This math outlines the strategy for the game when the kindly judge makes it an easy matter to pick up a single point and get to the table without terrible conflict.

On the other hand, the course could put the collapsed tunnel at some distance from the finish. This can be a test of skill, and canny handling, for the handler to bring his dog out of the chute with a number of points that is balanced with the value of a closing sequence of obstacles. It’s important to acknowledge that coming out of the tunnel (the doubling obstacle) the score of the dog will always be an even number. That means the accumulation to the table will have to be an odd number to get to 57.

It’s nearly impossible to run this game in a willy-nilly fashion, doing the required math as you run. And so the handler should seek a strategy that is as fixed and sure as though it were a numbered course.

Recovering from error will be the real test of the handler’s mettle. If the dog drops a bar before the first double, the handler should find a way to make up the point as he works, keeping in mind that the “make-up” should be one point before the first double; two points after the first double; and four points after the second double.

Judging Notes

If a dog faults an obstacle the judge should call fault simply as advice to the handler that his dog did not earn the point value for that obstacle. Be mindful that the dog is required to attempt the performance of another obstacle before returning to the faulted obstacle. However, dropped bars will not be reset and the jump with a downed bar will have no value.

Note that “fluffing” the chute of the collapsed tunnel will be problematic as the two doubles should come in rapid succession. Be alert to a problem of twisted fabric, which may be caused by the wind in an out-of-doors trial, or by the yaw of the dog in the performance. The judge might quickly step in to give the corner of the chute a tug to straighten it out. In dire circumstance the judge could halt play to prevent a twisted chute from being dangerous to the dog.

Premium Blurb

Heinz 57 is a strategic dog’s choice point accumulation game. The purpose of the game is to score exactly 57 points using a doubling obstacle (usually the collapsed tunnel). Heinz 57 is scored Points, Then Time.

Variations

  • Alternate doubling obstacle ~ the judge/course designer might specify an alternate doubling obstacle for Heinz 57.
  • Original Rules ~ The following rules have been amended or removed from play of Heinz 57:JFF rules will be used for performance faults. For example, no specific faults are associated with the weave poles. However, any error must be fixed or the dog will not earn points for the obstacle.With the exception of jumps, if a dog commits to any obstacle he is required to reattempt that obstacle until it is not faulted to keep the handler from doing something unsafe for the dog should the dog volunteer for an obstacle unaccounted for by the handler’s strategy. No new points will be awarded until that obstacle has been performed.

The Champions’ Vest

We decided this year that the top 40 players at each Petit Prix should win commemorative apparel. We settled on a high-quality fleece vest that is American made. Marsha and I both are huge advocates of buying American products[1] whenever we have the choice.

How the vests will be awarded put us momentarily into a quandary. In the final round of the Petit Prix the top 40 players will be set aside to run last, by jump height, in showcase fashion. The difficulty is that, after the dust settles, it’s possible that the 40 players on the floor will not own the top 40 scores. Remember that this is a new format for the Petit Prix; every player will play every game and earn placement points against the field.

What we’ve decided on is this… the Champions’ Vests will not be given out before the showcase round. They will be given to the top 40 winners after all dogs have run, as part of the awards ceremony.

The vests will be royal blue with this embroidered emblem:

In case you are wondering there will be only one vest to an individual handler, regardless of how many dogs that handler placed in the top 40 dogs.

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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.


[1] The cost is maybe four times what we might have done; a lower quality item manufactured by child labor in Malaysia.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 3

September 21, 2012

This is a continuing series that provides a careful analysis of the games to be played at the 2012 Petit Prix. The 2012 Petit Prix will be run in two regions. All winners from either venue will be recognized as our national champions for 2012. A dog may compete in either tournament; or both.

Oct 26 – 27 – 28, 2012  PENNSYLVANIA PETIT PRIX
B & D
Creekside Activity Center
Latrobe, PA
Judge:  Deb Auer (IL), John Finley (OH)
Contact:  Janice Reynolds  (e-mail: arcmasterjanice@comcast.net)
Premium

Nov 2 – 3 – 4, 2012  TEXAS PETIT PRIX
Wichita Falls
/Wichita Co. Multi-Purpose Events Center
Wichita Falls, TX
Judges:  Deb Auer (IL), Wayne Van Deusen (WI)
Contact:  Kim Brewer  (e-mail: tantantanner@yahoo.com)
Premium

The games we’ll play are described in this series. For additional information and sample courses refer to The Book of Agility Games at www.dogagility.org/newstore.

What’s My Line

Named after the old television game of the 50s and 60s, What’s My Line? presents the obstacle course in the form of a puzzle. The game provides all handlers the opportunity to come up with a strategy for running the most efficient course possible. In the U.K., this game is known as Take Your Own Line.

Briefing

The objective of What’s My Line is to perform all of the obstacles on the field without repeating or omitting any or omitting any, as quickly as possible.

The handler earns one point for each obstacle his dog performs successfully. Each obstacle has the same value, regardless of the difficulty of performance and regardless of the number assigned to the obstacle.

If an obstacle is performed twice, the dog will lose a point for the performance.

If an obstacle is faulted, the team will receive no point for that obstacle. Further, the obstacle will be counted as used/completed. So the dog would earn an additional fault if the obstacle is repeated.

A four-paw commitment to a contact obstacle will commit the dog to the performance of that obstacle. Under this rule, if a dog commits to a contact obstacle with all four-paws, then bails off, he has committed to that obstacle. While the on-and-off refusal will not be faulted, the dog must be directed to finish the contact obstacle.

Time will be started and stopped at points designated by the judge. A maximum course time can be applied at the discretion of the judge.

Scoring

What’s My Line is scored Points, Then Time. Time is a tie-breaker only. The team with the most points will win.

Performance faults might be based on any rational system.

Course Design

What’s My Line uses obstacles laid out in a random pattern on the field, without numbers, and with no suggested course flow. What’s My Line can be played on virtually any configuration of obstacles. It is an ideal game to nest with another game or standard course so that only a minimal amount of tweaking of the obstacles is required.

This What’s My Line course is based on an existing numbered sequence. You can see it here: http://wp.me/pmSZZ-15p. This set of the field has a nice elegant solution, or two. Note that neither the start of the finish is constrained to a small area or single obstacle. This allows for a variety of possible solutions.

Course design may also be approached as a puzzle intentionally designed for What’s My Line. This design challenges the participants to see the lines and flow that might be less obvious.

The course designer should avoid big obvious loops that solve the riddle of order and direction. The riddle should be more like a puzzle.

Qualifying and Titles

Qualification should be based on the number of obstacles on the course. At the Masters/ Superior level the dog should earn all points; and only slightly fewer points should be required for lower levels.

For example on a field with 16 obstacles (and consequently 16 points) the qualifying criteria might be:

  • Games 1 ~ 14 points
  • Games 2 ~ 15 points
  • Games 3 ~ 16 points

A kinder judge might back these point requirements down by a single point.

Judging Notes

Obstacles may be numbered at the judge’s discretion. These numbers are for the judge’s reference only and in no way suggest a sequence for running the course. The advantage of numbering the obstacles is that the judge simply accounts for each obstacle performed; the bodies will be sorted out at the score-keeping table (meaning that the score-keeper will analyze the numbers for completeness of the mission, repeated obstacles, and so forth). Note that any game that requires the judge to yell out numbers lends itself to scribing errors.

Rather than numbering obstacles the judge might use the Mind Like a Steel Trap method for keeping track of accounting for the dog’s path. In this method is the judge’s responsibility to call the fault when an obstacle is repeated. The judge could signal one point for each obstacle performed or could inform the scribe of the total number after the dog has run.

Variations

  • Never Cross the Line variation – In this variation, invented by Helix Fairweather, in addition to the stipulation that the dog cannot repeat any obstacle, he is not allowed to cross his own line (meaning, no crossing patterns).

This is an example of Helix Fairweather’s “Never Cross the Line” variation. The dog is required to do all of the obstacles without repeating any, with the additional stipulation that he’s not allowed to cross his own path.

  • Zero Value Obstacle – The judge mentions the zero value of the obstacle in the general briefing. Whether the handler directs his dog to perform the obstacle depends upon whether he was paying attention in the briefing or whether he wants to give the dog time on the obstacle as a warm-up for a later class. There is no penalty for the dog performing the zero-valued obstacle. Frequently, the valueless obstacle is the dogwalk.
  • Scoring variation – Another scoring variation is to award the obstacle point values as in Gamblers, instead of just 1 point. More difficult numbers are assigned to the more difficult obstacles. The more obstacles on course, the higher the maximum possible score. This assignment of numbers might affect the handler’s strategy, as the handler might attempt the higher point values earlier in the solution to the course.
  • Original rules ~ If an obstacle is performed twice scoring will cease immediately. The team keeps points earned and must be directed to the time-stopper to stop the time.Also the original rules stipulated that if an obstacle is faulted “The handler may choose to retry the obstacle until it is performed correctly.”

Competitors Analysis

The handler’s job is obviously to find the most economical path for the dog to perform all of the obstacles. The handler should be ingenious in looking for lines through the course, which should not be limited by vertical and horizontal lines. Diagonal lines in the course should also be considered.

More important than finding a solution to the riddle is to find the shortest path that solves. Distance from the start  line to the first obstacle and distance from the last obstacle to the finish line should be taken into consideration.

Whenever possible use your handling skills and training foundation to steal a second or two from the competition. For example, if there is a moment in the course that requires a hard-aback turn after a jump, use your ability to pre-cue the turn or get an efficient wrapping turn to gain an advantage.

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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.

Thursday Night Fun Run

January 9, 2009

One of our favorite activities here at Country Dream is the Thursday Night Fun Run. It’s my opportunity to put up a challenging course or sequence for the most enthusiastic of my students. Oh yes, winter in Ohio will measure the enthusiasm mettle of the agility fan. Our training building is unheated. In the fall when temperatures are mild and accommodating we have a pretty good crowd on hand. But this time of year it’s down to the hard-core few with true grit.

It all starts at 6:30 pm with a warm up exercises. This is followed by running the feature course or sequence, or playing a challenge game. And then we wrap up the night with break-down analysis of the course and a rerun to test what we might have learned by practicing the challenging bits.

It’s supposed to be a fun-run. That means I don’t spend a lot of time teaching. Between you and me and the wall, I just can’t help myself. The interesting thing about this format is that it allows me to be nearly Socratic in my approach. Rather than overtly pushing a training point I simply introduce concept in discussion to draw the players into participation and practice.

The Warm-Up Sequence

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The real difficult bit in this sequence will be the approach to the weave poles. The transition from jump #7 to the weave poles is short. And it becomes an awful nearly perpendicular approach from the entry side.

You’ll note that a number of handlers will gratuitously do a Back Cross at the #3 pipe tunnel. If the dog is fast chances are he’ll come firing out of the pipe tunnel with not much productive to do until the handler manages to run out around the A-frame. If the dog is slow the handler probably can get into the picture as the dog comes out of the pipe tunnel… but if the dog is slow, why is the handler using fast dog handling anyhow? The best opening might be a lead-out dog-on-right into a Front Cross to get the dog into the pipe tunnel.

We ran this warm-up several times. It did help us get warmed up in the cold training building. And it allowed me to show a serpentine Front Cross to shape the entry to the weave poles for dogs that truly need a shaping of the approach.

The Challenge Sequence

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To tell you the darned truth this sequence is a study of the 270° turn. In a there and back again design the handler and dog are twice faced with the shaped approach puzzle presented by the 270°; first in the opening, #2 through #4; and then again in the closing #9 through #11. .

A little analysis shows the two 270° challenges to be quite different in nature. In the opening the dog is faced with wrong-course options after jump #3 and again after the tire at #4. What we tend to see in this kind of technical challenge is a lot of over-handling and micromanagement of the dog’s path. Meddling doesn’t actually improve our chances for success.

In the closing there are no true options. And, if we really look at the closing sequence of four obstacles it might be treated overall as a serpentine… since it is, actually, a serpentine.

A couple handling notes

Should I ever offer a handling plan it is not to suggest that it is the one true way. I believe nothing of the sort. Anything that actually works is true enough.

After commenting on the gratuitous use of the Back Cross in the warm-up sequence I show the handler starting with dog on left to the tire using the Back Cross to draw the dog in sharply thereby solving the discrimination to the A-frame.

In the closing I suggest racing the dog from the dismount of the weave poles to the end of sequence. This is where the handler steals seconds from his competition. Rather than handling and playing to survive the handler puts it into another gear, and races to the finish. The handling I like here is Front Cross after jump #9, and a series of Blind Crosses as the handler weaves in and out of the serpentine of jumps.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.

Nesting Courses for USDAA

January 8, 2009

Everybody who judges for the USDAA has been stuck out there with a dozen courses to be run in a single day, once you account for each level being requiring a unique course. The time required to conduct the trial is a matter of simple arithmetic. Any kind of dramatic course change will require a minimum of 15 minutes to build and 5 minutes to tweak; 5 minutes to brief and 15 minutes to start the class. These numbers are optimistically conservative. Consequently if you have 11 course changes after you’ve begun the day… six hours and 45 minutes have been occupied without a single dog running.

The number of dogs per day judged given the inefficient design of courses creates these undeniable mathematical outcomes. Dogs should run at an average rate of about one a minute during the conduct of all classes:


Dogs Judged

Time Spent Running Dogs

Time Spent Course Changes


Total Time

100

1 hour 40 min

6 hours 45 min

8 hours 25 min

200

3 hours 20 min

6 hours 45 min

10 hours 5 min

250

4 hours 10 min

6 hours 45 min

10 hours 55 min

300

5 hours

6 hours 45 min

11 hours 45 min

A nearly perfect nested course can create a transition of only 5 minutes from the end of one class to the start of briefing for the next. “Rotate these two jumps; take out these two jumps… and renumber.”

If this short interval between classes is realized the overall schedule for the day might be reduced by as much as three hours; though, realistically, more about two hours – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Masters Standard
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I  often have to argue with USDAA course reviewers who think my courses are too soft (not technical enough). I’m typically content with creating a single overt handling challenge while sprinkling a number more subtle challenges throughout the course.
• The handler is faced with a decision as to which direction to turn his dog on jump #3. This is a bit of a conundrum as the handler who turns to the left had better be pretty skillful at managing the dog’s path to give an adequately square approach; though the handler turning the dog to the right creates a longer consequential path.

• In the turn over two jumps after the A-frame back to the pipe tunnel the dog is presented with a look at jump #20. While it is at some distance an inattentive handler could actually lose his dog to the wrong course or, at the very least, create a wider turn than was necessary.

• The transition from the teeter to the dogwalk might have been more interesting if the table were a jump so that we could get the performance of a three-jump pinwheel and a lot more electricity in the dog’s movement. With that in mind… I could use this as a Grand Prix course and put a jump in place of the table.

None-the-less, the simple 180º turn of jumps after the table will often cause the handler to fail to give enough to the team in terms of movement and direction. I expect the fault rate here to actually be higher than the turn from jump #3 to the A frame.

• The abrupt turn from the dogwalk back over jump #14 will surely cause some handlers to pull their dogs off the ramp prematurely as some are apt to cue the turn before the dog has done his job. Most errors on course are actually timing errors on the part of the handler.

• The transition from the dogwalk to the weave poles is a big and somewhat generous serpentine. It is the nature of a serpentine that the handler has to change sides to his dogs. So the real question here is where the handler will effect the change of sides. The collapsed tunnel presents a bit of a conundrum for the handler’s decision.

• The straight-forward approach to the weave poles is more difficult than it might seem. The dog will be accelerating out of the turn and making the approach after a spread hurdle. So, we get to make the approach at full speed.

• A tire after the weave poles has considerable visual acuity to the dog and is a test of the dog’s steadiness in the poles.

Advanced Standard
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Maintaining Appropriate Challenge – Masters to Advanced

This is very close to the same course that I gave the Masters competitors. I removed the choice of turning direction riddle between jump #2 and the A-frame. The challenge (a “Managed Approach”) is a bit more than should be expected of competitors in the Advanced class.

The only change required on this nested course is renumbering. Indeed, when I wheel the Masters course I will make note of the difference in length in the jump #2 to the A-frame riddle for each level so that I won’t even have to wheel the course again for the Advance class. Note that the order of classes might actually be:

Advanced Standard first, and then Masters. It truly is six-of-one and half-a-dozen of the other.

Starters Standard
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Maintaining Appropriate Challenge –Advanced to Starters

I’ve made a fairly dramatic change to get from Advanced Standard to Starters. I’ve removed the two jumps between the table and the dogwalk; and I’ve made the obstacle following the dogwalk the collapsed tunnel, in order to take a jump out of the course.

The performance of the collapsed tunnel is a softer challenge for Starters in any case. It should be quite simple for them to cross in front of or behind their dogs at the entry so that they are on the side of the turn as the dog makes his exit (but you know those silly starters… a lot of them will have dog on left after the collapsed tunnel, trying to figure out how to affect the turn as they go).

I will instruct my course builders that they have precisely two minutes to effect the course change after the last dog runs in the previous class (mindful now… that this might actually be the first class of the day). Send a crew of two to rearrange chute and jump while taking out a jump; send a crew of two to take out the two jumps around the table; and send one guy out to hastily renumber the course.

Don’t be a Tweak Grinch
I’ve never been one for adjusting obstacles an inch or even a foot this way or that way. On a well-nested course you can get things very well set for the first course of the day by taking your site-lines and drawing it all up tight. For the rest of the day be attentive to the proper rotation or attitude of the obstacle when obstacles are moved. Insure that adequate distances have been provided for the handler and his dog to solve your riddles.

When reviewing the work of course builders I mostly want to be sure that the challenges that I’d envisioned have been preserved. Always look at the course from the POV of the working dog.

Gamblers for all levels
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Nesting from Standard to Games
Economy of obstacle movement from a standard class to a game is just as important as the economy of movement within standard classes. I based Gamblers layout on the Superior Standard course. Mostly what I wanted to do is study of the layout of equipment that I already had, and come up with distance challenges appropriate for each level of play:

• On this course the Masters gamble is indicated in RED. The oblique containment line after the #1 jump was added as an afterthought. Frankly some handlers will get in trouble stepping all the way up to this line because it will require contrary movement to get back around the jump to support the dog in the weave poles.

• Advanced gamble is indicated in BLUE. This is a simple lateral distance performance of the A-frame. Note that I’ve given the Advanced players a choice of sides from which to start. The side to the south is decidedly more difficult; but if they get caught back there when the warning whistle blows they’ll have an opportunity to get going with their gamble.

• Starters gamble is indicated in GREEN. This is a very simple distance challenge that will provide basic proof that the dog will go away from the handler to work. The oblique line after jump #3 ensures that the handler doesn’t get to lean over the jump.

To build this course, some movement of equipment was required:

• Rotated jump, green #3

• Changed the shape of the pipe tunnel, green #2.

• Rotated and changed position slightly of jump, red #1

• Reversed the direction of the teeter to provide for flow into the Advanced gamble.

• Slightly changed the position of jump, blue #1 (north).

• Added a jump to the right of the weave poles to provide for additional flow onto the field.

• Moved the position of the table to accommodate all three gambles.

Sometimes I’ll start with a notion for a gamble I’d like to try out on Masters players. When I do this I typically design the gamble challenge first and will base and build the standard class on that set of equipment (taking care to give flow through the gamble obstacles that doesn’t allow them to practice the gamble during the Standard class). Almost always when I’ve tried to superimpose a gamble I want to try out on an already existing standard class, it will necessitate more equipment movement than is desirable.

Take note of the number of players at each level at the trial. In a very small trial it’s entirely possible to walk all three levels at once. More likely you’ll wind up with a disproportionate kind of entry where… you might brief and walk Starters and Advanced at the same time, but wind up giving Masters a split walk-through.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net.  And Check out my new publication the Idea Book – Agility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.