Posts Tagged ‘TDAA’

Preparing for the Petit Prix

April 30, 2015

We’re getting excited about the upcoming TDAA championship tournament. Here’s the calendar listing (complete with links to download premium & tournament rules)

PA

Oct  16 – 17 – 18 , 2015  PETIT PRIX T15999
B&D Creekside Activity Center Latrobe, PA
Judges:  Joan Wiekowski and Beth Moline
Contact:  Pat Kelm
Indoors on field turf. Three standard classes and 7 games. Special ribbons, special prizes, great swag this year!
Premium
Tournament Rules

On a very personal level, this will be the “championship” debut for our young girl Cedar, who (due to age) might have only a couple of local trials under her belt before the Petit Prix. That is not to say she won’t be ready. She’s been getting two-a-day training sessions since she was 8 weeks old.

Cedar’s competition will be a field of outstanding agility dogs; handled by some of the best agility gamesmen in our sport.

It is time for me to publish a series on the games we will be playing for the benefit of everybody who attends. In the TDAA nearly any conceivable agility game is eligible for competition and titling. Fans of the TDAA are students of a wide variety of games.

In the following discussion, I’ve moved the “Strategy” heading to the top of the briefing, rather than burying it down below.

Cha-Cha

Cha-Cha is the invention of Jeff Boyer. The Cha-Cha dance was invented in Cuba sometime in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. A Latin dance, it is characterized by two slow, rocking steps, followed by three quick steps (the “cha-cha-cha”) danced to a 4/4 beat. The handler must figuratively dance the Cha-Cha with his dog around the “ballroom” (the agility ring).

Strategy

It is true that Cha-Cha is a dog’s choice game. That means that obstacles can be taken in the order and direction of the dog and handler’s choosing. It is not, however, a completely free & loosy goosey point accumulation game like gamblers which rewards the dog for obstacles performed indiscriminately.

Cha-Cha requires a very specific tempo of scoring: two slow obstacles, followed by three fast obstacles.

Unnumbered courses can be a tough intellectual challenge. Some people aren’t equipped to “make it up as you go along”. Well, that’s the wrong way to look at it.

The canny handler will plot a winning strategy, and lay it out as a plan, as surely and specifically as any numbered course. This is fundamental to success in any so-called “dog’s choice” game. Plan your work, and work your plan.

This game gets a little complicated on any performance fault by the dog. The rules specify that on any fault the unfinished bar is lost, and the dog must begin again.

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Briefing

The objective is for the team to accumulate as many bars of Cha-Cha steps as they can in the time allotted. A Cha-Cha bar consists of any two obstacles other than jumps followed by three jumps. For example, a bar might be a contact obstacle, a tunnel, and then three jumps. Or it might be two tunnel performances followed by three jumps. For each successful bar, the team will earn one point. The game is scored points, then time. Time is for tie-breaking only.

Bar jumps may be used as often as desired. Other obstacles may be used only twice for credit. Obstacles other than bar jumps may be taken back-to-back, as long as this is done safely. Bar jumps may not be taken back-to-back. The first obstacle to be taken at the start of any run may not be a contact obstacle.

The following faults will be in effect:

  • Dropped bars (dropped bars are not reset and the jump is out of play)
  • Missed contacts
  • Incomplete weave pole performance
  • Back-to-back performance of a bar jump
  • Taking an obstacle more than twice (except for bar jumps)
  • Taking a contact obstacle as the first obstacle in the run
  • Incorrect number of “slow” or “quick” steps since the last successful bar

The judge will call “one” for each successful bar (set of 5 obstacles). In the event of a fault, the judge will call “fault,” and the team must begin a new bar. Counting of a bar will begin only once the “slow” steps are started.

The dog may begin anywhere along the start line. Time begins when the dog first crosses the Start line. The timer will blow the whistle at the end of point accumulation time, at which point the handler must direct the dog across the finish line or to the finish obstacle to stop the clock.

Course Design

Course design should enable reasonable paths around the ring, with bar jumps liberally sprinkled all over. Transition distances and approach angles should be consistent with venue rules as much as practicable. For safety, contact obstacles should not be placed where they are likely to be taken as the first obstacle in the run. The obstacles should be set to enable multiple likely paths, yet allow the judge the ability to view all of them with minimal difficulty and movement. A Standard course might lend itself well to reuse as a Cha-Cha course. The number and types of obstacles in a FullHouse course might also be a useful guideline.

The sample course above tests the random nature of the game. It was based on an existing standard course. Still I found myself adding jumps to the course to create three jump pinwheels and jump sets so that the jumps weren’t isolated (nothing but trouble under the stated rules.

Scoring

Cha-Cha is scored Bars (Points), Then Time

Qualifying

To qualify in TDAA, the teams must accumulate the following minimum number of bars (points):

  • Games I – 30 points (3 Bars)
  • Games II – 34 points (3 Bars and 4 points)
  • Games III – 40 points (4 Bars)

Variations

In the Tillman variation the game is scored by obstacle point values. And so the scoring basis is Points-Then-Time, rather than “Bars”-Then-Time. In the first use of this variation TDAA judge Vickie Tillman set obstacle values as: “Contact obstacles-3 pts; Tunnel & tire)-2 pts; Jumps 1 pt.” Qualifying criteria was then established as:

  • Games 1 – 16
  • Games 2 – 24
  • Games 3 – 32

Premium Blurb

Cha-Cha is a game that requires the dog to earn points to the beat of the Cha-cha: two slow beats (non-jump obstacles) followed by three quick beats (jumps). This is a game of strategy and precision.

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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. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.

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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.

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.

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.

Variations on Dare to Double

November 29, 2013

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

To summarize:

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

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

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

Dare to Double example #1 ~ common

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Briefing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scoring and Qualifying

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

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

 

Dare to Double example #2 ~ sans warning whistle

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Briefing

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

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

Scoring

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

 

Dare to Double example #3 ~ Flanigan Variation

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Briefing

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

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

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

Scoring and Qualifying

Dare to Double is scored Points, Then Time.

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

Strategy

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

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

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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.

Turning Choices

October 6, 2013

Last weekend I was in Grand Junction, CO for an agility seminar. While the participants were largely novice, they were willing and brought along a nice bunch of dogs to work with. I look forward to working with them again.

Did I mention this is my busy season? I’ve tried to stay up on chores and miscellaneous projects around the property. Sometimes I wish I owned two mules and a 14 year old boy. But it’s just me and Marsha. I’d share my list of chores and projects with you. But you know, it’ll just sound like a bunch of work.

Aside from the torture of physical labor I’ve been reviewing courses until my brain turns numb. And you know, I have a trial coming up next weekend (USDAA) and I’m only just now wrapping the course design process with reviewers. I’ll be on the road by Friday, heading for Louisville. Is it Louisville? I’d better check.

I’ve also been continuing to work with my girl Prim. At the moment I’m concentrating on Left and Right, a back-pass, and the weave poles. And I’m enjoying playing with about a 50’ send. She can be amazing.

And, don’t you know, we have the TDAA Petit Prix coming up. This is my favorite event of the year and I’m really looking forward to the competition. Some of the best small dogs and handlers in this country will converge on Latrobe, PA to show their skills. It’s on the calendar (http://tdaanews.wordpress.com/tdaa-events-calendar/). I hope you are planning on coming! I know that I need to write some white paper notes on the games we’ll be playing, and publish them in this web log. Need to get started on that. The Petit Prix is in about three weeks.

As is our tradition, I’ll be heading up two days early for the Petit Prix Warm-up Workshop. It’s packed full. Of course I intend to give everyone a real intense work-out, and get them primed for the competition.

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For my Tuesday night class I have the set of the floor pictured here. There’s something I saw in a course I was reviewing that I’d like to present as a lesson to my students. I’ve talked about it before… the logic of turning direction when a jump presents a choice of turning directions. Just to pick out an obvious example of turning direction: in the sequence pictured above, what direction should the handler turn his dog after jump #3?

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If you follow my writing at all you probably know that I have an analysis I go through to make an informed decision about turning direction. I take into account things like “natural turning direction”, risk, length of path… and as this exercise illustrates: “consequential path”.

This illustration seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. Though surely when some people put their dogs on course they don’t even do the no-brainer analysis.

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It wouldn’t take much to draw some of the other elements of analysis into turning direction analysis. And yet “consequential path” still makes its own powerful argument. Maybe what it really argues for are handling skills.

* * *

It’s late now and I think I’m just going to go to bed. There are some things I leave for solving while I sleep and I need to get to those.

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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.

Class Plan

July 16, 2013

Okay, it’s about a bazillion degrees outside; and I spent the morning yesterday setting up this course on the grassy out-of-doors agility field. I don’t actually have minions to help me, so you can imagine the buckets of sweat that soaked my clothes.

Marsha isn’t a big fan of out-of-doors play. For me playing on grass is fundamental. It’s how agility was meant to be played. I’m sympathetic to Marsha, and everybody who prefers to play in the shade and away from the bugs. Weather is cruel more often than not in Ohio. Either it’s freezing and icy; or it’s muddy and wet; or it’s brutally hot. There might be a dozen days out of the year on which conditions are perfect for both human and canine.

I’m very aware of the safety issues when working a dog out in the sun. With our dogs, I’ll only work outside for ten or twenty minutes when temperatures are so high.

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This course, by the way, is both the oldest and the latest course challenge for Top Dog Agility. We’ve had a subtle rules change that allows re-running of any course. What it really means is that a course or game never “closes” but is left open like the high scores on a video game at the arcade where everybody has a shot at getting to Top Dog.

I’m having a conversation with a club down in Valencia, Argentina about joining us in the play of this course. That should be fun! Hey… isn’t it Winter in Argentina?

Meanwhile back at the ranch

I have a class coming this evening. The out-of-doors course will be our league play course. But class needs to be in the building (in the shade). I don’t have air conditioning in the building. The best we can do is run the big fans on people and dogs.

Since I dragged all of our big equipment down onto the field, that means I had to come up with a set of the floor for lesson planning purposes. Small Universe comes to the rescue! This is a product that I created (several years ago now)… which is a .pdf with a wide variety of sequences that are arranged by different dimensions. All I have to do is scan through them, find one I like, and then click on the picture to spawn it into Clean Run Course Designer. Then, of course, I can modify it for my immediate needs.

Small Universe has been a life saver for me many times over.

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I shared in my last blog a new contact training protocol for the 2o2o position. Marsha immediately put it to use for her crazy redhead BC Phoenix, and it has been transformative and amazing, IMHO. And so I wanted in this lesson plan to provide a foil for testing and practicing the method. What’s substantially different in Marsha’s work with Phoenix and this lesson plan… is that Phoenix gets to do his thing in the presence of other dogs and people. That heightens the crazy redhead gene, to be sure.

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I’ve reversed the flow so that we get to work in both directions. Naturally I have about six or eight sequences that are based on either set of the bi-directional equipment. You should know that our full-size teeter is on the lower field. I’ll actually be using one of teacup teeters (8 ramps) in class.

Crazy Calendar

For like the next three weekends I’ll be out on the road doing judges clinics for the TDAA. I’ll be traveling with Hazard and Haymitch and will have an opportunity to run both of them in the TDAA trials that are part of the TDAA clinic experience. It’s actually problematic whether I’ll be able to run them at all, because I’ll be very busy in the conduct of these clinics.

At any rate we’d love it if you can come out and run your small dog in one of our clinic trials. If you are anywhere nearby I’d appreciate the opportunity to meet you and see you work with your small canine athlete. Here’s the immediate schedule:

Jul  20 – 21, 2013  Trial   T13067 Agility Cues For You LLC
Louisville, KY
Judge-of-record/Presenter:  Bud Houston (w/judge applicants)
Contact:  Christina Wakefield   (e-mail:  agileticket@gmail.com) Indoors on astroturf with rubber infill.  Day of show entries allowed. Classes to be determined
Premium

Jul  27 – 28, 2013  Trial   T13027
Bella Vista Training Center Lewisberry, PA
Judge of Record:  Bud Houston  (applicants will be judging, records will show Bud Houston as judge)
Contact:  Stephanie Capkovic  (e-mail:  bvwestie@ptd.net) We have had an in-fill sport turf installed, 3 standards and 5 games
Premium

Aug  3 – 4, 2013  Trial  T13016
Rocky Mountain Agility

Arvada, CO
Judge of Record: Bud Houston (judge applicants and recerts will judge performance) Contact:  Zona Butler (e-mail: Zona@rmagility.com) dirt surface
Premium

Of course, I copied all of this right off the TDAA Events Calendar.

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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.

Doesn’t Get Any Better!

March 15, 2013

I’m guessing that Winter is nearly done. Though I haven’t been active on this blog, I have been doing a lot of work, with taxes, with Top Dog Agility Players, and with the Teacup Dogs Agility Association. And the TDAA is really ramping up for the year. I’ve reviewed something like 400 courses in the last couple weeks. It’s work that has to be done and has occupied me from early in the morning to late at night.

Oh, and taxes. Every year I go through this ritual in which I lock myself in my man cave and don’t come out until it’s all done. Okay, so it’s done.

Today is all Top Dog work… and maybe for several more days to come.

Follow along with the Top Dog blog: http://wp.me/p2Pu8l-1q.

The Winter Project

A couple years ago I built a raft, which is basically a wooden frame with six 50-gallon barrels under it. Here’s a picture of it:

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It’s really quite heavy. As you can see I have it hoisted up with a saw horse at each corner. It’s kind of fun to float around on the pond and do some fishing. Kory likes it too. But I’ve found it an unattractive piece of work. So I’ve spent a few idle hours over the winter upgrading the basic features of the raft.

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If it weighed a ton before, it weighs two tons now. I’ve fenced all the corners, added corner seats and painted the whole thing… mostly for the purpose of water proofing. I’m not really done with it at all. I’m going to add a second layer of flooring which will also be water-proofed, and painted a darker color for contrast.  And you’ll be proud to know that the entire raft is built with recycled wood!

It was a real engineering feat to get it up on the John Deere wagon, which I managed to do all by my lonesome. The next engineering feat will be to get it back down to the pond; tip it over to affix the barrels; and then get it in the water.

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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.

Pong

January 30, 2013

I got a course for review that had a start that looked something like this:

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The course designer needs to cultivate an understanding of the dog’s path. The comment I usually make goes something like this: “The dog’s approach to a jump dictates the dismount. So the approach to the dogwalk is not square, not safe.” To me the statement is simple & pure. But I have this gnawing intuition that the simplicity and purity is pretty much in my mind and not easily shared.

To put it on other terms… the dog’s path is like Pong! You remember that game, right? It was like the first ever computer/video game.

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In Pong the lines are clean and straight and predictable. You’ll note that after the tire I see only one corner and no curves. And under the rules of Pong the approach to the dogwalk is fairly dreadful. I’ll get argument from course designers on my Pong analogy; the argument being that “as a handler” they know how to bring the dog around square for the dogwalk; or their dog will swing wide on the turn, or will square himself for the contact by training.

Bear with me on this point… the course designer should anticipate the dog’s path in the strict terms of Pong without prejudice to handling, training, or any other unpredictable variable. The designer’s vision should be pure.

That is not to say that the course designer cannot intentionally make a test of handling skill or training. And they often do. In the illustration here, however, the course designer is obligated to create the square and safe approach to a contact obstacle. We do not make “can the handler do this without hurting his dog” a riddle on the course.

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The fix I suggested in course review, by the way, was something like this. By changing the direction of the turn thru tire and jump #3 the dog is brought around adequately square to the approach to the dogwalk. The fix doesn’t completely preserve whatever challenge it was that the designer was contemplating… and, in fact, builds into the opening a Jump-Dogwalk discrimination riddle that did not exist in the original design.

After the Review

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I played around with the opening a bit more. There might be a variety of fun and fanciful things the designer could do to begin the course.

What worries at me from a philosophical POV is starting a course with a technical puzzle. It’s kind of like… where do you go from there? It’s an open invitation for the course to be relentlessly technical. And you know, those kinds of courses aren’t necessarily fun to anybody but the high-strung Anorak.

What I seek, as a course designer, is a central challenge, or riddle. And I’d very much like to place it mid-course. Too early in the course creates an imbalance, and sets you up for an overly technical grind. Too late in the course disturbs the possibility of a sweeping finish, which I find highly desirable.

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So, what if the opening were a wind up, rather than a grind? Think of it like pulling the shooter back on an old pinball game; you pull it back good and tight against the coiled spring; and when you’re just ready… you let ‘er rip.  

Winter Lessons for an Arizona Boy

Well you know, it’s been an interesting winter. I’ve already told you that my old computer crashed & burned. Turns out it was not a hardware fault at all. And now that the hard-drive has been wiped and restored to factory new condition… I have another stand-by production computer.

At any rate I’ve moved on to the new world of Windows 8, complete with new tools and a very different touch ‘n feel. I restored my web page to a view that might have come from a “Way Back” machine or something… www.dogagility.org. For awhile I gave that over to Top Dog in an ugly display of text. But I’ve moved all that functionality over to WordPress which serves more than adequately as a web presence (with nowhere near the cost): http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/.

In other news, about ten days ago the weather went south, dropping well below a freezing temperature. You expect very cold weather in the Winter in the northeast. Anyhow, Marsha warned that the heater had gone out in the upper cabin. And so I went down and restarted it. And so the next morning I went back down to check the cabin.

I walked in and found a geyser of water shooting up into the cabin. The mainline coming up into the cabin had burst. The consequence of turning on the heater was to unfreeze the pipes and so release the disaster. We turned the water off at the main, and called the plumber.

Count this as another lesson learned by an Arizona boy. I was aware of the peril of frozen pipes. Until now, I’ve never had the pleasure to live through it. Picture me getting sopping wet struggling with shutting off the water inside the house… and turning into a popsicle in the freezing weather outside.

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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.