Posts Tagged ‘TDAP’

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. 

Unmoved

January 11, 2013

Nesting courses in dog agility is an art form. The idea is to move from class to class with a minimum of equipment movement. Moving equipment and the arduous follow-up exercise called tweaking can literally add hours to the day, if the course is not well nested.

Rather than trying to convince you of the merit of the notion, I’d like to spend a moment in a nesting exercise just to see if it’s really possible to find challenges for different levels of players without actually moving around equipment.

BLOG890_01This is the Top Dog course for last week (http://wp.me/P2Pu8l-V). I had in mind to make it a nice flowing romp, possibly with an interesting central challenge.

This is a very simple course. The tricky bit is in the turn from jump #8 to the teeter. The wrong course A-frame looms large as an option for the dog. Aside from this the course is a novice level exercise.

I’m not abashed offering this kind of event challenge for Top Dog. Everybody runs the same course.  It’s just about as fun to run a on a racetrack as in a blender. In some ways more fun, I’d expect.

BLOG890_02To make the course a bit more advanced, I introduce the notion of a technical handling challenge. If you don’t immediately spot the challenge, it is a 270° threadle from jump #3 to #4. The course designer was kindly in the approach to the threadle, as the handler can gain position by taking a lead-out.

The course still isn’t a Masters course. Not really. But it is getting more advanced, to be sure.

BLOG890_03In this final draft I’ve made two significant changes. I’ve changed the opening into a bit of a serpentine approach back to the pipe tunnel at #4. This creates another wrong course option featuring the dogwalk. This opening ostensibly pins the handler back close to the dog on the approach to the pipe tunnel… and likely behind the dog on the dismount, when faced with the 270° threadle.

Oh, and I’ve added a second 270° threadle. This is a basic test of ambidextrous skill

Mark Your Calendar

I’ve accepted a USDAA judging assignment with Sky Blue Events on May 3rd – 5th, 2013. The trial is indoors at Pawsitive Partners in Indianapolis. I have a bit of time between then and now to play with some interesting course design challenges. Of course, I won’t be sharing these on my blog before hand. So there’s no good reason to practice the 270° threadles and the course I designed above.

Top Dog Web Page

After initially giving my own web site (dogagility.org) to my start up of Top Dog Agility Players… I’ve decided my own primitive efforts at designing the site are just a complete mess. So I’m moving the whole thing to Word Press: http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/. You know, it will do just about everything one would want.

I’m faced with a lot of technical development issues. I’m about of a mind now that seeking or obtaining outside help is a waste of my time. At least my wheels are spinning too much. I’m going to go back to basics and design everything within my own capabilities. The future will take care of itself. Seems to always work out that way.

You are So Beautiful

You know those ASPCA commercials with the background singing “You are so beautiful, to me…” Well, those commercials just break my heart seeing the poor abused animals out there. Again I have six dogs in my house. Two are pure-bred; four are rescues. It’s terrible to know that you can’t save them all.

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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.

Snow Day

December 29, 2012

It had been our intention to show our dogs at an AKC trial up in Zanesville this weekend. Indeed, I had the alarm set for 4:30 am. Marsha took a look outside and suggested we should go back to bed… we had about 6″ of snow, and it was snowing heavily still.

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Unfortunately our route to Zanesville is about 40 miles of driving along a dark Route 60, wending through the boonies… and no guarantees that it has been scraped or salted.

I would be a little cockier about driving in ice and snow had I not about killed myself a couple years ago in a winter driving accident. The trial entries aren’t that much money to blow off. So, we’ll stay at home for the weekend. And I’ll just goof off.

Goofing Off

I’ve spent a couple weeks now mostly goofing off. It’s not that I haven’t had work to do, mind you. For the holiday season I thought I’d buy myself a little bit of goofing off time. Goofing off is not a natural condition for me. Though, I remember when I actually used to work for a living; I’d come home, take off my tie, and turn off any thought of work. I could go out and play with my dogs, or sit and watch a football game, and wouldn’t have to engage in work again until the alarm got me up the next morning. Goofing off was like half my life.

I work for myself now. And we all know what that means. The fun thing, of course, is that I’ve been consumed by my favorite hobby, and turned it into something of a living.

When a person is young, say in his 30’s or 40’s there’s a lot of thought and energy that go into making career choices, and preparing for the future. I mean almost everything we do is geared towards ensuring that we aren’t sleeping under a bridge when we get old enough to retire.

Giving Back to the Sport

Okay, in a couple of days it will be a new year and I will begin earnest marketing of Top Dog Agility Players. I’ve done some sample marketing. The reception has been lukewarm. And I’m okay with that.

I have this simple ambition… to sponsor the largest agility competition in the world. All the players might not be in the same place… but they will all run the same course or play the same game. This ambition is complicated and furthered by the notion that I want it to be so inexpensive that anybody with a trained dog can play. It’s not about money, after all.

A complication all along has been the idea that a recreational approach to dog agility is without ambition and without profit. Roll those words around your mouth a bit: “Ambition” and “Profit”… notably two of the driving forces of our sport (and driving forces of the whole world).

In the Top Dog model attempts to enhance the potential for profit for the host club, and to reduce risk. If you really think about it the host club has ever been the hero of dog agility competition, to a greater extent than the venue ever could be. The venue provides sanction and certification and, with any luck, training of judges. The host club, however, takes all the financial risks and does all the work. What a deal that is for the venue.

Visit the Top Dog web site for more information: www.dogagility.org. I’m also blogging for Top Dog at: http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/. And today (!) I started a Facebook page for Top Dog: http://www.facebook.com/TopDogAgilityPlayers. I’ll really have to work at sorting out what kind of information goes in each. Oh my! On top of all that, I believe I need a Yahoo group for planning and discussions.

Okay, I have to admit that we wanted to make this really attractive for the player as well. Imagine how fun it could be to compete against a thousand other dogs every week! Okay, it’s not nearly that big yet. But you can see where I’m trying to go with this. Remember the statement of ambition… to sponsor the largest agility competition in the world. It might take a couple years to get there. I’ll be patient.

Katniss

Our young pup is just about the cutest thing in the world.

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This isn’t a great picture, sorry. Katniss is darker than her shadow. She has little white tips on her toes, and a modest white tie on her neck. I suppose should get some pictures of her out in the snow so there’s a little background contrast.

Ah, and she likes to tug!

That’s Phoenix she’s tugging with. Phoenix is our one year-old rescue BC. I’m busy teaching him left & right as a winter project. I want him to hit the ground running when it’s time for him to enter competition. Frankly I’m hoping for a good workout with weekly Top Dog games.

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Pardon the cryptic heading… that’s the fancy language of Top Dog. It begins with a date stamp… and ends with the size of the competition area. This is a numbered course that manages 15 numbered obstacles in a modest 60′ by 80′ space.

BLOG889_03 This was my warm-up course for the AKC trial we were supposed to be at this weekend… before we decided to wimp out on account of snow. I’m working with Kory’s contact protocol (given to me by Pati Mah). I really wanted to test in competition that Kory is showing the same 2o2o composure that he shows in his own training building.

Anyhow, Kory ran this course in 38.57 with no faults.

The tricky bit, as you can imagine, is the wicked little turn from jump #10 into the weave poles. On the dismount of the weave poles, mind you, I wanted dog-on-right so I could control his approach to the correct tunnel entry at #12. I guarantee you that the backside of #2 would be as enticing as the correct entry to #12 if I were turning him away from me coming out of the weave poles.

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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.

Just Northwest of Crazy

December 15, 2012

I find myself in a convoluted trap of Social Media. I have my personal Facebook page; I have a Facebook page for the TDAA; and I’ll be darned if I don’t feel compelled to create a Facebook page for Top Dog. I’m also loosely in Linked-In, Google+, YouTube, and Spotify. Add to that the notion that I have moderator privileges on something like six Yahoo groups. And I have writing responsibilities on no fewer than three blogs.

Look guys, I’m about a 60 year old man. And all of this stuff is just northwest of crazy.

My niece Angi has me started on something called Hootsuite, an online utility from which I can monitor and contribute to all of these various tools. I don’t know if it’s really going to simplify my life. OTOH if I can see the whole crazy map at once it might at least succor me with the illusion of control.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

Today I wrote to my three blogs. I know it sounds mundane, but I’m sorting through the organization and location of resource files on my computer. You might enjoy (though no promises or guarantee):

On the TDAA blog I’ve written a “Quidditch Design Tutorial” (http://wp.me/p18bml-iu). I’ve finally moved the Course Design College away from my regular blog to reside under the TDAA banner. I should have done so a long time ago.

On The Top Dog blog I’ve posted new Events (http://wp.me/p2Pu8l-y). I’m playing with a new format to enhance interest in the courses.

In the News

I’ve been following the news of the schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m horrified by the monstrous nature of this event. It is clear that there is a terrible sickness in the United States which is exacerbated and even made possible by the proliferation of guns in our society.

This is precisely the time for a strong response from our government. We need strong laws. Hunters should have guns; and criminals and the mentally instable should not. Hunting weapons should be narrowly defined; and everything outside of that definition should be illegal.

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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.

Who is the Top Dog?

November 30, 2012

Only time will tell!

It’s been a hardworking and somewhat bittersweet week. I went back through all the records of the TDAA and identified all the winners of the Petit Prix, by jump height since its inception. We have retroactively conferred upon all of those winners the Teacup National Agility Champions title.

The list of title winners is published here: http://k9tdaa.com/prixresults.php

Bittersweet ~ I have two dogs who are gone over the bridge. Bogie and Birdie had between them five national championships. I miss  my boys.

Hardworking ~ As the league secretary for Top Dog Agility Players I’ve selected two numbered courses and a game (the Minuet) for play. If you would like to play these with us you need to go to www.dogagility.org and download the posting file. It’s a very simple matter: set the course up; play and score it; then report your results.

Since this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, I figured I’d share each of the TDAP events. I’ve cut the standard course to the size of the Queen City competition floor (no actual pressure Erica!) I’ll keep challenging them until they come on board.

113012A86x98 a numbered course

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This is a numbered course, judged under TDAP rules.

Competition shall be conducted by a judge and stewards appointed for specific tasks in conduct of the event. No certification process exists for judges. TDAP will rely on good sense in the selection of experienced persons to perform this task. A judge is initially registered with TDAP upon submitted event results.

The judge or appointed stewards shall observe and signal course or game faults or points. The judge alone will sign off on competition results.

The Event Closing Date is December 21, 2012.

113012B60x90 a game: The Minuet

The Minuet was invented by Bud Houston at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, OH as a physical conditioning exercise for his dogs and a training game for his students. The game was first played in 2001 in Dogwood’s ongoing agility league. On the surface, the Minuet is a simple game with a simple sequence repeated over and over again. In fact, the game will expose every flaw in movement the handler might have as the handler must also repeat his movement over and over again. There will be dropped bars, refusals and even off courses. This game demonstrates a simple principal. Most performance faults are the fault of the handler and not of the dog.

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Briefing

The dog and handler have 50 seconds. Repeat the sequence as a continuous loop until the expiration of time. The dog must go to the table to stop time after the whistle blows to end scoring.

Scoring

The Minuet is scored Points, Then Time.

One point is earned for each completion of the loop. One decimal point is earned for each jump in an uncompleted loop when time expires. For example: In 50 seconds, the dog does 7 complete loops and the first two obstacles in the sequence. The dog’s score shall be 7.2.

If the dog drops a bar, the handler must stop and reset the bar.

If the dog goes off course the current loop is lost. The dog must return to the first obstacle in the loop to resume.

Strategies

Surviving the Minuet requires simple discipline. The handler should work in clean lines through the jumps and show turns only after the dog has committed to each jump. These are simple disciplines that keep the bars up and help prevent refusals. If the handler’s movement gets lazy, something bad is bound to happen.

Please note that in any game with a finite number of possible scores, time to the table will very often determine placement. When the time whistle blows, don’t dawdle. Get to the table as quick as possible.

Qualification

To earn a qualifying score, the dog must score 5 points or more.

113012A70x70 a numbered course

Historical Footnote: This was the first standard course played at the TDAA Petit Prix Eastern Regional in Latrobe, PA on October 26, 2012. The dogs that played on that day will be included in the event results.

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This is a numbered course, judged under the rules of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA). The course requires equipment of the preferred specification. Refer to the rules of the TDAA at: www.k9tdaa.com.

Abridgement to Rules: In this competition, as at the TDAA Petit Prix, event judges are instructed to assign a score of “20” faults for each failure to perform rather than a score of “E”.

Competition shall be conducted by a judge and stewards appointed for specific tasks in conduct of the event. No certification process exists for judges. TDAP will rely on good sense in the selection of experienced persons to perform this task. A judge is initially registered with TDAP upon submitted event results.

The judge or appointed stewards shall observe and signal course or game faults or points. The judge alone will sign off on competition results.

The Event Closing Date is December 21, 2012.

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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.

Thanksgiving

November 22, 2012

This is a time set aside when we might reflect on our good fortune and give thanks for the blessings bestowed upon us. I have been blessed with my wife, my friends and family, good neighbors, and my pack of unruly dogs. I have the fortune of my health and my home. I’m keenly aware that not everyone has been blessed with these simple gifts.

For me the celebration is punctuated by the company of family, a feast of turkey and pie, and a bit of entertaining football on the television.

All Work and No Play …

At the risk of becoming a “dull boy” I put my nose down to sending out invitations to agility players across Ohio and Pennsylvania the past several days to join in weekly shared competitions with Top Dog Agility Players. The research was amazing and grueling. You can’t much trust the static lists of “agility clubs”. So I used several intuitive Bing searches to find just about everyone who hosts an agility training community.

This “new venue” isn’t really going to grow very fast. I understand that. Just the idea that there’s a new venue at all makes the brain hurt. Plus it’s the holiday season.

I’ve been waiting a very long time for this. The venue, as a creature of concept, has a colorful history that I may share with you some day. In some ways I’m still waiting for pieces to fall into place. But if they don’t, they don’t. I’ve got it covered. You can’t say I didn’t give it aplenty of chance.

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Yesterday I put aside the work and went out into my training building to put up a new course. I’ve had a couple pretty good workouts with Kory; and even spent a bit of time with our one-year old, Phoenix (I’m teaching him “Left”, since he already has a pretty good understanding of “Right”).  We’ll be attending an AKC trial this weekend up in Zanesville. So it would be nice to look sharp.

I’ve been rebuilding Kory’s contacts. This weekend will be a good test of the protocol.

Matchmaking

Thinking again of Top Dog, one of the real complications in terms of a “world wide” league play is that many people train in small or funny-shaped spaces. I’m committed to the idea that everyone should get to play! That means there’s going to be a bit of a matchmaking puzzle.

Certainly there are plenty of big training centers around the country who have full-sized regulation fields. The full-sized course (100′ by 120′ give or take) will be a regular feature for the League Secretary Picks. But we would also like to accommodate the needs of many smaller fields.

Another complication is the question of equipment. I’m thinking of course of Teacup clubs who may want to engage in TDAP League Play.

I’m pretty sure that it will be good to have course designers out in the world submit interesting courses to put up in the weekly events list. This is the first humble mention. I’ll be proselytizing more fervently before too long.

The Kuliga Puzzle

Just to give you an idea of the complexity of the puzzle… consider the shape of the Kuliga floor (in Cincinnati, Ohio):

The field measures, it appears, 88′ by 53′, with a couple prominent “unusable” areas, and three columns. Now I have a theory, so bear with me on this one. I think it’s possible to use this space for design; and then use that design in fields of comparable size, with none of the obstructions. I’ll demonstrate.

I’ve drawn here a course using regulation sized equipment and reasonably generous spacing.  It’s really not an easy matter. But, if we’re comfortable with the challenge itself… why shouldn’t it work in any field measuring 53′ by 88′, or larger?

Here’s the same course with no trace of Kuliga, except for the field size itself. I could put this up in my own training center.

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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.

Pulling the Trigger

November 16, 2012

Today I pulled the trigger on Top Dog Agility Players. I’m not really ready mind you. My data systems aren’t in place, which is surely a worry. But you should know I’ve waited patiently for a very long time now. I’ve researched it. I’ve refined it.

Here’s the mission statement from the Rules and Regulations:

The purpose of the TDAP is to provide an inexpensive, competitive, games-oriented agility venue for dogs of all sizes without regard to breed or pedigree; and facilitate broad-based league play competition providing a shared experience that spans geographic boundaries.

I’m really looking forward to seeing who wants to come out and play. Frankly, I’d very much like to see clubs all around the world gradually come to compete in the TDAP. Imagine… running the same course as some person in South Africa, another in Norway, and yet another in Japan.

The bit I really am antsy to get working is making field space available for individual competitors to link a YouTube along with their event results. So can you imagine… actually getting to see the person in South Africa, the other in Norway, and that one in Japan running the same course with their dogs that you run with yours? Imagine.

Anyhow

It’s late and I’m tired.

Here’s the Top Dog Agility Players premier event posting:

http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/premier/

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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.