Posts Tagged ‘threadle’

Agility League March Course

March 3, 2015

This is a discussion of the technical elements of the Top Dog Secretary’s Choice for March, 2015.

Any course or sequence is a unique riddle and will reveal over time the handling challenges that were in the mind of the designer. And occasionally a riddle will be revealed that wasn’t imagined at all by the designer.

In my instruction I will almost never specify handling of a sequence. We’ll begin with the Entertainment Round in which each student will demonstrate their own instinctive solution to the sequence. My job is to improve the handler’s instinct.

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The first thing we see in this course is that it is very short, only having ten obstacles. This is the course designer having fun with the preconception of a rational standard. It is a non-stop handler’s course that challenges the handler in virtually every transition.

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The opening of this course has all to do with the handler being in position to handle the transition from jump #3 into the weave poles at #4. The handler will probably want a modest lead-out. And so the key handling bit will be in Bending the dog into the turn from jump #1 to jump #2. Bending is the reciprocal of the Post turn. The handler is on the side away from the turn.

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The transition from jump #3 into the weave poles is a threadle, pure and simple. Even though there is ample room for the handler to work, it is a complicated riddle for the handler. First of all the handler wants to cue to the dog into an efficient turn off the jump, and then draw the dog around for an entry to the weave poles.

The approach to the weave poles is really the make or break moment in this course. If the handler must shape the dog’s approach into the weave poles he’ll surely sacrifice a second or more to his competition. On the other hand, if the handler hasn’t trained the dog to gain the entry, then a bold approach would be foolhardy.

Sometimes the homework just writes itself.

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The transition from jump #5 to the counter-side pipe tunnel is a bit ham-handed; but a very real challenge on this course. The first thing the dog sees after the turn from the jump is the wrong-course entry to the pipe tunnel. So it’s not enough to turn the dog. He needs to keep turning until his nose comes to line with the correct entry to the tunnel.

The handler must be aware that he needs to be in position on the next approach to the weave poles. But almost anything the handler does to solve this sequence gives the handler a two second advantage in time and space over the dog… because the dog needs to do the tunnel.

There are a lot of possibilities for a handling solution here. The handler might use a Front Cross, or an RFP. I like to teach a Flip (Ketchker) here just to have some fun with the handler communicating with his dog through movement.

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The transition from jump #7 to the weave poles is also a threadle, though not nearly as obvious as our first approach. Every point I made about the first threadle and approach applies here as well.

Note that jump #7 can be taken for granted by the handler who will view the dog’s approach as a matter of obviousness. If a dog is going to run past a jump on this course… it will be jump #7.

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The closing of the course is a bit bloody minded. But don’t you know it’s the kind of basic skill that the grown-ups are studying. The approach to jump #9 is a back-side, exacerbated by a pull-through/approach.

I initially drew the pull-through out of the weave poles to go between jumps #9 and #10. Even though a lot of people will try it that way… I want to give my dog better flow.

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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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Threadle

December 19, 2013

I’m doing an end-of-year inventory of course design challenges. I have a couple judging assignments coming up early next year (USDAA). I’m delighted with the Masters Challenge class which essentially allows any evil thing I’ve ever imagined. Today’s topic is the threadle.

In its most simple form the threadle is represented by two jumps set on a common plane, side-by-side with a small space left between them. Oh, and both jumps are intended to be taken in the same relative direction.

Simple threadle

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It’s worth noting that the Threadle in itself requires a “backside” approach to the second jump in the combination. Backside approach is the emerging common term to describe a jump (or other obstacle) that is presented with no clear natural approach, preventing the handler from simply releasing the dog to work. It is also known as a “managed approach” and a “blind approach”.

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 A survival strategy for handlers with big dogs that don’t have tight & neat turning abilities is to turn away from the gap, rather than into it. Surely this strategy sacrifices a bit of time by increasing the distance on the flat. This approach also removes much of the risk associated with solving the threadle through the gap; but it introduces some risk that didn’t exist in the raw threadle. For example, it might be too easy for the dog to back-jump the #1 jump in this illustration.

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A course designer might be pouty about any handler not following his prescription for dictated handling (as though the “big dog that doesn’t have tight & neat turning abilities” is some kind of a threat to the field.) And so they’ll engage in design conventions to defeat the around-Robin-Hood’s-barn strategy.

Here, for example, the course designer has rotated the jump introducing the threadle, making a left turn problematic and increasing both the distance of the transition and the opportunity for a back-jump of jump #1.

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The course designer might use other tricks to defeat the alternate approach to solving the threadle. In this illustration the designer did two things worth noting. First of all, a wrong course obstacle has been placed to thwart a left turn and the angle of approach to the jump introducing the threadle has been set at an angle that invites the traditional handling of the puzzle.

Any Obstacle Threadle

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A threadle doesn’t have to be a pair of jumps. Just about any obstacle might be a part of the course designer’s conspiracy. This illustration just scratches the surface. Note that in the transition from the pipe tunnel into the weave poles the “entry side” of the weave poles is offered to the dog; so unless the dog is an amazing creature who absolutely understands his job in the weave poles then the handler might consider a bit of shaping to make the approach (and so, execute the dictated dance of the threadle).

The transition from the weave poles to the jump begs the question… was the handler able to get to the weave poles with dog-on-right?

Soft Threadle

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At first glance you’d have to believe that the challenge has softened in this combination threadle because the intro jumps have been eased back to take out a dimension of depth in the approach to each subsequent jump.

The set of these jumps has introduced the real possibility of a run-out refusal. This challenge did not exist in the simple threadle because the dog had no capacity for approach to the subsequent jump and therefore the subsequent jump is not eligible for a refusal call before the dog actually turns back to the gap. However in the case of a (so-called) “soft” threadle the refusal plane of each subsequent jump is live before the dog actually turns back.  

The threadle may be soft, but the heart is hard.

Obviously, from a handling POV the dog needs to be geared down through this series of jumps to draw in the turning radius.

Hard Threadle

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This combination threadle increases the depth of the transition from the introducing jump to the subsequent jump. You might argue that this is no longer a threadle at all, but now a series of “back-side approach” riddles. But inasmuch as the solution calls for the Zee-shaped transition I’ll call it a threadle.

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The next step after “hard” is “a whole bunch harder”. In this series threadle the dog will get a square look at the wrong side of both of the subsequent jumps. After drawing the lines (always a marvelous illusion!) it doesn’t really seem like such a hard thing to do.

Course Design Considerations

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The course designer has a broad measure of control of the approach to the threadle challenge. And considerable attention should be given to the consequence of the approach. In the illustration the dog has a depressed-angle approach from the table. In general this disposes the dog to the right-turning through-the-gap solution. Though a more depressed angle will introduce to a greater extent the wrong course challenge of the second jump of the threadle.

Certainly the threadle challenge will be messy if the depressed-angle approach is from right to left. That means that the handler will be fighting against the natural turning direction while faced with doing a rather precise and technical handling thing.

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Note that a threadle absolutely requires the handler to be in a control position. It is a challenge that requires micromanagement. The dog cannot be released to work. In the design of the challenge the course designer should understand that when two control positions are positioned with a fast transition between them, then only the young long-legged handlers who can outrun their dogs will survive the challenge. So if the course designer’s ambition is to thwart old men with arthritic knees, like me, then this is a dandy way to do it.

Comments Invited

If you have anything to add to the discussion of the threadle, I’d love to hear about it and share with the readers of this blog. I know that I pretty much left out any discussion of handling; because mostly I’m interested in the design aspects right now.

I didn’t talk about the dismount of the threadle except in the limited discussions of combination threadles above. If you think about it, the dismount of a threadle is pretty much the same kind of riddle as the dismount of any obstacle or sequence. And so I didn’t give it the discussion that it might deserve.

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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.

Internationalization pt 2 ~ the Blind Approach

February 21, 2013

As I was going up the stair, I met a man who wasn’t there. He wasn’t there again today. I wish, I wish he’d stay away. –Hughes Mearns (from “The Psychoed”)

Box Threadles & 270s

The first hint of a blind approach in our agility culture came from the onset of the 270 turn. I recall at one time these weren’t legal in the AKC. But I believe they came to the realization that a challenge that is common in FCI play needs to be set up for practice in the U.S. if our players are going to compete in Europe… so the ban on the 270 was lifted.

I’ve addressed the 270 a number of times in my blog. I posted the following a couple years ago, as I was practicing some of the challenges in the Alphabet Drills authored by Nancy Gyes: http://wp.me/pmSZZ-Qf

Another common form of the blind approach is a thing we call the threadle (a blind approach requiring two changes of direction).

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These exercises are courtesy of the letter “A” (box threadles left; 270s right).

The blind approach always requires for the handler to shape the approach because it is not a natural or intuitive flow. In other words, the dog cannot be released to work. And more to the point, the course designer is demanding micro-management of the dog.

The most common error in the 270, to be sure, is a handling error. The handler fails to step outside the box to shape the turn, and so the dog cuts inside, earning a refusal on the second jump.

Have this at the back of your mind… the blind approach always demands micro-management.

The Blind or Managed Approach in Competition

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This AAC Jumpers course contains a transition between two jumps that is commonly known as a blind approach or a managed approach. The blind approach occurs in the transition between jumps #5 and #6.

What the handler has to do here is be in position in the gap between the #6 jump and the #15 jump to draw the dog around for an approach to jump #6. If the handler’s a long-legged kid, he can probably sprint down to be in position… forward of the dog. Getting behind the dog is a big problem because any dog with a lot of obstacle focus and a good work ethic will likely take the #6 jump in the wrong direction if the handler is out of position.

Later in the course, mind you, is a hard wrap at jump #15. Again, the course requires the handler’s presence to manage the wrap. Note that the judge has put a gratuitous dummy jump beyond jump #15. So, unless the handler can outrun the dog he had better have taught the dog some magnificent distance skills to give direction from #7 through #14.

Making a Case for Training

The real question that occurs to me … can the blind approach be taught to the dog as a performance option. Be very clear on what this means. I’d like to be able to point out a jump and tell my dog “go around that jump, and come back to me over the jump.” All good training begins with a solid statement of objective.

I’ve got a video to share. It’s not actually my video but something I stumbled upon in my odd quest for interesting studies. This is evidently from Portugal:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=V0rjkAE4qKo

This young man is running a course that features no fewer than four blind approaches (and a threadle to the weave poles thrown in for good measure). Please note that on one of the blind approach challenges he sent his dog forward to get it done (jump #13, following the U-shaped pipe tunnel). The dog, Jack, dropped the bar on this jump which we might blame on the dog not giving himself enough room on the un-managed approach; but then again, the handler stepped in to bend Jack away sharply after the jump which could have been the culprit in the fault.

Bookmark

http://aurea.userworld.com/ppal-en.php

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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.