Posts Tagged ‘Top Dog’

League Course Coaches Notes

May 21, 2015

The league course for the month is a painfully technical numbered sequence that stresses skills of an “International” flavor. Now that I’ve scared the crap out of you… let’s talk about solving this riddle.

Take a moment to inspect the course and think through your own handling solution. I’ll follow up with a bit-by-bit briefing of my own.

This course might lull the handler out of any sense of urgency in his own movement. It is useful to consider when practicing the course in walk-through that movement is both direction and motive to the dog. Take note of how many errors occur on this course if the handler is: A) standing still; or B) facing the wrong direction; or C) both.


The Opening: 1-4

The opening is actually fairly simple, but not without risk.


First of all, you should make the dog’s approach through the first two jumps as straight a line as possible. There’s no good reason to demand a turn between jumps #1 and #2 when they line up neatly. You could, from the start, use a bit of parallel path pressure that will allow you to be in position on the landing side of jump #3 for the turn to the tunnel.

After jump #2 there are two jumps looming as wrong course options. The handler needs to work the turn until the dog’s nose comes around to address the #3 jump. Another wrong course option is open to the dog after jump #3, that wingless jump sitting out there without a number.

Jump #3 is a bar most likely to get dumped in this opening. The handler might be guilty of unproductive loitering on the landing side of the jump, engaging in antics that draw the dog into handler focus, when he really needs to be in obstacle focus.

If the handler can pre-cue the turn after jump #3 the dog should neatly make the turn into the pipe tunnel. The contest will be won or lost in how efficiently the handler can cue the dog into his turns.

Transition to the Weaves: #4 to #6

In this short sequence the handler might need a single change of sides to the dog. The riddle is how and where to make that change of sides.


Don’t take the #5 jump for granted, the flow will not have much natural logic to the dog. The handler has little time and less room to turn the dog to the jump. It might help the handler to realize that he needs to allow the dog to carry through the jump so that when turned back to the weave poles the approach is not too perpendicular.

It’s possible for the handler to pre-cue the right turn out of the tunnel with a “backy-uppy” presentation of the pipe tunnel. The efficacy of this presentation might border on theoretical. But theory becomes practice if tested in training with the dog.

To get the change of sides the handler might Front Cross on the approach to jump #5; or Cross on the landing side of #5 as the dog is making his approach. Another possibility: the handler could approach jump #5 with dog on left, using a Tandem Turn (rear cross on the flat) after the jump. In either choice for the change of sides it is the handler’s job to shape the dog’s turn and approach to the weave poles.

Midcourse: #6 to #11

This is the closing of the first half of a course which has been a series of technical bits fitting together like puzzle pieces.


#7 is a Backside. The dog will be spying that #7 jump all the while he is weaving. The handler has about 8′ of real estate after the weave poles to convince the dog that we’ll be taking the jump from the opposite side. A real bold handler might push the dog on his right lead out of the weave poles, and race into a Blind Cross to create an approach that slices through jump #7 and neatly on to jump #8; and wouldn’t it be nice to have dog-on-left after jump #8?

The #9 cone is in the center of the U-shaped pipe tunnel which traditionally means that the entry from either side is dog’s choice. We would probably really like the dog to go into the left side, because this lines the dog up in a nice straight line through jumps #10 and #11.

However, don’t push too hard after he turns back from the #8 jump. Just a bit of pressure might put the dog wrong course over the #10 jump.

The Closing

The second half of the course is a technical jumping sequence that challenges my course memorization skills. It’s a good idea to shape-to-shape the sequence to simplify the memory of it. I’ll try to demonstrate “shape-to-shape”.


Pinwheel ~ #11-12-13 is a three-jump pinwheel.


Serpentine ~ #13-14-15 a three-jump serpentine. Note that the #15 jump is a modest Backside.


Bow Tie ~ #16-17-18-19 starts with wrap on the landing side of jump #16. There really isn’t any compelling wrong course option to the dog in the turn. The handler would like to get the dog to wrap tight and turn back neatly.

This might be solved with a simple Front Cross, but… mindful of the wrong-course option (#12) after jump #17 I’ll probably call my dog into a counter-clockwise Back Pass, shaping his a flat trajectory to #17 that helps leave off the wrong course jump.

After jump #18 the handler will pull across the box to the finish. Be mindful that the #16 jump looms as a final wrong course option.


So the simple memorization trick is to “chunk” the course shape-by-shape, making the second half of the course easy to memorize: Pinwheel to Serpentine to Bow Tie.

This is a tough course for a “pure for motion” dog. So the riddle becomes how to stay in motion and communicate to the dog the order and direction of obstacles. The Captain Obvious notation: if you are standing still it’s unlikely that you are moving well.

In The Meantime

Kory is a bit lame today, so I did not get to run the course. Obviously I did obsess over it a bit. I’m off in the morning to judge a USDAA trial up in Schenectady. My class will run league on Monday. I’ll run it when I get back.

I did have the usual time to train our young girl Cedar:

Blog1012 Home

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.


February 1, 2014

I’ll share with you a snippet of the work we did in today’s workshop. I borrowed a central sequence from “The Letter W”, from Nancy Gyes Alphabet drills and wrapped around it the tunnel/contact discrimination work I’ve been wanting to do.

At any rate, my students got a good workout both with the weave poles and the tunnel discrimination.





Top Dog

I’ve spent the winter building initiative on a new direction for Top Dog. What I really want to do is produce a weekly dog agility digital video program. Being an old timer I keep wanting to call it a “television” program. But to be sure it’ll be web-based. We’re building a team of owners and directors for the initiative. I’ll explain more in the coming days. Of course, I haven’t finished with the course design topic. That just means I have plenty to write about.

Blog934 – (Seven days in a row! Now it looks like a pattern.)

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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:

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:


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.


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.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.


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 ( 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 ( 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: 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.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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” ( 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 ( 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.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.