Posts Tagged ‘USDAA Agility’

An Interesting Gamble

October 6, 2015

I return from Portland judging for the Columbia Agility Team in southern Washington, and have survived the red-eye. Though there was certainly a day of tired brain and discombobulation.

Below I’ll share with you one of two Masters Gamblers riddles I put up on the weekend. I was just a little bit disappointed in the qualifying rate; because, don’t you know tunnel-jump/tunnel-jump sounds a lot like a Starters gamble. To be sure the gamble featured an implicit change of directions and an obstacle discrimination. So for sure it is a test of Masters skills.

Coincidentally, just a few days ago in this blog space I published a discussion of teaching the Tandem Turn ( which is a simple skill used to turn the dog away from the side the handler is working. This is to my thinking a very basic, necessary and fundamental movement in a handler’s repertoire. I’ve been teaching this skill for maybe 20 years. I reckon just about everyone who has ever trained with me has it mastered.

Course below.


The biggest mistake handler’s made in this gamble was making the approach to the start of the gamble from the jump immediately to the right of the #1 pipe tunnel. As the handler really needs to be at “X” to sell the change of directions, the approach should have been made from the jump I’ve colored red in this drawing. This judicious use of real estate allows the handler to send the dog up to the tunnel and move to the control position.

In a Tandem (getting the dog to turn away) the handler should reserve enough room to take a strong step or two in the direction of the turn. And so it was a huge error for any handler to arrive at the jump all velcro’d against the dog’s path with no room to take a step. The lateral distance is especially important to handlers who use mostly relative directionals to direct their dogs.

Key to convincing the dog into the turn is to actually make it look like you’re turning a corner with a sense of purpose and even urgency. The most impressive attribute of the Tandem turn is that it creates acceleration and separation. Sell it to the dog.

And I thought this gamble was going to be about the “named obstacle recognition” in the discrimination.

The Other Gamble

I’d like to have a discussion about the other gamble as well. But we have the Petit Prix (the very most amazing small dog agility event) next week and a lot of chores and obligations I need to catch up with because I’ve been gallivanting around the country. I’ll get back to it when I can come up for air.

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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.

Running in the Rain

July 7, 2015

The shape and angulation of the pipe tunnel tends to regulate the speed of a dog’s movement. An elongated pipe tunnel is an accelerator that will have both dog and handler on a dead run; while a u‑shaped pipe tunnel slows the dog down modestly and allows the handler who was firmly behind the dog as the dog goes into the tunnel to be magically forward as the dog comes out.

Team Jumpers

This was a ripping fun course that ran very very fast.


On the 4th of July we played in the rain at Sugarbush Farm. The twisty and technical opening of the Team / PVP Jumpers had a handler or two losing their footing.

On this course the opening was like drawing back the hammer on a pinball machine. As the dog turns around at jump #6 the ball is released and the handler had better have on his track shoes. In the turn off of the spread hurdle at #11 The #14 pipe tunnel mercifully allows the handler to gather up his dog, and finish with a flourish.

It’s a bit ironic that the gathering bit in this course probably caused more faults than the technical opening. Prematurely cuing the turn at #11 set up opportunity for dropped bars and refusals (especially if the handler is well behind and not encouraging the go on). Then, coming out of the #14 pipe tunnel, both of the next two jumps were candidates for refusal. The handler needs to see the change of directions on the dismount of the tunnel, giving a clear path to the #15 jump.

Oh, and an interesting note, the turning radius of fast long-striding dogs tends to create a unique consequential path for the dog. Make of this picture what you will.


A Word Aside

The threadle opening of this course was a deliberate attempt to limit the grind of the lead-out. Many handlers will take as long to do a lead out as they take to run a course. And most of it is just plain flawed science. The opening should be step… step… release. The ploy was more of a suggestion than a demand. It’s amazing how many handlers will lead out and then mindlessly come to a stop. Really? You want to get caught flat-footed on a threadle?

What Did You Learn Today?

Judging a trial on courses of your own design demands that you are a student of the game. There are lessons to be learned in the conduct of every turn and sequence. The night of every trial I am scribbling notes and attempting to balance what I’ve observed with my conceptual universe of the game we play.

One of the notes I wrote on Sunday night… that trick at the start line, where the handler has the dog come up from behind and between her legs; the handler should be wearing slacks, and not a skirt.

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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.

Columbus Weekend

April 12, 2013

I’ve gone up amongst the Yankees for a weekend of play in the USDAA. Pulled into Columbus in the afternoon rush hour and found my way to the La Quinta while commuters swarmed about like angry hornets.

I suppose there are several good stories I’ve failed to tell as I’ve neglected my BLOG. I killed the rooster, and put the raft into my pond; and Marsha and I joined a community theatre group. No we’re not going to act. We’re going to be active. So far about our only dealings with the group was to spend a day helping a handful of others clean up a back-stage area that apparently hasn’t been cleaned up since the 1930’s.

We’ve got yet another rescue BC pup. Her name is Prem. And as you might guess she’s smart enough, being a Border Collie and all. Within the first week I had her I taught her to send away from me over a jump at a distance of about 30 feet. And I’ve taught her to turn “Right”. On the downside, she showed early a remarkable fear of the training teeter. So for several days now I’ve taken a page out of the two-minute dog trainer and have given her meals in the proximity of said training teeter. In the first lesson all she had to do was put a foot on the ramp to get a handful of food. Now, after three days, the criterion has escalated to putting both feet on the up end and driving it to the ground. She’s still not a huge fan of the teeter; but her association is gradually changing to something positive, given that it earns her meals.

For the past couple of weeks Marsha has been building me “snarky” courses go help me get back in a handler’s groove, mostly in preparation for the weekend now at hand. She’s put up some real ugly stuff, almost bad enough to make a USDAA Masters handler cry and shout. I wasn’t allowed to preview or practice any little part of these courses. I’d walk them as I would at a trial… and then run them. And in running we observed a no melt-down rule. If something went wobbly I had to pick myself up and go on, just like real life. And Kory had to jump 26.

I’ve been for several months rebuilding Kory’s contact performance. I think I like where we are at. But this weekend will be the acid test. My goal is to keep it all meat and potatoes… do my job, work hard, and always be aware that Kory needs basic training reinforcement, when in the ring.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

League Game


The league game this week was designed by Brenda Gilday. I’m really impressed with the quality of her design work. The challenge and flow she set on this course is spot on.

They ran this course at Kuliga in league this past week; and we ran it here at Country Dream. The best performance in our league was put in by Beth Murray with her girl Koda. They looked really good.

I’ll be posting it (this evening I hope) as a Top Dog challenge course. Maybe we can entice Katie and Dave to come out to play!


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.