Posts Tagged ‘USDAA’

Playful Tunnels

July 6, 2015

For some time I’ve admired the playful use of tunnels in South African agility course work and have incorporated this playful spirit into my own course designs. This past weekend I was judge for the Agiledogs USDAA trial in Stephentown, NY. I’d like to share and discuss the use of tunnels in several of my courses over the weekend.

Grand Prix


A straight pipe tunnel is sometimes called a “puppy cannon”. If you have a highly obstacle focused dog the dog will likely tag the obstacle at which the cannon takes aim. If, OTOH, you have a pure for motion dog he’ll need to feel the handler’s haste near the exit at the moment of the dismount to realize the puppy cannon effect. In the transition from #3 through #5 I wanted to test the handler’s ability to cue the more efficient turn after jump #4 so that the dog’s inertia doesn’t carry him wrong course to the #14 jump.

My original design had no #6 jump. But my course reviewer advised that the blind approach to the pipe tunnel constituted a “backside” performance, which is not allowed in Grand Prix play. The jump turned out to be a complete disaster, managing to NQ like 25% of the class. Without the jump the handler might send the dog down to get in the tunnel and be in grand position to slide past the exit (while the dog is in the tunnel), demonstrating to the dog the acute change of direction on the dismount.

I’m not actually taking issue with the course reviewer. A disaster for the exhibitor isn’t really a design problem… it’s a handling problem. Though, I’m thinking I’ll reserve this particular challenge for a “Masters Challenge” course in the future… maybe even rotate the transition jump into a “refusal” jump.

Why, you might ask, was this jump such a booger? Mostly it was a mental thing. The handler is so completely occupied with the technical bit following the jump that he may fail to adequately support the jump itself, a problem of premature articulation.

And too many handlers who did support the jump inexplicably rear crossed their dogs on the presentation of the tunnel… a handling strategy with about a 50% success rate. As I told one handler later in the day “It’s good to have a rear cross for the emergency. But every single emergency should not be of your own invention.

Many of the successful handlers at this juncture had a beautiful “rolling” Front Cross (one of the seven different types of Front Crosses.) And, of course, I admired those who did as I would do, sending the dog ahead to the jump and so be in position to slide past the exit to demonstrate the turn to the dog.

[Caution: The successful cannoneer doesn’t spend a lot of time loitering on the business end of the unspent cannon.]

There are other elements of this course worthy of discussion. The dismount of the A-frame had an unusually high occurrence of missed down contacts. I truly was surprised by this and struggled to understand the cause. I figure it had all to do with the looming pipe tunnel bit causing the handler to release before the dog had finished his work. It might also have been the simple opening of jump/A-frame with the handler taking the usual over-long lead-out, compelling the dog to race through the opening (which should be performed under collection, rather than in racing mode.) The very nature of an “I figure” conclusion just means it’s all just a wild ass guess.

The closing serpentine from the weave poles through the end of the course was an interesting bit. In this roller coaster finish the sharp smooth and cool USDAA handlers and their well-trained dogs pretty much made simple work of it. And they reminded me of why I love this game.

More playful tunnels, tomorrow.

70’s Hair

I had hair in the 70’s that was dead-on the same as singer Ray Dorset. He had a one-hit-wonder In the Summertime []. The name of his group Mungo Jerry comes from a children’s book by T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats . And, of course this was the basis of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway hit Cats. Mungojerrie and Rumpelteaser have a pretty cool bit in the play [].

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The End of a Long Stretch

December 15, 2014

This past weekend I judged a USDAA trial in Ashville, KY. It was a great three-day trial. There are fun and amazing competitors in the area who renew my love of the dog agility game. Amazement, mind you, is provoked not so much by keen top-tier competitors. For me it’s more a matter of the joyful relationships between people and their pups that is fostered by play in this sport. Even when a team is “crashing and burning” by the arbitrary measurement of the rule book, they can show heart and humor and bring a smile to everyone watching. The judge always has the best seat in the house.

And I’m fairly exhausted. My calendar got busy about mid-October and hasn’t relented until just this minute. Even the longest road ends to reveal new roads and fresh destinations.

I’ve lost the sharp edge of discipline with my blog. So I’m challenging myself to repeat an exercise that I did three or four years ago… to publish a blog each day for 100 days. That’s really not as easy as it sounds. So, hang in there with me, and we’ll see if I can’t get it done.

There are some things I’ve been dying to share. I’ll try not to blurt them out all at once… I’ve got to fit 100 days, after all.

Masters Challenge Jumpers

There might be a couple dozen people who recognize the playful use of tunnels in the course from training exercises and games I’ve designed in the past. To be truthful about it, some of the design I hoisted from courses I saw out of South Africa years ago. I apologize for not being able to credit any source of inspiration.

The USDAA’s Masters Challenge classes afford course designers the opportunity to pose absurd and interesting riddles that might seem excessive in a routine titling class. I’m not going far out on a limb to suggest that the USDAA Masters Challenge is a solitary platform for the demonstrating the very best of skill, talent and luck in our sport.

Yes, I’m aware that I used the word “luck” in that sentence. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be good.

Masters Challenge Jumpers

Masters Challenge Jumpers

The transition from jump #4 to jump #5 was clearly the most worrisome moment for most people when walking the course. As it turns out the single obstacle that NQ’d the most teams was jump #6,either as a refusal or as a dropped bar. The most fun bit was the dual back-and-forth puppy cannons from #14 to #15. You’ll probably want to set up this course in the back yard.

I sometimes set up an exercise in seminars that looks a lot like #1 through #6. The exercise is intended to expose the Phantom Blind Cross, an error in which the handler over-rotates his body in the Post, and drops his connection with the dog. This causes the dog to tuck up behind him (as in a Blind Cross) treating the dog to a wrong course into the pipe tunnel (the #14 pipe tunnel on this course).

It wouldn’t be fruitful to treat you to a blow-by-blow of everything that might go wrong on this course. Let’s just say there was plenty of variety and interesting moments, even to those who thought they were home free after the puppy cannon bit. At the end of the day the qualifying rate was solid, surprising and satisfying.

On Another Note

At a trial I was judging in Wisconsin three weekends ago I gently chided a man for getting angry at his dog. The fellow was actually quite a good handler and exciting to watch. But every time he made an error he whirled in anger blaming it all on his dog. I was reminded of this because of my discussion of the Phantom Blind Cross above… on one course the man did exactly as I described… over rotating in a Post Turn and dropping connection with his dog. So, the dog tucked up behind him into a wrong course.

Hunting him down later, I told him he shouldn’t blame everything on his dog, and he shouldn’t be getting mad at a dog that is working his butt off for him. He got a little purple in the face with me and told me he wasn’t angry. My tone was measured and calm… and I told him yes, he was very angry and his dog hit the deck to avoid his wrath.

The man turned his back on me and stalked off. That evening, in the hotel, I had a talk with myself about confronting somebody with anger management issues no matter how gently I did it. I’m always an advocate for the dog.

The last afternoon of the trial this gentleman made a show of praising his dog. It was clearly a somewhat foreign exercise to him. Whether this was for show or for real is unknown to me. Still, I was proud for him that he was trying.

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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.

Dr. Dolittle

December 20, 2013

A pull/push-through is a course design feature that has the handler drawing the dog between two perfectly good obstacles both of which are wrong-course choices. This really reminds me of an old exercise I used to put up in seminar work (I believe I stole the concept from Nancy Gyes who ran a variation of the exercise):


The end goal of this handling exercise was to introduce the RFP as a control movement. What’s really cool about this old exercise is that it’s now fair game in the USDAA’s Masters Challenge class. Better get practicing.


The push/pull-through is as likely to be a matter of wrapping the dog pretty much as in a threadle. However the target obstacle will be beyond the gap, and not necessarily presented squarely to the dog. In this example the #3 jump is virtually a back‑side approach.


In this example the wrap doesn’t turn immediately to the push/pull-through. They are separate events so that the moment of the challenge resembles more the handling exercise I showed above.

What is most interesting about this example is the long transitional distance from jump #3 to jump #4. This will be a common feature of the push/pull-through.


This is a slightly more subtle application of the push/pull-through. The 270° transition from jump #2 to #3 sets up both the #1 jump and the pipe tunnel as wrong course options. The push/pull-through has the handler drawing the dog between the pipe tunnel and the #2 jump. It’s worth noting that the pipe tunnel itself constitutes a backside approach.

Background Color

The final example above features an obstacle “cluster”. I wrote to some extent on this design feature of the Masters Challenge classes in my blog posting called Sensitivity. These challenging classes will borrow from European course design conventions. One of the chief differences from traditional American design is that the Europeans seldom reuse an obstacle. I suppose this goes to a granularity in scoring. If a dog drops a jump bar the designer wants to be sure that the dog has another opportunity to drop a bar. And this opportunity is lost if the jump has been reused. The obstacle cluster is a cagey design feature that allows a gang of obstacles to occupy a small place in space.


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.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 6

September 26, 2012

The game to be played as the final round of the TDAA Petit Prix, our national championship tournament will be Jumpers. This is a game that doesn’t need much of an introduction as it is a popular format played by every agility venue in the world.

The Game Within the Game at the Petit Prix (you’ll have to see tomorrow’s blog) is the steadiness and overall performance of a dog in this competition. In a departure from all years previous there will be no elimination of dogs from the competition for falling below some arbitrary set-point of accumulated score. That means every dog will compete in every competition.

And, mind you, this is not a winner-take-all round.

At the 2012 Petit Prix the top 40 dogs will be set aside for a final showcase run on the Jumpers course. They will be run by jump height in reverse seed order. This round will be theirs to win or lose. It’s possible, and actually somewhat likely, that some of the exhibitors sitting as spectators during the showcase round will move up into the top 40 on the basis of their performance in the final round.


The Jumpers class measures a dog’s ability to jump and turn and the handler’s ability to exert control and timing in this fast-paced version of the agility game. Though the dog only needs to learn to jump to begin competing, Jumpers is one of the most difficult games to perfect as dogs move at a much greater speed than in other classes.


Jumpers courses consist only of hurdles and tunnels, with some limitations between the different venues. The dog is required to run the course in the sequence indicated by the judge.

Follow the numbers. And keep the bars up.

Jumpers is judged according to the performance rules for the respective venue.


Jumpers is usually scored Faults, Then Time the winner being the dog with the fewest faults. If two dogs have the same number of Faults, Then Time breaks the tie.

Jumpers can be scored Time, Plus Faults. The winner would be the dog with the lowest score.

Course Design

This is an example of a USDAA Masters course. A USDAA course requires the performance of at least three spread hurdles. These courses are not inconsequential in terms of challenge and handling. You’ll see options and traps and the need for excellent timing and deft handling.

This is an example of a Novice course. Note that it is nested perfectly with the Masters course example. The course designer may want to move out unused obstacles so that the lower levels are not presented with “dummy” jumps.

Excepting play in the AKC (and possibly in USDAA Team/PVP) only tunnels and hurdles may be used on the course. As the level of competition rises, so does the complexity of the course. In addition, as the level of competition increases, the time to perform the course decreases.

This is an example of a Jumpers course designed for play in the TDAA. The spacing between obstacles is considerably tighter than in any other venues. What’s worth remembering about the TDAA is that it is intended for dogs of small stature. And so the Jumpers course especially emphasizes the central idea of the TDAA, to present to the small dog handler challenges that are comparable to what big dog handlers face on any given weekend.

This is an example of an important variation of Jumpers called, appropriately, Jumpers With Weaves. The performance standard for AKC Excellent Jumpers With Weaves requires an unflinching mastery of the course.

This is an example of a DOCNA Jumpers course (arguably it would be suitable for NADAC as well). You’ll note that DOCNA does not use tunnels, and all of the jumps are wingless. In the NADAC-style venues the courses are devoid of challenges that are routine in venues like the USDAA, AKC, and TDAA; you’ll find no options, or traps, hard-about turns, or wicked handling moments. Everything is flow and go. As a consequence, the rates of travel for NADAC and DOCNA are more aggressive and demanding than in any other venue.


The basic advice in the Jumpers class is to follow the numbers, and keep the bars up.

Since only jumps and tunnels (where allowed) are used, Jumpers courses tend to be more difficult for handlers to memorize than other types of courses. To be successful in Jumpers, it is more important than ever to remember course flow and sequences rather than individual obstacles.

Also, the handler’s movement and timing are important on Jumpers courses in the control of the dog as the action is coming fast and furious. The handler should be sharp, and timely.

The most common faults in Jumpers are wrong courses and refusal. Thus, emphasis should be placed on considering approaches, angles, and distances to obstacles during the course walk-though.

The key strategy for Jumpers is to train the dog to jump and to be responsive to handling in fast and flowing situations.

Qualifying and Titles

Nearly every venue features Jumpers as a titling class and an element of the respective championship programs.

Qualifying is based on the measured length of the dog’s path; usually at considerably more aggressive rates of travel than the standard classes. Whether the scoring basis is Time+Faults or Faults, Then Time, the score must be equal to or less than the established SCT. The lowest score wins.


  • Jumpers with Weaves ~ This format is used by the AKC. In a departure from the Jumpers class in most venues, Weave poles are featured in the jumpers course.
  • USDAA Dog Agility Masters® (DAM) tournament Jumpers – The format for DAM Jumpers is different from the Jumpers played in USDAA titling classes: 1) weave poles are often included; 2) a refusal is penalized 2 points; and 3) The scoring system is Time, Plus Faults.
  • Land Rover Drive – This game, also known as Jump and Drive, is perhaps a historical footnote. The Land Rover Drive and Jumping contest grew out of the sponsorship by Land Rover for agility trials in the U.K. The handler loads his dog into a Land Rover, drives a designated course, parks the vehicle in a garage and then jumps out to run his dog over a Jumpers course. The judge will designate the starting point for the Land Rover, the path of the vehicle and the garage where the vehicle must be parked. Dog and handler (and the course clock) start on foot across a starting line designated by the judge.
  • Black and Whites – This British variation is Jumpers for black and white Border Collies only (or black and white dogs with any hint of BC in them).
  • Jumpers with Weaves Plus ~ loosely based on the AKC Jumpers with Weaves titling class, but with multiple weave pole challenges. The Purpose of the game is to complete the course in the specified order, as quickly as possible, without faults.

This is an example of a Jumpers with Weaves Plus course (closely based on a course designed by Ilze Rukis for play in the TDAA in Warrensburg, IL on April 12, 2003).

Premium Blurb

Jumpers is a favorite game in the dog agility world. Courses are made up of jumps and tunnels only, so the play is fast and furious. Follow the numbers and keep the bars up.


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.


June 5, 2012

You must know that I have to rely on considerable distance work in agility. I just don’t move the way I once did. Kory put on quite a show on the weekend, working generally at a spectacular distance. Of course, nobody really wanted to be me. I’ve said for a very long time that working at a distance is like throwing cards into a hat on a windy day. And that’s how the weekend went for us. We were at about 50% qualifying vs 50% crashing & burning in spectacular fashion.

Following is the Round 2 Steeplechase, designed by USDAA judge Richard Deppe. The following account is the anatomy of my crash ‘n burn on the course.

The key to using distance work to survive technical bits is to make those technical bits control points. That means the handler will have a close proximity to the dog to demonstrate, by handling the direction of the course. When walking the course I was torn between the blind/managed approach to the long jump and getting Kory to see the oblique presentation of jump #11 on the dismount of the A-frame. Oh, I could give him a good “Right” command from some distance, to be sure.  He would be just as likely to turn hard into a wrong course pipe tunnel (#12) with that strategy.

So, I decided to trust in Kory’s turning radius at jump #8 to carry him out wide enough for a square approach to the long jump. I got the judges whistle as I turned him over jump #11 into the pipe tunnel. I hadn’t even bothered to watch the performance of the long jump. The judge confirmed that he had a cross-cut performance (a refusal) on the hurdle.

So, I just left the course without finishing. What would be the fun in that?

To tell you the truth, a Steeplechase course is typically a wide open zing compared to Masters standard, or the Grand Prix. When the technical control points are presented on either end of a span, as in this course… I simply will not be able to be in both places. I don’t believe that many judges consider old arthritic farts like me in their course design. It’s all about the long legged youngsters.

I’m not daunted, mind you. Because I had a lot of fun this past weekend. And I’m fully aware that Kory is a very young dog, getting better all the time. My only real regret is that I didn’t capture the big cash winnings so I could stop at McDonalds on the way home.

It also occurs to me that I’ve never done “around the clock” training with the long jump [though I’ve asserted in writing that I’ve done around the clock with all agility obstacles.] I’m thinking I’ll take this project into my training program. Imagine actually training your dog to completely understand which approach/dismount is correct on the long jump. Now there’s a thought.


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.

Nesting Courses for USDAA

January 8, 2009

Everybody who judges for the USDAA has been stuck out there with a dozen courses to be run in a single day, once you account for each level being requiring a unique course. The time required to conduct the trial is a matter of simple arithmetic. Any kind of dramatic course change will require a minimum of 15 minutes to build and 5 minutes to tweak; 5 minutes to brief and 15 minutes to start the class. These numbers are optimistically conservative. Consequently if you have 11 course changes after you’ve begun the day… six hours and 45 minutes have been occupied without a single dog running.

The number of dogs per day judged given the inefficient design of courses creates these undeniable mathematical outcomes. Dogs should run at an average rate of about one a minute during the conduct of all classes:

Dogs Judged

Time Spent Running Dogs

Time Spent Course Changes

Total Time


1 hour 40 min

6 hours 45 min

8 hours 25 min


3 hours 20 min

6 hours 45 min

10 hours 5 min


4 hours 10 min

6 hours 45 min

10 hours 55 min


5 hours

6 hours 45 min

11 hours 45 min

A nearly perfect nested course can create a transition of only 5 minutes from the end of one class to the start of briefing for the next. “Rotate these two jumps; take out these two jumps… and renumber.”

If this short interval between classes is realized the overall schedule for the day might be reduced by as much as three hours; though, realistically, more about two hours – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Masters Standard

I  often have to argue with USDAA course reviewers who think my courses are too soft (not technical enough). I’m typically content with creating a single overt handling challenge while sprinkling a number more subtle challenges throughout the course.
• The handler is faced with a decision as to which direction to turn his dog on jump #3. This is a bit of a conundrum as the handler who turns to the left had better be pretty skillful at managing the dog’s path to give an adequately square approach; though the handler turning the dog to the right creates a longer consequential path.

• In the turn over two jumps after the A-frame back to the pipe tunnel the dog is presented with a look at jump #20. While it is at some distance an inattentive handler could actually lose his dog to the wrong course or, at the very least, create a wider turn than was necessary.

• The transition from the teeter to the dogwalk might have been more interesting if the table were a jump so that we could get the performance of a three-jump pinwheel and a lot more electricity in the dog’s movement. With that in mind… I could use this as a Grand Prix course and put a jump in place of the table.

None-the-less, the simple 180º turn of jumps after the table will often cause the handler to fail to give enough to the team in terms of movement and direction. I expect the fault rate here to actually be higher than the turn from jump #3 to the A frame.

• The abrupt turn from the dogwalk back over jump #14 will surely cause some handlers to pull their dogs off the ramp prematurely as some are apt to cue the turn before the dog has done his job. Most errors on course are actually timing errors on the part of the handler.

• The transition from the dogwalk to the weave poles is a big and somewhat generous serpentine. It is the nature of a serpentine that the handler has to change sides to his dogs. So the real question here is where the handler will effect the change of sides. The collapsed tunnel presents a bit of a conundrum for the handler’s decision.

• The straight-forward approach to the weave poles is more difficult than it might seem. The dog will be accelerating out of the turn and making the approach after a spread hurdle. So, we get to make the approach at full speed.

• A tire after the weave poles has considerable visual acuity to the dog and is a test of the dog’s steadiness in the poles.

Advanced Standard

Maintaining Appropriate Challenge – Masters to Advanced

This is very close to the same course that I gave the Masters competitors. I removed the choice of turning direction riddle between jump #2 and the A-frame. The challenge (a “Managed Approach”) is a bit more than should be expected of competitors in the Advanced class.

The only change required on this nested course is renumbering. Indeed, when I wheel the Masters course I will make note of the difference in length in the jump #2 to the A-frame riddle for each level so that I won’t even have to wheel the course again for the Advance class. Note that the order of classes might actually be:

Advanced Standard first, and then Masters. It truly is six-of-one and half-a-dozen of the other.

Starters Standard
Maintaining Appropriate Challenge –Advanced to Starters

I’ve made a fairly dramatic change to get from Advanced Standard to Starters. I’ve removed the two jumps between the table and the dogwalk; and I’ve made the obstacle following the dogwalk the collapsed tunnel, in order to take a jump out of the course.

The performance of the collapsed tunnel is a softer challenge for Starters in any case. It should be quite simple for them to cross in front of or behind their dogs at the entry so that they are on the side of the turn as the dog makes his exit (but you know those silly starters… a lot of them will have dog on left after the collapsed tunnel, trying to figure out how to affect the turn as they go).

I will instruct my course builders that they have precisely two minutes to effect the course change after the last dog runs in the previous class (mindful now… that this might actually be the first class of the day). Send a crew of two to rearrange chute and jump while taking out a jump; send a crew of two to take out the two jumps around the table; and send one guy out to hastily renumber the course.

Don’t be a Tweak Grinch
I’ve never been one for adjusting obstacles an inch or even a foot this way or that way. On a well-nested course you can get things very well set for the first course of the day by taking your site-lines and drawing it all up tight. For the rest of the day be attentive to the proper rotation or attitude of the obstacle when obstacles are moved. Insure that adequate distances have been provided for the handler and his dog to solve your riddles.

When reviewing the work of course builders I mostly want to be sure that the challenges that I’d envisioned have been preserved. Always look at the course from the POV of the working dog.

Gamblers for all levels

Nesting from Standard to Games
Economy of obstacle movement from a standard class to a game is just as important as the economy of movement within standard classes. I based Gamblers layout on the Superior Standard course. Mostly what I wanted to do is study of the layout of equipment that I already had, and come up with distance challenges appropriate for each level of play:

• On this course the Masters gamble is indicated in RED. The oblique containment line after the #1 jump was added as an afterthought. Frankly some handlers will get in trouble stepping all the way up to this line because it will require contrary movement to get back around the jump to support the dog in the weave poles.

• Advanced gamble is indicated in BLUE. This is a simple lateral distance performance of the A-frame. Note that I’ve given the Advanced players a choice of sides from which to start. The side to the south is decidedly more difficult; but if they get caught back there when the warning whistle blows they’ll have an opportunity to get going with their gamble.

• Starters gamble is indicated in GREEN. This is a very simple distance challenge that will provide basic proof that the dog will go away from the handler to work. The oblique line after jump #3 ensures that the handler doesn’t get to lean over the jump.

To build this course, some movement of equipment was required:

• Rotated jump, green #3

• Changed the shape of the pipe tunnel, green #2.

• Rotated and changed position slightly of jump, red #1

• Reversed the direction of the teeter to provide for flow into the Advanced gamble.

• Slightly changed the position of jump, blue #1 (north).

• Added a jump to the right of the weave poles to provide for additional flow onto the field.

• Moved the position of the table to accommodate all three gambles.

Sometimes I’ll start with a notion for a gamble I’d like to try out on Masters players. When I do this I typically design the gamble challenge first and will base and build the standard class on that set of equipment (taking care to give flow through the gamble obstacles that doesn’t allow them to practice the gamble during the Standard class). Almost always when I’ve tried to superimpose a gamble I want to try out on an already existing standard class, it will necessitate more equipment movement than is desirable.

Take note of the number of players at each level at the trial. In a very small trial it’s entirely possible to walk all three levels at once. More likely you’ll wind up with a disproportionate kind of entry where… you might brief and walk Starters and Advanced at the same time, but wind up giving Masters a split walk-through.

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