Let’s Design A Course

14 Apr

Let’s talk course design!

15 Pillars Anyone?

It shouldn’t be too tough as if you are judging a one ring, one judge, three-day trial you could need anywhere from 18-30 courses.   How long could it possibly take?

So let’s experiment and design an Excellent/Masters Standard course.  Set the handy timer on your cell phone for 60 minutes.  Then make sure you know how big your ring is and where the entrance and exit are.  Do you have to enter on one side or can you pick which side to enter? Also, make sure you have the equipment list.  What size tunnels does the club have?  Do the wings come off the spreads?  What kind of dogwalk do they have?  It makes a difference if you want to put a tunnel underneath it.  Those legs can make things difficult!  4 or 5 foot bars?  How wide are the wings on the jumps?  Is your course 80×100 – is the 80 on the bottom or the side?  It will make a difference when you get to your assignment.  Your course won’t fit if you mixed up those numbers.  Did you double check the premium to make sure the ring size is the same as you were given?  Did you check the premium and AKC website to see if the class you’re designing is actually being offered and that they both match? Did you check to see if there are any obstructions in the ring? Here in MN we have a building with 15 pillars and another with 9! But for this experiment, let’s make it easy 100×100 no pillars!

Now you’re ready to design.  Time to reset your time so you get a true 60 minutes to actually design.  Grab some obstacles and drop them on your course.  Then grab your numbers and make your course.  Make sure you stop by 20 and are near the exit.  You can stop at 18 or 19 but not 17.  

Easy peasey now you’re all done right?!  Try again…time to start checking your course.   But first take a picture of your course.  You’ll want to see how close you were after you do your check!

  • Do you have all the required obstacles?  A-frame, dog-walk, teeter, tunnel(s), table, weave poles, panel jump and 2 spread jumps. 
    • Remember you only get 2 tunnel passes.
    • You get 3 if your lucky enough to judge for a club that has a 10-13 foot tunnel. But make sure that puppy canon has a maximum of a 45 degree bend.
  • Now check and see if you have 9 options.  What’s a option you ask?   According to the AKC Judges Guidelines p.33 “An option is a point on the course where the dog has a choice of which obstacles to take.  
    • Now make sure that each of the options has at least 15 feet  to a direct off course but not more than 23. 
    • Make sure the option is sightable, accessible and desirable (SAD)
    • Do you have proximity options?  Those are obstacles that are SAD and the entrance is within 5 feet of the expected dogs path. 
    • You can have handler restrictions also for example  a tunnel under the dogwalk or a-frame the comes out at least 6 feet
    • Also make sure that if a dog takes the off course option there is at least 15 feet to any other piece of equipment/wall and 21 feet to an off course spread so that they may land safely.  The number one rule of course design is DO NOT let the dog get hurt!
  • Next before you go too much further is your course judgeable?
    • You need to be within 20 feet of the contacts and be able to start judging at the apex of the a-frame, down ramp of the dog walk and must be able to see the up and down of the teeter.
    • 30 feet from the side of the broad jump if you used that
    • You need to judge the weave poles from the side and not from the ends.
    • Tire – from the front or the back not the side
    • Table – maximum of 20 feet from it
    • Tunnels – can you see both the entrance and the exit?
    • Bars – can you see all the bars of each jump?

You should probably check the timer now – how much time do you have left?

  • Are all your obstacles at least 6 feet from the ring gate/walls?  8 for the weaves
  • Do you have at least 15 feet to the first obstacle?  Make sure it’s 21 if you use a double.
  • Did you end your course with a jump – no ending courses with a contact or weaves!
  • Do you have at least 20 feet from the last jump to the ring gate
  • Don’t forget to check your jump spacing.   You must have at least 18 feet to every jump at least 21 to a spread.  You can have a little more, but don’t make it too big or you’ll max out your course time.
  • Do you have at least 15 feet to anything solid as a dog lands a jump or finishes an obstacle?  Although I’ve never seen a dog run into a solid wall, you still must have 15 full feet.  14.5 isn’t going to cut it during the review process. 
  • Do you have 2 feet minimum from a tunnel to a barrier?  You need to wheel back there and you don’t want a dog slamming a tunnel into a wall. 
  • Do you have at least 8 feet all the way around the teeter?  10 would be better.  Decapitating the handler on the upside is frowned upon. 
  • Do you have at least 6 feet around the table?  Nope – you can’t just shove it in the corner. 

Next check your approaches to obstacles…

  • Do you have a straight approach to the tire, all spreads
  • How about your approaches to the contacts do you have at least 18 feet straight on.  You want to make sure the dog can straighten up and load on safely.  Do you see a theme?  SAFETY!  Make sure your course is safe.
  • Do you have straight approaches to off course spreads and contacts?

How are you doing on time?  I bet it’s getting short.  If you have a little extra time, double check your run out lines.  You can’t have a dog landing for the next obstacle and already passes the run out line of that obstacle.

If you think you’ve got it, start at the top of the list and double check EVERYTHING one more time.  I can guarantee you that when you fixed one thing it affected something else.

Times up.  You now must turn in your course to have it reviewed.  Good luck!  Look back at the picture you took about 45 minutes ago and smile knowing you have a safe course NOW!

In all reality you don’t have to set a timer, but if you want to want to become an AKC judge, you’ll have to design under pressure. 

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