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Training Exercises: Master Challenge Jumpers

Check out this breakdown of a recent Master Challenge Jumpers course designed by Frank Holik. By Steve Schwarz

Flyer and I ran this fun and challenging Frank Holik USDAA external link Masters Challenge Jumpers (MCJ) course this past weekend and Flyer earned his first MCJ qualifying score with a second place. This course has all the "international" elements we expect in a Masters Challenge course: back side jumps, moving past off course obstacles, a threadle, shallow angle approaches to jumps, and handler side challenges. More importantly it had pretty good flow for being so technical. (For in-depth explanations of terms, see

Frank was kind enough to let me share his course - thanks Frank!

The course was set fairly close to the diagram. If you look at the video you'll see the tunnel is rotated so that the back side of 7 was really only sensible on the dog's right. That rotation also made it easier to get further "downstream" to set up the back side at 10. It also seemed that 10/13 was closer to 9. The jump 14 and especially the triple at 15 were moved "south."

Handling-wise if you can dream it, it was tried. Here are some handling approaches:

  • Dog on left 1-3 and front cross over jump 3.
  • Dog on right 4-6. Keeping eye contact and a verbal after 5 was enough for most teams to avoid the off-course.
  • Dog on left out of tunnel with a push to the back side of 7 and a front cross over the jump to put the dog on the handler's right to tighten the line. I think at least one handler did the push to the back side and then did a blind cross to put the dog on their left.
  • The big question was whether to have the dog on the handler's right or left to get the back side at 10. I chose getting ahead and putting in a front cross between 9 and 10. Some handlers stayed dog on right and then did a rear cross on the flat to set up the back side. A few dogs didn't take jump 9 as handlers went to blind cross 9 without having eye contact before the dog got to the jump.
  • "Backy uppy" threadle with a "throw back" on 12 allowed handlers to get ahead to jump wrap 13 - jump 9 was a real off-course possibility. Some handlers did bring their dog through the gap between 11 and 12.
  • I think one person did a rear cross jump wrap on 13 but most did a front cross wrap.
  • 13-15 felt a little awkward due to the longer distances between the jump wraps.
  • Dog on left 15-17.
  • For the closing it was evenly split handling it with the dog on left and the dog on right. It turned out it was hard to set the line from 19-20; the dogs definitely saw the long jump at an angle as they approached it.

Thanks again to Frank for letting me share this fun and challenging course!

Visit to see a video of Flyer and me running the course.

This article is part of a new Training Tuesday series that is appearing on USDAA's facebook page. We encourage you to discuss this course on our facebook, and to upload videos of you and your dog trying out one of the segments or the whole course. If you have a facebook account, please join in the fun here: 

Steve Schwarz has been training and competing in agility and flyball since 1997. He focuses on helping handlers improve their communication with their dogs on course in a positive and light-hearted manner. Steve brings an analytical approach from his engineering background to the study and training of agility. In order to stay knowledgeable about current agility training techniques, Steve trains regularly with top agility handlers and attends multiple dog and agility training seminars each year. Steve competes in USDAA, UKI, AKC, and CPE venues and has competed in NADAC and UKC. Steve writes the longest running dog agility blog: AgilityNerd ( with regular entries and videos on agility training, handling, and course analysis.

A version of this article first appeared at and it has been shared with permission.


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