NDAL August 50×70 Training Notes

September 15, 2016

What you make of your own training sessions with any set of the floor probably has a lot to do with your own objectives and assuredly the goals and objectives of your students. Be warned that the following discussion has more to do with my own quick assessment of training opportunity, rather than anything for the average player in our sport.

The 50×70 is a wide open ripper, maybe about as challenging as a NADAC course. And so our training sets won’t necessarily be focused on how to solve for the technical challenge. Being something of a racetrack, our training objectives might be to work on distance foundation and fundamentals to which this course lends itself very nicely.

We’ll begin with a Progressive sending exercise:

In the same training session we will also do a bit of work on “layering”. Note that we begin to use compound objectives in our training (progressive send, left & right directionals, layering and named obstacle recognition):

September NDAL League Courses

New clubs are invited to establish an NDAL franchise at any time. The cost for playing is ridiculously low. You can find the September NDAL league courses, and links to score-keeping worksheets here:



Follow us on Facebook to for current league news: https://www.facebook.com/TopDogAgilityPlayers/

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

NDAL 60×90 Masters Training Sets

September 11, 2016

I’ve been an instructor and a coach in agility for more than 25 years. Writing a lesson plan is an art form, I suppose, intended in the main to elevate the keenness of handling and raise the training objectives with an individual dog.


The NDAL 60×90 Masters course was of my own design. I’m happy to report that October will be designed by Stuart Mah, author of Course Design for Dog Agility, a foundation reference in our sport.

I would like to share with you some of the intended exercises for my own handler classes that are scheduled for the upcoming week. I’ve published a lot of training sequences and advice over the years. But now I have wonderful resources afforded by more modern technologies… and the internet. So, the training sequences are embellished with online YouTube recordings!

We will observe a training method called a “break-down”. In the break-down format we practice the elements of a course. And once we believe we have those elements mastered, we will run the course!

The 60×90 Course Overview

The Masters level course for the 60×90 floor space are intended to feature advanced challenges, with considerable flow, allowing interesting technical moments to come to the dog and handler at full speed.

Exercise #1 ~ Tight Wrap at jump #2

The simple objective of this exercise is to practice a tight wrapping turn at jump #2. This is a marvelous opportunity to experiment with a pre-cued turn, focusing on what any individual dog needs to give advice of an impending turn at a jump.

The transition from the “wrap” at jump #1 around the front of the floor to the teeter isn’t featured as a practice sequence. Ideally the handler can direct the dog at a distance. Distance requires the dog to work independently, and might encourage the dog to work at full speed which, with any luck, is faster than a handler might be able to move.

Exercise #2 ~ Independent Performance of the Teeter

On this course it is somewhat desirable for the dog to perform the teeter at some distance from the handler. This allows the handler to take a control position for the approach to the weave poles.

Exercise #3 ~ Weave Pole Entry

The approach to the weave poles isn’t a simple matter. The pipe tunnel looms as a wrong-course option. And, ultimately, the handler probably want dog on right for the weave pole performance. The handler who must shape the approach to the weave poles is especially challenged to set up that approach. In the ideal world, the handler would be able to give a cue to the weave poles, and trust the dog to go out and find that entry.

After the performance of the weave poles there is again an opportunity to send the dog to and over the two jumps on the approach to the A-frame. There is a real possibility that the dog will draw in to the pipe tunnel after the performance of the weave poles and jump. The handler must keep pressure out after jump #9 to have prospects for success. This is not featured on our training videos. But it might be an independent exercise to be incorporated either with the weave poles or the approach to the A-frame.

Exercise #4 ~ A-frame / Pipe Tunnel Discrimination

A discrimination might be solved by handling. The discrimination might also be solved by training. Imagine if we trained our dogs to understand which obstacle to be performed based on the command given on the approach. We want to understand both handling and training as we approach this exercise.

After the A-frame, jump and tunnel the sequencing is fairly straight-forward. The dog take another two jumps out and around the pipe tunnel, and then is finally turned abruptly into that pipe tunnel. The finish of the course is jump and tire to finish!

Semi-Pro to Pro Agility

At some point we might be satisfied with the grind after titles and little cloth ribbons approach to our play of this game; and maybe we’ll be ready for the next step. Imagine dog agility that gives substantial cash rewards to the top performers. The National Dog Agility League is contemplating just such an approach to dog agility.

The starting point is league play. We invite anyone who would like to play to join us. We have about 20 clubs in four different countries playing with us now. We believe in YouTube recording of our performances! It’s fun to see how other players in different parts of the world approach the solution to simple coursework.

More information about semi-professional and professional dog agility will be revealed!

Oh, it’s easy to join the NDAL. We have a $10 dog registration (which is kept by the host club)… and we charge a meager $1/dog recording fee. You are welcome to begin play with the 60×90 Masters course we have trained with here. Download the scorekeeping worksheet… and you become a member of the league when you post results!

We have four leagues running each month. Each is based on the size of the working space and the level of challenge. You can download the scorekeeping worksheet for each below:

50×50 ~ International

50×70 ~ Fun and Flowing

60×90 ~ Masters

36×85 ~ Fun and Flowing

Editor’s Note

I originally wrote this post with outlinks to YouTube. Being a bit slow on the uptake, after getting a bit of feedback about how cumbersome it is to follow the conversation with multiple processes and windows open; I sat down with some Bing (Google) research on how to embed a link to a YouTube video. Consequently, I learned something important that will become my new method. And, I have taken the liberty to go back to this post and edit it for inline display of the link to YouTube. I may very well go back and edit about a hundred WordPress Posts to make this fix.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Training With NDAL

July 24, 2016

Courses published by the National Dog Agility League are intended to be resources for training, recreation, and competition. For a moment I would like to focus on the “training” element.

An NDAL course is always open. What that means is that a club can set up a published NDAL course and run it at any time. When the results are reported, all of the new results are commingled with all existing (and historical) results.

The wickedly clever training director will immediately grasp the implications of this for both setting training objectives and measuring the results of that training. A training center might run a particular course, every other year for years. It would be a fascinating study to compare results for individual dogs over those runs and reruns. And I don’t mean just compare scores… look at the advancing skills of the team and the partnership between dog and handler.

Of course it’s very fun that our reporting includes a field for a YouTube recording. And so comparison of performance is substantially visual.

50×70 Fun & Flow


Training objectives can be wide-ranging. On a course like this I could write forty different lesson plans all having different objectives and lessons.

It is somewhat serendipitous that this course offers a challenge that is prominently featured in a training program we have for our young dog Cedar. Specifically, we are engaged in “Named obstacle discrimination” training. This is a thing that I have documented in detailed manner in the pages of The Joker’s Notebook (the distance training series I sell on my web-store).

It is very important to understand that words in a book are meaningless unless they are taken in a purposeful manner to the real world and become a part of a dog’s training. It’s not enough to understand how to do it. You actually have to do the training to own (or deserve) the objective skills of that training.

Okay, on the 50×70 course I’m interested in the transitions through jumps #13 and #14 and the approach to the A-frame at #15. This challenge dovetails nicely with my ongoing training with Cedar. Following are two recording sessions I’ve taken with her. She’s nearly two years old now… so it’s time for some nifty skills:

Part One ~ I took this video about a week into Cedar’s training on Named Obstacles. She struggled to understand what I was asking for. My response when she guesses wrong is as important and meaningful to the training progression as is my response when she guesses right!

Part Two ~ This video was taken within a couple days of our league team running the 50×70 Fun & Flow course. Cedar is looking pretty good! That doesn’t mean I get to stop or rest in this training regimen. I continue to make the skill solid and permanent; and I need to introduce generalization.

Teaching Classes

So it’s important to understand that I can’t make “Named Obstacle Discrimination” the core focus for our advanced handling class. Think about it, I’ve been doing two-a-day sessions for several weeks with Cedar. I did the same foundation training with my boy Kory (circa six years ago). I cannot cram all of that into a two hour class for my students. It would just frustrate the crap out of them. I can suggest the training methodology…

However, making suggestions of training objectives and methodology does not constitute a proper training agenda for an advanced handling class.

So I’m going to use this opportunity to steal from the competition!

The Competition

I mentioned the YouTube recordings included in NDAL results and reporting… I really like that I can see how others solve course challenges. This intelligence might well direct our own training efforts. Allow me to give an example:

AQ4U’s Fast & Furryous in Louisville, KY has reported for the July 2016 50×70 NDAL Fast & Fun league. We will share the YouTube recording of Blade, a Border Collie run by Brian Wakefield. Blade finished this course with zero faults in a time of 23.44 seconds: https://youtu.be/MxYxaqvXD4c

Brian’s run with really quite excellent! I want to show this to my students, and see how they might solve the opening with Brian’s approach.

First of all, Brian opened the course with a very aggressive flat angle approach to the first jump in order to straighten out the opening line as much as possible.

The bit that I find most fascinating, however, is the #3 to #4 transition. What Brian does here is what I call a do-se-do Blind Cross. On a regular Blind cross the handler changes sides forward of the dog from on the inside of the curve. In the do-se-do Blind Cross the handler changes sides from the outside of the curve! I’ve never completely understood why the do-se-do actually works, but it nearly always does.

Some of you know that we’ve been studying the Back Pass. There is a strong relationship between a Blind Cross and a Back Pass. The chief difference is that the Blind Cross is relative, and the Back Pass is absolute. [[I know that I should explain at length… but I’m already in the middle of explaining something else, at length.]]

Anyhow for our class on league play night we’ll talk about and practice both the Blind Cross and the Back Pass.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

July 2016 League Play

July 10, 2016

The National Dog Agility League is going more broadly international in July, with a club in Australia beginning play, and with clubs in South Africa and New Zealand studying when they might begin. It turns out that they have winter in July down in New Zealand. So that club needs to get past the cold and frightful weather.

We also have a new club in Colorado beginning in July (BowWowz Dog Sports in Colorado Springs). Competition is starting to heat up!

60×90 Masters

I’ve finally set up the NDAL 60×90 Masters-league course in our training building. I thought that I would share it and maybe talk about the “interesting” bits. As you can see, this is a course that I designed. Next month we’ve invited Dennis Vogel (Cloud Nine in New Hope, MN) to be our game master.


The opening is fairly straightforward but begs for diligent work, with a tight wrap off of the tire into the #4 tunnel (the A-frame inviting the wrong-course). The handler has to be thinking about which side to work on the approach to jump #5. Dog-on-right might work; but there’s more to go wrong with it than dog-on-left.

The handler might also be thinking about his position on the dogs dismount of the weave poles. The #7-9 serpentine offers two distinct wrong-course options. And frankly the game is won and lost in quick little jumping sequences like this. The dog might do the three jumps turning neat… or he could forge in wide & wobbly turns.

We’ll have a bit of fun with the closing. It is an odd mixture of opening te dog up into full extension, and then drawing him into collection. For example… from jump #9 and most of the way to jump #11 the dog should be in full stride. But the handler wants to put him in a lower gear on the landing side of jump #11 to turn neatly towards the next jump (and away from the weave poles); and cause him to continue to tuck in after jump #8 to get to the nearer entry to the #13 pipe tunnel.

Out of the pipe tunnel the handler has to give a turning cue to the left with some likelihood that he’s on the side away from the turn.

It’s a lovely course and should be a lot of fun to run. This course will be judged on a Time, Plus Faults basis.

36×85 Fun & Flowing

NDAL courses are based on the size of the working space. And, you’ll note, each has a theme. To my own thinking “Fun & Flowing” means that it doesn’t have a bunch of wicked technical challenges that require the intrusive micro-management of the dog by his handler.

That being said there should be an element of challenge. Fun is like an adrenaline rush, like riding a roller coaster. I don’t know if I pulled it off in the design:


This course features two counter-side tunnels [that’s when the dog’s logical path has him approaching one side of a u-shaped pipe tunnel; but the judge has put the number on the other side.] Aside from those features this course is pretty much a collection of pin-wheel sequencing.

On both performances of the#4/13 pipe tunnel the handler needs to step in and get the dog aimed in a direction other that where the pipe tunnel was pointing.



We will do the 50×50 International and the 50×70 Fun & Flow courses on a different night. I’m afraid your game master made a terrible nesting mistake. I’m sure some of the clubs will catch this mistake if they try to run more than one on the same day/night.

50×70 Fun & Flow


There’s certainly a serpentine kind of theme going in this course. And by definition there might be (could be? Should be?) multiple changes of sides and changes of direction, all with the dog working at near best speed.

The most overt technical challenge is probably the tunnel discrimination on the approach to the A-frame at #15. This will certainly give us an opportunity to make the “discrimination” a training topic in class.

50×50 International


As the name implies the 50×50 is focused on rather tough “international” skills. I don’t believe what I’ve designed here is oppressive. And I’ve certainly tried to create logical flow. Of course the interesting moments are those that defy logic. On this course the key challenges are clearly: the very tough approach to the weave poles; the pull through from jump #9 back to the tunnel; and the backside performance of jump #12.

The National Dog Agility League

The league continues a wonderful pattern of slow growth. We’re working on automation to allow players in the league to query stats and standing. A new league series begins right now! You can get the lowdown on the NDAL blog.

Blog1145 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Every Day is Saturday

July 2, 2016

The other day I say to myself… what day is this? And that convinced voice at the back of my brain answers “It’s Saturday,” … “every day is Saturday”. Okay, I know that’s an exaggeration. I’m as busy now as I’ve ever been. I reckon I don’t know how to be unbusy. But don’t you know there’s time for gardening and fishing and this ‘n that projects.


I made a bit of time to reconstruct the frame for this ancient whetstone, as the old stand had completely degraded in the weather. I was very faithful to the original design specs. I was pleased to use old oak true 2′ by 4′ wood from a carriage house demolished down in Watertown a few years ago.

The National Dog Agility League

The league continues a wonderful pattern of slow growth. We’re working on automation to allow players in the league to query stats and standing. A new league series begins right now! You can get the lowdown on the NDAL blog.

Blog1144 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Dogs Don’t Whisper

June 9, 2016

I intend no criticism of Cesar Milan. While he is a bit hard-handed for my liking, he brings basic dog training discipline to befuddled dog lovers. To his credit, Cesar has the good grace to sound slightly embarrassed when he calls himself “the Dog Whisperer.” After all, dogs don’t whisper.

I don’t much buy into the concept of the dog training “guru”. The mysticism of the magic touch is largely fabricated mythology. In the sport of dog agility most so-called gurus work with Border Collies, a breed whose capacity for compensatory learning is plain awesome.

Beyond the perennial flash-in-the-pan agility expert there is deeply entrenched permanent agility guru caste. They’ll sell you books, handling systems, online training adventures, and seminars and private lessons.

Oh, everybody needs to make a living. I’m not going to begrudge.

Don’t get me wrong. The agility savant with 10,000-hour-eyes is a great resource. But he/she’s a coach, not a guru.

League Play

The National Dog Agility League continues to grow. It’s a fun concept. Each club or franchise puts up the same courses each month… and we roll up all the results as a single competition. Team scores are comprised from the scores of the top five dogs in a club. Obviously the more dogs the franchise runs, the better are the top five scores. Contact me if you’d like to play.

BLOG1138 This is a fun romp. I confess to being the designer. And don’t you know I believe in my heart that any course designer visualized himself (or herself, as it were) in the context of performance. And so it’s natural that we each will design to our own strengths and shy from our weaknesses. That being said, this is a course that is subtly challenging and is an interesting test the handler’s skill as architect of the dog’s path.

The calculus of the opening has all to do with getting the dog into the proper entry to the pipe tunnel at #10. And so the handler may study the opportunity to have dog-on-left at the weave poles. With this in mind, there’s plenty that can go wrong with the opening. The handler may not put sufficient pressure on the #4 jump; and may fail to pre-cue the left turn after. And after jump #5 the dog is presented with a wrong-course option at the #16 jump. And back-crossing the weave poles (if that’s the plan) might bobble the entry.

Having survived the opening sequence into the weave poles the handler should attempt to turn the dog neatly at the #7 jump. A wrong course beckons at jump #12. But more problematic is that the dog’s path through jumps #14 and #15 clearly presents the dog with the wrong end of the pipe tunnel at #16.

The handler might consider a vee-set approach to the #9 jump that changes the dog’s trajectory through the jump so that the correct tunnel entry is presented. This is a moment that begs for considerable precision.

On the dismount of the dogwalk the handler will conduct the dog on a long and flat serpentine of jumps. Note that the weave poles are powerfully presented to the dog as a wrong course option after jump #13.

Through jumps #14 and #15 the dog will be in considerable extension. Thus jumps #15 to #18 should not be taken for granted as the dog’s turning radius may affect a loopy wobble, or might resolve to a neat and clean line if the handler manages to pre-cue the turn.

Seriously, if you’ve survived all that has gone before, the least you can do now is tag the yellow paint on the downside of the A-frame and, as the handler, give convincing pressure through the final jump.

The Agility Model

The original invention of agility was based on a somewhat flawed model which has cascaded into a grossly expensive hobby.

The game as it is played today is an interesting commingling of equestrian sports and American-style obedience titling. The failure of the model is that a Champion never actually has to win anything. It’s all based on performance against a standard.

The typical scoring basis for agility is Faults, Then Time. This too is probably flawed because it doesn’t deliver an accurate comparison of performance. Think about it, an amazing dog with wicked skills misses a contact by 2″ and receives a score of “E”… as though he never existed. And the award goes to a compliant dog of moderate pace that is dragged around the course Velcro’d to his handler’s hip. Were the scoring basis Time, Plus Faults (and the fault for missing the contact is a reasonable deduction in time)… then the truly agile dog would earn the higher score. The performance that makes the heart soar should take precedence over the irrational standard.

You’ll be happy to know that league play in the National Dog Agility League subscribes to the Time, Plus Faults scoring basis.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

May 2016 NDAL 50×50 International League Standings

June 1, 2016

The 50×50 “A” league has hit the century mark… we now have 100 dogs competing it this tough and competitive league. In May we played a game called Pole Jacks which is metaphorically like the children’s game of jacks. Sit, Stay, ‘N Play in Stroudsburg, PA has taken over the lead, with Team Canada in hot pursuit.

The Top Dog in the May 50×50 International league was Fiona, a Border Collie run by Laurie Bowen, who plays for Sit, Stay, ‘N Play. Fiona scored the maximum 7 points in 47.62 seconds. No video is avilable

You can find league results here:

May 2016 NDAL 50×50 International League Standings

Blog1136 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Just For Fun Agility

March 2, 2016

I’m tempted by the mission of the Dog Agility Blogger’s Action Day topic:

Three little letters that I’m afraid some
people involved in  our sport may have lost
track of. There is so much focus on
foundation, cues, systems,training, etc. So
much pressure to do *everything* exactly


Let’s not just give lip service to the idea of having fun in agility. I’m doing something about it right now.

We have created the National Dog Agility League. It’s not a titling organization; and it’s not some big money making scheme. The NDAL is a coalition of clubs around the continent (and hopefully one day, around the world) who put up the same course, and run their dogs under the same rules, and then roll up all of the results as it were a single competition.

Central to the League is the Team Score. The Team Score is derived from the top five scores in the franchise club. So obviously a club that is running 50 dogs has some advantage over the club running only 10 dogs. Within each franchise everybody would dearly desire to earn one of those top five scores; but if you don’t, your score doesn’t hurt the team, and you can take pride in your franchise’s performance against all of the other clubs in the league.

The Rational Standard

The “rational standard” that plagues our sport that any fault is a death penalty fault.

The National Dog Agility League seeks to establish a standard for performance that allows the equitable comparison of performance in agility dogs. About the only way to earn a score of “E” in an NDAL course is for your dog to poop on the top of the A-frame [sorry if that sounded graphic… ].

In the NDAL a dog gets 5 faults for: a dropped bar; a wrong course; a missed down contact; a missed weave pole; a fly-off the teeter; on-and-off the table; and refusals (faulted on contacts only). A dog gets 20 faults for failure to perform.

And here’s the fun part: The scoring basis is Time, Plus Faults.

The Fun Stuff

We are treating all NDAL courses as open competitions. That means you can pick up a course that 100 dogs have run (maybe several years ago) and add your scores to that record. This year we will publish a suite of training courses, all of which have historic competition records.

What’s fun about this is that you might run a course in your club maybe once a year; and each year you can compare the scores of the same dogs and thereby measure progress in skill and development. Or, if you take it a step farther, you might have a young dog now and pick up a course that was run by an old family dog who is waiting for you over the bridge. So two generations of dogs, or more, can participate in the same competition.

Also be aware of the YouTube data. We collect with a dog’s score a “YouTube” link. This is a lot of fun because people in different parts of the country/world can look at how a dog and his person who might be thousands of miles away fared on that same course.

So when you compare a dog’s growth in skill over time, or compare different generations of dogs on the same course, it is just so fun to have a YouTube recording of each.

Allow me to share with you a posting of NDAL results. Follow it through to find the YouTube records: 60×90 Intermediate to Masters Games and Courses ~ 60×90 League Standings

Lifetime Performance Points

In the National Dog Agility League, individual scores (and team scores) are derived from earned LPP. We use a rational system of Time, Plus Faults on numbered courses for the purpose of providing granularity of performance. If a competition features 100 dogs and your dog comes in at 20th place… that performance might be a devastating travesty in the traditional agility organization; but under the NDAL system, your dog accrued 80 LPP from that performance. So the measurement isn’t about how poorly you did on the day, it is about how well you did.

Though the NDAL is not a titling organization, we are contemplating a system of certification that recognizes earned LPP for individual dogs.

Out Takes

The world of agility has really changed in the last 28 years. Well for sure, 28 years ago the sport was just getting a start in the United States and around the world. In those days there were no books, no videos, and no gurus of the sport. So you might say that we created the monster that agility has become.

I chuckled at the DABAD notion that there is “so much pressure to do everything exactly right.” The part that gets me is the prevailing definition of “exactly right”… and that is, you tie your dog to you like a Velcro-bunion and race around the ring scraping the dog off your side on a series of obstacles numbered by the judge.

And the rational standard has it that if you make any error your score goes zap nq nt and you can slink away to the parking lot in ignominious defeat. Oh! How fun is that?

Apparently it’s very fun as the money extraction factory goes ka-ching ka-ching every weekend across the land in this artificial measurement of skill and validation.

Clearly when you see me out in the world running my own dogs I’m a hot mess to be sure. And I am clearly playing a different game than most of the people out there. Oh don’t get me wrong, there was a time I made a living out of out-running little old ladies. But I’m an older man now with arthritic knees and I would very much like to approach the game in a more playful fashion with skills trained on my dogs that pretty much have little value under the “rational standard” that dominates our sport.

Nearly 20 years ago I started up Just for Fun Agility which is an early incarnation of the National Dog Agility League. What I liked about it … JFF wasn’t about money and completely without ambition. Foolish man! How could I so completely miss the obvious? Our sport is completely driven by profit and ambition.

We are adjusting the model to make the Franchise/Club the main recipient of “profit” while passing on the greatly reduced expense to clients & students & league players as an inexpensive approach to the game of agility. The gurus of the sport aren’t likely to be big fans of a form of the game that isn’t all about profit and ambition. But we don’t really need them, and we never did.

Jumping Into the League

Playing with the NDAL is a simple matter. We’re running three separate leagues based on the size of the working space. So, if you have a working space big enough you can participate in any or all of the three leagues.

Each of the leagues also has a flavor or level of difficulty for the courses played.

The series will run for three months (and began in January). The course maps for each are contained in the scorekeeping worksheets.

Dogs must be registered with the National Dog Agility League. For now, the franchise clubs keep the fee or pass it along as a perk to your league players. You can download the registration form HERE.

All courses in the first series will be conducted under Top Dog Agility Players rules for performance. The Top Dog Rules and Regulations can be downloaded HERE.


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

Top Dog Review ~ Cheating YouTube!

February 16, 2016

We’ve published another Top Dog Review! This is a video program of the monthly competitions of the National Dog Agility League. This is probably ten days later than it should have been published. But I’m always willing to forgive myself for being late.

The problem with YouTube is that you have to download a video every time you look at it. Unfortunately the quality of the presentation is tied to the bandwidth of the download. So it can be a pain to watch a video of any size because the picture stops or stalls as the download buffer catches up. It’s downright painful, especially if you have a less than optimum internet connection.

Furthermore, we mostly get charged for our use of that bandwidth. So if you want to watch a YouTube more than once, you pay for it in bandwidth every time you watch it. YouTube does not make the video resident on your computer.

The Cheat

I use a utility called aTube Catcher (Studio Suite DsNET Corp). It is absolutely free and it’s easy to use.

The link to the official site to download your own copy of aTube Catcher:


What aTube Catcher does is download the YouTube video to your computer. And then, when you want to watch it … you watch it on your computer with no buffering or stalling or any of that nonsense. You can watch it as many times as you want, and you don’t have to pay in bandwidth every time you do.

[I have a great collection of music videos from YouTube resident on my computer and play them like a juke box while I’m working.]

When you do the download, by the way, you can choose a lower resolution of the video to lower the bandwidth cost. It might affect the quality of the video to an extent. But sometimes you really don’t care about that loss of fidelity.

Top Dog Review

Okay, now that I’ve set you up with a utility to make it a lot easier and more palatable to watch painfully long YouTube videos… please take a moment to give a look at the newly published Top Dog Video Review. [Don’t actually open this link if you intend to use ATube Catcher. Instead pass this url into ATube Catcher: https://youtu.be/tIXziCVJ0R0   ].

This is a review of the National Dog Agility League’s January 2016 competitions: The 50’x70′ “B” course (Masters level) and the 50’x50′ “A” course (tough International level).

Bear in mind that our entire production staff (both of us)… are complete amateurs. But for this too, I will forgive myself.

I’ll draw an analogy for you… when I started the Clean Run magazine it was six Xeroxed pages stapled together and produced with a word processor and cut & paste graphics. Ultimately, under the more professional care of Monica Percival it turned into the benchmark publication for the sport of dog agility. So I’m thinking that in time (as the league grows) we will attract some motivated and professional video program developers who will help shape and make the review into something very fun.

But for now, it’s fun enough. And I’m having a blast with the notion that we can share some amazing agility performances by dogs and their people around the continent competing on the same course under the same rules as a single competition. It boggles!


If you have a club that would like to play with us… give me a shout. It’s simple. It’s incredibly inexpensive… and it’s fun.

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


February 4, 2016

This is a wicked strange winter we’ve been having. One day it’s warm… next day it’s cold. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I’ve been staying busy busy. And, I’m having a lot of fun getting the National Dog Agility League going. We’re up to about 500 runs a month.

We’ve published another episode of the Top Dog League Review program. You can find the program here: https://youtu.be/rKX8xTP9tsg. This program focuses on the 60×90 “C” competition; a competition intended for Intermediate to Masters level challenges. The video publishing effort is still amateurish but I’m learning the tools as we move along.

Tech Tools

The extensive use of YouTube recording by our member clubs makes the Review possible. I had an exchange with Brenda Gilday about the use of “short links”. When publishing a series of YouTube recordings for your league team the editing page on YouTube will provide short links for each. The alternative url is the long line of text that appears at the top of the browser.

Anyhow, Brenda told me that she couldn’t figure out how to find the short link, so I popped over to my YouTube account… and sure enough, I couldn’t find the short links as readily as you can when you’re uploading a list of files.


It turns out that there is a utility on the internet which will take your long url and turn it into a short link / small url. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s easy to use: https://app.bitly.com/

Bitly turned this:


into this: http://bit.ly/20CDdbL

Active Presenter

This is program that I use for capturing a region of the computer screen and turning it into video; and of course Active Presenter allows you to record a voice over. They have a free low end version of the program that does everything I need to do. Frankly it probably does a lot more that I could actually use, if I ever could set aside some time to study properly.

I mention this program because I’m going to ask our February games masters, Steve Schwarz and Wayne Van Deusen to do a review of their courses from the designer’s POV. I’d like to use their analysis (rather than my analysis) for future Review programs.

[[Steve has published training sequences based on the set of equipment for his 50×50 challenge in his popular blog:

http://agilitynerd.com/blog/agility/courses/steve/steve-ndal-2016-02.html … I should have short-linked that url with Bitly! ]]

What I did in my course review for January… I saved the course map as a bitmap and opened it in Paint. This allowed me to use big sloppy brush strokes to describe the dog’s path. That’s a tool you just won’t find in the Clean Run Course Designer.

Window’s Live Movie Maker

My “movie” editing software is a free thing that Microsoft bundled with Windows 8. It’s primitive but has much of the functionality that I need. Though, I haven’t figured out how to edit or change the sound track… and I don’t properly know how to do transitions between scenes.

I’ll give Steve Lewis a shout on the topic just to see if he has words of wisdom for me [you’ll recall that Steve did the video productions for the USDAA Nationals back in the day.] He’ll likely wince at my productions but he’s too polite to really blast me.

I believe that Active Presenter will probably do much of the editing that I need. Maybe I should study it a bit more. I’m kind of stuck with a problem here… I bought a new computer with Windows 10. And, not only does Microsoft no longer support Window’s Live Movie Maker… but it is incompatible with Windows 10.

Windows 10

I pretty much hate it. WTF

Blog1104 Home

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