Archive for May, 2009

Playful Pinwheels ~ Thinking Outside the Box

May 31, 2009

While it’s true that I practice an “own the pinwheel” kind of training with my dogs, when push comes to shove I will reserve moving badly for some class that absolutely demands it. Think Gamblers, for example. In routine course work however I will endeavor to move in a way that inspires the dog and ensures that he is well directed.

I’ve written a great deal about pinwheels over the years. There’s something about a pinwheel that inspires the handler to move like an old musty stump in the middle of a swamp. Moving badly is good training… but it is not good handling.

The conundrum is ever that the dog’s path is this big robust thing while the handler’s path is more diminutive and restrained. Even a slow handler can outrun a fast dog in a pinwheel. The real painful match is when a handler is working a dog of moderate speed and handler is so completely defined by the inner limits of the pinwheel that the dog gets no sense of excitement or electricity at all from the handler. Just between you and me and the wall, if your dog isn’t one of those ballistic self starting everything-at-top-speed kind of dogs, then handling him as if he were is an error.

Blind Cross as a Pinwheel Movement


The trick in a pinwheel is to find a way to move. That means more real estate. Frankly there’s only so much real estate inside the pinwheel. But if I think outside the box, there’s plenty of new real estate for handler movement. In this first playful attack on the pinwheel I have the handler step outside the box in the transition between jumps #4 and #5 using a Blind Cross to race the dog to the outside. The transition and the moment of the Blind Cross are indicated in this illustration by the red colored paths for dog and handler.

Tandem Turn as a Pinwheel Movement


Another important skill in a pinwheel is the Tandem Turn. The Tandem is a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle or on the flat.

To play with this the handler will approach jumps #2 and #3 with dog on right, crossing behind the dog into the Tandem on the landing side of jump #3. Note that if the handler intends a Tandem Turn then he should endeavor to arrive at the jump at the same instant of the dog. The Tandem tends to create a wide sweeping turn in the dog’s path and accelerates the dog’s movement. These are perfect attributes for a pinwheel. Though you might get into a bit of trouble with it if you have an Afghan Hound or a leggy Border Collie.

Using All of Our Pinwheel Tools


Both tools, the Blind Cross and the Tandem Turn can be applied to the same pinwheel. In this illustration the handler executes the Blind Cross in the transition from jump #3 to jump #4 and then promptly uses a Tandem Turn to step back into the box after jump #4. The Blind Cross is indicated by the red paths for dog and handler; the Tandem Turn is indicated by the green paths for dog and handler.

This is an interesting handling choice that requires a speed change. The handler begins with slow dog handling (forward and pulling) into the Blind Cross; and then abruptly transitions to fast dog handling (behind and pushing).

Note that in the conduct of the Tandem Turn the handler actually wants to arrive at the jump at the same instant as the dog. We might argue that a Front Cross would be better than a Blind Cross because the Blind Cross is a racing movement and might make the handler arrive at the jump prematurely. However this is really a “know thy dog” condition. If the dog slips forward of the handler prematurely out of a Front Cross then the handler is behind the dog at the turning jump and so a Blind Cross would have been a better choice of movement.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: . And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Dock Dog and Fisherman’s Dog!

May 30, 2009

I don’t know if falling off the dock into the water three times actually qualifies Kory to be called a “Dock Dog”… but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

After camp ended yesterday afternoon I was quite exhausted and pretty much decided to avoid any overdue chores that might otherwise occupy the evening. So I went out back and dug me up about a dozen meager earthworms at the edge of the compost, loaded up Kory in the truck, and headed down to the pond to fish for an hour.

As it turns out Kory is fascinated by the ritual mechanics of fishing. While at first he splashed at the edges of the pond until his white feet were a bit muddy and mucky he soon preferred to join me on the dock to study what I was so intently focused on. Oh, and he found out that the first step off the back of the dock was a plunge into considerably deeper water. I was pleased to see that he could swim.

Anyhow we both sat on the dock studying the bobber. Bobber watching is a largely contemplative form of meditation with an edge of expectation jolting from reverie as muscles suddenly spring into action. Kory seemed to understand and appreciate all of this intuitively and joined me in the game. He’d lie on the dock heady down watching the bobber intensely. And anytime it rolled white-side up or plunk underwater he’d tense and coil and be all ready to spring into action. Though I can’t imagine that he understood perfectly what the action would be.

He wasn’t expecting the first fish. He was really just watching the bobber in the water as I reeled it in fighting this way and that underwater. I pulled up in front of his nose a brim as big as my hand. Kory was so surprised and startled that he gave a little woof and backed up … stepping butt first off the side of the dock where he got to test his swimming again.

Fun to Run

Sometimes it’s fun to just run. I set this up early for campers. It has a couple of very subtle challenges. And of course it requires the handler to make decisions about how to conduct changes of sides. It’s fun to run this sort of course especially after a couple of grueling days of technical movement drills.


I have a number of observations about this camp that I will largely keep to myself. I guess that means I am conscious of the public nature of blogging and that I should not treat this as a personal and private journal. It was a memorable camp on many levels.

You know that Eric Larson was here and making video record of what we did for the first two and a half days of a four day camp. I pretty much tried to conduct the camp as I would any other. I guess I didn’t really pull it off because I did not get in tune with the camp until after he left. I believe that the psychology of “getting in tune” would deserve its own thesis and discussion.

I won’t go into that now except to say that I was on the wrong tack with a couple of my campers; because I was more bent on studying the swell of the water than the wind.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Body Awareness ~ Rear Legs

May 28, 2009

I’m having quite a bit of fun training Kory dog. I’m not in a big hurry or anything; however he learns so quickly that I’m looking for new tricks and bits to incorporate into our three times a day sessions. I’d very much like to do some body awareness kinds of exercises. Particularly I would like this boy to strengthen and be very aware of his back legs. This is a thing that is largely overlooked in our training. I understand that people will walk their dogs through ladders and that kind of thing. But it’s really not a strengthening exercise.

What I started doing today is a simple “up” which means he needs to stand on his back feet. And I’ll reward him for doing so. On the introduction my criteria isn’t so great. Ultimately I’ll have him stand for a longer time, perhaps walk around, and even turn.

I’ll dream up more strengthening and awareness exercises before I’m through. And if anybody wants to recommend, I’ll be happy to listen.

Reference Library

With my camp winding down there are some things I’m thinking about with the bunch I’m working with. The term “Reference Library” comes to mind. This is an expression that Marsha uses to explain cuing performance to her obedience students. “When I want you to do this… it looks like this. And when I want you to do that, it looks like that.” It helps the dog develop a reference library for clarity of instruction.

I’m a big advocate of non-verbal cues. Though I will use verbal cues to substantiate what I am saying with my non-verbal (there might be times you only have the verbal to give).

What I do with my body when I conduct a movement is speak a word that is true and crisp and uniquely distinct to the extent that it can be language to my dog. Language is born in the consistency of use and the clarity of the unique expression.

What I often see in the non-verbal cues of the handler is a fuzzy indifference as often as not caused by the handler’s lack of trust in the dog.

Tomorrow I’m going to try to bring home the lesson. But I’m fully aware that teaching is a game of repetition. Sometimes a person won’t hear a thing until he’s ready to learn it.

A Minuet


Interesting Sequence ~ Alternate Departures


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Rain, Rain Go Away

May 28, 2009

At least it’s not hot. I had wanted to do some work outside this week but we have been daily raked by fits of heavy showers. The lower field is nonetheless on the soggy side.

I’ve been pretty busy what with camp and all. Aside from camp and my two-minute dog trainer sessions with my boy Kory I’ve tried to attend to a few miscellaneous chores. I planted a huge bunch of creeping myrtle (some people call it periwinkle) on the hillside going down to the lower field yesterday morning. I’ve had some rain erosion problems on the hill and need a robust ground cover to hold down the friable soil.


Here’s one of the exercises I put up at camp yesterday. When I put up a pinwheel I’m mostly I’m interested in how a handler might be defined by the inside of the box where, with most dogs, there is not adequate real estate for robust movement. And so I teach a playful attack on the pinwheel which has the handler stepping out and stepping back in to accelerate the movement.

This exercise had the added twist in which I specified that the handler would stay on the opposite side of the red line while sending the dog on for the performance of the weave poles at a lateral distance.

This bit was an interesting study in pointing. The handler points more surely with his feet that he’ll ever point with his hands. And yet many (if not most) handlers will instinctively turn their toes perpendicular to the dog’s approach to the weave poles rather than parallel. Typically this will spoil the send if the dog requires the handler’s support at all.

Well I rolled out of bed early this morning so I could write to my blog. I’m letting my puppy hang around with me out of crate in my office as I write. And you know, I gotta watch him every second. Puppies interact with the world with their mouths. I hear him tossing something around of the floor. I can only hope that it’s his kong toy but it might just as easily be the television remote. Oh and of course he’ll slip into the bathroom and engage in a game with the toilet brush or plunger.

I have chores calling. I’ll try to write more later.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

This Year’s Birds ~ Last Year’s Nests

May 26, 2009

My campers this week are for the most part Midwesterners. You know… St. Louis to northern Indiana, with a Texan (San Antonio) thrown in for good measure. Several have trained with me before and are accustomed to my gruff coaching style.

Funny thing… when I have people training with me for the first time I always ask them if anybody had warned them that I might make them cry. Invariably the answer to that is yes. Sometimes I wonder at this and consider a different teaching style that suggests I should work really hard at validating them or basically just sugar coating my sardonic wit.

Here’s the hard part for most people. When things get rocky whilst directing the dog on course, many handlers will want to make it a matter of “why the dog doesn’t follow their direction.” And I will tell them that the dog went precisely where directed. This is, by the way, why I’m not a big fan of correcting the dog while doing sequencing work. Why should a handler correct the dog for following the handler’s directive?

Anyway, on day one I did not make anybody cry. I know it sounded like I was building up a story for that. Last week, however, I actually made four cry which equals my personal best at a camp or seminar. My personal recollection of camp last week is that it was very successful in bringing my students to some new plateau of handling and relationship with their dogs. And so a few tears is no dear price to pay, especially since they weren’t mine. And besides, I can just look at Alice, and she’ll cry. So it’s a bogus statistic.

Eric Larson showed up this morning, set up his three camera system, and captured much of the day’s pain and glory. While I was a little aware of being under the eye of the camera mostly I worked to conduct this training exactly as I would in any other camp week. I’ll keep all of you informed as to when and how you can view the video.

I want to share with you an end of day exercise I put up for this group. On the face of it this looks somewhat technical. But any sequence is essentially a riddle. I look for skill, repertoire and execution. These are the things that I teach.


In general this became a Front Crossing kind of exercise. I wanted to set up a sequence that demands three or four different kinds of Front Crosses. This sequence pretty much does the trick.

Typically what I find about the Front Cross in the American handler… is that a handler has one basic concept for a Front Cross. So if the challenge demands that the mechanics or execution of the Cross need to adapt to a specific challenge then the Cross might not serve to answer the riddle very elegantly at all. More and more my teaching method is to make the handler understand his job. So I can say… don’t do the turn, do your job. The movement is a literal evolution of the handler doing his job.

In this sequence I might see a rolling Front Cross from jump #4 to the pipe tunnel at #5; a layered Front Cross in the transition from #5 to jump #7; a blind Front Cross from jump #7 to #8; and a simple Front Cross from #8 to jump #9. I apologize for hanging these expressions out there like a riddle. Only a careful student of my teaching will know what I just said.

There might be several elegant solutions to this sequence. Keep in mind that whatever works is right. You don’t have to fix a thing that is working. If I specify handling it is not to suggest that it is the one true way. I believe nothing of the sort. If I say “try this”… it is so we can work on refining an important handling skill for our game.


In the evening a couple of my students came out for their weekly private lessons. It pulled me away early from camp dinner. Okay I only missed desert and a lot of camper conversation.

Anyhow, we ran the previous sequence that was set up and numbered for campers. And after about 35 minutes or so I renumbered as shown in this illustration. As it turns out what these two students needed to understand is the execution of the technical Tandem from the A-frame to the pipe tunnel at #9. It was quite an easy fix. The biggest mistake handlers will make with the dog turning away from the handler’s position on the dismount of a technical obstacle… is making the cue to turn a hand signal. Frankly, there is no movement that is solely a hand or arm signal. Any movement should be communicated by the movement of the handler’s feet. I showed them that they should step towards the dog applying pressure while the dog is still on the ramp. Their problems with the turn promptly evaporated.

Okay… I’m off to a good night’s sleep so I’m ready to rock ‘n roll in the morning.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

The Architect

May 25, 2009

A very basic teaching point with me is that the handler is the Architect of the dog’s path. What does that really mean?

Too many handlers in agility run from obstacle to obstacle in a connect the dots fashion, simply hoping for the best as they muddle along. The problem with “hope for the best” is that hope is a lottery more inclined to disappoint than reward.

Instead, it is important for the handler to visualize the dog’s path and apply her skill at shaping the path on course.


The opening of this sequence has been at the back of my head for a very long time. USDAA judge Sally Sheridan set this up in a Grand Prix regional qualifier course in Phoenix back in 1992 or thereabouts. At the time we all muddled through it. I must have done okay because my little 13” Sheltie Winston won the 18” division on the weekend. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king. But, I digress.


In order to understand the dog’s path the handler must think in straight lines and sharp well-defined corners. I find that handlers who think of the dog’s path as rounded shapes tend to misunderstand their timing events with fuzzy indifference. The dog’s corner is an event. Moreover the dog’s corner is a timing event; which means, whatever you’re going to do to turn the dog… do it now.

Line #1 is a given. If you think about it the line the handler is most interested in creating is line #3. So where lines #2 and #3 join constitutes the timing event that creates a square and unambiguous approach to the pipe tunnel.

Camp Tomorrow!

I guess I need to take the sequence above and turn it into an evaluation course for my campers. Typically this first peek (the entertainment round!) tells me just about everything I need to know about a group of students and pretty much sets the stage for where we need to go. I’ll have a list of training topics as long as my arm.


Okay… this course works for me. It’s not terribly efficient as course design goes, and it lacks a couple of obstacles that would make it a regulation course. I omitted the table because several of these campers compete in NADAC. NADAC, ASCA, and DOCNA people will cry if you put a table in their course. It would require dog training that they tend to ignore. As far as that goes… I’ll get them at the start line on this course; because if you don’t have a pretty solid stay at the start, then you’ll be throwing cards into a hat to solve the opening.

I have a heap of work to do today. I’ve been sitting in my office watching Kory settle in his crate and so I thought I’d write a bit to my blog. Watch my blog this week! With Eric Larson coming I’m going to try to convince him to put some shorts up on U-Tube that I can link through my blog.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Barrel Work

May 24, 2009

One of the things that I’ve done forever with my dogs is barrel work. It’s really a simple thing. You teach the dog to go out and around a barrel from whatever distance you are capable of doing so. Since my boy Kory mastered the sit stay so quickly I thought what I might do is see if I could teach him to go out and around a barrel. The objective wasn’t entirely the send. I also wanted to teach him to draw promptly into a sit when he approaches me… rather than jumping up on me (or anybody else).

This again was a meal-time protocol. The first thing to do is “shape” the behavior. That pretty much means that you lean over the barrel and lure him around. In Kory’s introduction he was very spooky about the barrel. So I had to allow him to investigate it, sniff it up and so forth.

After luring him around it a couple of times I had to test to see that he had figured out what was making me happy… and making me give him a small handful of his food. So I might take one step and pointing say “Go! Go around!”

Well son of a gun if after two sessions I’m not sending him from 20 feet to go around the barrel. As he comes around I’ll take off running a few paces in the opposite direction to get him jacked up and running. Then I’ll turn to face him for the finishing sit.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll transition this to a tugging game to amp up the speed and excitement a bit more. Though right now, as I said, I’m interested in him sitting when approaching me, if he really wants me to be happy and interact with him.

Eric Larson Videos

Eric Larson is making his way from Southern California to do some video documentation of my teaching at camp this week. Eric is a gifted documentary videographer specializing in the agility world. Aside from capturing big tournament action Eric has also produced a series of Webinars (which is a seminar on the web). I explained to him that my pace and delivery wouldn’t really lend itself to real time production. I’m just not a “talking head” kind of guy. This means that the footage will have to be edited to an extent to get “before” and “after” recording of dog and handler, and my relevant speaking points.

One of the things I’d really like to do with Eric is get him to show me how to create U-Tube vignettes for publication. I’d like to get with the 21st Century here and use the tools that are available for the purpose of documenting my training and handling concepts. It would be nice to show the entire progression of teaching a dog to go out and around a barrel, for example. It makes sense that I could create a series of taped vignettes and load them up on U-Tube – and then I could provide a link to them either from my blog or any of my electronic books.

I’ll let you know how this goes.

I’m not looking at Eric’s visit with much profit motive at all. Most of the webinars that he’s done so far have been produced on a “cash cow” basis. But I told him that I’m not interested in the money at all and will accept a very modest sum from the production tape (maybe a couple dollars, eh?) What I’d really like to accomplish is to showcase my agility training resort so that people who love agility and their dogs might see this as a wonderful kind of vacation—as it would be—and make their way down here every year or so to train with me.

In the mean time, I’m trying to doll up the place for Eric’s visit. In the last couple of days I’ve finished the privacy fence at the upper cottage. I have a heap of mowing to do; and I’d like to put Thompson’s Water Seal on the decks of the cottages and the lodge. I have about a day and a half before the start of camp. I’m about killing myself working out in the sun. It’ll be worth it in the end.

Cause and Effect

I’m a bit of a stats junky for my blog. I’ve noted that when I don’t actually write anything… my stats go down. There’s certainly an argument there for cause and effect. But dang, guys, this is a lot of work. One of the reasons I started doing a blog in the first place was to give myself a basis for disciplined production. There are a couple books I want to write, and a heap of articles that I need to write.

And truthfully, I’m up around 400 blog entries. I’ve written quite a bit of material. A decent percentage of my writing is an edit or two away from prime time material. Of course I need to edit out some of the not-very-politically-correct stuff. But you know I’m the same way with that notion as I am with the “talking head” video. I would rather my writing and any video production that I might do would allow me to be who I am. I’m not always pretty. But I’m nearly always honest.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Kory in the X-Pen

May 22, 2009

Last night was a lot of fun. It was our fun-run night so a half dozen or so students showed up to run course or play a game and they were joined by my campers. Only one of my campers played the game as I had them exhausted from a pretty tough day of work. We played Dare to Double, a TDAA favorite, and invented by Darlene Woz. After everybody played the “I just want to survive and barely understand the rules entertainment round”… I gave the absolute killer Dare to Double briefing. And everybody’s score was at least doubled. (Well it is Dare to Double, after all).

We finished the evening around the campfire with beer and hotdogs and sat up on the side of the hill in the shade enjoying the cool beauty of the evening.

For a couple of my own students this has been an important week. Jackie with her Min Pin Baxter returns from the TDAA trial in Cincinnati having had more fun and a more successful weekend than she’s had in a long time. That’s what playing in a venue in which agility is only a game will do for you.

Vicki with her magnificent little Beagle Elmer had a terrible run in the game last night. And I was delighted. I know that sounds wrong… so let me explain. What happens to Vicki in competition is that Elmer is scarcely controllable; he bails his contacts, he’s hard to turn and direct and occasionally drops bars. In class, however, he’s this fast and magnificent little athlete. He sticks his 2o/2o contacts and blisters the most technical things I can set up.

Our fun runs aren’t class. And I will refrain from coaching before I see how everybody does in the game or on the course. I learned this thing many years ago at Dogwood that I could not follow all of my students every weekend in four different directions to see how they were all doing in competition. League Play served to demonstrate to me the competitive creature. It’s one thing to lah de dah through a series of training sequences. But if you make it a game! Keep score! Put a stopwatch on the team! Now the true competitive creature comes out. And I ain’t talking about the dog.

I told Vicky that I was encouraged by what I saw. This, I can work with. What she does is a completely common error in agility. I can see her mind racing as she works thinking three or four obstacles down the course. However the handler shouldn’t live three or four obstacles down the course… the handler has to live with the current obstacle. It’s what I call meat and potatoes handling. It’s nothing fancy. You know how to do the job. Don’t be in a hurry. Be disciplined. Work your course.


I think I told you last week that Marsha promised to turn Kory into a momma’s boy while I was away judging USDAA. So I resolved to have Kory with me throughout camp doing leash work even as I lecture, or chilling in the X-pen. Ah, so what I found out straight away is that Kory elected to be an overstimulated heathen in the X-pen jumping up against the wire and even trying to climb out. Of course the instinct of those sitting nearby (campers) would be to go over and interact with him while he was being ill-behaved thereby rewarding the behavior.

So Marsha joined us the first day and set about training dog (and campers). When Kory jumps up against the wire of the X-pen you turn your back on him and deny him the reward of attention. If you approach him in the X-pen and he sits or lies down, then you can tell him what a good boy he is and maybe even give him a bit of string cheese.

Ah, clever little fellow. By the end of camp week he has become the model of X‑pen good behavior. If I even so much as look at him he’ll settle and put his waggy little butt on the floor.

I know this sounds like maybe I’ve lost the momma’s boy/daddy’s boy contest. I’ve got to say that there are things that are more important. And besides, the first thing Marsha said to me when I got back from Texas was something like “Oh my god! Take this dog!” LOL

Yeah, puppies are a lot of work. I’m having a lot of fun with it though. I feel completely energized by working with this clever little boy.


I think I said yesterday that my pup Kory is cuter than Nancy’s NNP. I’ll tell you what though… that is one cute puppy she has. So I should back off the assertion and content myself with this thought. At least my boy doesn’t attack my feet while I walk.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Day 3 Week 14

May 21, 2009

I’m a little at a loss what to do with Kory. He’s mastered my “stay for life” training protocol in about three days while I had marked out a month on the calendar to get it patiently done. I’ll get some pictures of it in the next couple of days so you know what it is I’m doing.

You know, my dad told me that when he went in the service his dog followed him down to the train station. And he told his old blue to “stay”. When he came back from the war some three years later, his dog was still waiting for him on the platform. And you know dads don’t lie to their kids. So this must be a true story. I found it remarkable that he did it with a hound dog. Because I had to get a Border Collie to feel the love.

I’ll get to cheat a bit here. As it turns out Ms. Nancy Gyes has herself a young Border Collie pup and she’s very nicely sharing with the world her patient and very granular early training foundation with the dog. In case you are interested… she’s blogging at: My pup is actually cuter than hers. But we won’t hold that against her.

Camp Notes

My traditional method in camp is to begin with foundation a day or two; work on application a day or two; and apply strategies… a day or two. Well it’s a four day camp. So whether we spend a day, or two, on a topic really depends on whether we’re ready to move forward. With the current camp we’re fairly entrenched in foundation and have moved to application on the third day. I expect to spend the second half of the day tomorrow on strategies. Truly I am in no hurry. I know how long it takes. My philosophy with training people is precisely the same as with training dogs. It takes as long as it takes. Knowing that provides me with the necessary discipline of patience.


I thought I’d set up something nice and simple to end the morning today. As it turns out, even simple drills can have ample challenge for the purpose of teaching application.

You’re probably wondering what I mean by “teaching application”. Here’s the deal. I learned many years ago that it was a relatively simple matter to teach a student to do any handling movement… you know, a Front Cross, a Tandem Turn, or whatever.

The greater mission is ever getting them to recognize the moment for the movement. That is precisely what I mean by application.

To the experienced competitor at the first look at the course map the lines of the course crystallize with sharp clarity and precision into a precise plan. The practiced agility handler will know exactly how to conduct his movement and direct the dog through the course. For the more novice handler it is often a riddle in the fog as they run from obstacle to obstacle and “hope for the best” as their main strategy.

The problem with “hope for the best” is that hope is a lottery more inclined to disappoint than reward.

How would you solve this simple sequence?

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at

Breakfast Lessons

May 20, 2009

I think that I understand why people get Border Collies. This boy Kory is sharp as can be. At 14 weeks my breakfast lesson is a simple sit and stay. I sit him in front of me, tell him to stay, then I turn around and take two steps to a table upon which his bowl of food is sitting. I take a small handful then return to him. If he breaks the stay or gets up I make a big deal about putting the food back in the bowl… and I put him back in his sitting position. But if he stays neatly I give him warm praise and let him eat out of my hand.

This morning he broke his position maybe three times. The clever boy pretty much figured out the nature of the game early on and got the majority of his meal without so much as flinching as I turned and stepped away from him.

At the moment it seems inconceivable to me that this boy will eat a single meal without doing some kind of training work for it. I’d very much like to teach him not to jump up on people. That’s an improbably mealtime lesson though because he quickly defaults to a sit or a down when his bowl has been charged with food.

Camp Starts

Yesterday was busy day for me. I have a private camp underway. A group of folks from the Cincinnati area have come up and are occupying both of the cottages and training with me through the week. Most of them have trained with me before and so are on to advanced studies even though I have to introduce handling fundamentals to those who haven’t. I don’t have any problem balancing time on the floor between mixed objectives.

In the evening we had a build-your-own taco dinner. I had to break away for a semi-private lesson with three of my regular students. Vickie and Jackie had gone to Cincinnati for their debut in the TDAA; and I was dying to know how they had done. Of course they had an absolute blast (which is about the opposite of how they typically feel coming back from an AKC trial). Beth, my third on the evening, had gone to the AKC trial in Hamilton (right north of Cincinnati) to the trial that had killed entry in the TDAA trial.

By the time I got to writing my blog last night I was a bit tired. I hope I didn’t sound overly grumpy because I surely wasn’t. It was a very fun day.

Multi-Flora Rose

At lunch time I had to run out and try out an idea that’s been burning at the back of my head… killing a monster multi-flora rose bush. The problem with the multi-flora rose is that the stems are covered with sharp little prongs that will slice and bleed you like pricks from a razor, and hurt where they’ve stabbed or raked you the way a catfish fin will.

But you know… I have this telescoping trimmer that is used to reach up and clip off high branches in a tree. D’oh! It took me about a half an hour to take apart this monster bush pretty much at ground level.

There was one little woven bird’s nest up in there, an artistic woven thing and I realized is I pulled it out that the bird that was scolding me probably lived there. Well, she just picked the wrong plant to put up her house. I hope she tries again. Anyhow, I have a couple dozen of these monster multi-floras on my property. I’m going to try to go kill one every day or two. They propagate little ones (by the hundreds) that are easier to kill. Yet it would be nice not to have them.

By the way, I don’t spray poison on my property. However I have a system. I took a small vial of concentrated herbicide and daubed a Q-tip of it on the cut trunk and branches that were left at ground-level. You could just see them suck the poison out of the Q-tip. This method sends far more poison directly into the roots and has the benefit of not killing everything else in the vicinity.

You’ll note that when you cut a multi-flora rose it leaves a bramble of razor thorns that will be dangerous for years. I will collect these and burn them in a bonfire and have them away from my property.

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