Barrel Work

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

11 Responses to “Barrel Work”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I was just up on my agility field (above my house about 350 ft and an 8% grade) doing the exploding pinwheel with Elvis (20 months and only training a few months). We also started the contact performance you mentioned using the table to mount the downside of the aframe. Elvod caught on pretty quickly. Then we went to the teeter, he’s most nervous about the teeter. I pretty much lured him and when it tipped (it’s only about 2″ off the groun) he was jackpotted with string cheese. We quit after he was successful twice. Then I brought out Presley who I am trying to remotivate and get back the speed and enthusiasm he had when he was 3 and 4 years old. He just turned 7. He did the exploding pinwheel very fast and had fun; he exploded it farther than Elvis did.
    I read your blog for great training advice and would love to see some video. Oh, don’t edit it; if you get too politically correct it will be so much less fun. I would love to have some videos of you especially on training new dogs and on course analysis.
    If ever I can afford the travel I would love to come to camp. Almost made it a couple years ago, but by travel/training buddy pooped out on me.
    Don’t work too hard in the sun!! It’s hot here also, nineties, and my trianing session was only about 20 minutes. Plan to do it again tonight after it cools off.


    • budhouston Says:

      I’m pleased to hear that you’re doing your homework Michelle!

      It is highly likely that I’ll demonstrate the exploding pinwheel for Eric to film. The greatest difficulty I have with the exercise when teaching… is getting people to understand what direction they should face. The lesson isn’t intended solely for drill & practice, but for competition too. I find it extraordinary how people in competition will enter a pinwheel and lose all composure and discipline. I think the problem is… that they don’t know what the discipline is.

      Thanks for the note!

  2. Erica Says:

    If we wanted politically correct, we have a myriad of other folks out there to choose from. “Meat and Potatoes Handling” implies there ought to be a little gristle in there once in a while.

    Words fail me in describing how much I enjoyed our camp, and again I find myself wishing for more. The small stuff isn’t the small stuff, it’s the basis for it all. Until I own it, or at least get a long-term lease, I can’t hope to move on to the big stuff. Thanks for being the taskmaster you are, PC or not. I may never be a great handler but I aspire to achieve at least B minus.

    • budhouston Says:

      Thanks Erica. It was delightful having you at Country Dream.

      Do your obedience homework! Practice “doodling”.


  3. Katie Trachte Says:

    Actually Eric lives in Southern Vermont now ; ) I’m sure if you give him some beer he’ll help you with YouTube… ! He likes brown ales for the record…

    • budhouston Says:

      Sure enough Katie… he’s moved to New England. I’ll remember the tip about the beer. That’s never a problem at Country Dream!


      • Katie Trachte Says:

        Yea, he lives with me ; ) I’ll be the one designing all the pretty stuff that will go on your DVD and banner ads once he gets home 😉

  4. Ronni Says:

    You Tube videos would be the icing on the cake! I already feel like I should be paying you for all the good information I receive from your blog.

    Your camp sounds wonderful…too bad it isn’t closer to San Diego. Who knows? I might do a road trip one of these days…


    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Ronni, it isn’t all about money.

      Speaking of money… you know, you could have me out to San Diego. I’m always looking for good gigs in December and January when this part of the world is cold and frozen.


  5. Ronni Says:

    Naturally, those are the months my club is dark for training…but I’m sure a lot of people would want to take a January seminar in order to get their agility fix.

    For what it’s worth, I did send your blog link to my club’s yahoo group. That’s good for at least 100 potential readers and might serve to bring your name to the forefront when members are asked to suggest seminar speakers.

    Of course, we have our share of “uptight and controlling type of dog trainers” who might not want an original thinker…


    • budhouston Says:

      You know I started my agility career in Phoenix AZ. I remember San Diego when there were like two agility people there. Robin Brock and Gail Huston. It would be years before San Diego came online.

      “Uptight and controlling” is virtually an American institution. The real difficulty with it is that students miss the true genius of people like Garrett, Gyes, & Trkman… seizing on the anal foundation bits while missing the more inspired teaching about relationship.

      Thanks for the note!


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