The Tomato Thief Recovers

Three more days now… and Kory should be fairly well healed up from his neutering. He’s been on restricted duty… pretty much spending his days either in a crate or in the roomier x-pen. He’s been antsy to be busy and probably doesn’t understand why he’s been cooped up. But he’ll get over it.

I’ve been playing a fun little distance game with him, sending him to the x-pen with a “get in” command. And then asking him to lay down. He was pretty slow about the laying down part for awhile which reminded me that his context for “lie down” has pretty much been with me hovering over him. But he’s getting much quicker.

Oh, I’ll release him from the x-pen with an “okay!” and have a gentle game of tug with his leash. He likes the game.

I’ve transferred the send and “get in!” to his crate as well. This took a bit longer because he’s got a natural association now with the crate as his captor and tormentor. I’ll spend awhile more getting him to love his crate again.

I gave him free run of the fenced dog yard this morning so that he could attend to his business. I meanwhile turned my attention to the garden, weeding in a stand of tomatoes; [the rescued “upside down” planter tomatoes, they’re doing famously now.] Anyhow I got looking around for Kory and didn’t see him in the yard. He’d gone up on the porch, made his way to the front of the house and jumped over the 3′ gate. And of course he trotted right down to Marsha’s two tomato planters and helped himself to all of the ripe tomatoes. So I hauled him back into the house and confined him to his crate for awhile.

That boy can jump. I’m contemplating replacing the dog gates that give access to the front porch with a couple of prefab 4′ man-gates that I have stored out in the tractor barn. That’ll be a good project for tomorrow. Lord knows I need another project.

In the tractor barn, by the way, is an old climbing ladder hanging on the wall. It’s one of those old antique things with round dowel steps. I’m going to do some ladder work with Kory and reckon that I’ll use this old ladder.

The purpose of ladder work is really to get a dog to become aware of the placement of his back feet. I’ve ever been skeptical of the protocol for this teaching. Mostly in public classes dogs are hauled over ladders without any real method or guidelines for measurement.

So what I’m determined to do is combine my “back up” training with work on the ladder. That’s right… I intend to teach my boy to back up the length of the ladder. Now the way I figure it, he’ll get a very good understanding of his back feet if he’s backing through the ladder. This sounds like a good subject for a You Tube showoff video. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’m still fairly determined that I won’t do any weaving or real jumping with Kory until he’s a year old. Right now he’s kind of a gangly teenager, all elbows and knees you know. While he’s an athletic jumper (though for delinquent pursuits) there is no good reason to stress his growing bones and muscles while he’s still a pup. However, I see no real problem with introducing him to the jump standard with a very low step-over bar. I do have a lot of training objectives associated with simple over hurdles.

I’m especially fascinated, by the way, with the NADAC game of Hoopers. The Hoop is a rather simple obstacle that has little or no physical demands on a dog performance-wise. The dog must simply run through the hoop. So what Hoopers really represents is a pure for handling kind of activity with a dog. As far as that goes I can bring out my old boys Birdie and Bogie and give them a nice romp out in the grass… and they won’t come up lame for running through hoops.

The rules for Hoopers seem a bit obscure to me. I’ll be seeking clarification from some of the hard core NADAC fans out there.



This sequence represents an escalation of an exercise I was doing with a couple of my students in an ongoing series of private lessons. To tell you the truth the puzzle that I was trying to get them to address was the 270° turn in the transition from jump #9 to #10. The downfield consideration is actually jump #12. Ideally the handler will want the dog on left for jump #11 in order to influence the curl back to jump #12. If the handler stays inside the crook of the turn then getting out to #12 is something of a problem.

Okay… what I didn’t see coming, neither of my students could execute the Front Cross from jump #8 to #9 with their dogs. So the whole downfield lesson was lost on a minor prerequisite.

Of course, wanting to feel their pain, I ran both of their dogs through the opening of the sequence, and had no problem with the turn with either dog.

So here’s what I’ll be chewing on for a few days. Certainly the turn from jump #8 to #9 is technical. What is it that I know about a Front Cross that my students don’t precisely understand? What occurs to me is this thing that I’ll tell a student from time to time… “don’t do the turn; do your job!” My job is to conduct the dog through the turn and then make a presentation of the jump.

I slept on it last night. There’s a thing that I can demonstrate with nearly any dog. The Front Cross is largely in the knees. The agility handler too often thinks it’s about the shoulders and the antics of the arms; and so the knees become locked and don’t do the right thing at all. With one of my students dogs last night… I told the handler “watch what I do with my arms”; and I tucked my thumbs into my back pockets and drew the dog neatly into the cross and made a presentation of the jump. Yes… with no arms.



“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” – French novelist Marcel Proust


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at

5 Responses to “The Tomato Thief Recovers”

  1. Jon Says:


    I’d explain the Hooper rules, but they would probably change before you get to read this response. For whatever reason, my guys are completely apathetic about hoops. They follow my handling well enough and go through them, but there is no crazy Aussie barking enthusiasm like there is for all the other obstacles.

    Which side of #8 were your students doing the FC?

    Also, I have run my student’s dogs with similar results to what you reported, however sometimes it seems that it’s not my better timing, technique, etc., but instead that because I’m someone different, the dog pays more attention to my body language.


    • budhouston Says:

      Thanks for the note on Hoopers! I’ll watch for that phenomenon. It makes sense that some dogs might wonder… “what’s the point?”

      Good question as to which side of #8 to do the FC. Since you mention it, it’s not a bad opportunity to use the Front Cross to vee-set the dog’s line through #8 and #9. But then, it makes the mission of having jumps #10 and #11 with dog on left somewhat problematic.

      Thanks for the note Jon.


  2. Karissa Says:

    The rules for Hoopers have not changed for well over a year. We have been playing the 3-2-1 Hoopers version for a very long time now and there is no indication that the game is going to change. There are times when I get rather tired of people making negative comments about this game. Generally, the people who don’t like it either don’t get it or don’t train their dog with hoops.

    I *do* train with hoops at home and therefore my dogs get just as amped up about hoops as any other obstacle. My novice dog hasn’t had much chance to play Hoopers yet, but my older dog LOVES it. There is rarely a time when we don’t Q in this class and if we don’t, it’s generally because I screwed something up. This is the only class that we have bonus Q’s in, from successfully completing a test from behind the bonus line.

    There is a full explanation of Hoopers on the NADAC web site, Bud.

    It’s the sort of game that makes a whole lot more sense once you play it. Since there are so many people who are still quite new to the Hoopers game, the judges generally take time to really explain it and go through the tests. At my last trial the judge actually did the briefing then had the Elite & Open people run it to show the Novice handlers how it worked — then they got to walk it and come up with their plans. I think it helped a lot of new handlers to get the idea of the game before trying to walk the course with a whole lot of hoops.

    If it might help, I can share a couple of Hoopers runs that I have on video. In the following video, Hoopers is Luke’s very last run:

    Here his Hoopers run starts around 1:45. This run had a bobble, but he still managed to come in under time (barely!).

    This video is just a Hoopers run:

    Another run of just Hoopers — From last July, which I believe was the last time we saw the 3-3-3 version of Hoopers (where you had to do three non-test hoops between each test):

    That looks like all I have on video — Hopefully it helps give you a better idea. It’s hard to understand all of the tests without having the course map in front of you. Many are “simple” like serpentines, pinwheels, etc., but other common tests are the x-box, tear drop, hoop weaves and numbered sequences.

    Hoopers is a true test of your handling skills, as there are MANY opportunities for your dog to take an off course hoop if you misdirect them. I think a lot more dogs would enjoy Hoopers if their handlers weren’t so sour about the game in general. I appreciate that NADAC at least gives us *one* strategy game! :o)

    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Karissa,

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful note. I agree NADAC and Sharon Nelson are popular targets for demonization. Having been a popular target myself I’m sensitive to random jibes that people take such pleasure in taking.

      OMG woman… you need to come train with me. Your feet are all wrong! Luke is an honest and hard-working dog. Your feet should not conflict with the order and direction of the course! It puts your dog in constant conflict. [Oh, and thanks for the YouTube videos!]

      Bud Houston

      • Karissa Says:

        lol — I know I’m a mess. My dog saves me from a lot. I’m learning this, as I attempt to bring along my next dog (who is smaller and a lot faster). We don’t have much for trainers in my area….

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