Distance Directionals

The “Go Around” command is intended to send the dog around some object (a barrel, a tree, a chair) without actually performing any obstacle. The importance of this command is that it gives the dog permission to do work at a distance from the handler. Sending your dog out and around barrels or trees is a great way to warm the dog up prior to going into the ring.

This is a very easy skill to teach. The handler may have to begin by accompanying the dog to the barrel, using a lure to show the dog around the barrel. In this introductory step the handler does not go around the barrel. The handler merely shows the way. As soon as possible the handler must switch from lure to reward. You can trust your dog to be very clever once the reward is used to tell the dog when he has done the right thing.

Please note that the reward should be given to the dog with every repetition as the dog is learning this performance.

The distance the handler moves towards the barrel is relaxed as the dog gets the game. Ultimately the handler should be able to stay between the two barrels, giving only the most subtle motion and direction cues with his body.

Game for (Last) Week ~ the Minuet

The dog and handler have 50 seconds. Repeat the sequence as a continuous loop until the expiration of time.

If the dog goes off course, the current book is lost. The dog must be directed to begin the sequence again from obstacle #1.

On the expiration of time the dog must be directed to the table to stop time. Time is a tiebreaker only.


The Minuet is scored books then time.

One book is earned for each completion of the loop. One decimal point is earned for each obstacle in an uncompleted loop when time expires. For example: In 50 seconds, the dog does 7 complete loops and the first two obstacles in the sequence, the dog’s score would be 7.2.


G1 2

G2 2.3

G3 3

Boot Camp Rules

1.       No Fast dog handling

2.       Never blame the dog

3.       Don’t correct the dog’s Performance

4.       Maintain contact criteria at all times

5.       Support the dog’s work

6.       Run

The Agility Instructor – Summary Paragraph

Care about your students. Learn their names. You don’t know everything; don’t even pretend. Learn some good jokes. Pay attention to their progress. Socialize with their dogs; and give them treats out of your own hand. If you must set them back to repeat a class, allow it to be their idea and praise them for being prudent and clever dog trainers. Give everyone equal value. Allow everyone equal time on the floor. Don’t bullshit them. They come to you for instruction, so be honest. At all costs avoid jokes having to do with dead babies. Don’t forget to get them signed up for the next session of classes early; they won’t take it as nagging or selling, but will feel that you honestly care about them. Leave your prejudices about certain breeds of dogs at home. Smile occasionally and laugh often. Always apologize for being stupid. Don’t try to fix everything at once; it’s okay to take the long view. Try to be clever about finding just the right thing to fix or help with. Remind your students from time to time that agility is just a game. Remind yourself from time to time that agility is just a game. Prepare for every class that you teach. Feel free to state objectives and offer handling advice and remedy; but remember ultimately that they come to get out on the floor working their dogs not to hear you lecture. Be humble about your own accomplishments; but ask your students for their brags every week. Be mindful that you know your students in a narrow context – they may contend with drama and tragedy in their own lives of which you are unaware. Always inquire about dogs and family members who have been ill or injured. Be a student of the game. Don’t express extreme political views to your students. Remember that they come to class to chat and socialize not to hear you lecture; so when you must address the class to take a teaching moment, interrupt politely, be brief, and let them get back to chatting and socializing. Be consistent in your training advice. Remember that teaching is a game of repetition. An adult must hear a thing 28 times before it finally sinks in. You have no choice but to be patient; tearing out your hair only loses you your hair. Never chastise a student angrily. You can make fun of a student in a jovial way, but only if you really did have fun with it and only if you are prepared to help your student with your training genius. Teach with games whenever possible. Follow current trends in the sport; collect course maps and study video. Don’t be afraid to cheer for your students and encourage them to cheer for each other. Introduce new students to your classes. Celebrate graduations. Give your students homework. Honor the accomplishments of your students’ dogs. Hang their ribbons in your training center. Give homework. Check to see who’s been doing their homework. Remember that new students often don’t know simple things or fundamental things. Feel free to teach when you are instructing. Remember that nobody absolutely nobody wants to use up class time listening to you brag about your past accomplishments. Be a mentor. Teach from a philosophical perspective. Use positive reward-based training methods. Teach your students to be clever dog trainers. Remember that they don’t learn much when being spoon fed. Problem solving is good. Welcome back students who have been away for awhile. Always start an exercise with the entertainment round in which your students can solve with their own handling choices; otherwise you won’t be so clear on what you need to teach. Don’t be catty in your conversation about people who are not present; it’s a small small world, and it’s not very attractive to the listener[1]. You are responsible for your students’ dogs’ safety. Don’t allow any dog to be terrorized or attacked by another dog. Get rid of aggressive dogs from your program immediately. Always check the safety and repair of your equipment. Provide a clean and pleasant and safe training environment for your students. Remember that everyone wants and deserves basic respect. Always address or speak of other instructors in front of your students with fundamental respect. Keep in mind that some of your students are actually smarter than you and have more education. It might be possible that some of your students are a lot smarter than you and actually have less education. It doesn’t pay to be pompous. Be skillful with students who interrupt, or disrupt, or undermine. Get rid of aggressive handlers from your program immediately. Your other students deserve a safe place to play. It just doesn’t mean any more than it is. Have special events and socials with your students. Encourage a sense of community. When your students arrive for class be sure to say hi to their dogs too. Use your students as the good example when they are. Have a long range vision for your students. Track progress if you can. Keep in perspective that agility is a game we play with our dogs on the weekend in a park.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What two American presidents were named after the same man?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Houston.Bud@gmail.com.

[1] Somebody tell Gail Storm, AKC Agility Rep!


8 Responses to “Distance Directionals”

  1. Teri Says:

    excellent paragraph, Bud. Wish that all so-called agility instructors subscribed to such thinking.

    • budhouston Says:

      Thanks Teri. I guess it’s more of a statement of philosophy… a fine beginning point for any teacher, coach, or instructor.

  2. Sue Megenity Says:

    The 2 presidents named after the same man:

    George H. Bush & George W. Bush

  3. Carole Says:

    George HW Bush and George W Bush.

    • budhouston Says:

      So do tell, who were they named after? Probly George of the Jungle. As long as W was president it was a big game of “Watch out for that tree!” with our economy, civil rights, the environment… etc. etc. etc.

      • Carole Says:

        They were both named after George Herbert Walker.

        From Wikipedia for background: George Herbert “Bert” Walker (June 11, 1875 – June 24, 1953) was a wealthy American banker and businessman. His daughter Dorothy married Prescott Bush, making him the grandfather of President George H. W. Bush and the great-grandfather of President George W. Bush.

        Prescott Sheldon Bush (1895 – 1972) was a Wall Street executive banker, and a United States Senator representing Connecticut from 1952 until January 1963. Prescott Bush married Dorothy Walker in 1921, in Kennebunkport, Maine. They had five children, including George H. W. Bush (b. 1924, named after Dorothy’s father George Herbert Walker). George HW Bush married Barbara Pierce and fathered George W Bush (born 1946),

        I had to look this info up to confirm my answer, since that family would not be invited to any parties at my house (nor would they accept).

  4. beth murray Says:

    Coda and I agree!
    I wish I had started with Country Dream.
    Huey and I would have gone farther…
    At least Coda is in her prime, and I am
    learning, oh patient instructor:)
    And having fun, ALWAYS!

  5. Linda Says:

    My wonderful trainer here in Western North Carolina is a positive example of all that you should look for in an instructor. She’s hands on with all of the dogs and is interested in each student’s progress. So we aren’t sitting around a lot, she sets up more than one work area–for example, weaves to work on entries or exercises for front crosses–and her full courses are nested to fit what your dog needs to work on. Plus, she is low-key, never raises her voice, and gives lots of positive reinforcement.

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