Archive for April, 2011

Puppy Cannon!

April 30, 2011


The objective of this game is for the dog to do all three of the numbered sequences shown on the course map. The sequences can be taken in any order, and in either direction. The dog starts on the table and must begin with the pipe tunnel (the Puppy Cannon) and return to the pipe tunnel after the performance of each of the three sequences.

There is no time limit. The game is judge time plus faults. Any faults are added to the dog’s score. A dropped bar, wrong course, or missed contact add 5 fault points; leaving out an obstacle (failure to perform) add 10 fault points.

After the performance of the final pipe tunnel, the dog must be directed back to the table to stop time.


Puppy Cannon is a training game intended for dogs and handlers in the Advanced Beginners program. Mostly we want our students to understand that the pipe tunnel is a cannon. The dog is likely to fire out like being shot out of a cannon. If the course turns the handler must learn how to give the dog information about which direction to go and as quickly as possible.

Our mantra is this: A dog comes out of a tunnel blind, not knowing precisely where he is going. At the instant the dog emerges the handler should show or demonstrate the correct path. An exercise like this allows us to teach an important discipline in handling, to give the dog exiting the tunnel good information as quickly as possible.

Puppy Cannon also builds a rather basic problem solving skill. Since the handler can choose the order of performance of the three working sets, he must tie the three together in a logical flow. This is a skill that is important in games like Snooker and Gamblers, to create flow that wasn’t spoon-fed by the judge or course designer.

Novice Jumping Sequence

This could easily turn into a rear crossing exercise, particularly in the transition from #3 to #4 and from #7 to #8. In both cases the rear cross on the approach to the jump should be followed by a front cross on the dismount.

The value of exercises like this is to teach the novice student basic problem solving skills. The questions are always: where does the handler need to be, and how does he manage to get there.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest


This is an anagram for three things of a type. If you haven’t lost yours, tell us what they are.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running.

UltimatePetWebsites ~ DON’T BUY Advice

April 29, 2011

About three months ago I contacted this group, who’d been doing some strong email spam marketing of their service… to do some website development for me. I pictured (being an optimist) a young, creative and energetic development staff that could transform my best imaginings into a clever, clean and crisp web site presence.

I promptly shelled out something like $700 for what I presumed to be an introductory development project (I have lots of projects on the imagining board).

Sometimes there’s a downside to being an optimist. After two months of back and forth communications with the developer, he did one bit for me and managed to get my instructions exactly backwards; while offering up this bland and unimaginative boiler-plate presentation. I spoke to him on the phone one day. He told me he had 150 projects on his desk. Really?

Finally I decided to pull the plug on the project (for non-performance). I called them to give the news. I got a run-around… basically they decided that I had committed to pay them for work they never did and wouldn’t do very well if and when they did do it. I just consider it stealing. I have ethics from another century, to be sure.

I spent another month trying to get in touch with their account manager. I got a number of promises that she’d get back to me promptly. But it was all a lie.

The bottom line on UltimatePetWebsites: Save your money… go to a talented high school kid to do your web development. I’m happy to provide a solid review of UltimatePetWebsites for every search engine in cyberspace.

Note1: This group appears to be a subsidiary of; another bit for search engines.

Note2: Their web site purports them to the official web designers of the Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners website. Good on Karen. I just wanted to make sure anybody doing a web search on Karen Pryor also reads my review of her web developers. Sorry Karen.

Obscure Challenge

It seems nearly fruitless to design a challenge that maybe 5 guys in the whole world have the equipment to repeat. But if you don’t happen to have a tunnel crossover… you can use your old four-legged crossover contact obstacle. Now, we’re up to 12 guys in the whole world.

This is intended to be run as a Minuet (when done, repeating from the beginning, over and over until the end of time).  The short sequence gives the dog practice making nearly perpendicular entries into the weave poles.

For most of us, the more problematic entry is from the entry side (nearly perpendicular, you’ll recall). When making the approach from the off-side most dogs will have the sense to wrap the first pole. But when making the approach from the entry side many dogs will be inclined to find a couple different options for the entry.

This is an excellent opportunity to do some dog training, rewarding the dog for a complete job. In our own classes we’ll be inclined to put wire between poles #2 and #4 to reinforce the correct entry; at least with the more novice dogs.

Using the tunnel-crossover in training is a bit problematic. It’s a huge space hog. This is one of many sequences I designed around the hog. The opening bit #1 through #4 is its own special riddle. How do you manage the #2 to #3 threadle? [Answer: Probably not a threadle at all.]

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the 16th century European military forces used an interesting bomb that was a bell-shaped thing filled with gunpowder that was to be attached to a wall or gate and then exploded. What is special expression reserved for someone who gets blown up while setting it up? Also, what is the meaning of the French word from which it is derived?


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Key Challenges in Course Design

April 23, 2011

I try to design agility courses based on a single central challenge. Keep it simple. It’s not necessary to challenge the dog and handler at and between every obstacle. That’s the road to oppression.

I had a whimsical but challenging kind of jumping sequence in my last web log; and so I would like to build a full course around it.

The key challenge could be placed anywhere on the course. In this case I decided to begin the course with the challenge sequence. I’m interested in the lead-out in this sequence. It’s not enough to leave the dog. That part’s easy. The handler must also have fruitful plan and execution.

I continued (scribbled) the line from the first eight hurdles. The scribbled line is nothing fancy; but you’ll note that it dips back in to the starting sequence for one last little test of the challenge.

The next thing to do is throw out some obstacles to give the scribbled dog’s path something to cling to. This allows the designer to see a glimmer of the overall course. The big loop might get an argument out of a course reviewer for being too simple. I’m tempted for a moment to twist the loop as you might give a twist to pretzel dough.

The finished product involves a bit of adjustment of the distances between obstacles. I also brought in spread hurdles (since my design ambition is a USDAA Jumpers course).

The expanded sequencing seems inconsequential, drawing in nearly half the course in a grand clock-wise turning loop. But it truly gives a good look at two new options; the first in the turn from #15 to #16; and the second in the turn from jump #18 to #19. And the consequence of the big wheel is that it will have the dog flying at full speed when facing these options.


Last week Marsha was away on a North Carolina vacation with family. I kept myself occupied with Spring time kinds of chores. After a winter that went on just a bit too long I’m delighted to get outside doing something. I mostly occupied myself with putting in the garden. I got it tilled up nicely; and I’ve put in potatoes, onions, tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers and broccoli.

I haven’t written to my blog in quite awhile. We put our old boy Ringer down last week. And I just didn’t feel like writing. Marsha wrote about him a bit in her web log: I reckon I’d like to say something about him. He was fond of fruit. He was always inappropriate. And I loved the old boy.

We’re down to four dogs in our household. Ringer was the last of our rescues. He lived a good life.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Which cast member in the movie Independence Day once had a minor role in one of Charles Bronson’s Death Wish movies?


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Options Minuet

April 16, 2011

An “option” in agility, most simply defined, is a course that makes more sense to the dog than the one the judge actually numbered. It is a favorite plaything of many course designers whether by ham-handed kludge/unnumbered dummy jump, or something more subtle and inconspicuous.

This figure-of-eight exercise seems simple enough, even gently flowing. I’ve left the Clean Run Course Designer-drawn dog’s path on the map to enhance the illusion.

The savvy handler will immediately see the option created by the straight line as the dog’s path approaches the central jump #2/6. In the opening the dog has a direct view of the wrong course jump. And is the handler’s job to convince the dog into the turn to jump #3.

In the turn from jump #6 to #7 the #1 jump is again presented as an opportunity for a wrong course.

About the Minuet

The minuet is a game typically played for 50 seconds. The idea is to do the sequence over and over until the expiration of time. A quick dog might do this sequence three times in 50 seconds. What I’ve found about the Minuet over the years is that it will expose fundamental flaws in handling. The handler might get away with a thing once; and might get away with it twice; but he will not continue to “get away with it” in the minuet.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What is the name of this rig? When fishing with a plastic worm, run the hook through ¼” from the front end; then flip the hook around and draw through the body until the barb barely protrudes (for a weedless cast).

By the way, would you use a sliding sinker, a fixed sinker, or no sinker at all on this rig?


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Around-the-Clock Advanced Work

April 12, 2011

We are programmed to move in a path parallel to the dog’s path.

This is a simple and rational approach to handling. It is one of the “Laws of a Dog in Motion”: The dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path.

When the handler isn’t moving he is upon no path. Consequently the dog has no path to parallel. When the handler is standing still things begin to unravel, if he doesn’t understand what direction he should face.

In our advanced “around the clock” work the handler practices: a) not moving, and b) facing in the direction and towards the obstacle that the dog is to perform. You’ll note in this set of obstacles the handler’s position is equidistant between the obstacles; about 20 feet, give or take.

When doing around the clock training with a dog the handler should understand that the size of the clock-face increases as the dog becomes more skilled; and should be smaller for the more novice dog.

The handler will make his presentation of the obstacles simply by facing the desired/intended obstacle as the dog works. Remember to have the lead hand up (in obstacle focus); and don’t be shy to take a small step to apply pressure.

In this sequence the handler initially faces jump #1 (with dog & handler at the 6 O’clock position; then, as the dog wraps around in the turn, the handler will face the next obstacle (with handler at 3 O’clock and dog more at 2 O’clock.

Note that the dog most likely will turn to the side that the handler was working when making the send. But if the dog turns the opposite direction the handler/dog trainer shouldn’t be too mental about the event and should still support the dog’s approach to the next obstacle.

We should practice turning and giving distance pressure from both directions.

The escalation of the exercise will incorporate more elaborate sequencing. Remember that the handler is not moving and has only the direction he is facing (and verbal cues) to direct the dog. In this sequence there’s a real possibility that the handler’s ambiguous pressure could put the dog back into the #1 pipe tunnel as it is so near to the #2 jump as to constitute a discrimination.

Many handlers give a lot of practice to handling the serpentine from one side. They should shine in this exercise. Note that it may be good dog training; but it is not always good handling.

Okay, this one will be hard. The handler will need a good absolute directional after jump #4 to sell the turn to the weave poles.

Facebook Settings

FB has a default setting that that will show only posts from friends who’ve recently commented on one of your posts (within about a month) or you’ve commented on one of theirs. All others will be invisible, as though you aren’t their friend at all.

If you want to change the setting ~ Go to your homepage; In the drop down next to “Most Recent” in the upper-right corner select “Edit Options”, that’ll spawn a dialog box to edit your news feed options; select the “Show Posts From” drop down; then choose “All Of Your Friends and Pages”. Now you’ve unleashed the torrent of all your friends’ daily dialog doings.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Shakespeare misquoted: “A coward dies a thousand deaths… ” Please cite the (entire) correct quotation.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running.


April 11, 2011

You’ll recognize in the layout of the floor that equipment is set to practice the “No Handling” contacts training described in the web log yesterday ( In fact I have mirror image of the drill on either side of the room. We got a very good workout on the contacts while exploring a variety of contact-related topics.

The set of the floor provides a variety of sequencing opportunities and distance challenges. In the course-work shown here some of us practiced layering to the opposite side of the A-frame while the dog goes away for #6 and #7. This fits neatly with the “No Handling” contact drills as it challenges the team to make a neat turn from the dogwalk into the pipe tunnel at #8 with the handler at a healthy lateral distance.

London Bridges

This is a simple game. The handler must remain with at least one foot in the containment area while sending the dog away to perform a single obstacle; and may be sent away to do another different obstacle only after coming back to the handler. Jumps are worth 1 point; tunnels, the tire, and weave poles are worth 3 points; Contact obstacles are worth 5 points.

The handler may surrender at any time. If the dog repeats an obstacle, then we assume that the team has surrendered.


The handler may direct the dog to perform multiple obstacles on each send and may continue to earn points so long as no obstacle is repeated.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

This artwork was featured in a Julia Roberts movie. What was the movie? What is the name of the painting? Who is the artist?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running.

The “No Handling” Dismount

April 10, 2011

The purpose of this training is to develop a set of directional cues for a dog dismounting a contact obstacle. You must recognize that this will be very different for a dog that finishes the contact in an unambiguous stop; compared to the dog doing a contact-in-motion.

For the dog assuming a 2o/2o there should be a palpable moment of hesitation in the moment before release. For the dog with a running contact the dismount is complicated by the simple inertia of movement.

Like all dog training missions, this isn’t something you would do in a single session and then decide that you “own it” or “it doesn’t work for my dog”. Again I subscribe to the Rule of 5000. It is an ongoing program applied with careful consistency as though we were developing precise syntax for language. That is exactly what we’re doing. Training and proofing are applied both in daily workout with the dog and in competition.

I am approaching this training with a “no handling” criteria mostly to insure my dog’s raw understanding of the verbal cue. Any handling assistance the dog gets will be from the handler’s posture ~ from a stationary position.

The illustration shows four possible directions and outcomes from the contact dismount:

A.                To the “A” pipe tunnel ~ “Left! Tunnel!” command. The handler rotates toward the dog pushing with pressure on the outside shoulder.

B.                To the “B” straight-ahead jump ~  “Go on! Jump!” command. The handler simply faces and points forward, taking a single accelerating step.

C.                To the “C” right-side jump ~ “Right! Jump!” command. The handler turns simply toward the jump.

D.               To the “D” blind-approach pipe tunnel ~ “Right! Close! Right! Tunnel!” command sequence (though it’s unlikely there is time to get out that many words). The handler rotates toward the dog with pulling pressure on the inside shoulder.

Certainly these easy transitions can be managed with the handler moving in a way to suggest the proper course and direction on the dismount. I’m contemplating the inevitability that the handler might not achieve a control position and so should own a well-trained and well-proofed dialog for verbal directive.

A running contact is a slightly different problem as the dog will dismount with inertia that simply does not exist with a dog in a full stop in a 2o/2o. For the contact-in-motion the handler must find the correct timing for the verbal directional cue so that the dog understands his mission before he’s entirely off the ramp. If the handler is tardy in his directions then both inertia and guessing (on the dog’s part) conspire against a successful outcome.

Managed contacts “handling initiative” are successful mostly when the handler can achieve a control position on the dismount or, when working at a distance, by crossing one’s fingers. The handler will basically tap the brakes as the dog dismounts and give the directional cue when the dog touches yellow.

Personal Footnote on this Training

Since I showed my boy Kory the turn-away into the tunnel (which we can do with me 50 feet away, at least) he’s developed a bit of a smart-aleck attitude about it and will as often as not make an assumption about the tunnel tucked under the contact ramp as he comes down. What that means is that he’ll predispose himself to fold off the ramp into the tunnel. Let’s face it guys… it’s a powerful tool if that’s the next correct obstacle… but it’s just a wrong course if it is not. So it’s vital to my training program that I leave him guessing and frankly waiting for my cue as to direction on the dismount of a contact.

Elephant in the Room v Achievement Objectives

We’ve gone to a series of focused topics for our monthly mini-clinics here at Country Dream Dog Agility. Today the topic is “Contacts”. This will not be a simple matter of the dismount (whether the dog is on 2o/2o, running, or handling initiative). We also need to address issues of speed, focus, performance at a distance, and discrimination.

Over the next few days I’ll share elements of the lesson plan with you and, as much as possible, a bit or two that I learn in the presentation. (Yes, I always learn when I teach).

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What is the model of radio teletype machine on which the Japanese Declaration of War was received immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor?


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Distance Skills Solve Routine Challenges

April 8, 2011

I wrote this obviously in advance of my seminar in Peoria. By the time I publish it’ll be a done deal. Maybe I’ll have some good footnotes to attend. It is inescapable that the course designer will have objectives from his own studies to insinuate and those he trains, and thereby torture them with.

I endeavor to create challenges that are subtle but challenging none-the-less while giving the dog a smooth and easy flow. Well smooth yes, but easy only if the dog is well-directed in a timely manner.

These days I’m working a pretty fast dog. But I will say that I equally understand the slow dog and the pure-for-motion dog. As an instructor I must be able to answer to each.

For a moment, since I haven’t subjected my Peoria seminar students with this exercise I’m visualizing only my own selfish interests with my faster dog. In this drawing I’ve added the handler’s position (and relative attitude) on the landing side of jump 3 while the dog makes his dismount from the A-frame.

Once the handler recognizes the control position he has to solve the riddle that goes “how the heck do I get there”. In this race the handler cannot take the time to micro-manage the approach to the A-frame, or the dismount from it. After sending to jump #1 the handler will cut a neat line to the landing side of jump #3 rotating into the pre-cue posture as the dog is released from the jump.

I should not here that one of the things that works against a good pre-cue is a flat-footed presentation. “Flat-footed” to me means the feet aren’t moving at all.  So even while the handler is facing contrary to the dog’s movement he still supports with his movement… albeit leading with the caboose.

In the transition from Jump #8 to #9 the handler again should have a bold position forward of the dog both to pre-cue the turn to jump #10 and to be on the inside of the curve to the pipe tunnel at #11.

This is a bit of a delicate tactic as the handler must release the dog from his finish position on the A-frame without being so mired in the dismount performance that he can’t gain the control position on the landing side of jump #9. So the handler needs to be back, as the dog comes down the A-frame, while reserving a good step to keep pressure out to jump #8.

Heart Break

Okay, the Ohio State Buckeyes were expelled early from the NCAA tournament. And the Arizona Wildcats were as well. Pakistan lost their Cricket match with India. At the same time the myopic USDAA BOD rejected the Top Dog venue opting instead to launch a sub-novice titling program.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Medicare was passed in the early 1960s so that older folks who would be (and were) denied insurance coverage would have access to health care services. Today the Republicans (specifically the Tea-party folks) are working hard to do away with Medicare altogether and repeal (what they call) Obama Care which would require insurance companies to offer coverage to senior citizens.

So, when they’re done with this: a) How will senior citizens have access to affordable health care coverage? B) Should we just require them to die, and quit bothering the rest of us?


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April 4, 2011

This talk of dropped bars has me wanting to explain that Kory has never jumped 26″ until a couple days before his USDAA debut. He’s actually a very athletic and smooth working jumper. But raising the jump-height appeals to a task-oriented muscle memory and should be addressed in training.

A couple days before I took off for Barto I set up in the soggy lower field this simple jumping sequence. I made sure to include a spread-hurdle at jump #2 and the broad-jump at #3 (because we were entered in the Steeplechase).

As the sequence is so simple I added my own interesting twist. Basically staying behind (where you see the little man icon in the drawing) I would give Kory “Jump Right!” commands so that he would turn out of the curve and come back towards me. While this had him doing the broad-jump in the wrong direction and (frankly) the spread hurdle as well I got the satisfaction of working on a more advanced training agenda while getting our jump-height warm-up.

By the way, I probably will have to build or buy a USDAA broad jump. Kory put a foot right in the middle of it in the Steeplechase. You do have to understand that the USDAA obstacle is very unlike the AKC obstacle and apparently requires training on that unique construction.  Because of the extreme slant of the boards facing the approach the dog can’t really tell that it’s a hurdle. It looks for all the world like a little ramp squatting on the ground. I’ll probably just build the darned thing if I can find the specs on the USDAA web-site.

40 Yard Dash

The Forty-Yard Dash is a simple game developed by Sharon Thompson, from Lenexa, Kansas. The game is an adaptation of a simpler (if that’s possible) game developed by Matt Skogan of the Overland Park, KS Police K-9 unit for their Dog Olympics, held every year. The Dog Olympics raise funding for the pet adoption side of the kennel that Matt Skogan and Bob Valencia own and operate. Bob is a detective and Matt is a K9 officer. The game serves as a simple training opportunity to teach simple matters of motivation and speed, body posture and movement. And for all that this game is a simple foot race, it might also teach some people to relax and have fun with their dogs.


All dogs will run a simple straightaway race in a lane (much like a bowling alley lane), beginning on the table and ending with a single hurdle at the end of the 40 yards.

The lane will measure 35 yards from the table to the hurdle, and 5 yards from the hurdle to the Finish Line.

The Forty-Yard Dash is a timed event. The handler can be anywhere in the lane, and may use food, a toy or ball, or just about anything to lure or encourage the dog. The dog can be held by a third person at the start line if the handler desires.

Time begins as the dog’s feet hit the ground on the dismount from the table. Time ends when the dog hits the finish line.


The Forty Yard Dash is scored time only. The fastest time wins.

A dog that drops the jump bar is eliminated.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Why was the Roaring Twenties so named?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: OMG! My web store is up and running:  I still have a lot of work to do there. I’ve closed down the eJunkie store.

Back to Barto

April 3, 2011

I finished the day Saturday with another Q and 1st place finish in Pairs. I paired Kory with another BC run by a pleasant young lady who is apparently also a pretty good dog trainer. I went to my hotel figuring that nothing could go wrong for the weekend no matter how things turned out on Sunday. As it would turn out, it was a good thing that I was content. I’m not going to share the blow-by-blow with you. But I will say that I had that very technical Starters Snooker course nailed… but Kory dropped a bar in the #4 combination.

I barely got any sleep on Saturday night. Chucking a couple tons of firewood had inflamed my shoulder so that I was treated through the night with a searing pain that prevented me from actually sleeping. I guess I’m just a woos when it comes to searing pain.

OBTW in the pairs class Kory missed the down contact of the dogwalk. The game is scored Time+Faults so it really made very little difference except that I would prefer that he assume and hold his 2o2o until released.


This is a dream sequence that I will probably incorporate into course work. It keeps drawing itself in my head… and it won’t go away until I put it on paper. So there.


This is a sequence that was pressed into my hand by a seminar student. She noted the difficulty of holding the gently curving sequence after the #11 pipe tunnel. I understand that problem, especially if the handler must micro-manage the turn into the tunnel off the A-frame. On Saturday I did set up a similar turn (front contact to tunnel) in the seminar in Peoria just to talk about the technical Tandem.

What most fascinated me about the course map was trying to guess what venue it must represent. I’m still guessing.

A Talk With Jesus

Well, maybe I only talked to Peter. 1 Peter 5:5 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

I was thinking about my disappointment-induced refusal in the Grand Prix qualifier on Saturday. This was a moment of prideful petulance which was immediately punished by a higher power (judge Scott Chamberlain in this case). Kory pushed out of his 2o2o before I actually released him. So as I flat-footed the approach to the final jump in childish pique, Kory spun in front of the jump and earned a refusal.

Let me share a little “humble” thinking with you. It is not my habit to visit rage or scorn on my dog for performance issues. I’ll typically accept what happens in competition as information and take that back to my training program for whatever remediation is necessary.

To tell you the truth, something else occurs to me now. I have this longer range vision that I will fade the 2o2o to a running contact (or contact-in-motion in any case). As “dog trainer” I find a terrible contradiction if I correct my dog in any fashion right now for a performance or behavior that I’ll set as my criteria for performance later on. Do you follow this logic?

Whether it’s a matter of me behaving terribly bad by telling my dog “no” or yelling at him, or picking him up and dragging him off the course… or even if I simply have a moment of childish pique; all of that works against my longer term training and performance ambitions.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

A multiple-choice; aren’t you lucky. Proverbs says “Pride goeth before… “

a. destruction,

b. the fall,

c. lunch

Okay cheater… don’t you dare Google this! God is watching for sure.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: OMG! My web store is up and running. I still have a lot of work to do there. I’ll be closing down the eJunkie presentation; and we’ll be doing business again with the CFWebstore.