Archive for December, 2012

Snow Day

December 29, 2012

It had been our intention to show our dogs at an AKC trial up in Zanesville this weekend. Indeed, I had the alarm set for 4:30 am. Marsha took a look outside and suggested we should go back to bed… we had about 6″ of snow, and it was snowing heavily still.


Unfortunately our route to Zanesville is about 40 miles of driving along a dark Route 60, wending through the boonies… and no guarantees that it has been scraped or salted.

I would be a little cockier about driving in ice and snow had I not about killed myself a couple years ago in a winter driving accident. The trial entries aren’t that much money to blow off. So, we’ll stay at home for the weekend. And I’ll just goof off.

Goofing Off

I’ve spent a couple weeks now mostly goofing off. It’s not that I haven’t had work to do, mind you. For the holiday season I thought I’d buy myself a little bit of goofing off time. Goofing off is not a natural condition for me. Though, I remember when I actually used to work for a living; I’d come home, take off my tie, and turn off any thought of work. I could go out and play with my dogs, or sit and watch a football game, and wouldn’t have to engage in work again until the alarm got me up the next morning. Goofing off was like half my life.

I work for myself now. And we all know what that means. The fun thing, of course, is that I’ve been consumed by my favorite hobby, and turned it into something of a living.

When a person is young, say in his 30’s or 40’s there’s a lot of thought and energy that go into making career choices, and preparing for the future. I mean almost everything we do is geared towards ensuring that we aren’t sleeping under a bridge when we get old enough to retire.

Giving Back to the Sport

Okay, in a couple of days it will be a new year and I will begin earnest marketing of Top Dog Agility Players. I’ve done some sample marketing. The reception has been lukewarm. And I’m okay with that.

I have this simple ambition… to sponsor the largest agility competition in the world. All the players might not be in the same place… but they will all run the same course or play the same game. This ambition is complicated and furthered by the notion that I want it to be so inexpensive that anybody with a trained dog can play. It’s not about money, after all.

A complication all along has been the idea that a recreational approach to dog agility is without ambition and without profit. Roll those words around your mouth a bit: “Ambition” and “Profit”… notably two of the driving forces of our sport (and driving forces of the whole world).

In the Top Dog model attempts to enhance the potential for profit for the host club, and to reduce risk. If you really think about it the host club has ever been the hero of dog agility competition, to a greater extent than the venue ever could be. The venue provides sanction and certification and, with any luck, training of judges. The host club, however, takes all the financial risks and does all the work. What a deal that is for the venue.

Visit the Top Dog web site for more information: I’m also blogging for Top Dog at: And today (!) I started a Facebook page for Top Dog: I’ll really have to work at sorting out what kind of information goes in each. Oh my! On top of all that, I believe I need a Yahoo group for planning and discussions.

Okay, I have to admit that we wanted to make this really attractive for the player as well. Imagine how fun it could be to compete against a thousand other dogs every week! Okay, it’s not nearly that big yet. But you can see where I’m trying to go with this. Remember the statement of ambition… to sponsor the largest agility competition in the world. It might take a couple years to get there. I’ll be patient.


Our young pup is just about the cutest thing in the world.


This isn’t a great picture, sorry. Katniss is darker than her shadow. She has little white tips on her toes, and a modest white tie on her neck. I suppose should get some pictures of her out in the snow so there’s a little background contrast.

Ah, and she likes to tug!

That’s Phoenix she’s tugging with. Phoenix is our one year-old rescue BC. I’m busy teaching him left & right as a winter project. I want him to hit the ground running when it’s time for him to enter competition. Frankly I’m hoping for a good workout with weekly Top Dog games.


Pardon the cryptic heading… that’s the fancy language of Top Dog. It begins with a date stamp… and ends with the size of the competition area. This is a numbered course that manages 15 numbered obstacles in a modest 60′ by 80′ space.

BLOG889_03 This was my warm-up course for the AKC trial we were supposed to be at this weekend… before we decided to wimp out on account of snow. I’m working with Kory’s contact protocol (given to me by Pati Mah). I really wanted to test in competition that Kory is showing the same 2o2o composure that he shows in his own training building.

Anyhow, Kory ran this course in 38.57 with no faults.

The tricky bit, as you can imagine, is the wicked little turn from jump #10 into the weave poles. On the dismount of the weave poles, mind you, I wanted dog-on-right so I could control his approach to the correct tunnel entry at #12. I guarantee you that the backside of #2 would be as enticing as the correct entry to #12 if I were turning him away from me coming out of the weave poles.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Just Northwest of Crazy

December 15, 2012

I find myself in a convoluted trap of Social Media. I have my personal Facebook page; I have a Facebook page for the TDAA; and I’ll be darned if I don’t feel compelled to create a Facebook page for Top Dog. I’m also loosely in Linked-In, Google+, YouTube, and Spotify. Add to that the notion that I have moderator privileges on something like six Yahoo groups. And I have writing responsibilities on no fewer than three blogs.

Look guys, I’m about a 60 year old man. And all of this stuff is just northwest of crazy.

My niece Angi has me started on something called Hootsuite, an online utility from which I can monitor and contribute to all of these various tools. I don’t know if it’s really going to simplify my life. OTOH if I can see the whole crazy map at once it might at least succor me with the illusion of control.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

Today I wrote to my three blogs. I know it sounds mundane, but I’m sorting through the organization and location of resource files on my computer. You might enjoy (though no promises or guarantee):

On the TDAA blog I’ve written a “Quidditch Design Tutorial” ( I’ve finally moved the Course Design College away from my regular blog to reside under the TDAA banner. I should have done so a long time ago.

On The Top Dog blog I’ve posted new Events ( I’m playing with a new format to enhance interest in the courses.

In the News

I’ve been following the news of the schoolhouse shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I’m horrified by the monstrous nature of this event. It is clear that there is a terrible sickness in the United States which is exacerbated and even made possible by the proliferation of guns in our society.

This is precisely the time for a strong response from our government. We need strong laws. Hunters should have guns; and criminals and the mentally instable should not. Hunting weapons should be narrowly defined; and everything outside of that definition should be illegal.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Backyard Zen ~ enlightenment through meditation and insight

December 6, 2012

The purest expression I can make as a dog trainer is in those private moments with my dog in the back yard. I come to the task presumably equipped with some objective. And I am prepared to take small thoughtful steps to accomplish that desired goal. My mind is uncluttered, and unfettered.

I begin with a vision of the immediate objective that is well focused and granular. That one tangible goal however is a small bit that is completely influenced by and tied to my philosophy of dog training.

Let me try to give a bit of definition to the idea of a training philosophy, specifically as that philosophy is applied to dog agility:

  • Teach your dog in the context of play; it’s all an extension of the game.
  • Allow your dog to think; allow your dog to offer; allow your dog to solve the puzzle.
  • Be happy when your dog is right. Be neutral when he is wrong.
  • Be patient and undemanding. You have the advantage of knowing exactly how long it takes for a dog to learn a thing.
  • Foundation is never a completed task.

Down to Earth

That sounded a bit lofty I suppose. But it was short; and that’s what I was going for. None of this is really very complicated. Funny, I’m gearing up for foundation training with four dogs through the upcoming winter. We have three rescues pup in our house: an 8 week-old (Katness), a one-year old (Phoenix), and a two-year old (Haymitch). I also have my boy Kory who is nearly four now. I have training plans for all of them for the upcoming winter.

For the baby pup we’ll be doing the Two Minute Dog Trainer thing. That’s the name of Marsha’s blog, don’t you know (

My attention is going more to Phoenix and Haymitch. Both of them are on a program for wicked good distance skills. My guiding objective is to make them both perfect dogs for an old man. That means I have absolutely no intention of wearing a dog on my hip when we do agility. The dog has to be out there working. My job is to give direction… not to micromanage.

I could go through a list of everything we’re going to do from a training POV. But you know, I’ve already put most of it in writing. It’s all in the Joker’s Notebook, issue #0.

With Kory I’m doing new stuff. Right now I’m teaching him to do a Switch. I should define: The command “Switch” means that I want him to circle my body tightly in a counter-clockwise direction.

I know this seems like a curious objective. You’re just going to have to trust me. I expect in ten years everybody with a fast (and trainable) dog will have both the Switch and the ComeBy in their basic foundation training. The upshot of the skill is that on course I can create corners and set lines without handling. Ooh, what a concept.

I’ll draw a picture to tantalize you:

BLOG886_01The green figures showing the handler sending the dog out to do the pinwheel (you’ve taught that to your dog, right?) The red figures shows the handler turning around to assume a post position, actually facing the pipe tunnel, and calling the dog to Switch as he comes over jump #4. You’ll note that the dog’s path coming over jump #4 favors the wrong course side of the pipe tunnel.

Due Diligence

This is Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day! And today’s topic is Backyard Training. You will find a index to a fine family of posts on the topic here:


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.