Slightly Crazy

I am in Cincinnati this weekend, showing both Kory and Marsha’s young boy Phoenix. It’s been a tough week for us. We lost our old boy Dash. So this evning I’m unlikely to be either pithy or elegant in my writing.

This weekend past I was in Grand Junction, Colorado for a handling seminar. My seminars in that area are typically arranged by a long time student and friend, Sue Sternberg. I will end a seminar with a chat in which I ask each person who participated what they learned.

What I learned, I take home with me.

An interesting development… I have had a protocol for the introduction of a jump (bar hurdle) to a dog for something over 20 years. And now I’m going to change it. It’s not that I didn’t think it through. I just didn’t understand that the world was going to go slightly crazy; an event which needs to be accommodated in our agility foundation.


The intro protocol I’ve used forever goes something like this:

  • The handler presents the jump on his right
  • The handler presents the jump on his left
  • The handler leads out and calls the dog over on his right
  • The handler leads out and calls the dog over on his left
  • The handler sends the dog to jump on his right
  • The handler sends the dog to jump on his left

On first glance it looks like I have everything covered. You’ll note that even this short list is full of prerequisite skills. The obvious stuff is a dog who will stay while the handler leads out… and a dog who will go away to jump. Less obvious is the tantalizing shaping of a handler who doesn’t know which arm/hand to use.


The addition to the jump introduction protocol is:

  • The handler draws the dog around on his right side and presents the jump from the backside
  • The handler draws the dog around on his left side and presents the jump from the backside

This too has an interesting prerequisite skill which is by no means automatic and will have fruitful consequences to the handler who practices: the ability for the handler to draw a dog tightly around his body.

I say the world went slightly crazy. Well, the blind approach jump or the backside approach surely is a skill worth putting into a dog’s foundation as well as the handler’s. We compete in a slightly crazy world.

What have you learned today?

I said that I left Grand Junction with a shortlist of what I learned. I learned (reaffirmation actually) that a conditioned performance of a jump is one of the most overlooked skills in the sport of dog agility. Ironically, the jump is the last obstacle in agility for which the dog truly learns focus.


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.

3 Responses to “Slightly Crazy”

  1. Sharon Westergreen Says:

    Bud and Marsha, so very sorry to hear that Dash has passed. I grieve with you, and I hold you in my thoughts. Your friend, Sharon

  2. salkeela Says:

    Always so many things to think about when training. My handling is a bit different as I use wheels to get about, so training foundations are even more important. Will check out your other materials. Cheers.
    Take a peek at what I’m up to if you like.

    • budhouston Says:

      I visited your blog. I have some of the same handling and training objectives. Was interested to see a couple of fundamental points about the use of Left & Right directionals. I too use my directional as pre-cue advice; and I’ll repeat the command several times when it’s necessary to draw the turn more acutely.

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