Archive for July, 2015

August League Course!

July 27, 2015

August begins a new league competition for the National Dog Agility League. Later today we will be publishing League Rules and Stipulations for a three-month league, August to October 2015.

We’re growing the league. If you would like to join in the competition, it’s an easy matter. There are no costs associated with playing except for nominal recording fees.

Warped Helter Skelter



In the U.K., there is a dog agility class called Helter Skelter. The game is named after a children’s ride at parks and fairs where a slide spirals down the side of a tower. This game is extremely popular with dogs and handlers alike.

This game is a bit of a combination of Helter Skelter and Time Warp. The course is designed as a Helter Skelter spiral, testing a handler’s instincts for knowing when to have a foot on the gas, and when to have a foot on the brakes! The Time Warp element, of course, is a subtraction from the overall score for working the dog at a distance.

This is a simple numbered course that will be judged Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus. The course shows two bonus lines.  If the dog can perform #8 through #12 with the handler remaining behind the containment line at 30’, the bonus will be 10 seconds. If the handler stays on the other side of the 40’ line, the bonus will be 20 seconds.

Otherwise, it’s just a numbered course. Follow the numbers; keep the bars up; and hit the paint.

News from National Dog Agility League

A Nibble from Nat Geo

The National Geographic Channel has shown some interest in Top dog and the National Dog Agility League. Early indications are that Nat Geo might be interested in starting Top Dog as an internet-based streaming program. And as participation in the program grows they would consider moving it to on air programming.

Bishop-Lyons is working hard to develop the relationship with Nat Geo. I’ll keep you posted on how this progresses.

Summer League Rules to be Published Today

We’re working on the NDAL League Rules and Stipulations for a three-month league, August to October 2015. Later today I will send these Rules to all existing league teams; and make them available both on our blog and on Facebook for any new team that would like to join the league.

Lessons Learned from the Spring League

What we’ve really lacked in the conduct of the league so far is a sense of drama and immediacy. To further these ambitions the Summer 2015 league will have some new timing rules; and the League Secretaries tasks will be refined.

A new timing rule will require a league team to report their results for a given month’s league competition by midnight on the last day of that month.

The league secretary will publish the results of an individual club’s league scores within three days of receipt of those results. As results continue to come in the cumulative results will be published showing a fair comparison of standing between clubs in the competition.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.

The Fuller Brush Principle ~ Revisited

July 13, 2015

I’ve had some revisionist thinking about The Fuller Brush Principle. I wrote a blog post on this topic back in 2009:

You’ll note that the Fuller Brush Principle, according to my logic in 2009 applied largely to the dog. But don’t you know, I’ve decided that it applies in equal if not greater measure to the dog’s trainer and handler.

A reminder of the Fuller Brush: “If twisted it in your hands you’d have this twisted brush. However, if you dropped the twisted brush into hot water it would revert or reform to its original shape.

I’ve observed this terrible phenomenon for many years now. An agility student will be introduced to advanced skills both in handler movement and dog training; and yet when in competition (hot water)… that student will return to “original shape”. That means he/she will revert to handling that is comfortable even though the handling is one-dimensional and assures results that are mediocre at best.

Truly I wish that I was smart enough to give an answer to this, and cure it, at least in my own students. In agility Cassius is our seer: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

The National Dog Agility League

Open invitation for new teams:

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.


July 11, 2015

A bipartisan handful of law makers have proposed a reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, as a protection for taxpayers and to prevent financial institutions from becoming “too big to fail.”

how to find your senator

Thanks to benrl for the following draft of a letter you might send:

Dear Senator,

As one of your constituents I am writing to ask you to support The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act brought forth by Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Maria Cantwell (D-WA); John McCain (R-AZ); and Angus King (I-ME).

The act repealed by the Clinton administration allowed for the economic collapse, reinstatement of this act would be the first step in holding accountable the Banking Industry.

Your support or lack thereof to this act WILL BE A DETERMINING factor in my continued support in the coming senate elections. Thank you for your time.


A democracy is a powerful engine for change and sound government, so long as those who live in that democracy are engaged as voters and as citizens. Without engagement, you might as well be living in North Korea.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.

Running in the Rain

July 7, 2015

The shape and angulation of the pipe tunnel tends to regulate the speed of a dog’s movement. An elongated pipe tunnel is an accelerator that will have both dog and handler on a dead run; while a u‑shaped pipe tunnel slows the dog down modestly and allows the handler who was firmly behind the dog as the dog goes into the tunnel to be magically forward as the dog comes out.

Team Jumpers

This was a ripping fun course that ran very very fast.


On the 4th of July we played in the rain at Sugarbush Farm. The twisty and technical opening of the Team / PVP Jumpers had a handler or two losing their footing.

On this course the opening was like drawing back the hammer on a pinball machine. As the dog turns around at jump #6 the ball is released and the handler had better have on his track shoes. In the turn off of the spread hurdle at #11 The #14 pipe tunnel mercifully allows the handler to gather up his dog, and finish with a flourish.

It’s a bit ironic that the gathering bit in this course probably caused more faults than the technical opening. Prematurely cuing the turn at #11 set up opportunity for dropped bars and refusals (especially if the handler is well behind and not encouraging the go on). Then, coming out of the #14 pipe tunnel, both of the next two jumps were candidates for refusal. The handler needs to see the change of directions on the dismount of the tunnel, giving a clear path to the #15 jump.

Oh, and an interesting note, the turning radius of fast long-striding dogs tends to create a unique consequential path for the dog. Make of this picture what you will.


A Word Aside

The threadle opening of this course was a deliberate attempt to limit the grind of the lead-out. Many handlers will take as long to do a lead out as they take to run a course. And most of it is just plain flawed science. The opening should be step… step… release. The ploy was more of a suggestion than a demand. It’s amazing how many handlers will lead out and then mindlessly come to a stop. Really? You want to get caught flat-footed on a threadle?

What Did You Learn Today?

Judging a trial on courses of your own design demands that you are a student of the game. There are lessons to be learned in the conduct of every turn and sequence. The night of every trial I am scribbling notes and attempting to balance what I’ve observed with my conceptual universe of the game we play.

One of the notes I wrote on Sunday night… that trick at the start line, where the handler has the dog come up from behind and between her legs; the handler should be wearing slacks, and not a skirt.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.

Playful Tunnels

July 6, 2015

For some time I’ve admired the playful use of tunnels in South African agility course work and have incorporated this playful spirit into my own course designs. This past weekend I was judge for the Agiledogs USDAA trial in Stephentown, NY. I’d like to share and discuss the use of tunnels in several of my courses over the weekend.

Grand Prix


A straight pipe tunnel is sometimes called a “puppy cannon”. If you have a highly obstacle focused dog the dog will likely tag the obstacle at which the cannon takes aim. If, OTOH, you have a pure for motion dog he’ll need to feel the handler’s haste near the exit at the moment of the dismount to realize the puppy cannon effect. In the transition from #3 through #5 I wanted to test the handler’s ability to cue the more efficient turn after jump #4 so that the dog’s inertia doesn’t carry him wrong course to the #14 jump.

My original design had no #6 jump. But my course reviewer advised that the blind approach to the pipe tunnel constituted a “backside” performance, which is not allowed in Grand Prix play. The jump turned out to be a complete disaster, managing to NQ like 25% of the class. Without the jump the handler might send the dog down to get in the tunnel and be in grand position to slide past the exit (while the dog is in the tunnel), demonstrating to the dog the acute change of direction on the dismount.

I’m not actually taking issue with the course reviewer. A disaster for the exhibitor isn’t really a design problem… it’s a handling problem. Though, I’m thinking I’ll reserve this particular challenge for a “Masters Challenge” course in the future… maybe even rotate the transition jump into a “refusal” jump.

Why, you might ask, was this jump such a booger? Mostly it was a mental thing. The handler is so completely occupied with the technical bit following the jump that he may fail to adequately support the jump itself, a problem of premature articulation.

And too many handlers who did support the jump inexplicably rear crossed their dogs on the presentation of the tunnel… a handling strategy with about a 50% success rate. As I told one handler later in the day “It’s good to have a rear cross for the emergency. But every single emergency should not be of your own invention.

Many of the successful handlers at this juncture had a beautiful “rolling” Front Cross (one of the seven different types of Front Crosses.) And, of course, I admired those who did as I would do, sending the dog ahead to the jump and so be in position to slide past the exit to demonstrate the turn to the dog.

[Caution: The successful cannoneer doesn’t spend a lot of time loitering on the business end of the unspent cannon.]

There are other elements of this course worthy of discussion. The dismount of the A-frame had an unusually high occurrence of missed down contacts. I truly was surprised by this and struggled to understand the cause. I figure it had all to do with the looming pipe tunnel bit causing the handler to release before the dog had finished his work. It might also have been the simple opening of jump/A-frame with the handler taking the usual over-long lead-out, compelling the dog to race through the opening (which should be performed under collection, rather than in racing mode.) The very nature of an “I figure” conclusion just means it’s all just a wild ass guess.

The closing serpentine from the weave poles through the end of the course was an interesting bit. In this roller coaster finish the sharp smooth and cool USDAA handlers and their well-trained dogs pretty much made simple work of it. And they reminded me of why I love this game.

More playful tunnels, tomorrow.

70’s Hair

I had hair in the 70’s that was dead-on the same as singer Ray Dorset. He had a one-hit-wonder In the Summertime []. The name of his group Mungo Jerry comes from a children’s book by T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats . And, of course this was the basis of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway hit Cats. Mungojerrie and Rumpelteaser have a pretty cool bit in the play [].

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.