Training With NDAL

Courses published by the National Dog Agility League are intended to be resources for training, recreation, and competition. For a moment I would like to focus on the “training” element.

An NDAL course is always open. What that means is that a club can set up a published NDAL course and run it at any time. When the results are reported, all of the new results are commingled with all existing (and historical) results.

The wickedly clever training director will immediately grasp the implications of this for both setting training objectives and measuring the results of that training. A training center might run a particular course, every other year for years. It would be a fascinating study to compare results for individual dogs over those runs and reruns. And I don’t mean just compare scores… look at the advancing skills of the team and the partnership between dog and handler.

Of course it’s very fun that our reporting includes a field for a YouTube recording. And so comparison of performance is substantially visual.

50×70 Fun & Flow


Training objectives can be wide-ranging. On a course like this I could write forty different lesson plans all having different objectives and lessons.

It is somewhat serendipitous that this course offers a challenge that is prominently featured in a training program we have for our young dog Cedar. Specifically, we are engaged in “Named obstacle discrimination” training. This is a thing that I have documented in detailed manner in the pages of The Joker’s Notebook (the distance training series I sell on my web-store).

It is very important to understand that words in a book are meaningless unless they are taken in a purposeful manner to the real world and become a part of a dog’s training. It’s not enough to understand how to do it. You actually have to do the training to own (or deserve) the objective skills of that training.

Okay, on the 50×70 course I’m interested in the transitions through jumps #13 and #14 and the approach to the A-frame at #15. This challenge dovetails nicely with my ongoing training with Cedar. Following are two recording sessions I’ve taken with her. She’s nearly two years old now… so it’s time for some nifty skills:

Part One ~ I took this video about a week into Cedar’s training on Named Obstacles. She struggled to understand what I was asking for. My response when she guesses wrong is as important and meaningful to the training progression as is my response when she guesses right!

Part Two ~ This video was taken within a couple days of our league team running the 50×70 Fun & Flow course. Cedar is looking pretty good! That doesn’t mean I get to stop or rest in this training regimen. I continue to make the skill solid and permanent; and I need to introduce generalization.

Teaching Classes

So it’s important to understand that I can’t make “Named Obstacle Discrimination” the core focus for our advanced handling class. Think about it, I’ve been doing two-a-day sessions for several weeks with Cedar. I did the same foundation training with my boy Kory (circa six years ago). I cannot cram all of that into a two hour class for my students. It would just frustrate the crap out of them. I can suggest the training methodology…

However, making suggestions of training objectives and methodology does not constitute a proper training agenda for an advanced handling class.

So I’m going to use this opportunity to steal from the competition!

The Competition

I mentioned the YouTube recordings included in NDAL results and reporting… I really like that I can see how others solve course challenges. This intelligence might well direct our own training efforts. Allow me to give an example:

AQ4U’s Fast & Furryous in Louisville, KY has reported for the July 2016 50×70 NDAL Fast & Fun league. We will share the YouTube recording of Blade, a Border Collie run by Brian Wakefield. Blade finished this course with zero faults in a time of 23.44 seconds:

Brian’s run with really quite excellent! I want to show this to my students, and see how they might solve the opening with Brian’s approach.

First of all, Brian opened the course with a very aggressive flat angle approach to the first jump in order to straighten out the opening line as much as possible.

The bit that I find most fascinating, however, is the #3 to #4 transition. What Brian does here is what I call a do-se-do Blind Cross. On a regular Blind cross the handler changes sides forward of the dog from on the inside of the curve. In the do-se-do Blind Cross the handler changes sides from the outside of the curve! I’ve never completely understood why the do-se-do actually works, but it nearly always does.

Some of you know that we’ve been studying the Back Pass. There is a strong relationship between a Blind Cross and a Back Pass. The chief difference is that the Blind Cross is relative, and the Back Pass is absolute. [[I know that I should explain at length… but I’m already in the middle of explaining something else, at length.]]

Anyhow for our class on league play night we’ll talk about and practice both the Blind Cross and the Back Pass.

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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 Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

2 Responses to “Training With NDAL”

  1. Jane Guidinger Says:

    Hey Bud, thanks for the info and the great videos. We actually set up your last NDAL course at Daisyland and many ran it quite successfully. Jane in Idaho

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