Archive for September, 2018

NDAL Introduces the 54×70 Charitable

September 20, 2018

This is a cross-posted blog. When I write the official blog for the NDAL I’ll take out this giddy front-matter.

I want the followers of my blog to understand how excited I am to be involved in establishing a league that raises funds for charitable donation. Last year we donated league income to hurricane Harvey relief and then along came Maria; and this year we have Florence. All of them have been terrible. And of course I worry after the dogs (and wildlife, frankly) that fall victim to these disasters; and want to support first responder organizations.

We live in wicked times and the world is paying for the consequence of global warming. For the most part I feel helpless before the awesome task of charitable giving. But, I intend to do what I am able.

Naturally I invite like-minded agility enthusiasts to get out of the egoistic titling rut, and come play for fun. Establish an NDAL league franchise. We would love to have you join us.

I commence …

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The National Dog Agility League is proud to present agility league play with the 54×70 Charitable.

League rules are quite simple:

  • Cost to play is $2.00 per run. $1.00 for recording fee, and $1.00 to the charitable fund.
  • The league series shall consist of three games or courses, played one each month for three months, beginning in October, 2018
  • One half of the charitable fund will go (each month) to a specified Primary Charity for the series (to be paid each month). Our first Primary Charity shall be the American Humane Team. You can visit their web-site here:

  • The other half of the chartable fund will go (each month) to a charity chosen by the team that wins the league competition for that month. The only real restriction is that it must be a not-for-profit charity.
  • The Series winning team shall choose the Primary Charity for the Winter 2019 series; (Jan-Feb-Mar).
  • Dogs must be registered with the NDAL to play in the league. You can find the registration form here:

    $5.00 of the registration fee will go to the Primary Charity for any dog that registers for the first time playing in the Charitable league.

  • A YouTube link in the results for each performance is required for dogs earning team placement points. Team placement points are earned by the top five scoring dogs for a franchise.
  • New teams are always welcome to join us for league play. You can download a score-keeping worksheet for the October 54×70 Charitable here:

There is no franchise fee for new clubs.


The October 54×70 ~ Beginners Quidditch

Hairy Pawter’s Quidditch is the invention of Becky Dean and Jean MacKenzie. The game was played for the first time at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, Ohio (circa 2002). The Beginner variation is the invention of our Game Master for play in the NDAL.


The objective of Quidditch is to perform three sequences. The black-circles begin play, and the second two in any order. The handler will attempt to earn a bonus (the Beater) after each:

  • White circles – 15 points; as numbered.
  • Black circles – 20 points; as numbered
  • Green squares – 25 points, sequence and all obstacles are bi-directional; and a wrong course shall not be faulted in this sequence.

When the time expires the dog should be directed to the table to stop time.

If a sequence is faulted you can immediately reattempt the same sequence or move to another sequence.

The Beater

Upon the successful completion of a sequence the team dog can earn 5 bonus points for the Beater (tire). A refusal on the Beater will negate the bonus.

After the Beater, the dog should attempt another sequence. Faulting the Beater does not fault the prior sequence.

The Bludgers Rule

A Bludger is a wrong-course obstacle.

  1. A Bludger performed during the performance of a sequence results in a sequence fault; (except for the green square sequence).
  2. A Bludger performed after a sequence on the way to the Beater shall fault the Beater.
  3. A Bludger shall not be faulted; 1) between the start line and the first obstacle of an individual sequence; 2) between the Beater and the first obstacle of a numbered sequence; 3) between the Beater and the table (to stop time)

The Golden Snitch

A 5-point Golden Snitch bonus is earned if the dog earns all three Beater bonuses.


Quidditch is scored Points, then Time. Time is a tiebreaker only.

There is no established course time in Beginner Quidditch.

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Game Master Note

We haven’t before played such a complicated game in NDAL league play. This variation represents a simplification of the more robust version that is played in the TDAA.

It’s worth noting that the simplified RULES are for beginners to the game… while the technical sequences might be somewhat advanced.

There will likely be scoring dramas between league teams as this game is introduced. So the first month of the NDAL’s Charitable 54×70 should be approached with some humor. Remember that the income is going to a good cause. And be mindful of Rule #8, which you can find in our rule book:

NDAL Secretary Note

The 50×50 Premier league has been abandoned as the foundation club has withdrawn from play; and the International challenges theme wasn’t very inviting to the recreational player.

The remaindering franchises that made up the 50×50 engaged in the development of this new Charitable league. And the 54×70 footprint (size of the floor) was ultimately the lowest common denominator among these clubs. Trust that it will be nearly perfect nested with the 50×70 Fast & Fun league.

The remaining leagues – 50×70 Fast & Fun, 60×90 Masters and 35×85 Fast & Fun are not charitable leagues. And play/dog will remain $1.00 for those leagues.

NDAL leagues are closely nested and based primarily on the 60×90 Masters.


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The Agility Community

September 19, 2018

Today we’re preparing to host the 2018 Petit Prix, which is the national championship event of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association. This is my favorite agility competition each year, by far.

The Petit Prix is never really a huge event numbers-wise. Taken on balance it’s about the size of your average neighborhood agility trial, and certainly nowhere near the maddeningly huge national events hosted by the big agility organizations in America.

We’re past the closing date, and I have nothing to sell. But, I have something to say that has been gnawing at me for a time.

Pioneers and Champions

Participation in dog agility isn’t really growing in this country. Indeed, it is modestly shrinking just about everywhere. It’s all about money, which should be no surprise. But it’s a more complicated problem than just cost.

We are losing our champions, the pioneers who embraced this sport back in the 1980’s and 90’s. We have lost people like Ruth Van Keuren, and Zona Butler, and will soon lose Jane McManus (when she finds a buyer for her property up in South Boardman, Michigan. This is not an exhaustive list. Agility people all around the country remember the early champions of the sport that created the agility world and inspired them to train dogs and play the game.

Zona Butler’s name when I first met here was Zona Tooke. So I’ll always think of her as a heroic Hobbit, like Bilbo. She was the unstoppable force in Colorado who turned her small farm into an agility training center; spent weekends running around the state to do agility demonstrations; carved out agility events at county fairs and the state fair. She was an early advocate for the United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA). The history is more colorful and complicated than that. But it’s important to remember Zona as a heroic Hobbit.

When she retired, Zona and I had a chat. She complained to me that a lot of new agility training centers had popped up around Denver. And their chief marketing strategy was to denigrate her, bad-mouth her, and so steal her students.

I reminded her of something I had read. In East of Eden Steinbeck wrote that pioneers came to Salinas Valley, California and scratched civilization into the poor land and established streets and farms, commerce and a community of families. But they were poorly remembered by those who came after and were swept aside by whores and bankers who profited from the now fruitful place.

The Complicated Market-Place

What’s really dragging down our sport is that we don’t focus on “community”. Instead, the focus is on profit. Hang out the shingle and rake in the dough seems to be the primary motivation.

Ruth Van Keuren was a marvelous champion of our sport. I co-authored a book with her back in the day, that focused on how to train dogs for our sport. But it’s very important to understand that her primary motivation was to bring children into our sport and use dog agility to teach them to be dog trainers, and dog lovers and compassionate caretakers of their canine charges. She had a huge family oriented 4H program that literally created the next generation of agility players in Minnesota.

When we lost Ruth, we also lost her vision and her motivation. So where are the young people in our sport today? Without Ruth, and moreover, without her motivation, then we are lost.

The Expense

Okay, dog agility is too expensive for the young player. And in our depressed economy we’ll define “young player” as someone into his or her 30’s.

The typically American agility player is a bit of a woos. So, trial and training must to be heated and air conditioned; we need to have turf; equipment has to be rubberized. And as we’re pretty much lost the pitch-in-and-help generation, an agility trial must have “paid” workers. This is a recipe for expense that cannot be avoided or mitigated.

I have a lot of compassion for and understanding of the agility training entrepreneur. You have lots of money invested in building , fixtures and equipment. You have bills to pay every month. And if you rent your facility… then you are trapped by inescapable recurring expenses.

What to do?

And, by the Way

Thunder Pawz is hosting an Invitational Tournament in Peoria, IL on October 20 and 21, 2018. Entries are about half the cost of any traditional agility trial. And, because the club isn’t beholding to any agility organization half of their income will go back to exhibitors in a fun sweepstakes format.

You can download the premium here:

The Thunder Paws sweepstakes tournament is an experiment in growing their agility community. If you have the weekend off, this might be a lot more fun that mowing the lawn.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.

Call To and Around-The-Clock

September 16, 2018

It has been a very busy month for me. So the homework I had intended for a seminar at In Contact next month hasn’t been coming along at a furious pace. That’s fine, I’m sure. It’s always hard to cram two years of dog training into a couple short months.

Sub-title: Dog Training 101 ~ part 3

Today I made a recording for the In Contact students… and put it on YouTube. I had to… after all, in a moment of Zen… I share the Secret of Dog Training, for the first time, ever.

The objective of this exercise is to practice equipment (especially the technical equipment) with the dog coming toward your position. I showed this exercise using the set of the floor for the NDAL 50×50 Premium course for September. And I’m not abashed to admit that I want this skill for this particular course.

Cedar Come to Training:

It strikes me as I look at the recording that my work with Cedar incorporate a variety of skills all of which have their own training objectives and steps. In addition to the “Come To” I was working on a Back Pass (which was substantially failing in this recording); a modest “Around the Clock” approach to the tire; as well as Left and Right directional.

I will share with you the “Around the Clock” training basics, below.

Around the Clock

The first rule of distance training is that the dog needs to understand the performance of the obstacle. What we have to do in the training of the dog is to ask the question… “do you know how to do this obstacle?”

In the discussion below I show the handler making the introduction of a “hoop” to the dog. In case you don’t know the hoop is an obstacle used by NADAC. I find it to be an excellent obstacle for training a very young dog because there won’t be any stress from jumping. Later we’ll transfer the same method to jumps, and to the tire.


This is around-the-clock training. It is also a progressive sending exercise. Though clearly as we begin the send might only be a matter of inches. Because we want the dog to go forward of the handler to go through the hoop we might introduce the directional command “Go On!”

I show in the drawing clock positions #6 back through #3. These correspond with the numbers on a clock and are only intended as rough references. While sending the dog forward to go through the hoop the handler/dog trainer might move only in small incremental steps around the circumference of the clock.

One of the benefits of this training is to teach the dog to “square up” a bit for the performance of an obstacle. With hoops it isn’t a very dramatic action. By the time we introduce the tire (using the same method) squaring up will be considerably more important.


There is a point in training that we can be pretty confident that the dog understands his job… the performance of the obstacle. In this drawing I show the handler making his start with the dog roughly 25′ from the center of the clock. Under my rules of “asking the question” I begin with my dog at side facing neatly in the direction of the hoop and take a single step, while pointing forward, telling my dog to “go on, hoop!”

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.


Dog Training 101 ~ part 2

September 3, 2018

I was tickled to see that several of the seminar participants for my up & coming at In Contact had a training evening for the Back Pass. I received an email with .MOV (movie) files of these students teaching their dogs this skill. I don’t really have permission to publish them in my blog. But, a couple observations:

  • Reward the dog immediately as he comes around
  • Begin fading the hand and arm signal, reducing it to a verbal command. That is not to say that you won’t use the hand and arm signal; but you want the verbal to entice the dog immediately into handler focus.

I want to share a couple of my runs in the NDAL 50×50 Premier league in August. Mostly I want to demonstrate how often I might incorporate the back pass into a handling strategy, especially to solve “international” agility challenges.

This is Kory, who finished the course with zero faults in 42.38 seconds:

And Katniss, who finished the course with zero faults in 47.26 seconds:

Progressive Sending

New homework. One of the most important skills in agility is the ability to send the dog forward. This is lesson #1.


Fundamental to any progressive sending exercise is that a) the dog is sent to the performance, and not dragged, b) the handler should send from a progressively greater distance; and c) each send should be slightly farther than the last (it can’t be a progressive exercise without progression).

When we engage in such training we are in “dog trainer mode”. That means the handler/trainer should be equipped with a good marker for performance (a clicker should do nicely, however a good verbal marker is just hunky dory); and a reward for the dog, whether that be a food treat or a game with a toy.

The devil is in the details.

  • A distance send really has nothing to do with standing still. Indeed, slamming on the brakes or slowing dramatically are apt to draw the dog back into handler focus and away from the target obstacle.
  • Flapping one’s arm when sending is a small detail that is apt to draw the dog back into handler focus, and away from the target obstacle.
  • The handler should give the target obstacle all of his focus when sending the dog. That means the handler looks at it, points at it, and moves towards it. Note that the pointing is more significant by the handler’s feet… than the arm and hands. The dog pays close attention to the direction the handler’s feet are facing/pointing.

Make your sends from as far away as you are comfortable. Progress only modestly to assure that the dog is able to succeed. Be mindful that failing to mark the performance or being late in rewarding the dog for the performance will confuse your dogs’ understanding of the object lesson.

 “To understanding the importance of timing of the reward all you have to do is count: one-thousand one, one-thousand too … late!”.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.