Archive for the ‘Cedar Shakes the Woof’ Category

Resolutions for a New Year

December 29, 2015

I promise in 2016 to take better care of my health. I’ve got to lose weight; and I’ve got to eat better. Beyond that I will enjoy life day by day and make the most of my hobbies and passions.

The funny thing is, after a lifetime of striving to build and develop for “the future”… I realize that the future is now. It’s a change for me, to live for today, and not for tomorrow. Do I know how to do it?

I’ll share a couple of my projects for the New Year below.

The Joker’s Notebook

Since we got our young girl Cedar we’ve been video-taping our ongoing training, subscribing to Marsha’s Two Minute Dog Trainer methodology. It is my intention to take a fairly extensive body of work from the pages of The Joker’s Notebook and create a compendium publication with links to YouTube videos which give a visual reference to the training.

I got a chuckle the other day when going through the videos and found more than one of me in my robe doing early morning training with Cedar. That’s the reality of dog training. You don’t always get dressed up like you’re going to be on camera. Sometimes you just throw on the morning robe and go get ‘er done.

Not to brag, or anything, but the Joker’s Notebook is a comprehensive reference for teaching a dog independent performance in agility and the perfect foundation for an amazing distance dog.

Cedar has her own Facebook page with lots of her videos published: Cedar’s Facebook page

Agility League Play

A chief passion for me for the last several years has been to build a league of franchise clubs that run the same course or play the same game in a league format. The league finally has some traction and is slowly (oh, so slowly) growing.

The National Dog Agility League has a presence on Facebook: NDAL on Facebook

The first game we’re going to play here at my place in 2016 is the course set for a 60′ x 90′ space. In the 60×90 we’re getting away from the “international” grind into something more lovely and flowing… but certainly with some challenge.

I’ll share with you:

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This should be a lot of fun!

Come Play With Us!

The National Dog Agility League is gearing up for a new year. We have been tantalized with the prospect of a NatGeo program in early 2017 based on our championship series. The program will be based on the players who support the league.

You can find a description of the 1st quarter 2016 series here: http://wp.me/p2Pu8l-67

The first quarter series is actually three separate leagues based on a) size of the floor and b) difficulty of the challenges.

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

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Memorial Weekend at Stockade Agility

May 28, 2015

If you design a course with a very low Q rate it possibly says something significant about the design. Maybe it’s too technical and should be reserved for a Masters Challenge class. But looking back at the course I cannot really spy the painfully technical bits. You tell me!

I’ll share the course with you:

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It’s clear that when designing a course I see myself in the context of that design; I mean, me as handler and competitor (as opposed to me the unrelenting design Grinch.) This means that I design for an old guy with arthritic knees who runs a dog with really excellent independent performance skills. As a practical matter most sequences will fold back in on themselves, allowing me to move from control position to control position while allowing the dog to work at speed.

On the course map I’ve marked two places I know I have to be to give good direction in a technical moment. The first “X” solves the #6 pipe tunnel while the dog is faced with three options on the dismount of the dogwalk. The second “X” solves the modest backside approach to jump #11.

Legendary

I had the pleasure to judge Wendy Cerilli at this trial. Understand that I was witnessing a legend in the making here. Wendy runs TEN Aussie dogs… in every class. If you grasp what this means… this is no wimpy AKC trial with two runs a day. This is the USDAA where the big dogs play. That means Wendy was in the ring 50 times a day.

The fun thing is that she used the same handling plan with all dogs; with considerable success, mind you. This made it easy for me to understand and predict my judging position, even in the dog’s choice games.

I’ve had the luck to judge many legendary figures over the years. I’m tickled to add Wendy to that list.

Speaking of Legends

Fran Seibert came out to the trial site just to say hi to me. Many of the real heroes in this sport are folks who’ve run agility schools since the early days of agility in this country, and have introduced hundreds and hundreds of people to our sport (like Zona at Rocky Mountain Agility out in Denver; Terry Bessler out in South Dakota; and dozens of others around the country).

Years ago I did a seminar at Fran’s place. I was talking to the group about the “Laws of a Dog in Motion”. Fran tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the back of the building… where the “Laws” are stenciled in a big bold display:

The Laws of a Dog in Motion

  1. The dog turns when the handler turns
  2. The dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler’s path
  3. A dog ahead of the handler tends to curl back to the handler’s position
  4. The dog gets his speed cue from the handler’s speed
  5. The dog gets his direction cue from the handler’s shoulders, toes, hips, and movement

You can put an asterisk next to #3 with the notation: Nothing straightens the line like the certainty in the mind of a well-trained dog.

Masters Standard Continued …

Okay, my analysis of why the Q rate was so low on this course. The “Laws of a Dog In Motion” fundamentally describe a context for handler discipline and timing. It was early in the trial. People were still tight and more than a bit nervous. A minor error, the tic of a bar, half an inch outside the yellow, a bobble in the weaves … it doesn’t take much to elude the Q.

In fact, the players at the Stockade trial were amazing to watch, and brought considerable skill and grace to the field. Reminds me of why I love dog agility.

Giddy Up

Lisa Barrett ran a little Toy Poodle named Giddy Up all weekend. This little dog was amazing, yipping and digging her nails into every moment, attacking the course with every ounce of her little body. Lisa is an accomplished handler who understands every nuance of handler movement and pressure. Together the two were a show for the big tent.

Returning Home

I was about sun struck over the weekend. Standing out in the sun for three days is physically demanding. Like an idiot, I had left my Akubra (hat) sitting by the door at home. <sigh>

I continued working with our young girl Cedar when I got home. We’re getting her ready to raise hell at the TDAA Petit Prix this year. And you need skills to survive in the little dog venue.

http://youtu.be/Y6PuGWTsBc8

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

Short Sequencing (in the basement)

February 18, 2015

Our space in the basement isn’t really all that big. I’m antsy to get out in the training building and put together some of the skills we’ve been working on. But don’t you know we’re living through the Blizzard of 2015; so I’m content to continue in the basement until the world thaws out a bit.

Here’s a very short YouTube: http://youtu.be/dD-pDyxoBB0

I’m about ready to bring in another set of 2x weave poles. Cedar’s intro to weaves is about six months earlier than I did with Kory. But she’s like a learning machine and I thought… what the hell, why not?!

This has a bit of a Teacup flavor to it. And indeed we intend to show her in the TDAA. But I would like her to excel in other flavors of agility as well. The TDAA sharpens the handler’s timing and awareness in a way that none of the big dog venues can accomplish with a small dog.  An important mission of the TDAA is to give the small dog handler a taste of timing skills that handlers of big & fast dogs have to master for day-to-day survival in the big-dog flavors of agility.

I ran across this old video of me running a loaner dog in a jumpers course (out at Zona’s place in Arvada, Colorado!) http://youtu.be/WljrZe_sf9U

Play in the TDAA is not for the faint of heart.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Table “Down”

February 16, 2015

We continue to record Cedar’s ongoing foundation training. She has just turned 6 months old. I’m happy to report that she weighs 18 lbs and measures 15-1/2″. That’s a perfect small-dog size for play with any agility organization (including the TDAA).

Cedar is a dog who has never had a meal in this house without “working” for it. I’m sorry that we haven’t captured every grueling moment of the training. It’s hard for any person with novice dog training skills to understand the meticulous detail of training; which is a matter of vision, objective, and patience.

We’ve dragged the agility table into the basement and this morning began the foundation for Table Down. The objective is to be able to send her to a table where she will promptly assume a down position.

Here’s the YouTube: http://youtu.be/1jrWU1T9s0s

This is a method I documented some 15 years ago in the pages of The Just For Fun Agility Notebook (also in the book I co-authored with Ruth Van Keuren, The Jr. Handler’s Training Guide).

When working with a dog I rely quite a bit on free-shaping. This means I am not much of a fan of luring or targeting. And yet this exercise has a bit of a lure in it. Once the dog is on the table I’ll give the verbal command “Lie Down!” and drop my fist to the table. My fist will have a bit of kibble in it. And as all dogs have x-ray vision, she’ll be studying my hand, trying to figure out what it takes for me to open it, and give her the treat. Ultimately the dog will belly down to study the problem… whereupon she has met my criterion and will get the treat.

You’ll note in the recording that in several reps she figures out faster and faster what she needs to do to get me to open my hand and give up the reward.

I’ll share the progression of this training method as we go along.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Cedar’s Back Pass Training

January 16, 2015

I’d like to share with you a couple short recordings of Cedar’s early Back Pass training. Right now I’m teaching a clockwise Back Pass, and I use the verbal “Come By”. I reckon I’m ruining any herding career… but that’s no major loss.

This recording shows a very early introduction to the Back Pass:

http://youtu.be/ZUXL6rAFOpI

I teach this initially by luring around my body with a food treat, while giving the verbal command. This soon becomes a draw with my lead… maybe even a flick of the arm. Gradually I relax the physical cue until it turns to verbal only.

Here’s a recording of the Back Pass not quite a week into the training:

http://youtu.be/9fePPUNIqys

I would probably record more. But don’t you know this is meal-time training. Frankly, sometimes I’m in my robe and big fluffy slippers. And that doesn’t make very attractive video.

Marsha makes the point in one of the recordings that Cedar is a dog who has never had a meal just plopped down for her to eat. From the moment she came into our house she has worked for every bit of every meal. This is the essence of the Two-Minute Dog Trainer.

This protocol makes her keen to learn and anxious to offer performance to earn her meals. When she’s young she’ll learn skills that she’ll hold for life.

You might wonder why I’m teaching this skill. It is certainly not very common in the agility world. I maintain that in another ten years it will be a common skill. The agility world “at large” hasn’t much discovered it yet. Consider these qualities: When calling the dog to a Back Pass the dog drops completely out of obstacle focus and into handler focus; and, it allows the handler to perfectly set the corner of approach to the course.  I’ll leave you to mull over the consequences of these attributes.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Cedar’s Continued Teeter Training

January 5, 2015

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Click on the picture above for a very short video of Cedar working the teeter after four or five days of training. You can compare that to the intro video we published a few days ago: http://youtu.be/x-eQK-90pIs

The Tell?

The other day I had a remarkable session with Cedar in which I gave her a series of 9 Left and Right commands, and she spun the correct direction each time. Then I handed over the job (and the treats) to Marsha, who conducted the same experiment. Cedar’s success rate plunged to around 50%.

What do you think that was about?

I have this idea that maybe I have a subtle “tell”. Cedar has become expert at reading my tell and promptly follows this reading to tell which direction to turn. For many years I studied what I call “phantom” movements; that is, the dog follows a cue that the handler isn’t aware that he’s given. There’s a phantom Blind Cross and a phantom Front Cross… even a phantom Tandem Turn.

Most physical cues that we give actually have a complicated chain of physical events which lead eventually to the substantial cue. The dog becomes expert at reading that chain and begins working backwards, down the chain, to take the cue on a precursor event.

Of course, I’m actually engaged in teaching Cedar verbal cues rather than physical cues. It makes me believe that no matter how much I’m endeavoring to put the performance on a verbal-only cue my body can’t help but give a helpful twitch that betrays my intent.

Fascinating study!

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Cedar’s Intro to the Teeter

December 29, 2014

I brought our teacup teeter into the basement this morning because it’s time for Cedar to get her introduction the obstacle. You’ll note that I don’t spend a lot of time on a tippy board or a Buja board. I want to see right off the bat how she deals with the movement and noise. If I go to a tippy board it will be for remediation.

Here’s the video: http://youtu.be/x-eQK-90pIs

In the back of my mind

An experienced agility trainer will be well aware of the difficulties associated with the Teeter. Here’s a web log entry I wrote maybe five years ago: Review of Teeter Fear

I’m a little surprised, looking back at it, how much I had to say on the topic. With any luck, all of that is in my mind as we bring a new dog along in her training.

I note that there’s a picture of my old girl Hazard (when she was young) in the blog post. She’s getting an introduction to movement under her feet with a foot pedestal that rocks back and forth. Marsha, armed with a clicker and food treats, has had Cedar in the living room on that very same pedestal in the last couple of days. So my protestations about disdaining intro/training devices should be taken with a grain of salt.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Left and Right

December 28, 2014

When teaching a dog absolute directional I begin by luring her into the turn while giving a name or command to the performance. Gradually I stop luring… and indeed I stop giving any physical cue at all. Ultimately I want the dog to understand the performance based on the verbal command only.

Then, for the longest time, each session will focus on a single direction.

I’ve progressed with Cedar to the point that I’m using both Left and Right in the same training session. Now I’m keen to see how she differentiates between the two distinctly different commands. Here’s a video of today’s session: http://youtu.be/tB5BKsCfdVI

You can hear Marsha in the tape explaining how I deal with Cedar’s choice of turning direction. If she gets it right, I praise her and give her a bit of food. If she gets it wrong, I briefly turn my back on her, just to make an emphatic point.

There’s nothing complicated in the pattern of my commands at this point. I do “Right-Right-Right” then “Left-Left-Left”, and repeat. When she’s getting it right in the 80 percentile range, I’ll start using more complicated patterns.

Ass Pass

Chris Miele asks to see a video of the Back Pass (aka the “Ass Pass”). What I really want to do is show the training steps, using our young girl Cedar as a for reals learn-it-from-scratch dog. But, I did dredge up at least one video that shows me doing a Back Pass with my boy Kory. On this jumpers course the dog’s approach to the weave poles was nearly perpendicular; and there was a high NQ rate for dogs missing the entry. So I used the Back Pass to bring Kory around square to the entry:

http://youtu.be/ZVEhSkitJ7Y ~ Thanks to Brenda Gilday for the recording.

Blogging

It strikes me that in about a month I will write my 1000th web log.

When I started this I ran a big training center, doing six or eight camps each year. I was out in the world doing a lot of seminars, and on many weekends showing my dogs. I lived agility pretty much every waking hour of the day.

The pace has certainly slowed down, mostly because I’ve slowed down. Arthritis has brought a premature end to my campaigning days. My boy Kory is almost constantly lame these days, though it’s a bit of a phantom condition that comes and goes almost at whip. And I don’t much feel an urgent need either to cure him or rush out and get another dog.

The Teacup Dogs Agility Association keeps my brain in the sport. It’s not a big titling organization compared to just about any other. But it is honest and challenging and provides a modest income (add to our “landlord” income, and at least we have a roof over our heads).

Early next year there’s a group of agility fans who will descend on us for a “Training with Bud ~ old-timer’s camp”. The camp is being organized by the notorious Sue Sternberg, one of my favorite students. That should be fun. I’ll see if I can still make them cry.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Cedar’s “Go-On” Training

December 24, 2014

When teaching a “Go On” directional I will continue to advance the exercise, always keen to take it to the next step. Young Cedar is showing plenty of willingness and aptitude for the training. We shot this video this evening: http://youtu.be/o_hKS3qd8vo

It’s about time for me to take the exercise into the back yard to give me a bit more room for the send.

Notes on the Tandem Turn

A Tandem Turn is a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle, or on the flat. Contrast this with the Back Cross, which is a cross behind the dog on the approach to an obstacle.

An experienced handler will try to be positioned on the side of the turn because the dog turns most naturally towards the handler. The clever and evil judge may design a course that intentionally traps the handler on the wrong side away from the turn. The handler needs an answer to that riddle.

We rely on the premise that our dogs already understand how we move. So in the Tandem we turn towards the dog, distinctly and boldly. The dog, understanding our movement should make the turn in this new direction although the turn is toward his side.

This illustration shows the “off-arm” Tandem. As the dog comes up over the jump the handler brings up his opposite arm, pointing out in the direction of the turn.

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Of course, the turn is more than just an arm signal. At the same time the handler is rotating his body, turning, and moving in the direction of the turn. It’s also a good idea to develop a verbal command to coincide with all of these other cues.

The handler’s position should be only slightly forward of the dog for the dog to see the cues for the turn. At the same time the handler should not be so far ahead that he can’t step behind the dog (it is a form of the Rear Cross, after all).

Which arm should be used to signal the turn is a bit controversial. It’s reported that Susan Garret calls the counter-arm Tandem the “evil-Ohio-arm,” and advocates using only the inside arm (the arm nearer to the dog).

The inside-arm Tandem was originally shown to me by a lady from Los Angeles (Barbara Mah.) I thought it looked so silly that for a long time I called in the “La La” turn.

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However, I discovered that one of my dogs, who I’d been struggling for over a year to teach the off-arm Tandem, understood the “inside” arm immediately. He got it the first time he saw it, and made the turn perfectly. So, I no longer call it the La La turn. This is now the Inside-Arm Tandem.

All the other elements of the turn are the same. The handler should rotate his body, turn the corner, and move in the direction of the turn.

Oh, as to the controversy about which arm to use: we’ll use the arm that our dog implicitly understands. There are no “one size fits all” solutions in agility. The Tandem Turn should always be learned with practice.

Some dogs respond to both signals, but give a different response to each. This illustration shows a scenario in which the turn is still away from the handler’s position, but the true course is the gentler path up to jump #2.

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I would always use the inside-arm Tandem in this situation. I had a dog (Bogie) who always took the off-arm as a “hard and deep” instruction. He’d flip back to jump #3, giving jump #2 a pass. He’d interpret the inside-arm Tandem as a gentler turn, and would be, properly, directed to jump #2.

These aren’t hard and fast rules of the performance. The handler should experiment with both arms and understand the dog’s response to each. Know thy dog.

The Tandem Turn can be used on the dismount from technical obstacles, on the exit of a tunnel. The biggest danger is that the handler’s turn mightn’t have enough “push” to get the dog away before turning back. A Tandem is only successful when the dog believes in the turn. It must be convincing, and compelling.

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Oh, one final detail worth mentioning. The Tandem Turn “creates” distance. It’s a great movement to use to open up the real estate between dog and handler. In this illustration the handler is working parallel to the dog over the first two jumps with a bit of lateral distance. At the “corner” the handler surges into the turn showing the arm signal for the turn.

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To the dog’s point of view the handler is making the turn; and the dog frankly won’t know until after jump #3 that the handler did not attend. It doesn’t matter. The dog should work faithfully in a path parallel to the handler to get to jump #4, even at a substantial distance.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Two-a-Day

December 22, 2014

I’m actually busy on a lot of fronts these past few days. There’s a bunch of stuff that I can’t share on my blog (not quite yet). These are tough days for other reasons. Marsha’s father passed away about a week ago. And I don’t really want to talk about the goings on as a public matter.

Cedar is getting her two-a-day training. Her “distance” training is bringing us to the point that we’ll have to take her out of the basement and to the training building (or out to the lower field if this really nice warm weather lasts much longer). Though she’s only five months old this is an important time in a dog’s life to build some great behaviors that she will own for her whole life.

By this time next year we’ll be filling out her very first trial entries! It’s funny that it’s a whole year away. It sounds like a lot of time. But it’s not so much when you consider that there’s so much to do.

Football

I used to be a for real NFL football fan. I’m thinking that Michael Vick took that away from me. He was like a complete scumbag that horribly mistreated dogs in his care. I know that he “paid his time.” I resent that he can crawl out of prison and earn millions as a professional football player.

On a morning sports talk show I remember a group of expert pundits, so called, sitting around a table, talking about Vick. One of them said “You’ve got to admire that he was a stand-up guy and didn’t roll on anyone else!” That means he didn’t expose the other scumbags who were out enjoying their vicious sport.

I’m trying to imagine the same bunch of guys sitting around a table talking about Jerry Sandusky…  “You’ve got to admire that he was a stand-up guy and didn’t roll on anyone else!”

The idea that the NFL would allow Michael Vick into their league… that the NY Jets would take this man reflects so poorly on them. Since he got out of prison he’s been a complete lowlife as a player. He doesn’t prepare for his games and doesn’t care if his team wins or loses. He just shows up and cashes his check. That’s what kind of man he is. Both the Jets and the NFL got what they deserve out of this scumbag.

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The proliferation of sports talk shows is really kind of a grind. You tune into these things to hear who’s going to win and lose upcoming games. And to the credit of these “experts” they manage to be right about 50% of the time.

It’s funny listening to their awkward use of the English language. That’s the only thing fun about any of these programs. A fellow the other day said “Cam Newton’s injury looks worse than it appears to be!”

And all of them sing praise to their patron sport: “If it wasn’t for football, I wouldn’t be playing football today!”

The Hobbit

Did you see the trilogy of Hobbit movies? What did you think?

Tomorrow I want to chat about them.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.