Archive for the ‘Dog Agility Training’ Category

Putin’s Plan for America

May 27, 2020

In 2016 Putin and Russia launched a massive assault on America using social media platforms, like Facebook.

If we ever return to normal (and we haven’t been turned into a white supremacist dictatorship) the efficacy of changing political fortunes using social media will require a very thoughtful study.

One thing is certain, every Trump supporter plugged into social media spent 2016 sharing dozens, if not hundreds, of propaganda posts that were authored by hacker agents in the Ukraine, and Romania, and Moscow. Putin had an army of propagandists turning out stuff that was gleefully accepted by Trump Nation… no matter how lame and ridiculous and incendiary.

What Putin wants for America, is for us to collapse, to suffer, to die. He wants us to hate on each other, to be divided and suspicious. He must really be pleased with himself.

But now, his new attack on us is dangerous, and is likely to kill quite a few Americans. Putin’s propagandists have seized on the Conronavirus pandemic and are keen to politicize it, to make it an “us vs them” proposition.

I want to share some of the constant torrent of new propaganda that comes across my computer. This stuff is really dangerous.

The idea that COVID19 is a hoax… and just a flu is only rational to the kind of individuals without much intellectual curiosity (don’t like science, history, reading). You guessed it… this is the kind of stuff that would appeal to Donald Trump.


A Federal supported program to vote by mail will likely save tens of thousands of lives in the year of the pandemic. People who are opposed to vote by mail will spout the argument that voting by mail makes our election subject to fraud and abuse; though there are no facts to support such a stupid idea.


Like a lot of propaganda for stupid people, we should respond as though we are explaining to a 10-year-old. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. COVID-19 spreads from person to person, and can be spread by those who are infected but don’t display symptoms. A mask does NOT completely protect the wearer; nor does it completely protect people around the wearer. It’s a matter of simple mitigation, reducing the severity of risk.


Aside from the fact that the death-rate from COVID19 is 200 times higher than this piece of propaganda purports, I’m fascinated by the introduction of a plot stemming from “Political CORRUPTION”. I believe Putin has fooled about a million Americans with this piece of shit. I’d almost admire his brilliant gambit… if he weren’t trying to kill us.


Just to show what we are up against, in the list are the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control… two very important sources for science that will give us guidance to survive the pandemic. And Dr. Faucci is a very capable scientist who served for three decades on the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, before joining Trumps Coronavirus Task Force. But this administration is bothered and petulant about the intrusion of science into Donald Trumps make-believe world.

And, I’m fascinated with Bill Gates being on this list. How was he thrust into the middle of conspiracy theory? Over 40% of Republicans wrongly believe Bill Gates will use COVID-19 vaccines to implant microchips in them.


Back in 2015 Bill Gates suggested “The next outbreak? We’re not ready.” And today Bill and Melinda Gates are actively involved in support and sponsorship for research to find a vaccine.


I’m a life-long Democrat. I believe that we have a right to affordable health care; and I believe that when we work, we should earn a living wage. I suppose I’m socially moderate and fiscally conservative. There’s a lot of HATE for Democrats out there on Trumpers social media. After all, wasn’t that Putin’s objective? To FOOL America? To make us HATE and DISTRUST?

Looks like it’s working. Eh?

My question then, if I am the one who’ll be joining the enemy, then why are YOU the one doing the enemy’s work?

[I apologize. Since Republicans don’t read, the only ones who’ll make it down this far in this writing are Democrats. I did not mean to say that YOU are Putin’s fool.]


Ukrainian hackers used quizzes to access private Facebook data



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.

Writing a Lesson Plan for Agility Classes

May 22, 2020

Our floor is always set for the current NDAL league course. Consequently, it’s natural that we will develop the lesson plan using the set of equipment on the floor.

A lesson plan should be appropriate for the skill level of the handlers and dogs for whom it is intended. So the exercises that we would present to a Masters class is going to be dramatically different from what we present to a Novice class.

This is the course that we will be running this week:


Sketching Out a Plan

A “break-down” format is a lesson plan that is based literally on the sequencing from the NDAL game of the week. The curriculum probably should include “freestyle” exercises, which have the dog running sequences that have no relationship to the game of the week.



Red Numbers

We’re working on a “Lead Out” in this exercise. The slight slant to jump #1 will beguile the novice handler into squaring the dog up for the jump, rather than squaring the dog for the sequence ahead.

White Numbers

Again, we’re working on a lead-out. In the previous exercise there wasn’t much incentive to get a very long lead out. In this sequence, however, the handler is obligated to be comfortably forward of the dog as the dog commits over jump #2 in order to be in position to Front Cross. Of course, some novice handlers won’t spot the need for a change of sides here.


Red Numbers

The focus of this exercise might very well turn out to be the performance of the teeter. For some dogs it takes awhile for the dog to muster up enough confidence to do the teeter. For novice dogs you must insist that the handler reward the dog on the tip of the teeter.

The sequence calls a change of sides on the approach to jump #4. If you want to have a bit of fun with the exercise, you can ask for another change of sides from jump #4 to jump #5.

White numbers

This is a simple dog-on-right sequence. The exercise will certainly be about the weave poles. Note that the weave poles are wired. More advanced dogs might need only the entry and exit wired; some might not need wires at all. But you should be prepared to provide for the lowest-common-denominator.



Red Numbers

This sequence begs for two Front Crosses. In the transition from the weave poles to jump #3 the handler might start the cross too early and pull the dog out of the weave poles prematurely; giving the instructor an opportunity for a “timing” lecture.

The next cross is a simple Front Cross wrapping the dog after jump #5.

The Post Turn from jump #3 to jump #4 might emerge as a subtle challenge. In the Post the handler is obligated to create an approach to jump #4.

White Numbers

The interesting bit in this sequence is surely the transition from jump #3 to the counter-side tunnel at #4. This is surely the work of a Front Cross; [of the eight different kinds of Front Crosses, this is a serpentine Front Cross which delivers an “S” shaped dog’s path. Truly, it is a combination movement, Front Cross to Post Turn.]

A modest lead-out would probably be a good idea.


Black Numbers

For the most part, this sequence could be taken as a fun romp. But I put a twist in the exercise in the #6 to #8 bit. I would love to use this bit to teach a “Tandem Turn” (crossing behind the dog on the dismount of jump #6)… which means the handler should approach jump #6 with dog-on-left.

The harder concept to teach is how to set the approach for jumps #8 and #9. I’ve drawn an “x” on this course to demonstrate where the dog should turn to set a square approach through those jumps.

Red Numbers

The central challenge in this sequence is the threadle from jump #5 to jump #6. The movement is complicated by the notion that the handler probably wants dog-on-right on the approach to jump #6. What to do?

A “Flip” (Ketchker) might be a good answer to solving the threadle. Have the first aid kit handy for the handler who isn’t exercising enough awareness of the teeter on his left… while giving attention to the dog, on his right.

Instructor Notes

  • Most of the sequences in the lesson plan have the dog starting a sequence in roughly the same place/area where they END the sequence. This allows the handler to toss down the dog’s leash and doesn’t use up a lot of class time with the handler trudging across the floor to capture his leash while the dog runs wild about the building.
  • You should show a sequence to students without suggesting the handling solution. The handler’s first round is the “entertainment round”. This allows the instructor to assess what his students have learned. On subsequent attempts at the sequence, the instructor can make handling suggestions, give long lectures, and tell jokes.

    By the way, it is possible that when your students run a sequence, they will teach you (the instructor) something you didn’t know or should, at the very least, study.

  • You should give much thought to where students will stand while awaiting their turn in an exercise.

    In the interest of providing plenty of social distancing in a group class, handlers should queue for an exercise with 10′ or 12′ of separation.

  • While it’s good to have the Clean Run Course Designer, and Word, and Acrobat and Photoshop; computers and devices high tech…

    NONE of this is required to have a lesson plan. Sketch out your sequence, make a few notes about what you want to accomplish. The important thing is that you don’t get stuck in a “Gee! What should we do now?” moment.

    With that in mind… I’ll include a page or two for the complete “Barbarian’s Lesson Plan”.


The Barbarian’s Lesson Plan




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.

Science Fiction Script Scenario

May 9, 2020

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears, and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call … The Twilight Zone. ~ Rod Serling

Have you ever though that it might be kind of fun to write a science fiction story at the same time you are living it? An unreal science fiction is what our world feels like these days. We live in a world beyond the outer limits of imagination.

I need some help with the script. Right now, the script is little more than a timeline. It needs character and plot.

Send your writing to me. We’ll do this together (  What else do you have to do… after all? This document has been and will be updated as we go along.


Character Plotting

The Barnaby Hospital Psychiatric Support Center (St Louis) ~ Amid considerable sickness and death in the facility; They have been locked up together, forced interaction. They already had every altered perception of reality you can conceive of, or were suicidal, and that’s *before* the pandemic. Until the hospital is abandoned by staff (who were state employees). Where’s nurse Ratchet when your really need her?

The Ghunters ~ A small group of fired and “deep state” national security career professionals teamed up with some rogue hackers; working to secretly recruit similarly dissatisfied scientists, military, transportation etc and building a resistance. An underground with brains. Diverse geography, St Louis (where Fed scientists were forced to move); Denver and DC metro area).

The Michigan Patriot Militia ~ an organized but unregulated vigilante organization confront the National Guard surrounding the Michigan State capitol building.  The MPM made an impressive show of armed force. While the encounter was intense and dangerous, the Militia withdrew without incident. The Governor made an impassioned plea for restraint and understanding.

The Harmar Hill Committee ~ near Marietta, Ohio has organized for gardening, animal husbandry and food distribution, medical services, policing and neighborhood watch, technology, and armed conflict. The Committee has a careful plan to control access to a predefined region, called the “676,” between Watertown and Lane’s Farm.



Tuesday June 9

The opening of businesses and public facilities in a dozen states has been a considerable disaster. New COVID-19 cases are spiraling to unprecedented numbers throughout Americas heartland. The capabilities of rural health facilities have been overwhelmed. States and municipalities have exhausted their rainy-day funds and are in desperate need for Federal assistance.

The disposition of the bodies of victims of the COVID-19 virus has become an urgent problem.

A Florida man has been arrested for burning nearly 100 bodies in a bon-fire. President Bonespur decried the arrest in an interview on Faux News, calling the man’s action to be heroic and resourceful, while calling the arresting-officers scum.


Friday June 19

The House of Representatives has passed new legislation to protect American homeowners from mortgage defaults and to protect renters from eviction.  Moscow Mitch refused to allow the bill on the Senate floor, consequently killing the bill and denying any protection to home-owners and renters.


Monday June 22

World-wide the pandemic had done great damage to the production of food and other essential products. Grocery stores empty shelves are more and more a feature. Coffee has become a product for rich people only and does not appear on store-shelves. Meat of any kind, eggs and milk are in limited supply and are priced as much as 10 times what they were priced 90 days earlier. This is an especially grim development for families out of work for three months and crushed with unpaid bills and faced with eviction.


Friday July 3

Governors in New York, Illinois, Colorado, and Michigan address the nation in a joint statement, pleading for immediate aid from the U.S. Government. Joining a dozen other states, these governors announce the firing of all public employees including public education, emergency services, and public health employees. President Bonespur goes on a tweet tirade blaming these governors for their mishandling of the pandemic and promises not to bankrupt the country for a Blue State bail out.


Friday July 10

The Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Health Care Act in a 5 to 4 vote. The Bonespur administration celebrates a long-desired victory. This ruling effectively ends healthcare coverage for 30 million Americans at the height of an out-of-control health epidemic.

30 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19; a bitter coincidence of numbers given the Supreme Court set-back to American heath care.

The American death toll is now at 248,000. President Bonespur signs an Executive Order denying access to CDC datasets related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently reporting of real numbers will largely be “best guess”; and the Federal government intends to retaliate against any such reporting.


Friday July 17

Home invasions, hate crimes, insurgencies by unregulated militias are on an alarming rise across the country.  President Bonespur signs an Executive Order suspending habeas corpus and ordered the mobilization of the U.S. military within the continental United States. The President’s directive to the military appears haphazard and nearly random. The Speaker of the House accused the President of violating the Posse Comitatus Act.

The mobilization of armed forces has been apparently aimed primarily at so-called “Blue” States.


Saturday October, 31

All Hallows Eve … Russia having been invited to again attack our elections by President Bonespur and in the wake of Moscow Mitch killing in the Senate any bills passed by the House to protect American elections from Russian meddling… Putin takes it to a new level; launching a cyber attack that shuts down the electric grid. America is in the dark.


Monday November 2

Armed vigilante militias are on the move in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. We have this news from “ham” amateur radio operators, as the internet is basically non-existent. These groups roam unmolested by the U.S. military. In Michigan we have minority populations.

President Bonespur has declared Martial Law and has postponed the Presidential Election indefinitely.



Bud Houston ~ Cinnie Jones ~ Susan Fraser


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Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #5 ~ The Exploding Pinwheel

April 21, 2020

I haven’t written to this topic in several days. I mindful that some of the training objectives I’ve shared with you in our “Social Distancing” series take at least several days, and sometimes months, to master. Anyone who is doing the homework might take a moment to regale me with your adventures in dog training. I would be delighted to hear from you.

Index to Social Distancing Training Objectives published on this blog

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #1 ~ Working your dog at a lateral distance Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #2 ~ The Dead Away Send

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #3 ~ The Back Pass

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #4 ~ Named Obstacle Discrimination:

Invitation to Join the Garden League

If training is not enough for you, and you need the adrenaline rush of competition, then the NDAL Garden League might be quite a lot of fun for you. You are cordially invited to join us in weekly play!

The document: Garden League Rules and Stipulations contains our initial attempt to define how on ongoing virtual competition might work (including how to pay for the registration and weekly reporting). Some of our methodologies will have to be learned as we go along.

We will publish the weekly courses on the NDAL blog. You can read it here (this one contains both of the first two weeks): Garden League ~ Week of April 19, 2020.

I’ll look forward to hearing back from you.

Bud Houston
NDAL Secretary


The Exploding Pinwheel

I learned this conditioning bit many years ago from Patty Hatfield-Mah. The idea is to teach the dog to understand the pinwheel and take ownership of this common jump configuration.


We begin with the jumps in the pinwheel pushed very close together as in this illustration. The handler can draw the dog through the entire performance while remaining in one quadrant.

Note that the jumps should be set very low as there is scarcely 6’ of transition between the jumps.

Before we move on from this step, we should be fairly certain that the dog has taken ownership of the pinwheel and will bop around the four jumps without a hint of luring or showing on the part of the handler.

As in any obstacle conditioning program, the handler’s keen use of a marker combined with praise and reward are essential to the dog’s learning. Any failure should be met with a neutral response from the handler. We want a keen dog emboldened by never being corrected or treated harshly. We allow the dog room to worry through the problem and discover that thing that earns the praise and reward.


We gradually and patiently explode the pinwheel, advancing each jump from center in rational incremental steps, each of which we hold until the dog demonstrates a keenness and understanding of his job in the pinwheel before advancing to the next step.

The handler should be able to work entirely from one quadrant of the pinwheel. But this doesn’t mean that the handler should stand like a stump in the woods. We teach that a handler should face and move in the direction the dog should face and move.

A good handler would move in a robust manner that compliments the dog’s path in the pinwheel (and anywhere else on course). The teaching of the pinwheel in this manner is not about good handling, it’s about good training. When you combine good handling habit with good training discipline, good things happen in the dog’s career in agility.

One Picture is Worth …

I’m going to share with you below a number of YouTube videos I’ve published over the years that illustrate (in sometimes painful granularity) the training steps to teach the dog to “own the pinwheel”.

Note that we’re teaching the dog to work independently and to have powerful obstacle focus for a simple jump.

Cedar’s Intro to the exploding pinwheel:

Pips Introduction to the Exploding Pinwheel:






Pip’s Exploding pinwheel

Advanced Topics:

Cedar entering pinwheel from Tandem position:

Katniss & Phoenix tandem & layered:

Prim double pinwheel

Phoenix with teeter/downfield layered work:

Playful Pinwheels ~ Thinking Outside the Box

[The exercises below were published about a dozen years ago. So… when I said what I did “yesterday”… it was yesterday a long time ago. Once your dog “owns” the pinwheel you will always view this interesting configuration of jumps as an opportunity to be playful.]

While it’s true that I practice an “own the pinwheel” kind of training with my dogs, when push comes to shove I will reserve moving badly for some class that absolutely demands it. Think Gamblers, for example. In routine course work however I will endeavor to move in a way that inspires the dog and ensures that he is well directed.

I’ve written a great deal about pinwheels over the years. There’s something about a pinwheel that inspires the handler to move like an old musty stump in the middle of a swamp. Moving badly is good training… but it is not good handling.

The conundrum is ever that the dog’s path is this big robust thing while the handler’s path is more diminutive and restrained. Even a slow handler can outrun a fast dog in a pinwheel. The real painful match is when a handler is working a dog of moderate speed and handler is so completely defined by the inner limits of the pinwheel that the dog gets no sense of excitement or electricity at all from the handler. Just between you and me and the wall, if your dog isn’t one of those ballistic self starting everything-at-top-speed kind of dogs, then handling him as if he were is an error.

Blind Cross as a Pinwheel Movement


The trick in a pinwheel is to find a way to move. That means more real estate. Frankly there’s only so much real estate inside the pinwheel. But if I think outside the box, there’s plenty of new real estate for handler movement. In this first playful attack on the pinwheel I have the handler step outside the box in the transition between jumps #4 and #5 using a Blind Cross to race the dog to the outside. The transition and the moment of the Blind Cross are indicated in this illustration by the red colored paths for dog and handler.

Tandem Turn as a Pinwheel Movement


Another important skill in a pinwheel is the Tandem Turn. The Tandem is a cross behind the dog on the dismount of an obstacle or on the flat.

To play with this the handler will approach jumps #2 and #3 with dog on right, crossing behind the dog into the Tandem on the landing side of jump #3. Note that if the handler intends a Tandem Turn then he should endeavor to arrive at the jump at the same instant of the dog. The Tandem tends to create a wide sweeping turn in the dog’s path and accelerates the dog’s movement. These are perfect attributes for a pinwheel. Though you might get into a bit of trouble with it if you have an Afghan Hound or a leggy Border Collie.

Using All of Our Pinwheel Tools


Both tools, the Blind Cross and the Tandem Turn can be applied to the same pinwheel. In this illustration the handler executes the Blind Cross in the transition from jump #3 to jump #4 and then promptly uses a Tandem Turn to step back into the box after jump #4. The Blind Cross is indicated by the red paths for dog and handler; the Tandem Turn is indicated by the green paths for dog and handler.

This is an interesting handling choice that requires a speed change. The handler begins with slow dog handling (forward and pulling) into the Blind Cross; and then abruptly transitions to fast dog handling (behind and pushing).

Note that in the conduct of the Tandem Turn the handler actually wants to arrive at the jump at the same instant as the dog. We might argue that a Front Cross would be better than a Blind Cross because the Blind Cross is a racing movement and might make the handler arrive at the jump prematurely. However this is really a “know thy dog” condition. If the dog slips forward of the handler prematurely out of a Front Cross then the handler is behind the dog at the turning jump and so a Blind Cross would have been a better choice of movement.


Pinwheel Bonus Exercise

Here’s one of the exercises I put up at camp yesterday. When I put up a pinwheel I’m mostly I’m interested in how a handler might be defined by the inside of the box where, with most dogs, there is not adequate real estate for robust movement. And so I teach a playful attack on the pinwheel which has the handler stepping out and stepping back in to accelerate the movement.


This exercise had the added twist in which I specified that the handler would stay on the opposite side of the red line while sending the dog on for the performance of the weave poles at a lateral distance.

This bit was an interesting study in pointing. The handler points more surely with his feet that he’ll ever point with his hands. And yet many (if not most) handlers will instinctively turn their toes perpendicular to the dog’s approach to the weave poles rather than parallel. Typically this will spoil the send if the dog requires the handler’s support at all.

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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.

Making a Small Difference

April 10, 2020

I woke up this morning determined to make some small difference as our country and the world suffers the ravages of the COVID19 pandemic.

I’ve heard it said before that if one person dies, it is a tragedy. But when a million die, it’s a statistic. I hate that idea and reject it down to my soul.

The horrible thing about this virus is the terrible end that it brings to people. A sick and dying person is surrounded by people in masks, and as they endure their last wrenching painful bit of life, they cannot be near the people they love, cannot feel their touch or hug or kiss. They die lonely and abandoned in a nightmarish world.

Compound this tragedy with an economy that has collapsed. We now have millions of people who suffer and despair because their jobs have gone away and there aren’t prospects for new jobs. People are going to starve.

Each year I have set aside a month of income from the National Dog Agility League for some terrible humanitarian disaster in the world. A couple years ago it was the flooding in Houston. Last year was the ravaging of Bermuda by hurricane Dorian.

Today the NDAL has come to a complete stop which is a fair reflection of an economy that has come to a stop. Anyone with a shred of common sense is staying hunkered down and will rarely go out in the world… and wear masks and gloves when they do. At any rate, there is no mad money from the NDAL for charitable causes.



The Garden League

I propose a “Garden League”, an agility competition that anyone in the world can play so long as they have a small yard (garden) and a bit of agility equipment. We’ll play some fun games, and a new one every week.

And from this I hope to raise a bit of money. I intend to donate 20% of income from recording fees and dog registrations to Chef Jose Andres World Kitchen.

The first game has been published here: The Garden League

Collecting individual results is going to be a boatload of work. Maybe we’ll manage only three or four full teams (you’ll have to read the Rules and Stipulations to understand what constitutes a Team.


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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.

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #4 ~ Named Obstacle Discrimination

April 6, 2020

This is a lesson plan that ideally requires an A-frame (or dogwalk) and a pipe tunnel. But, don’t you know, if you have a small space and not a lot of big agility equipment, the basics of the training can be satisfied with a box with the ends knocked out (as a substitute for the tunnel)… and a board on brick (as a substitute for a contact obstacle.

I published much of this lesson plan less than a year ago. But then… a year ago most people weren’t confined to home with the prospect of or the ambition for actually doing homework.

This is the Named Obstacle Discrimination. The basic idea is that you can teach a dog the names of the obstacles and subsequently rely on the “name” you use in your verbal conversation with your dog to designate what obstacle the dog should perform.

That’s the theory, anyhow.


Our training discussion for the next several days are based on the NDAL April 2020 Masters league course, in which we play a game called “the Box Game.”

The Box Game is the invention of USDAA judge, Brian McGunigle. Brian conceived this game for a USDAA Starter/Novice-only trial held by ARFF in Massachusetts in 1999. People said they had fun running the game. One of the club members later reported to Brian to say they had subsequently used it in class for training.

The course, you’ll note, is of my own design. It’s not a terribly easy game to design because on balance the handler should be able to solve the distance riddle working exclusively inside the box; and equally solve the distance riddle by never stepping inside the box. In either case the dog will earn 20 bonus points (without regard to performance faults).


The Box Game is scored Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus.

I have already run this game with my boy Kory. His run went like this:


Teaching Named Obstacle Discrimination

I have tried here to arrange below recordings I have done while teaching the Named Obstacle Discrimination to my dogs. These should demonstrate the simple praise and reward methodology. I refrain, as much as possible from editing out small failures because, in real life, small failures are a part of the training adventure.

I’m hoping that you will appreciate pictures, and I will spare you the theory and lecture.

You know, I remember the first time I ever saw a tunnel under an A-frame. It was at the USDAA Nationals in Houston Texas in 1993 on a course designed by Kenneth Tatsch. My boy, Winston the Wonder Dog, took the wrong-course obstacle. <sigh>

I went home determined to solve the riddle of to the “obstacle discrimination”. And frankly, I studied and developed some very reliable handling solutions.

At the end of the day, turns out, it shouldn’t be a matter of handling at all. What if I were to actually teach my dog the names of the obstacles so I didn’t have to handle at all. Instead, I could just give my dog the information and trust in training.

Dog Training Riddle

Having arrived at the wild notion that we will teach the dog the names of the obstacles the dog trainer has to figure out the methodology.

First the Tunnel


We start with the tunnel with the handler blocking approach the A-frame. Give a strong “Tunnel” command and release the dog. Praise and reward, so long as the dog goes in the tunnel.


In very small incremental steps the handler begins each rep slightly farther from the tunnel. This takes the handler out of a blocking position. The training will rely on the very basic training principle; the dog get’s praised and rewarded when he gets it right. But when the dog gets it wrong the trainer very neutrally denies both praise and reward.

While the drawings above are nice and neat, I would be remiss not to share some of the painful beginnings of the dog training journey. It’s not all perfect and pretty, to be sure. Keep statistics. Over time the numbers will lift your spirits.

The following video comes from meal-time training.

This video is a bit of a training mix. It illustrates a dogged training approach to our Named obstacle discrimination journey.

Move on to the A-frame


After fairly mastering the tunnel, the same method needs to be applied to the A‑frame. Initially the handler positions the dog directly in front of the A-frame while taking a blocking position on the tunnel.


Again, very gradually move back the starting position so that the tunnel is exposed as a wrong-course option. Be mindful that you only praise and reward successful tries.

Mixing and Random Alternating

Up to a point you concentrate on one obstacle or another. The repetition gives immediate reinforcement. But the dog might be cleverly extracting reward from her trainer. So, before too long you have to ask the question… do you know what it is I’m asking for.


This is a good time to begin keeping statistics on rate of success. You know that if you’re working around the 50% mark you should probably go back to a previous step for remediation. But if that number rises, you know you’re on the right track.

This exercise is a bit like throwing horse shoes. We introduce the approach to the A-frame/tunnel with a jump to establish movement. And then we ask the question… “do you know what I’m asking you to do?”

Increasing Distance

Don’t be too happy and content with simple tests of your training. What you really want to do when training Named Obstacle Discrimination is to test the skill from a fair distance. The whole point of the training was to have confidence in your dog’s understanding of which obstacle to take without the handler being in the middle of the picture micro-managing that performance.


What I would like to do here is stay behind the dotted line while my dog works forward. From a fair distance, I can ask the question… “do you know what I’m asking?”

This exercise has a couple prerequisite skills… notably, left and right.

While Cedar had a successful workout, demonstrated by the video, I am very aware that skills like this need constant reinforcement and refreshment.

Editor’s Note: There were several other recordings of this training series. To present them here would have dragged the story down a bit with the repetitive nature of dog training. That being said, look at these pictures and videos as an overview. It is worthwhile to note, however, that the entire training endeavor took less than three weeks with daily practice.



This was an NDAL league play game back in August of 2015. It’s a distance gamble kind of game. The dog earns bonus points for working the dog at a distance. Obviously, this demands proofing of “Named Obstacle” discrimination.

My boy Kory had a pretty good showing. And I feel no embarrassment that I designed a game for league play that tests a skill that I take pains to teach my dogs.

In retrospect, I’m amazed that Kory could hear my commands with all the barking (my other dogs) in the background.

Plans for Tomorrow

The lesson plan for the April 60×90 Masters game suggest quite a few training . missions. I’ll try to demonstrate several of them before I put this game away and work on the next game. Although the National Dog Agility League has pretty much come to a complete stop…

I will continue to run the league courses.

The April 2020 National Dog Agility League games and courses have been published here:

If you have the capacity to put these courses up in your back yard, I would be delighted to include your dog’s results (and youtube video?) in the historical results.


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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.

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #3 ~ The Back Pass

April 4, 2020

This is a lesson plan that requires not much space and no agility equipment, and yet will allow you to teach your dog a valuable skill.

This is the Back Pass.


Teaching the Back Pass

I have tried here to arrange below recordings I have done while teaching the Back Pass to my dogs. These should that demonstrate the simple praise and reward methodology. I refrain, as much as possible from editing out small failures because, in real life, small failures are a part of the training adventure.

I’m hoping that you will appreciate pictures, and I will spare you the theory and lecture.






Prim Back Pass:




Back Pass in Competition; squaring to the weave poles:






Plans for Tomorrow

I’m going to write a lesson plan for the April 60×90 Masters game. It’s a “distance” game, which means that dogs with powerful independent performance skills will have advantage.

You should know that the National Dog Agility League has pretty much come to a complete stop… just like most of the civilized world. We are in the midst of a dreadful pandemic, a nasty and too deadly virus.

But “shelter in place” pretty much suits me. And I will continue to run the league courses.

The April 2020 National Dog Agility League games and courses have been published here:


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Read the NDAL blog:

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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.

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #2

March 29, 2020

We all hunker down, as the crest of the coronavirus pandemic wave crashes inexorably towards us. It’s difficult to feel normal while the world about us is not.

That being said… I would like to give some dog-training direction to my own students and anyone else who might want to follow along with exercises that can be accomplished in the back yard.


I invite my own students to come out to use the training building. On a regular basis through the week I have taken to sanitizing surfaces, door handles, jump bars, and the toilet.

A reasonable precaution for the dog trainer to take would be to show up with protective gloves which can be discarded in the poop bucket outside before you get back in your car.

Prerequisite Skills

The exercise I will share with you below is best approached if you have mastered a couple important prerequisite skills. These are: A solid “Stay”; and an “Accelerating Step”.

How to Teach a Stay

Here I will share with you a method I learned many years ago.

Marty Sit Stay

And, more of the same:

Arrow Sit Stay

Introduction to the Accelerating Step

Get that picture out of your head that has the handler standing flat-footed and flapping his arms while the dog works “at a distance.” Movement is an important element of directing the dog to independent performance.

The accelerating step is a simple discipline that requires the handler to take a big step at the very moment the dog is moving past him. The step gooses the dog forward in the send.


The Lesson Plan

Today my discussion will focus on the “dead away send”. This is sometimes difficult to accomplish. You might find that taking the training steps is a more direct way to accomplish the training goal, that is wandering about aimlessly and wishing for the best.

Sometimes a student will tell me that “my dog is a Velcro dog!” To which I ever will observe that Velcro is a two-part fabric. OTOH, we must admit that if my agility training methodology in general has always insisted that the dog be close on the handler’s heel, then it is a big step to allow the dog to leave the proximity of the handler and work away, independently.

An important early training objective with an agility dog in training is to create powerful obstacle focus for a winged hurdle, commonly called a “Jump”.

To tell the truth the Jump is often overlooked in training. You’ll see novice dogs in competition running around jumps but eagerly veering off-path to get into a pipe tunnel, or park themselves on a contact obstacle. A dog will go where they have a high reward association.

But we are not going to over-look the jump.

In the illustrations I’ve drawn here the young dog is introduced to the “Go On” command using Hoops (an obstacle notably used by NADAC in competition). My expectation is to begin the training with a very young dog… young enough to learn, but not old enough to be jumping. Later we’ll make the transition to jumps with displaceable bars.


In the introduction to the Hoop I’ll do a modest progressive send with my dog. I start very near the Hoop at first and praise and reward when she goes through. I’ll move back very gradually, sending her to do the Hoop and earn that praise and reward.



The moment you add a second Hoop… you are officially doing “sequencing” with your dog. This is actually an important introduction for the dog to the idea that performances will be a chain of events.

We graduate to two Hoops. The handler begins near to the seconds hoop before starting the dog. Each repetition the handler will start slightly farther back, until the dog is sending forward through both hoops while the handler stays behind.


The intention of this exercise is to teach the dog to continue working beyond the handler’s position, even when the handler comes to a full stop. The sequence is a series of three hoops in a line.

We start with the hoops placed very close together. In this drawing the hoops are only 5′ apart. Initially the handler will leave the dog on a stay and lead out nearly to the #3 hoop before starting.




Only gradually the handler moves back toward the front of the line of hoops to send the dog forward.

You’ll notice in the video that our dog is very young and not every send has a successful conclusion. The basic training tool is to praise and reward when the dog gets it… a being very neutral, deny praise and reward when the dog does not.

From time to time you might use a “framing” obstacle at the end of the line of hoops or jumps. This is a dandy opportunity to accustom your dog to a progressive send into a pipe tunnel, for example.




Only gradually the hoops should moved apart. And each time they are moved apart the handler will begin forward of the dog near the final hoop. And in each successive repetition the handler will move back down the line until he can make the send from behind the first hoop.

The only reason we’ve been using Hoops is that we were working with a very young dog. If you begin this with training a dog that is already grown and steady, you might begin with jumps. In any case, ta some point, the trainer will have to make a transition from Hoops to Jumps.


Don’t lose sight of methodology. When the basic exercise changes the handler will begin forward of the dog, and only gradually move back toward the front of the line of jumps to send the dog forward.



In a few short months the exercise needs more and more room. That was the intention from the beginning. We want to teach the dog powerful obstacle focus for jumps and give the dog permission to go forward of the handler in the performance.

While we have not in this forum shared every grizzly moment of training, we’ve shown just enough to demonstrate that it is a continuity and a discipline.



In this video the dog trainer was clearly happy with his dog and pleased with himself for his work. But do keep in mind that this is a basic skill that needs to be constantly refreshed over the dog’s active career in agility.


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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.

Social Distancing ~ Lesson Plan #1

March 22, 2020

Our Training center will immediately suspend group classes to protect us from the coronavirus pandemic. However, our current students are welcome to come out and train their dogs. I have drawn a lesson plan for individual practice, which I will present below.


On a regular basis through the week we will sanitize surfaces, door handles, jump bars, and the toilet.

The Lesson Plan

This week we are running the National Dog Agility League 36×85 Fast & Fun course. The floor has been set and the sequence numbered. Note that the lesson plan allows for practice of elements of the course.

I will be available to record league runs for upload to YouTube so long as I’ve been given adequate notice.

These are the exercises. The first two are technical skills training; followed by three handling sequences to practice; and finished with two small working sets outside of the context of the league game.

Exercise #1 ~ Lateral Distance Dogwalk

This is an advanced exercise intended to teach a dog an independent performance of the dogwalk, while the handler works at a distance.

Exercise #2 ~ Lateral Distance Weave Poles

This is an advanced exercise intended to teach a dog an independent performance of the weave poles, while the handler works at a distance.


Exercise #3



Exercise #4



Exercise #5



Exercise #6 ~ Good News for Roman


Exercise #7 ~ Wrapping Jumps with A-frame in the Middle


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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.


February 5, 2020

Aldous Huxley spoke of the dangers and pressures of population growth. You can find an interview with Mike Wallace (circa 1958) here:

Huxley/Wallace Interview

Huxley makes the point that between the time of the birth of Christ and the landing of the Mayflower the population of the earth doubled. It rose from about 250 million to 500 million. He warned that the rate of doubling population has increased at an alarming and unsustainable pace.

When Huxley conducted this interview with Mike Wallace the population had risen to 2 billion. Alarming! Right? I was five years old at the time of the Huxley interview.

Today the population of the earth is roughly 8 billion. This means that in my lifetime the population has quadrupled. This is completely unsustainable… and frankly is on the verge of collapse.


Since the time of the Reagan presidency the Republican party has been completely taken over… bought and paid for by big international business interests. The Democratic party has, as well, been bought off, with at least 60 percent of elected democrats being beholden to big business for their wealth and prosperity.

What’s important about the take-over of our democracy by the military-industrial complex (a term coined by Eisenhower) is that these interests have engaged in unsustainable practices that are destroying our planet. We are dumping poisons onto the earth, into the air, and into the water.

Worried about global warming? I want to tell you… global warming is NOT the worst thing that is about to happen to our planet.

We arrive at a time that the oceans are literally dying. Bird populations are dramatically declining; insect populations are disappearing at an alarming rate. Species are disappearing. The natural forces that put oxygen into our atmosphere (and our oceans) are teetering on the brink of exhaustion.

The dominoes are already falling.

The Brazilian effort to burn down the rain forests is shocking. These forests have been referred to as “the lungs of the Earth”. How do you think life on earth will go when the lungs are gone.   Scientists are studying events in Brazil, trying to assess the “tipping point”.

We can see small evidence all around us that we are being poisoned. I live at the confluence of the Moskingum and Ohio rivers. Did you know… you can’t eat the fish out of these rivers? The fish are toxic with the poisons that we dump into them. That poison drains off the continent into the oceans creating vast dead zones where nothing lives.

Around the country I hear stories of dogs dying. Mom takes the dog down to the local pond and allows the dog to take a brief swim. Later that night the dog is dead… from a condition called Toxic Algae.

This is all wrong. And it’s not a moral kind of wrong, it’s a fatal, existential kind of wrong.


Now, let’s get back to the premise that “DONALD TRUMP WILL SAVE THE WORLD!”

We need in America the leadership of very smart people who care and will take dramatic action to mend our ways. [You must like Tom Steyer!] That was not going to happen under the status quo, go-along-to-get-along leadership that Democrats have been giving us since Bill Clinton.

Trump, bless his pointy little head, has gone all in on giving over our country to the big rich aristocrat 1%. He has appointed judges that will rule in favor of big rich industry over the interest of the common man and the working man; He has canceled or gutted or defunded policy that protects out air and water and earth; He has fired the scientists in the EPA and FDA who served to protect us from the worst instincts of industry; He forbids the science and reporting that will even tell us when our local water and air has been poisoned [or that your dog will die if he goes for a swim]. Indeed, Trump put the Petrochemical industry in charge of the EPA!

For this discussion we will overlook that his administration has done and plans to do exactly the opposite of everything he promised to do in 2016 and what he promised last night in his State of Union speech.

I’m enraged that Trump has victimized those who support him the most. Towns all up and down the Ohio valley (my part of the world, mind you) live in broken communities whose factories have shuttered. They are hopeless and abandoned. Trump cynically targeted them by calling attention to their plight. It’s natural that they would rally to the only candidate that even acknowledge them. Except, of course, he has betrayed them at every turn.

[In his state of the union speech Trump touted the rise of wages for lower class workers under his leadership. But doesn’t bother to mention that that these raises came from states with Democratic governance who raised the minimum wage. There were NO raises in minimum wage in states with Republican governance.]

Trump has been a useful idiot for the Republican party. Moscow Mitch, the Senate majority speaker has stopped something on the order of 400 bills sent up from the House that he won’t even present to the Senate for debate or vote. These are bills that benefit the interest of working people and common citizens. He will not allow anything that doesn’t exclusively benefit the richest 1% of our country to show up on the senate floor.

Donald Trump is a liar, a corrupt, and incompetent man. He has hurt us badly in almost every way imaginable. And his crimes have been so great that a new generation will arise in 2020 and sweep this corrupt pestilence out of the White House… and hope upon hope, out of the Senate.

And now we have a chance to obtain the leadership of smart people, people who care about our environment and life on earth.

The job of saving the world is bigger than just the United States. But if the United States takes the lead we can influence the direction of all the world and possibly enter an era in which we are committed to save life on earth.

Thank you, Donald!