Archive for the ‘Two Minute Dog Trainer’ Category

Stretch Mistakes

December 5, 2015

The December game is locked in a 50′ by 50′ space and yet manages to pose several interesting technical challenges. I’m faced with solving for my own while at the same time offering coaching to my team mates. I’d like to teach my students to stretch their abilities and expand their repertoire of skills. This is no easy task.

The Stretch Mistake is an interesting concept that came up in conversation with Marsha a few days ago (from something she heard on NPR). Stretching is a tangible application of a new skill; it is experimenting and being playful. A “stretch mistake” is the foundation for learning and refining the details of that new skill. We have to be willing to make mistakes. A handler’s propensity to rely always on a small (but comfortable) repertoire of skills retards learning.

Approaching this game in a completely playful manner, I might crash ‘n burn and make a mess of it. But those mistakes I make are the foundation for learning. And frankly I’m looking for an application of skills that I’ve been keen on teaching my dogs. And just may be, those skills will give a competitive advantage.


In the pre-game analysis I want to break this course down into little bits. Ultimately those bits will have to fit together and flow from each into the next. And so the riddle of handler position and the speed and direction of the dog’s movement cannot be discordant and will have to work in symphony, each with the other.


In the opening I’ve drawn two lines. The black line is the shorter and more efficient path. And I expect the dog who wins league will have this nice flat approach. But it’s a bold path fraught with peril because of the speed elicited in the dog’s movement and the short distance from jump #2 into the weave poles from a nearly perpendicular angle. The red path assumes a handler actually taking a little extra distance to give the dog more approach to the weave poles and avoid a costly weave pole fault.

Be mindful that the handler is the architect of the dog’s path.

I expect I should make this an exercise for class, after our league run. I’m tantalized by the notion of testing whether a student understand the “handler is the architect” and has the skill to create whichever path he desires. Visualizing the path and exploring the variety of handling options to effect that path are the training objectives.



Out of the weave poles is a basic serpentine of three jumps. In case you’re wondering, I’ll be sure to have a Front Cross on the landing side of jump #4… because I want dog on right for the next three obstacles. The really interesting bit follows the three-jump serpentine.

What I’ve tried to illustrate here is a solution to #7 and #8. I don’t really want to get caught in a blocking position at the A-frame on the approach to the backside jump #8. And so after jump #6 I will send my dog to the tunnel giving a clear verbal, relying on the “named obstacle” discrimination training I do with my dogs.

As soon as I feel the dog committed I need to slide back up to jump #8. As the dog comes out of the pipe tunnel I will give a Back Pass command (“Come By” for me) to create the approach to jump #8.

My momma used to tell me “If it doesn’t work, it’s not showing off.” So I’m really hoping I’ll get to show off in this part of the course.



#9 through #14 is the most straight-forward sequencing part of the course. I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that this section will have as many faults as any other bit in the game. When everything looks obvious and easy handlers tend to be less disciplined and less focused on the meat and potatoes handling.

For my part, I’ll again rely on the “named obstacle” training on the approach to the A-frame at #12… though I might indicate a modest counter rotation after jump #11 to lend insurance to the moment. Frankly we’ll probably have a sequence in class in which I discuss the difference between blocking position and body-magnet position on the approach to an obstacle discrimination.

I’m a bit concerned about the approach to the weave poles. I’m running Marsha’s bat-shit crazy red dog Phoenix who is a magnificent weaving dog, when he actually remembers to get in the poles. So I’ll likely push extra hard out into the corner and remind him that I’m about to sell him to a Chinese restaurant if he doesn’t engage his brain and get in the poles.



This next bit was kind of complicated to draw… I’m hoping it won’t be so complicated to do.

Note that as the dog weaves I need to layer to the opposite side of the jump between the weave poles and jump #15. On the dog’s dismount of the weave poles I’ll strike a posture to Back-Pass my dog into an open approach to jump #15 that favors an approach to jump #16. I’ll call my dog into a left turn, getting as close to the #16 jump as I can… and call my dog into a counter Back-Pass for the closing pipe tunnel.

We are studying, in the back-pass exactly how to establish a release that gives the dog a good line in the direction you want them to move. It’s clear that this is accomplished with the “counter” foot and is made clear by a step at the instant the dog is released.

Coaching / Class Exercises

It seems that I am ever studying some arcane handling skill that is a decade away from more widespread use and acceptance. I was studying the Blind Cross and the Flip (called the Ketchker today) something like a dozen years ago. These skills are gaining wider acceptance today, though on a somewhat one-dimensional basis.

I clearly cannot require my students to handle the same way I do. Frankly, a lot of what I do is because I don’t move the way I used to with my arthritic knees. None of my students have such a fine excuse, and so we will have discussions on movement and how the handler’s movement conveys direction to the dog. And once that is understood, the handler becomes the master.

But I do want them to stretch and learn.

Training by Minuet

The minuet is a classic agility game in which a handler will run a sequence until his time expires. The objective then, is to do the sequence as many times as possible in the time allotted. A minuet becomes a study of the adequacy of movement both in terms of giving good direction to the dog; and in terms of motivating the dog to his best speed.

Note that a Minuet should be designed to fold back into itself, meaning that a transition is provided from the last obstacle to the first.

The advantage of the Minuet approach to mixed group classes is that everyone will have a specific time-limit on the floor, and what each handler chooses to do with it is entirely up to them. Often in a group class there is a notable disparity on the floor as someone struggling (or wrestling with a petulant inner child) will occupy more than his share of time on the floor, while another handler will nail the sequence and be done! So, the Minuet is intended to provide balance and parity.

Minuet in the Middle

Here’s the sequence:



A Study of Discrimination

A discrimination is a riddle in agility in which two obstacles are placed in close proximity. The overt or obvious discrimination in the following exercises is the tunnel under the A-frame. But we should not overlook the fact that the jumps are often presented in “pairs” to the dog’s approach and so those too are discrimination challenges.

The two classic handling positions in a “discrimination” are 1) the blocking position and 2) the body magnet position. The drawing below shows sequences (each can be run as a minuet) for practicing both of these handling positions.



The white numbers ~ This is practice for the blocking position on a discrimination. It’s important to understand that when taking the blocking position on a discrimination the handler is obligated to do only one thing … block.

The approach to jump #5 is a discrimination of two jumps. A Front Cross on the landing side of jump #4 will neatly put the handler in position to block the dog’s approach to the wrong-course jump.

The dark red numbers ~ This is practice for the body magnet position. The presumption is that when the handler is the side of the obstacle that is the correct choice the dog will naturally gravitate towards that closer obstacle. In practice the handler is too often not nearly as attractive as he or she would like to be. And so we will practice an “insurance” movement when taking the body-magnet approach to the discrimination… using an RFP (counter-rotation) to draw the dog to the nearer.

Squaring the A-frame & Technical Tandem



Now that we’ve had a discussion about the “blocking position” I’d like to carry the logic of the handler’s hedging movement to a sequence in which the handler will be obligated to create a square safe approach to the A-frame. This is a matter usually accommodated by careful course design.

Note that I’ve drawn lines from corner-to-corner on the A-frame. These lines represent a zone of safe approach to the A-frame. So in this exercise, the handler will be obligated to push the dog out, over the line, before making the turn to the A-frame.

On the dismount of the A-frame, the handler will turn his dog away into the pipe tunnel. The Technical Tandem is a bit more difficult than a Tandem when the dog is jumping or moving on the flat, because as often as not there is no inertia to carry the dog into the turn.

Jumping Into the League

This is the final game of the 2015 winter series.

It is a simple (?) numbered course that is scored Time, Plus Faults.

We welcome all new clubs who would like to establish league franchises. The National Dog Agility League stands apart from most agility organizations in the world. This is not a titling organization; and it’s really inexpensive to play.

Think of it this way… The National Dog Agility League is the only world championship forum to which all dogs are invited.

You can download the score-keeping worksheet for final game of the Winter 2015 series here: Scoresheet.

Results from the November league game can be found here: Nov Results

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

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:


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.


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.

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

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:

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:

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.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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


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:

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!


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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:

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: ~ Thanks to Brenda Gilday for the recording.


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 The web store is up and running. 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:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 The web store is up and running. 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.


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.


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.

* * *

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 The web store is up and running. 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.

Fantasy Dog Agility

December 21, 2014

I have this really cool fantasy about a reality show for television. On this program several dog agility trainers will each work with a big Hollywood celebrity to teach them how to run an agility dog. And then we have an agility competition with the celebs and their borrowed dogs.

I’ve got first dibs on Mark Wahlberg! He can run my boy Kory (or even Marsha’s Phoenix). I’m comfortable taking on any smart aleck agility trainer in the business to train up a celeb to beat us! I believe Mark could be a hell of an agility handler. It’s just a hunch.

Go On Then

I’m sorry that we’re not capturing the full granularity of Cedar’s ongoing training. By rights we’d be filming twice a day. We are only filming about every other day. So you miss some of the incremental steps we take in the training.

Here: We’ve progressed to three hoops. As she becomes comfortable with our performance expectations and begins to own the exercise, we’ll move them farther and farther apart. I fully expect that in about a month I’ll be sending Cedar straight away from me a good 40′. . The dead-away send is truly one of the most difficult distance challenges in agility.

The training methodology we’re using here is completely documented in The Joker’s Notebook, which is available on my web-store. The cool thing about distance training is that all skills that we own with our dogs are earned and deserved through training and practice. If you take the time to establish the foundation, you will have those special skills.

Top Secret

I’m fairly excited by developments with Top Dog. I’m sorry to say that it’s all secret and amazing. You’ll just have to take my word for it.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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 at 19+ Weeks

December 17, 2014

She’s still a young thing, growing like a weed, and getting lots of early training. It’s an interesting commentary that this young dog, in her foundation training, has both “Right” and “Left”, a 2o/2o contact, does a pipe tunnel, and will send to a Hoop… but isn’t much house trained yet (doing her business outside).

I’ll share this rambling video with you:

Only in the last couple of days I’ve introduced Cedar to the performance of a NADAC-style hoop. This was initially trained by free-shaping. She’s a clever enough girl, is well conditioned  to offering performance, and can figure out pretty quick what earns her praise and reward.

We begin with the simple performance of a hoop. I will add new hoops over the next few days and teach her to run through the lot of them for her reward. Then gradually, over a period of weeks, I’ll spread them out more and more until she is giving me the performance at a fantastic distance. When they are spread out I’ll include the “Go On!” directional which shall ever mean to continue working in the line of obstacles in front of her.

I’m mostly fascinated with teaching these skills to a small dog. She’s going to be whipstitch fast. So there’s no way I intend to make the error of gluing her to me for the simple work of agility.

Cedar’s Nobel Growth Chart at 19-1/2 Weeks


You can see that during my “busy” period… I’ve left a gap in the chart. Nonetheless, Cedar is riding the classical Sheltie pattern of growth on a constant curve.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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 Journal

September 21, 2014

We’ve taken a new dog into our home. The dog is 7 weeks old (and a couple days now). This event immediately launches a variety of structured activities and responsibilities.

If you have the opportunity to look at a litter you might take a bit of time doing temperament testing to find just the right dog for you. The bigger the litter the better the odds, I suppose. But we took this girl sight unseen and trusted to the gods in this luck of the draw.

I’m happy to report that this girl is bold and curious and appropriate. She can also be loud, by the way, something I attribute to the Sheltie genes in her.

Filmed Cedar this morning demonstrating that she’ll be toy motivated and probably will like a good game of tug (as a reward for the brilliant training moments she will have.)

Cedar’s Tug Video

A rational person might question whether you really want to teach a young dog to tear up your socks. We’ll make sure that she has ample access to more appropriate playthings as we go along.

Cedar comes to us with this interesting story. Marsha Houston writes in her Facebook: “Dam has been feral in the woods near Fairmont, WV, long enough to have 2 litters of puppies. This litter was discovered at 3 weeks of age, were secured and bottle fed (mother still couldn’t be captured) and raised for 3.5 weeks with a family. Several were sent to rescue and one was kept by the rescuer who decided she really couldn’t keep her. As the rescuer was walking the puppy into the humane society, our friend Sheree was there to pull dogs. She took the puppy, got her vetted, and posted her pic 9/19. By 1:30 we were picking her up. This is the same rescue group I adopted Phoenix from. They trust us and we trust them. Win-Win-Win!”

Naturally, since this dog is alleged to be a Sheltie mix, I had to drag me out a Nobel Growth Chart and begin tracking her on a week-by-week basis:


As you can see, she appears right in the middle of the grey area at week 7. I’ll measure again on Week 8… and then measure every two weeks as the chart suggests. The conformation range for a Sheltie is between 13 and 16 inches. 16 can be serendipitous because it’s the cut-off in the USDAA between big dogs and small dogs.


I feel no real pressure with this girl to make her into anything that approaches an ego boo. This is important from the onset. I do not need a dog to validate me. Que Sera Sera!

What most fascinates me is taking her through the distance training methodology that I fine-tuned with Kory when he was a pup [documented in the pages of The Joker’s Notebook.] The dog trainer should be very conscious of the differences between dogs. And one of the chief differences in Cedar is that she will have a brain no bigger’n a walnut. And so I will have to be more meticulous and granular in my approach to training. It’s easy for the Border Collie trainer to convince himself that he’s a friggin dog training genius, when it’s truly the keenness and compensatory nature of the dog that has all the genius bits.

At any rate, I want a young fast dog who understands her job while working a magnificent distance from her old arthritic person.

Marsha has objectives for Cedar as well. She’ll be meticulous in applying her two-minute-dog trainer magic.

Visit Cedar’s Facebook page.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. 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.