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.


BLOG1487 Home

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.


Follow NDAL on Facebook:

Read the NDAL blog:


BLOG1485 Home

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:


Follow NDAL on Facebook:

Read the NDAL blog:

BLOG1484 Home

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.


Follow NDAL on Facebook:

Read the NDAL blog:

BLOG1483 Home

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


Follow NDAL on Facebook:

Read the NDAL blog:


BLOG1482 Home

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!





Education of an Activist

October 24, 2019

American documentary filmmaker and author Michael Moore suggested that a key to making our democracy vibrant and returning our government to the people might be to put initiatives on the ballot that would inspire a lot of people to come out to vote who might not otherwise have bothered.

My impulsive nature had me leap into the fray, creating an organization called Make a Difference (MAD) Ohio; whereupon I immediately created two Go Fund Me projects.

I learned a great deal about what it takes to put an initiative for constitutional amendment on the ballot in the State of Ohio. You can see some of those details here:

I shared a link to the blog on several Facebook sites, including sites that purport to be concerned about the upcoming election and call themselves “activists”. Somewhat naively I felt that the post would be shared in impressive numbers, creating a bit of a meme. But I think activist Facebook pages don’t really inspire activism. They are more forums for complaining and expressions of dread.

My post was shared maybe five times… and one of those by my sister-in-law. So much for the meme.

Undaunted, I jumped off to create a targeted ad on Facebook, all prepared to invests $500 of my own money to spawn some enthusiasm.

Keep in mind that I had about a month to raise $5,000 or more to write the ballot initiative, collect 1000 signatures and submit to the Secretary of State by November 1 (the absolute deadline for getting anything on the 2020 election ballot).


I was immediately stymied by Facebook. Because the ad was of a “political” nature. I had to prove my identity, so I jumped through a variety of hoops, including scanning and uploading both sides of my driver’s license.

Then, Facebook declined my ad (pointing to the GoFundMe for “Simply Legal Marijuana”) because the ad promoted the use of recreational drugs.

I appealed several times, finally winning the argument by explaining that the initiative did NOT promote the use of recreational drugs. What the initiative actually does is promote a ballot initiative that will result in a law that will prevent young people from going to jail because they use, possess, or cultivate a plant that occurs in nature.

As a final obstacle Facebook is sending me a letter by postal mail with a code that will verify that I am an actual person. I have not yet received the postal mail.

To be fair to Facebook, this is clearly a proactive measure on their part to prevent the advertising investment by individuals and foreign governments to dump poisonous propaganda onto Facebook and influence the outcome of democratic elections in the U.S., as they did in 2016.

Going Forward

MAD Ohio will not have any initiative on the ballot in 2020. No miracle can make it happen.

Now we look at 2022. The mid-terms are very important. Given plenty of time we can have two or more initiatives on the ballot for that important election.

The most important lesson I’ve learned here is that the game is stacked for the filthy rich. It is an incredibly formidable, complicated, and expensive task to introduce new law. Consequently, new laws very seldom benefit the average citizen.

MAD Ohio will become an organization that serves as a conduit for putting laws on the ballot that serve the working man, family farms, first-responders, veterans for foreign wars, and the declining American middle class.


BLOG1453 MADOhio

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston

Make A Difference (MAD) Ohio

September 27, 2019

I expect I should keep this off my blog page… I apologize to my Republican friends. You probably don’t appreciate that I’m trying to save you (as well as myself) from a terrible fate.

* * *

Go Fund Me

I will share the videos I’ve made, and share them NOWHERE but here. These projects need young firebrands who are a lot smarter and a lot prettier than me. But I wanted the opportunity to tell it in my unabashed and unpolished voice.

PLEASE share the GoFundMe links below… even if you’re a cheap Scott and won’t scrape up a dollar to save democracy from encroaching fascism… sharing the link might find us a wealthy donor who understands the value of saving American democracy.


Simply Legal Marijuana

GO FUND ME Simply Legal Marijuana:


Living Wage as Minimum Wage

GO FUND ME Living Wage as Minimum Wage:



It’s one thing to have the ambition to put an initiative for legislative law on the ballot; it’s quite another to go out and accomplish that thing. This becomes an experiment in whether a citizen (an old retired guy living on his social security, for example) can inspire other citizens to make known to the legislature their desire to enact new, fair and just laws.

They do not make it easy.

The timing of every element is dictated by Ohio laws. It is intractable. If any element of the timing is missed, the initiative will be lost.

I have identified a firm in Columbus Ohio that specializes in gathering petitions signatures for exactly this kind of effort.

I have identified a constitutional attorney to write the ballot initiatives and the summary (which must be on the initial petition of 1000 signatures… which must be presented to the Attorney General of Ohio on or before November 1, 2019.)

For this effort we need to raise money. I have created two fundraising pages (GoFundMe)). We need $5K each for the written initiatives and their summaries.

If we manage this start, then the fun really begins. If we do not manage to raise the money (in about the next 20 days)… then we will go down in early defeat.

** ** **

When I say the fun really begins… we have to go out in Ohio and get petition signatures totaling 3% of the number that voted in the last gubernatorial election (132,887 to be precise); of which 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties must be represented by at least 1.2% of the number that voted in their county on that last election.

This effort will cost a minimum of $1.2 million; and frankly will probably cost about five times that much to ensure a positive outcome.

Each element has intractable timing events dictated by Ohio law.


I can’t really do this alone. I get that. The requirements are incredibly daunting… and it would be so easy for me to walk away and admit that it’s just too much for an old retired guy to turn into a reality. It’s the thought that counts. Right?

A couple days ago I saw Greta Thunburg speaking to the United Nations. And I’ll be goddamned if I didn’t feel ashamed by the voice inside of me arguing that because of the effort of a heavy lift… I should just quit and walk away.

So, I’m all in. It will be what it will be.


I am motivated by a desire to save the planet from imminent environmental catastrophe, from the destruction of life on this planet.

There’s a lot of attention paid these days to “global warming”. It’s worth pointing out that global warming is on one of about a dozen looming threats to a self-sustainable ecosystem on this planet.

Consider that:

  • There are 25% fewer birds in the world today than there were in 1970.
  • Amphibian populations have undergone mass extinctions since the 1980s.
  • Insect populations in the world are dramatically declining due to ubiquitous use of pesticides, the spread of monoculture crops such as corn and soybeans, urbanization, and habitat destruction.
  • Dead zones (not enough oxygen to support marine life) are increasing around the world.

I have to stop building this list… because I have other objectives to attend. I might have gone on about ten pages on the demise of our ecosystem… our planet.

Suffice it to say that the dominoes are already falling.

Current Events Are Compelling

It was bad enough when everything was “normal” and politicians gave sing-song assurances to 40-year plans for carbon reduction and other such half-assed inadequate approaches to promoting a healthy planet.

Now we have the Republicans in charge, with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Trump is a savagely stupid man more captivated by opportunities for larceny than his obligation to do anything decent or smart. He is a useful idiot to the Republican party who represents only the business interests of the ultra-wealthy. And these ultra-rich are poor stewards of our destiny. They are so focused on money grubbing that they couldn’t begin to acknowledge that everyone they have ever loved… may be dead in 40 years.

A Theory for Make A Difference (MAD) Ohio

If we can make Ohio go Blue (Democrat) we have a chance to have political leadership that has the survival of our world. So, here’s the theory:

Only about half of the eligible voters actually ever vote in Ohio. We want to get a couple initiatives on the ballot on November 3, 2020 that will attract a whole lot of voters who might otherwise not have bothered to show up. AND, if we are lucky, the majority of them will vote Democratic, up and down the ticket.


BLOG1447 MAD Ohio

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston

Blind Tunnel Approaches

September 1, 2019

I’m having a good time playing with my dogs in the National Dog Agility League (NDAL). It gets me out on course every week running a handful of dogs, and has done so for about eight years now.

One of the really cool things that the NDAL does is include a link to a YouTube recording of each dog’s run in the results. This is something that helps with my own students. While I see a great deal in real time… having the recording makes every observation indisputable. So it’s a teaching tool for me, and a learning tool for my few students.

I find that I also have an opportunity to learn. Seeing how other handlers in different parts of the world solve a course riddle can be really eye opening.

And this past month, I learned something that I’m immediately taking to my personal training program: Blind Tunnel Approaches


Let me share with you one of the August league courses:


The bit that is of interest to me is the approach to the pipe tunnel at #16. I knew from the onset that I had to manage the approach; and knew also that I’d have to approach this moment on old arthritic knees, so it would be more a matter of survival with little hope of fluid grace.

Here’s what this looked like with Phoenix, one of the dogs I ran on this course:

Paint Me Green and Call Me Quincy

I want to share with you a run by a handler name of Gabriela Orozco, who plays with Sport Dogs Jalisco down in Guadalajara. This is Scarlett, a Border Collie:

Needles to say, I was gob-smacked. Gabriela actually Crossed after jump #15 and sent her dog around the top of the tunnel to go find the tunnel entry. This is amazing and elegant in simplicity.

I am convinced that this is something I absolutely have to teach my dogs. You know, back in the day, I would teach a dog to seek out the entry to the collapsed tunnel… but that obstacle is now a relic of a bygone era. And I am faced with the obvious question as to why I haven’t taken the same approach with the pipe tunnels. <sigh>

The Nature of Pipe Tunnels

More than ten years ago I wrote a blog post of this title. I could find it on my computer but I can no longer find it on the Internet. I’m pretty sure I wrote it before I migrated my blog to WordPress.

So, I’ve made a “Page” of this blog (rather than a “Post”) so it will always be where I can reach it:

There’s a good possibility that after I engage in training my dogs to the Blind Tunnel Approach, I will have to add a bullet item or two to the Page on the Nature of Pipe Tunnels.

Finding an Opportunity to Train

In September we are running courses and games in the NDAL that aren’t begging for a Blind Approach skill. But I can surely find some opportunity to train my dogs.

For my veteran dogs, I have devised these exercises (which have nothing whatever to do with the courses we’ll be running).

I promise to record to YouTube my training progress:

Exercise #1


Exercise #2



New clubs are always welcome to join us for play in the NDAL. It’s casual and inexpensive. The September 2019 league games and courses have been published here:


BLOG1445 Home

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.

Send Around the Barrel

July 25, 2019

We have a new young dog in our house, a rescue Aussie that we’ve named Marty McFly.

I’ve been working on a catalog of YouTube videos that I intend to use to update the Joker’s Notebook foundation issue. One of the exercises I’ve overlooked, in terms of video documentation, is the “Send Around the Barrel” exercise. This is actually the very first thing I teach a young dog.

And so, having a new dog in the house allows me to capture the painful first steps of the training.

Too often a novice dog trainer will give up the ambition to teach a dog a thing because success doesn’t just leap up out of the dog. It’s work. And, in the early going failure is as much a feature of training dog as is success.

Patience and humor are fundamental to the art of dog training.

An underlying objective of the Send-Around-the-Barrel exercise is to teach the dog to work independently. An agility dog needs to feel free to break away from the handler for obstacle performance.

The Intro ~ Marty Send Around the Barrel

First session the trainer lures the dog around the barrel

Marty Send Around the Barrel 2

Second time out is pretty much a matter of continuing the introduction, still luring around the barrel.

Marty Send Around the Barrel 3

This time we’re giving a modest “send” around the barrel rather than luring.

The fourth time out was not recorded. At this point in the training the handler wants to gradually and modestly increase the distance of the send around the barre.

Marty Send Around the Barrel 5

Fifth time out Marty is showing some understanding of what he needs to do to earn the food treat.


In practicing a Send-Around-the-Barrel we have established with a young dog a training relationship. We will regularly practice unique behaviors or performances and introduce a vocabulary to elicit them.

Five sessions showed some progress. But mastery will come from several dozen more sessions. And, like all foundation skills, the Send-Around-the-Barrel should be practiced regularly, over time.

** ** **

Early on I was on a mission with Marty to evaluate him. How fast is he going to be? How powerful? How keen to do play the game? My ambition is to allow him to be the best he can be.



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.