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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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:


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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.

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.

Fare Thee Well Jane McManus

July 15, 2019

Jane McManus has retired! And we wish her all the best.

One of the unsung heroes of dog agility, Jane belongs to a generation of pioneers who followed a passion for training dogs and playing at agility. She provided a place to play for her community. Last century, Jane established Pine Meadows, an agility training center in South Boardman, Michigan. Pine Meadows became a dog agility community center in a small town far north and away from the world.

Pine Meadows was a Teacup Dogs Agility Association member club. Jane built her club and a strong Teacup community supporting her students, creating training classes specifically for her teacup enthusiasts. She trained up judges and sponsored competition. They don’t make them like Jane any more.

Jane McManus belonged to that generation that created the sport of agility in this country. She owned from the beginning a canny ability to grow her community, like a master gardener, by care and nurturing.

In retirement, Jane begins a new chapter in her life. She’s moved down to Florida, leaving behind the harsh Michigan winters. And she leaves behind an awesome legacy, and the community of dog agility enthusiasts that she created. They will surely miss her.



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Jokers Notebook, a series of comprehensive training workbooks intended to teach a dog powerful skills of independent performance. –


Humpty Dumpty

July 5, 2019

Democracy is an expression of belief systems. Vladimir Putin’s attack on America relies on the principle that the human brain is mushy and malleable. Man will adopt as a closely held truth a suggestion that is repeated over and over in his sight and in his hearing. It doesn’t matter that the suggestion is completely ridiculous.

In our own history, in the last 100 years, we see plenty of evidence that the technology of mass communication will shape the belief systems that become the rudder of the ship of state. JFK had television. FDR had radio. We got into the Spanish American war on account of newspaper propaganda. Walter Lippmann (Public Opinion 1922) describes a massive program of millions of posters that helped convince Americans that we should fight in World War I.

To say that mass telecom “sways” the belief systems of the electorate is inadequate. Mass telecom creates the belief systems of the electorate.

Social Media is Mass Media on steroids.

Putin the Wicked Magician of Social Media

Vladimir Putin was terrified of the prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming President. She would have kicked his butt. She was his incentive, his passion, his target.

In 2016 a thousand Russian agents worked full time spinning a divisive attack on America using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube (and other stuff). Our social media was flooded with millions of crafty messages intended to shape the mush of our malleable brains. It worked like a charm.

Hillary Clinton was assassinated by a campaign of misinformation, and Putin got his boy elected in the United States. Donald Trump is President of the United States, and the greatest disaster that has afflicted us since the Civil War.

Putin had help in America.

Go to the Facebook page of a pro-trump friend or family member. You who I mean. Flip back to 2016 and you will see them sharing hundreds of completely ridiculous posts that were authored by some guy in Romania or Moscow. And so, by extension, they become tertiary agents of Putin.

Like any virulent disease the conditions were perfect for Putin’s attack. The FOX Network has worked hard to put lipstick on this pig from the very beginning. FOX is the propaganda network. They rely on fundamentally that their viewers never fact check a thing, and probably don’t know how.

Trump lies with flair and indifference to fact-checking. The lie has been elevated to Olympic heights. The godlike lie is truly Trumpian.

It is stunning how much damage Trump has done to everyone in this country in the lower 99% of income. Our news media reports on what he does. But simple reporting of what Trump does on a daily basis is deflected as “fake news”.

The Republican party is owned by big industry. The rich and greedy are busy feasting on the carcass of the once mighty American middle class. Trump is their useful idiot. While the Republicans despise him, they aren’t going to rock the boat sailing them to glory land.

Elections Have Consequences

In a world gone crazy the American election in 2020 shall be the big test… don’t you think?

My interest in politics has always been about the environment and, fundamentally, our ability to sustain life on this planet. We are at a point in time that we need really smart people shaping our policy. America might have been the leader, promoting methods and policy that could save the planet.

But instead… we got Trump.

Trump in the next week intends to fire all of the scientists that work for the USDA.  This is perhaps the most significant science agency in the world. He’s firing them because disclosure of science creates bad political optics for his actions, and contradicts his lies.

Count on FOX to tell Trump voters what to think of this crime. And they’ll believe every word FOX tells them to believe. They always do.

We must stop focusing only on the environmental disasters that are sitting on our heads, like global warming. There are a dozen more disasters of greater magnitude getting ready to afflict us… acidification of the oceans; degradation of the earth’s skin/topsoil; depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer; the imminent extinction of four million species. The list goes on.

Humpty Dumpty is in big trouble. And I don’t know if we can put him back together again.


“For the most part we do not first see, and then define, we define first and then see. In the great blooming, buzzing confusion of the outer world we pick out what our culture has already defined for us, and we tend to perceive that which we have picked out in the form stereotyped for us by our culture.”

― Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston FUBAR

Black Box Course Design

June 16, 2019

I had a course design discussion with an associate not too long ago. Our conversation had mostly to do with methodology for designing courses. The course designer always begins with a completely blank slate or tabula rasa, an awesome and sometimes intimidating challenge.

Once you get a start, of course you have foundation for nesting and variations on a theme. But getting a start really can be the hard part.

Anyway, I gave her an idea or two about how to get the creative juices flowing and in a timely manner lay out a design that is interesting, and fun, and challenging. I left off our study by wishing her luck. And I told her… “remind me some day to tell you about the Black Box method.”

She wrote back directly and was intrigued by the Black Box.

This is a unique opportunity to kill several birds with the same stone. I can answer her question; publish to my blog; and get a course designed that I will use next month.

Truth be Told

I’m going to take inspiration from an existing course that especially inspires or fascinates me. It might be unkind to suggest that I’m going to steal someone else’s course concept. I’m going to use it as a beginning point. And I will repurpose it and make it uniquely new.

It’s easy to camouflage what you borrow, if you’re feeling slightly guilty. I prefer to send a note to the original artist and give them kudos and tell them OBTW I’m going to use your course concept. Usually they are gratified by having their genius acknowledged.

FOR THIS TUTORIAL I went out to a website called and just flipped pages until I found something that grabbed me. has a provision for contacting the original designer to get permission to download the course map.

I found a course designed by USDAA judge Tami McClung that was played as a Team Standard course on June 24, 2006.


What drew me to this course was the meandering nature of the course from side to side. If a sequence undulates, in serpentine fashion, the handler is able to work the course without having to race the dog. These days we see a lot of severe straight lines running back ‘n forth the length of the floor.

I’m charged with designing a course for a 60′ x 90’ space, for play in the National Dog Agility League. There appears to be ample room for Tami McClung’s course North & South. But side to side I will have to make accommodations. I hope to be faithful to the challenges presented on this course. Tami debriefed the course, pointing out the wrong course options. My ambition is to preserve those challenges.


Because of the compression from the sides there wasn’t room for the opening sequence to be identical. A single jump did the duty of the #4 and #6 jumps on Tami’s original course. This accommodation sacrificed the first wrong course option from Tami’s debriefing.

And after jump #8, there was no room for a pipe tunnel on the right-side wall.


I’ve turned on the option to show path lengths between obstacles. When I design courses for the NDAL I like to see about 20′ for transitional distances between obstacles. I’m a little nervous about the short transitions to the A-frame, and on the dismount of the A-frame.

I’ve numbered this course through the dogwalk. The smaller space has depressed the number count for this course. But, I’m not done yet.


There’s no collapsed tunnel at the back of the ring. Tami McClung’s course was designed something like 14 years ago, while the USDAA still used the chute. These days the collapsed tunnel is just about extinct. We are happy to get rid of it… and there wasn’t room anyway.

I’ve replaced the #13 jump with a pipe tunnel. This introduces a wrong course option after jump #9, and makes up for losing the wrong course option after jump #14 in Tami’s original course.

On the dismount of the dogwalk a bit of sequencing has been added that will lift the obstacle count for the course. This change also breaks up that long line that finished the original course.

The A-frame has been nudged a bit to open up the transitional distances on approach and dismount. Moving the A-frame makes the A-frame a more compelling option after the #5 pipe tunnel; one of the wrong-course options from Tami’s original course.

Some of the jumps have wings removed. While I like the visual presentation of a winged jump, sometimes those wings create both visual clutter and complications for the handler’s path.


Finishing Touches

This course has been rotated 90º. My personal preference in designing courses is for the long ends of a course to go left and right. I worked designing this course longways up & down because I was constantly referring to the original course.

Another change, which might be kind of jarring, is that the course has been flipped or mirrored. This might be a bit sneaky, obscuring the notion that you’ve purloined somebody else’s course concept. But my motivation was a bit more pedestrian. The dogwalk was on the other side of the floor last month; and I wanted it to be completely repositioned.

On my course map I have written “with apology to Tami McClung”. You will see these notes of apology on my courses from time to time. These notes invariably mean that I have Black Boxed a course that fascinated or intrigued me.



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Jokers Notebook, a series of comprehensive training workbooks intended to teach a dog powerful skills of independent performance. –

The Exploding Pinwheel

June 13, 2019

The dog training objective in this exercise is to teach the dog to take ownership of the pinwheel, as though it were a single obstacle with multiple elements, rather like the weave poles. The exercise, and the diligent practice of doing the exercise, has several other benefits:

  • The dog will adopt a powerful obstacle focus for jumps and hurdles;
  • Teach and reinforce a powerful directional command: “Go On!”
  • The dog will learn to work independently at a distance from his handler;
  • The pinwheel becomes an element in competition that allows the handler to gain advantage in field position.

“Exploding” pinwheel possibly conjures an image of wings and jump bars flying everywhere as if blown up dynamite. Just to settle down the imagery… exploding means in this context that the pinwheel gradually expands away from a center position.

The Basic Set


We begin with a pinwheel drawn tight and close together. When making this introduction the bars must be kept very low so that it is safe for the big and fast dogs. As in all progressive exercises the steps should be small and incremental to ensure that the dog continues to succeed.

The handler will work the dog out in a clockwise direction, then stop to praise and reward the dog, and then resume in the anti-clockwise direction and then again praise and reward the dog.

As a basic objective is to teach the “Go On!” directional, the dog trainer should give that verbal cue to keep working. Rather than saying “jump – jump – jump – jump”… after the initial command to jump simply to tell the dog “Go on! Go On!”

The dog being unsuccessful in a training exercise is as important to our training method as is the dog being successful. When the dog is successful, he gets praise and reward. When the dog does not succeed, he is denied both praise and reward. We rely on the cleverness of the dog to sort out what he must do when the handler says a certain word, and holds his body thusly, to earn that reward.



As the pinwheel explodes to a greater extent the focus of the handler becomes more important. For the purpose of this discussion the handler’s focus is indicated by what is he looking at, what he is pointing at, what he is facing. The focus of the handler must agree with the focus of the dog.

The extent to which the pinwheel gets bigger depends on success. If the dog “gets it”… next time you make it a bit bigger.

Not every session will be perfect. That is the nature of dog training.

Though While the basic four-sided pinwheel was the training vehicle, the performance skills learned by the dog apply to jumping sequences with more jumps, occupying considerably more real estate. A basic objective from the beginning was to teach the dog to seek out jumps and get over them without requiring the handler to run in and micro-manage the simple performance of each jump.


A proofing exercise, as in the video above, gives important closure to the introduction of the exercise. Be very clear though, that this is a skill that needs refreshment and reinforcement over time.


The proofing exercise was conducted on our NDAL league course in May, 2019. All of our league courses suggest opportunities for very basic training objectives.

Note that I do this training with young dogs. I am convinced that training in the first year of a dog’s life cements the dog’s understanding of performance and behavior.

I have in my library a hundred or more recordings of dogs training with this exercise. I started doing this training and developing methodology roughly 20 years ago with my old boy Bogie. I really miss my boy and appreciate everything that he taught me.

The recordings selected here are intended to provide a concise overview of the methodology.

Something Fun

Phoenix Chasing Kory 1.wmv


Playful Pinwheels ~ Thinking Outside the Box

Editor’s Note:

I want to share with you something I wrote more than ten years ago. I wrote this before I was afflicted with arthritis. You’ll note a bit of disdain for moving “badly” as though it were a matter of sloth, rather than a physical limitation. In any case, it should be a good read for you who will play the game at a full run.  

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.



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Jokers Notebook, a series of comprehensive training workbooks intended to teach a dog powerful skills of independent performance.