Posts Tagged ‘League Play’

League Play With Flow

January 8, 2016

I’m delighted that the first league game we will play in 2016 is the 60×90 National Dog Agility League course. To tell you the truth, although this is a technically challenging course, after the “International” style courses that have been the main for the past few months this one feels like a breath of fresh air.


The key features of this course include the modest “cluster” defined by the two pipe tunnels under the dogwalk and the two jumps: #5 and #15. The dog passes through the cluster only twice. The other notable feature is the two tunnel-under-the-contact discrimination moments, first on the approach to the #8 dogwalk; and finally on the approach to the #14 pipe tunnel.

Truthfully, the challenges in this course are more suited to intermediate or advanced skills.

The opening probably begs for a lead-out. A dog forward of the handler tends to curl to the handler’s position. So if the handler is behind the dog could bend towards the handler after jump #2 and not make a clean pass through the box and into the weave poles.

The passage from the teeter to the #6 pipe tunnel might have several different handling possibilities. The pipe tunnel is framed to the dog given a straight approach through jump #5. It might be useful as a training exercise to go through some of those possibilities. Clearly dog-on-right and dog-on-left are the obvious options. But we shouldn’t discount that some handlers will allow the dog the performance of the teeter from a considerable distance, possibly layering to the opposite side of jump #5.

The wrap from jump #7 back to the dogwalk will be a telling moment in the course. Clearly, in league play, the game is won by the efficiency of transitions between obstacles. So the handler in this moment must make the most efficient turning cue in his repertoire. This too might be a matter for discussion in class/training. Note that the handler will be on a full bore run just to tag the jump. This is an important variable in cuing the turn.

The performance of the table will be a 5-second count without regard or requirement for obedience performance… as they do in AKC. With my own students I want to have a discussion about taking up a useful downfield position to press the attack to the #14 pipe tunnel.

The closing is fairly delightful, making this course finish with a flourish. A Rear Cross is pretty much dictated at jump #16.

Three Course League Play

The National Dog Agility League is going to a three League format for two compelling reasons:

  1. To accommodate a variety of different working spaces, and
  2. To focus on different levels and styles of challenges

I’ve already given some thought to how we will deal with the other two NDAL league courses (we, of course are going to play in all three leagues). That discussion is on the NDAL Blog.

Top Dog Review

22 minutes of your life you’ll never get back, YouTube magazine: TopDogReview

I had a lot of fun making it. This video demonstrates the drama of league play competition.

Jumping Into the League

New clubs are welcome to establish franchises with the National Dog Agility League. It’s very inexpensive and is a great foundation for play and training.

Most of the details can be found here:

Email our trial secretary if you need help getting started: Bud Houston ~

Blog1085 Home

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.

Planning the League Course

October 12, 2015

Before ever walking a course the handler can do a certain amount of visualization of the performance. Your brain needs to draw from the two-dimensional course map and from your imagination a plan that is a rational fit to the challenge. When you finally get to walk the course you have just a few minutes to add choreography to the music that you have composed.

Below is my own (untested and unproven) solution to the October NDAL competition. My plan may change after I’ve walked it.


The jump #1 to #3 opening to this course is a skill I routinely practice with my dogs, approaching jump #1 dog-on-right, using a Tandem cue to turn away to jump #2. This leaves me far enough ahead that I can make a good presentation of jump #3 and slide into a Blind Cross for the approach to jump #4. The only real question about this opening will be the A-frame option after jump #1, which could be compelling to the dog and disturb the pressure and clarity of the Tandem.


The approach to the weave poles is nearly perpendicular, raising the question of whether to shape the approach or to trust in the dog’s training. Know thy dog.

The approach to the pipe tunnel at #7 is a pull-through in a cluster. All that really means is that there’s so much that can go wrong in moment after the weave poles that the handler had better have both good plan and good execution. For my part, I’m going to call my dog into a Back Pass.


I have put a good training foundation on my boy for “named obstacle” discrimination. But don’t you know, in this crowded back corner (the cluster) the #7 pipe tunnel is a cannon pointed broadside at the A-frame. I believe I’m going to step in a take a blocking position. Of course this leaves me behind after the dismount of the pipe tunnel. A notable feature of this set of equipment is the unused expanse of real estate at the center of the field. Mostly I will just be driving from the back seat.

The handler should be aware of the wrong course option posed by the jump to the right of the A-frame after jump #10.


This is the relaxed part of the overall course. The A-frame puts the dog back into the “cluster”; the correct entry to the #12 pipe tunnel probably shouldn’t be taken for granted. And out of the weave poles the handler might want to open up the approach to the #14 jump, just a bit, so that it’s not completely depressed.

Otherwise, the handler should be working to be in position for whatever is the plan after jump #17.


#17 to #19 is a bit technical. The handler has to call the dog into a modest “pull-through” after jump #17 and somehow sell the turn out of the pipe tunnel to jump #19. Don’t be fooled by the line that turns neatly out of the tunnel in the drawing. Life doesn’t always go like the drawing.

Anyhow, I’ll endeavor to precue the change of directions by giving a little “backy-uppy” presentation of the tunnel.

Jumping in to the League

If you have interested in jumping into League Play, the October workbook for the final game of the summer series can be downloaded HERE.


Training Sequences (Courtesy of Steven Schwarz):

Blog1056 Home

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.

League Play at Country Dream

September 23, 2015

Our classes are always based on the “league” game. Since the competitive league is a monthly affair, some of our classes will be based on a pickup game.

The course below is a National Dog Agility League game that was played about two years ago. I’m excited by the prospect of running this course again because a couple of our dogs and a couple of our student’s dogs ran it two years ago. This rerun allows us to compare a dog’s development over time.

These days we video-tape all of our runs; and I’m pretty sure we don’t have the original runs recorded. And so even though we have time and scores, whatever errors of play or judgment we might have made then, are lost in the dust of time. But, since we are keen to record (and post on YouTube) these days; it might make an interesting comparison in maybe another two years.


Any course or game that you play will have good material for teaching and practice. I’m pretty sure in the design of this course that I was preoccupied with how to give a turning cue to a dog heading into a straight pipe tunnel. Mind you I believe that the handler’s posture on making the presentation of a pipe tunnel cues the dog on how to make the dismount… whether to fire out of the tunnel as though out of the barrel of a cannon, or to bend neatly into a turn.

If the handler is nowhere near the pipe tunnel as the dog goes in… then posture can’t be all that significant and the handler will have to rely on verbal cues. We’ll develop this line of thought more at class on Monday night.

You are welcome to join us in playing this game. You can even record your own scores with the National Dog Agility League. Download the scorekeeping workbook HERE.

On the Road Again

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Medford, OR where I’ll lead a single seminar day on Friday, and judge a TDAA trial on Saturday and Sunday. I’m coming home on the red eye on Sunday night. So it should make for an interesting week as I try to recover.

I’ve set our league course already so that it’s ready to rock ‘n roll on Monday night.

Blog1048 Home

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.

Pick-Up League Game

August 20, 2015


As we are only doing one league game a month, I will occasionally introduce a pick-up game for our local league play. Of course this game is available to play by any club or franchise associated with the National Dog Agility League. Though results will not apply to the League underway, dogs still earn Lifetime Performance Points (LPP).

This is a numbered course that will be scored Time, Plus Faults.

The League has focused on and even specialized in International level skills and challenges. These days aside from the USDAA’s Masters Challenge class (and I suppose the new AKC class) we don’t really have the opportunity to hone skills that are common in Europe and are very likely to be featured when we send our World Team to Europe.

What might have been considered ugly or unsafe only a few years ago is fodder for the central challenge in the International-style course.

Can You Say “Granularity”

The problem with a score of “E” is that it cuts off any hope of measuring performance or, for that matter, comparing scores. As the National Dog Agility League (NDAL) is not primarily a titling agility registry we require a system that allows a comparison of scores. Purists in the sport will spit and sputter in objection to a dog earning only 5 faults for a wrong course. But if you think about it, those 5 faults will move the dog down in the standings without actually removing the performance score as though it never existed.

Jumping in to the League

The score-keeping workbook for this pickup course can be downloaded here: Pick-up Game

And… if you have interested in jumping into League Play, you still have time to play on the first course of the summer league. The workbook can be downloaded here: August League

Short Notice B&D Creekside Clinic

I know this is short notice. On Tuesday, August 25 I will be in Latrobe to do a distance clinic and introduce the National Dog Agility League to agility fans at B&D Creekside. You should contact Darlene ( if you’d like to come out to play with us. It will run from 6:30 to about 9:00 and should be priced very inexpensively.

We have only a few league teams so far, around the U.S. and also with clubs in Canada and Mexico. League scores are derived from the top 5 performing dogs at each club or franchise. So clearly it gives an advantage to a club to run league with a large number of dogs.

I have an ulterior motive in helping to establish league play in Latrobe. I want to create a coalition of clubs in the Ohio valley that will get together for an annual championship tournament that owes no affiliation to any big agility organization. They have such a tournament in Florida. Every club sends teams of nine dogs & handlers broken up into 3‑Beginner; 3-Intermediate; and 3-Masters. The winning “team” is the aggregate score.

Here’s hoping you’ll join us on the 25th!

Blog1031 Home

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.

August League Course!

July 27, 2015

August begins a new league competition for the National Dog Agility League. Later today we will be publishing League Rules and Stipulations for a three-month league, August to October 2015.

We’re growing the league. If you would like to join in the competition, it’s an easy matter. There are no costs associated with playing except for nominal recording fees.

Warped Helter Skelter



In the U.K., there is a dog agility class called Helter Skelter. The game is named after a children’s ride at parks and fairs where a slide spirals down the side of a tower. This game is extremely popular with dogs and handlers alike.

This game is a bit of a combination of Helter Skelter and Time Warp. The course is designed as a Helter Skelter spiral, testing a handler’s instincts for knowing when to have a foot on the gas, and when to have a foot on the brakes! The Time Warp element, of course, is a subtraction from the overall score for working the dog at a distance.

This is a simple numbered course that will be judged Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus. The course shows two bonus lines.  If the dog can perform #8 through #12 with the handler remaining behind the containment line at 30’, the bonus will be 10 seconds. If the handler stays on the other side of the 40’ line, the bonus will be 20 seconds.

Otherwise, it’s just a numbered course. Follow the numbers; keep the bars up; and hit the paint.

News from National Dog Agility League

A Nibble from Nat Geo

The National Geographic Channel has shown some interest in Top dog and the National Dog Agility League. Early indications are that Nat Geo might be interested in starting Top Dog as an internet-based streaming program. And as participation in the program grows they would consider moving it to on air programming.

Bishop-Lyons is working hard to develop the relationship with Nat Geo. I’ll keep you posted on how this progresses.

Summer League Rules to be Published Today

We’re working on the NDAL League Rules and Stipulations for a three-month league, August to October 2015. Later today I will send these Rules to all existing league teams; and make them available both on our blog and on Facebook for any new team that would like to join the league.

Lessons Learned from the Spring League

What we’ve really lacked in the conduct of the league so far is a sense of drama and immediacy. To further these ambitions the Summer 2015 league will have some new timing rules; and the League Secretaries tasks will be refined.

A new timing rule will require a league team to report their results for a given month’s league competition by midnight on the last day of that month.

The league secretary will publish the results of an individual club’s league scores within three days of receipt of those results. As results continue to come in the cumulative results will be published showing a fair comparison of standing between clubs in the competition.

Blog1023 Home

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.

Truckin’ Like the Do-Dah Man!

June 21, 2015


The June league course for the National Dog Agility League was designed by Seanna O’Neill of Team Canada. It’s a small slip of a numbered sequence that fits in a 40′ by 60′ space. For our own training, I’ve incorporated her league courses in a larger set of the floor partly to demonstrate how it’s done; and more importantly because we have class tomorrow and we need a bit more than is provided by the league set.

I should share with you also the advanced sequence as well:


This is a pretty wicked riddle, eh? Calculated, I think, to give Sharon Nelson a heart attack (should she actually be paying attention).


The cards ain’t worth a dime if you don’t lay them down. Jerry Garcia


In the Hall of the Mountain King

Blog1014 Home

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.

League Course Coaches Notes

May 21, 2015

The league course for the month is a painfully technical numbered sequence that stresses skills of an “International” flavor. Now that I’ve scared the crap out of you… let’s talk about solving this riddle.

Take a moment to inspect the course and think through your own handling solution. I’ll follow up with a bit-by-bit briefing of my own.

This course might lull the handler out of any sense of urgency in his own movement. It is useful to consider when practicing the course in walk-through that movement is both direction and motive to the dog. Take note of how many errors occur on this course if the handler is: A) standing still; or B) facing the wrong direction; or C) both.


The Opening: 1-4

The opening is actually fairly simple, but not without risk.


First of all, you should make the dog’s approach through the first two jumps as straight a line as possible. There’s no good reason to demand a turn between jumps #1 and #2 when they line up neatly. You could, from the start, use a bit of parallel path pressure that will allow you to be in position on the landing side of jump #3 for the turn to the tunnel.

After jump #2 there are two jumps looming as wrong course options. The handler needs to work the turn until the dog’s nose comes around to address the #3 jump. Another wrong course option is open to the dog after jump #3, that wingless jump sitting out there without a number.

Jump #3 is a bar most likely to get dumped in this opening. The handler might be guilty of unproductive loitering on the landing side of the jump, engaging in antics that draw the dog into handler focus, when he really needs to be in obstacle focus.

If the handler can pre-cue the turn after jump #3 the dog should neatly make the turn into the pipe tunnel. The contest will be won or lost in how efficiently the handler can cue the dog into his turns.

Transition to the Weaves: #4 to #6

In this short sequence the handler might need a single change of sides to the dog. The riddle is how and where to make that change of sides.


Don’t take the #5 jump for granted, the flow will not have much natural logic to the dog. The handler has little time and less room to turn the dog to the jump. It might help the handler to realize that he needs to allow the dog to carry through the jump so that when turned back to the weave poles the approach is not too perpendicular.

It’s possible for the handler to pre-cue the right turn out of the tunnel with a “backy-uppy” presentation of the pipe tunnel. The efficacy of this presentation might border on theoretical. But theory becomes practice if tested in training with the dog.

To get the change of sides the handler might Front Cross on the approach to jump #5; or Cross on the landing side of #5 as the dog is making his approach. Another possibility: the handler could approach jump #5 with dog on left, using a Tandem Turn (rear cross on the flat) after the jump. In either choice for the change of sides it is the handler’s job to shape the dog’s turn and approach to the weave poles.

Midcourse: #6 to #11

This is the closing of the first half of a course which has been a series of technical bits fitting together like puzzle pieces.


#7 is a Backside. The dog will be spying that #7 jump all the while he is weaving. The handler has about 8′ of real estate after the weave poles to convince the dog that we’ll be taking the jump from the opposite side. A real bold handler might push the dog on his right lead out of the weave poles, and race into a Blind Cross to create an approach that slices through jump #7 and neatly on to jump #8; and wouldn’t it be nice to have dog-on-left after jump #8?

The #9 cone is in the center of the U-shaped pipe tunnel which traditionally means that the entry from either side is dog’s choice. We would probably really like the dog to go into the left side, because this lines the dog up in a nice straight line through jumps #10 and #11.

However, don’t push too hard after he turns back from the #8 jump. Just a bit of pressure might put the dog wrong course over the #10 jump.

The Closing

The second half of the course is a technical jumping sequence that challenges my course memorization skills. It’s a good idea to shape-to-shape the sequence to simplify the memory of it. I’ll try to demonstrate “shape-to-shape”.


Pinwheel ~ #11-12-13 is a three-jump pinwheel.


Serpentine ~ #13-14-15 a three-jump serpentine. Note that the #15 jump is a modest Backside.


Bow Tie ~ #16-17-18-19 starts with wrap on the landing side of jump #16. There really isn’t any compelling wrong course option to the dog in the turn. The handler would like to get the dog to wrap tight and turn back neatly.

This might be solved with a simple Front Cross, but… mindful of the wrong-course option (#12) after jump #17 I’ll probably call my dog into a counter-clockwise Back Pass, shaping his a flat trajectory to #17 that helps leave off the wrong course jump.

After jump #18 the handler will pull across the box to the finish. Be mindful that the #16 jump looms as a final wrong course option.


So the simple memorization trick is to “chunk” the course shape-by-shape, making the second half of the course easy to memorize: Pinwheel to Serpentine to Bow Tie.

This is a tough course for a “pure for motion” dog. So the riddle becomes how to stay in motion and communicate to the dog the order and direction of obstacles. The Captain Obvious notation: if you are standing still it’s unlikely that you are moving well.

In The Meantime

Kory is a bit lame today, so I did not get to run the course. Obviously I did obsess over it a bit. I’m off in the morning to judge a USDAA trial up in Schenectady. My class will run league on Monday. I’ll run it when I get back.

I did have the usual time to train our young girl Cedar:

Blog1012 Home

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.

Top Dog Agility Players

September 1, 2014

We’ve just published the League Challenge Course for September, 2014. You can get all the details here:

There might be three new league host clubs joining us in the month of September. It’s a slow but fun start.

I’ve just returned from a three-day trial at B&D Creekside in Latrobe, PA.  It’s late, and I’m tired. I’ll write more tomorrow.


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.