Posts Tagged ‘Top Dog Agility Players’


February 4, 2016

This is a wicked strange winter we’ve been having. One day it’s warm… next day it’s cold. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I’ve been staying busy busy. And, I’m having a lot of fun getting the National Dog Agility League going. We’re up to about 500 runs a month.

We’ve published another episode of the Top Dog League Review program. You can find the program here: This program focuses on the 60×90 “C” competition; a competition intended for Intermediate to Masters level challenges. The video publishing effort is still amateurish but I’m learning the tools as we move along.

Tech Tools

The extensive use of YouTube recording by our member clubs makes the Review possible. I had an exchange with Brenda Gilday about the use of “short links”. When publishing a series of YouTube recordings for your league team the editing page on YouTube will provide short links for each. The alternative url is the long line of text that appears at the top of the browser.

Anyhow, Brenda told me that she couldn’t figure out how to find the short link, so I popped over to my YouTube account… and sure enough, I couldn’t find the short links as readily as you can when you’re uploading a list of files.


It turns out that there is a utility on the internet which will take your long url and turn it into a short link / small url. It doesn’t cost anything, and it’s easy to use:

Bitly turned this:,

into this:

Active Presenter

This is program that I use for capturing a region of the computer screen and turning it into video; and of course Active Presenter allows you to record a voice over. They have a free low end version of the program that does everything I need to do. Frankly it probably does a lot more that I could actually use, if I ever could set aside some time to study properly.

I mention this program because I’m going to ask our February games masters, Steve Schwarz and Wayne Van Deusen to do a review of their courses from the designer’s POV. I’d like to use their analysis (rather than my analysis) for future Review programs.

[[Steve has published training sequences based on the set of equipment for his 50×50 challenge in his popular blog: … I should have short-linked that url with Bitly! ]]

What I did in my course review for January… I saved the course map as a bitmap and opened it in Paint. This allowed me to use big sloppy brush strokes to describe the dog’s path. That’s a tool you just won’t find in the Clean Run Course Designer.

Window’s Live Movie Maker

My “movie” editing software is a free thing that Microsoft bundled with Windows 8. It’s primitive but has much of the functionality that I need. Though, I haven’t figured out how to edit or change the sound track… and I don’t properly know how to do transitions between scenes.

I’ll give Steve Lewis a shout on the topic just to see if he has words of wisdom for me [you’ll recall that Steve did the video productions for the USDAA Nationals back in the day.] He’ll likely wince at my productions but he’s too polite to really blast me.

I believe that Active Presenter will probably do much of the editing that I need. Maybe I should study it a bit more. I’m kind of stuck with a problem here… I bought a new computer with Windows 10. And, not only does Microsoft no longer support Window’s Live Movie Maker… but it is incompatible with Windows 10.

Windows 10

I pretty much hate it. WTF

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

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 ~

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

Resolutions for a New Year

December 29, 2015

I promise in 2016 to take better care of my health. I’ve got to lose weight; and I’ve got to eat better. Beyond that I will enjoy life day by day and make the most of my hobbies and passions.

The funny thing is, after a lifetime of striving to build and develop for “the future”… I realize that the future is now. It’s a change for me, to live for today, and not for tomorrow. Do I know how to do it?

I’ll share a couple of my projects for the New Year below.

The Joker’s Notebook

Since we got our young girl Cedar we’ve been video-taping our ongoing training, subscribing to Marsha’s Two Minute Dog Trainer methodology. It is my intention to take a fairly extensive body of work from the pages of The Joker’s Notebook and create a compendium publication with links to YouTube videos which give a visual reference to the training.

I got a chuckle the other day when going through the videos and found more than one of me in my robe doing early morning training with Cedar. That’s the reality of dog training. You don’t always get dressed up like you’re going to be on camera. Sometimes you just throw on the morning robe and go get ‘er done.

Not to brag, or anything, but the Joker’s Notebook is a comprehensive reference for teaching a dog independent performance in agility and the perfect foundation for an amazing distance dog.

Cedar has her own Facebook page with lots of her videos published: Cedar’s Facebook page

Agility League Play

A chief passion for me for the last several years has been to build a league of franchise clubs that run the same course or play the same game in a league format. The league finally has some traction and is slowly (oh, so slowly) growing.

The National Dog Agility League has a presence on Facebook: NDAL on Facebook

The first game we’re going to play here at my place in 2016 is the course set for a 60′ x 90′ space. In the 60×90 we’re getting away from the “international” grind into something more lovely and flowing… but certainly with some challenge.

I’ll share with you:


This should be a lot of fun!

Come Play With Us!

The National Dog Agility League is gearing up for a new year. We have been tantalized with the prospect of a NatGeo program in early 2017 based on our championship series. The program will be based on the players who support the league.

You can find a description of the 1st quarter 2016 series here:

The first quarter series is actually three separate leagues based on a) size of the floor and b) difficulty of the challenges.

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

Dog Agility Television

September 30, 2015

NatGeoTV plans to produce a program featuring Top Dog and the National Dog Agility League. This is not a series. But we are inclined to want to blow their socks off and make it very clear that it should be a series. The plan is for February of 2017 in conjunction with the events surrounding Westminster.

In 2016 we will be marketing the league in earnest. NatGeoTV might be electrified by the support by the agility community. But we’ll have to demonstrate that we are capable of supplying that electricity.

The format that I have envisioned all along is a competition between the two top franchises in the National Dog Agility League. That means that accrued scores for each club in 2016 will qualify the teams for the on-air competition. Play will be open to anyone in the world who wants to put up the course, utilizing basic social networking tools for the recording and aggregation of scores.

In routine league play the team score for a franchise club is derived from the scores of their top five players. That gives a notable advantage to franchises with lots of dogs. The plan for the NatGeoTV segment will be that the teams must be selected in advance.

In a “king of the hill” format the top franchise in 2016, based on earned LPP, will be the host. The runner-up gets to travel and challenge the Top Dog team on their turf. That sounds intimidating eh?

At the same time any club anywhere in the world will be able to put up the challenge course and submit scores in the competition. For this one event we will require a YouTube link (to a recording which might wind up on the program). The YouTube data is optional in routine league play.

League franchise clubs established in 2015 will be grandfathered.

Jumping in to the League

The October workbook for the final game of the summer series can be downloaded HERE.

If you have interested in jumping into League Play, you barely have time to play on the second course of the summer league. The workbook can be downloaded here: September League.

While it is too late to compete in the first course of the summer series, you are invited to run that course and record your scores with all previous competitors. The August workbook can be downloaded here: August League

The score-keeping workbook for the out-of-league course can be downloaded here: Pick-up Game

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

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!

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

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.

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

Agility League March Course

March 3, 2015

This is a discussion of the technical elements of the Top Dog Secretary’s Choice for March, 2015.

Any course or sequence is a unique riddle and will reveal over time the handling challenges that were in the mind of the designer. And occasionally a riddle will be revealed that wasn’t imagined at all by the designer.

In my instruction I will almost never specify handling of a sequence. We’ll begin with the Entertainment Round in which each student will demonstrate their own instinctive solution to the sequence. My job is to improve the handler’s instinct.


The first thing we see in this course is that it is very short, only having ten obstacles. This is the course designer having fun with the preconception of a rational standard. It is a non-stop handler’s course that challenges the handler in virtually every transition.


The opening of this course has all to do with the handler being in position to handle the transition from jump #3 into the weave poles at #4. The handler will probably want a modest lead-out. And so the key handling bit will be in Bending the dog into the turn from jump #1 to jump #2. Bending is the reciprocal of the Post turn. The handler is on the side away from the turn.


The transition from jump #3 into the weave poles is a threadle, pure and simple. Even though there is ample room for the handler to work, it is a complicated riddle for the handler. First of all the handler wants to cue to the dog into an efficient turn off the jump, and then draw the dog around for an entry to the weave poles.

The approach to the weave poles is really the make or break moment in this course. If the handler must shape the dog’s approach into the weave poles he’ll surely sacrifice a second or more to his competition. On the other hand, if the handler hasn’t trained the dog to gain the entry, then a bold approach would be foolhardy.

Sometimes the homework just writes itself.


The transition from jump #5 to the counter-side pipe tunnel is a bit ham-handed; but a very real challenge on this course. The first thing the dog sees after the turn from the jump is the wrong-course entry to the pipe tunnel. So it’s not enough to turn the dog. He needs to keep turning until his nose comes to line with the correct entry to the tunnel.

The handler must be aware that he needs to be in position on the next approach to the weave poles. But almost anything the handler does to solve this sequence gives the handler a two second advantage in time and space over the dog… because the dog needs to do the tunnel.

There are a lot of possibilities for a handling solution here. The handler might use a Front Cross, or an RFP. I like to teach a Flip (Ketchker) here just to have some fun with the handler communicating with his dog through movement.


The transition from jump #7 to the weave poles is also a threadle, though not nearly as obvious as our first approach. Every point I made about the first threadle and approach applies here as well.

Note that jump #7 can be taken for granted by the handler who will view the dog’s approach as a matter of obviousness. If a dog is going to run past a jump on this course… it will be jump #7.


The closing of the course is a bit bloody minded. But don’t you know it’s the kind of basic skill that the grown-ups are studying. The approach to jump #9 is a back-side, exacerbated by a pull-through/approach.

I initially drew the pull-through out of the weave poles to go between jumps #9 and #10. Even though a lot of people will try it that way… I want to give my dog better flow.


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.

Winter Chat

February 27, 2015

I had a long conversation with Stephen Lewis yesterday. Old timers may remember he’s the guy who produced the USDAA Grand Prix videos early in this century. We chatted about collaborating on a publication that makes use of text and pictures with links to external video/digital recording. Okay, it’s not smashing new technology. The idea is to support courses we use in League Play with training publication.

It’s more than likely that many of the clubs that participate in the National Dog Agility League will do so alongside their training classes. That’s practical. So, wouldn’t it be fun to have a training pub that anticipates training objectives on the set of equipment?

Right now I’m busy planning for an upcoming series of classes here. The series is called “Intensity Agility”. It should be a lot of fun for me. We set high standards, make homework for everyone; and we do a lot of drill and practice.

We’ll begin with the NDAL/Top Dog March course. I’ll share my preparation for that class here… if you’ll wait just a few days.

Kinda Blue



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running: The Book of Agility Games is a perfect reference for the conduct of agility league play.

The Dog Agility Course as Artifact

February 26, 2015

A key element for competition with the National Dog Agility League is the open challenge of a game or course. What this means is that the agility course is an artifact that is forever open to competition observing the same placement of equipment, scoring basis and rules for performance.

We ran an agility league at Dogwood Training Center for eight years. This was a training center with more or less 150 students a week, who for the most part participated in league play. While I have saved all of the old courses (documented forever in the pages of The Just For Fun Agility Notebook), I did not save the scores or even the rosters of participants.

Today I’m absolutely intrigued by how I might do with the generation of dogs that I now own… competing against a younger version of me, and another generation of dogs.

We are going to maintain a Catalog of Games and Courses which will forever be open for competition. The top dog in each competition will have a score that sits atop the marquee like the high score on a video game. New scores will be combined and aggregated with existing scores! (forever)

In 20 years somebody might want to compete on that same course and have a go at the high score set by some World Team superstar (long time passing).

Another utility of the course or game as historical artifact is as a teaching tool. The intrepid agility teacher might put up the same course to students every year; and track their progress by the improvement of scores in that game.

Seriously, think of the possibilities.

The Catalog of Games and Courses can be found here:

The Recording Secretary

I have a guy working on a reporting system interface for the internet. It’s not done yet. Until it is done I’m the recording secretary and will do everything by hand. I’m hoping my guy gets something in place fairly soon. Recording scores is a boatload of work.

The Assignment

We’re starting a series of classes here at Country Dream that we’re calling: Intensity Agility! To be honest the intention of these classes is to require the best effort from our students. That means that we’ll set a demanding pace, establish firm objectives, assign homework, and test the efficacy of both practice and homework.

Marsha has challenged me to design the full suite of course-work in advance. This will include a “Game of the Week”, lesson plans, and homework.

The “Game of the Week” will be designed for a 90′ x 60′ working space and will automatically go into the Catalog of Games and Courses that I mentioned above. I will no doubt share those courses with you here in my blog.


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.

Proverbs 11:29

He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.

A National Dog Agility League

February 25, 2015

Invitations are going out today to join play in an agility league that spans the United States, with the possibility that we’ll be joined by players in other countries. Our objective is to create an organization that will oversee the business of that league, the National Dog Agility League (NDAL). It is a big project than will take a community of smart and hard-working people to realize.

The invitation will include a single course or sequence that fits a space approximately 48′ by 90′. Everyone who sets up the course and reports scores in the month of March will become de facto founding members of the NDAL.

Initially this is intended as a foundation for the reality show for which we are producing a “sizzle reel” that hopefully will inspire some network to bring to life. The theory is that having a team on the television running a course will be a powerful motivation to agility fans everywhere to put up that same course.

If you would like to be included in this first invitation, send me an email. I’ll be sure that you get it.

Winston Churchill

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.


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.