One of the very fun things about the TDAA is that we can play any game conceivable in the agility world. At a trial this past weekend I was tasked with putting up a Tunnelers course; Tunnelers being one of the mainstay courses of NADAC. Well, I absolutely know nothing about Tunnelers except that it is follow-the-numbers.

I’m pretty sure that NADAC requires a clean round in Tunnelers, which means that the dog must perform without faults under the respective standard course time. To tell you the truth… after watching the competitors in Racine for two days I pretty much decided I wanted to make up a special rule for the class… and as a consequence I needed to change the Scoring Basis.

Making Up Your Own Rules

In my oral briefing I explained that I would not be using the rules that attended the course map for this class. Instead of doing Faults, then Time as the class is traditionally conducted, we would do Time, Plus Faults.

I told the exhibitors that I was adding a fault that was not in the rule book. I would assess the team 1-fault point every time the handler said “No” to his dog. So you can see why I changed the scoring basis. It probably wouldn’t have been right for me to NQ the team for my whimsical invention. Of course I made it very clear that “No” is a negative verbal marker and would include a wide range of words, and even sounds, like that awful “Ackkk!” thing some handlers make in the back of their throats.

With this in mind I set an aggressive standard course time appropriate to jump height and level and briefed the scorekeeping table of the actual scoring basis and my scribe as to hand signals.

It was actually quite a lot of fun to watch. Handlers who are disposed to direct with negative inflection truly cannot help themselves; so in a game like this going to say “No” to their dogs and score the negative point. Frankly, getting faulted for saying “No” to your dog brings your own attention to such a habit as you hear the groans and hoots of the spectators for each occurrence.

Running of the Course


It strikes me that a Tunnelers course might be quite a useful foil for teaching handlers some basic skills. This course has a bit of a stereo quality in which the handler might become lost and forgetful of exactly where he is from time to time. There were only a handful of handlers who became hopelessly lost. Though they are clearly cast into purgatory they are forgiven and the important thing is that it was entertaining for the rest of us.

The more elegant performances on this course came from handlers who understood how to change sides to their dogs in the transitions between tunnels. One young fellow, I won’t mentions his name (Mark Wittig), actually did the whole course with a series of Blind Crosses which was quite fun to watch because he has quite a fast little dog which means the handler needs to be hauling his proverbial around the field to stay forward of the dog.

But the important point is not so much in his selection of slow-dog movement as in his recognition that the change of sides needs to be conducted in the transition between tunnels. The handler using Fast Dog movements—notably the Back Cross—must understand that it will be most lovely as a Tandem on the flat in the interval between tunnels, rather than a raw Rear Cross on the entry to the tunnel. You follow?

The raw Rear Cross frankly caused on this course a variety of ills: a general slowing in the dog’s performance; balking at tunnels; refusing them altogether; coming back out after going in; turning the wrong direction after coming out.

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at www.dogagility.org/store.


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