Rare Melodies and Complex Chords

An interesting game has come across my desk. Although designed for play in the TDAA I am fascinated with it as a training opportunity. It is essentially a matter of understanding your dog and his capacity for work over a certain amount of time. The handler must also take into consideration obstacles that may slow his performance and, frankly, sequences which either inspire speed or gear the dog down.

The design of the Truth or Dare course (below) is frankly influenced by a number of factors. The size of the building and the available obstacles are obvious. But I also wanted to design for split‑group work in which the room is neatly divided into two.

I also am more and more the advocate for wide open running sequences, regardless of the size of the floor. Truly it’s probably not so much advocacy as a painfully learned skill.

Last night one of my students handed me a course map of an AKC Jumpers course from over the weekend that had skunked the class. And she said “we need to practice stuff like this!” It didn’t take much of a study of the angry lines of the course for me to think to myself ‘yah, and we need to stick sticks into our eyes and eat worms too’. I forestalled the inevitability of that cruel practice by suggesting that we’d have to wait until we can put up a big course on the lower field. Maybe she’ll forget by the time we’re in outside practice. They aught to fire the AKC rep that let that course go. Truly they can’t go on being so clueless as they do.

Truth or Dare

Truth or Dare is the invention of Jeffrey Boyer with valuable input from Bob Domfort. The game was played for the first time in December 2008 in agility league play hosted by the Capital District Agility Fun Group.



The purpose of this game is to provide the team with the opportunity to run a course that plays to the strengths of the team, with elements of strategy, course planning, and time gambles. Truth – The team runs either the numbered course, or Dare – The team runs a dog’s choice course.  The objective is to accumulate as many points as possible in the time allowed.

In both the Truth and Dare courses the dog will earn points for the performance of obstacles, using this schedule:

  • Jumps = 1 pt.
  • Tunnels, tire = 3 pts.
  • Contacts, weaves = 5 pts.

The handler must inform the judge and scribe whether the course will be Truth or Dare before beginning the run. However, the default is Truth if the dog begins with obstacle #1; and Dare if the dog begins with any other obstacle.

The Standard Course Time (SCT) is based upon the length of Truth course.  Time begins when dog crosses start line and ends when the dog puts a paw on the table.  The Timekeeper will blow the whistle at end of SCT. After the whistle the dog can earn no new points for obstacle performance and must be directed to the table.  The table is live at all times.

Truth Scoring

The Truth course is scored: Points – Faults + Bonus, then Time. A bonus of 1 point is awarded for each full second the dog is under SCT (up to a maximum of 10).  Each team starts with 28 points, the points available for the Truth sequence.

Standard fault apply for the Truth course. The schedule of faults is amended from the standard classes so that penalties are not quite so severe. These include:

  • 3 faults for: dropped bar; off course; missed contact
  • 6 faults for: failure to perform
  • Elimination for more than one failure to perform
  • The weave poles earn no performance faults aside from failure to perform
  • Refusals are not faulted; the 4-paw safety rule is not in effect

Dare Scoring

The Dare course is scored: Points – Faults, then Time. A fault of 1 point is assessed for each full second the dog is over SCT. The dog may take any obstacle twice for points; and back-to-back is permitted.

No performance faults will be assessed in the Dare course; but points will not be awarded for faulted obstacles. The four-paw safety rule is not in effect.

Combined Scoring

Although the two dogs have essentially played different games both the Truth and the Dare dogs’ scores will be compared for the purpose of placement on the basis of Points, Then Time.

For Truth, the game is scored points minus faults plus bonus.  For T (Truth), the team starts with 31 points.  Subtract faults as follows:  3 fault points for each S, 6 fault points for each F.  For each full second that the team’s time is under SCT for their level, add 1 point (up to a total of 10 time bonus points).  This is the team’s final score.

For Dare, the game is scored points minus time faults.  For D (Dare), add all the point values.  Subtract 1 point for each full second the team’s time exceeds SCT for their level.  There are no limits to how many time faults can be earned.  This is the team’s final score.

After computing all of the points, ties are broken by time, regardless of which course was chosen.

Qualifying Scores

To qualify, the dog must earn at least 28 points (which, you’ll note, is the point value of the obstacles in the Truth course).

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.

One Response to “Rare Melodies and Complex Chords”

  1. Nora Says:

    Bud–It would be interesting to me if you would back up certain assertions (AKA the “angry lines” of the Jumpers course you’re referring to) by posting the course or some portion of it and pointing out exactly what you don’t like about it. We all know that some courses run better than they walk, and walk better than they look on paper–and what’s on the paper is not always what ends up being built.

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