Who Dares Wins

Who Dares Wins was invented by Francis Harvey to satisfy a judging examination for the Australian Dog Agility Association (ADAA). Who Dares Wins is a game of daring in which the handler must understand the capabilities of his dog.

Following is a detailed discussion of the game that will determine the Champions of the TDAA Petit Prix 2009. While it is a numbered course, it is anything but a standard course. After a simple accounting of the rules I shall provide a comprehensive discussion of strategy for the game. I’m fairly certain that the winner of this game in the Championship round at the Petit Prix this year will either have read this discussion, or will have written it.


The object of Who Dares Wins is to accurately estimate how many points your dog can score in the standard course time (50 seconds). After walking the course all handlers must estimate, using a 3-2-1 scoring system, how many points they can score in 50 seconds (the standard course time). The handler and dog can complete more than one circuit of the course and may start anywhere on the course providing they run the course in the correct order.

3 points for contact obstacles

2 points for tunnel, and tire, and short set of weave poles

1 point for jumps

Handlers must report their estimate to the scorekeeper prior to any dog running the course. Handlers are not to use their wristwatches or stopwatches to gauge their time. Neither spectators nor timekeeper are to indicate time to any handler while running the course.

In their turn, the handler and dog proceed to their chosen starting point on the course.

Dogs are started with the timekeeper’s whistle and will not accumulate points before the whistle. Dogs are not faulted. They just do not accumulate points for an obstacle faulted or taken as a wrong course. A dog must attempt every obstacle in turn. There are no refusal faults. Jump bars are not replaced. However a dog must run between the uprights if attempting a hurdle with a dropped bar a second or subsequent time.

There are no specific faults associated with the weave poles. However, the handler must correct an improper entry or a missed pole in order to earn points for that obstacle. No points are awarded for any partial performance of the weave poles, and continuing without completing the performance will be deemed a wrong course.

The timekeeper will signal the end of scoring at 50 seconds. The dog may not earn additional points after the whistle and the handler must direct his dog to the table. A dog loitering near the table will earn a 10 point earned-points penalty unless the penalty improves the dog’s score.


Who Dares Wins is scored points only. Points earned = Points Scored minus Points error minus Time error. The dog with the most points earned wins. The tiebreaker is the dog with the highest estimate.

Errors – At the end of each run, errors are calculated.

Points errorthe difference between the estimated points and the points scored for the run.

Time ErrorThe difference between the dog’s time and the standard course time is calculated. The dog’s time is rounded down to the nearest second.

Total Errors – Time errors are added to the point errors.

Points Scored – Points the dog earned for successful performance of obstacles on course.

Points Earned – Total errors are deducted from the points scored. This total score determines placing.

A Discussion of Strategy


While this is clearly a big dog course, it gives us an opportunity to study and understand Who Dares Wins. I’ve included on the course map a line measuring the dog’s path at 138 yards. This is significant and important. Though what you’ll discover at the Petit Prix is that you will not know the length of the course. Indeed it does not have to be measured by the judge.

It is important for the handler to know the speed at which his dog works. For example, if a dog works at 3.5 YPS. We know that in the 50 seconds granted for the course he can travel 175 yards. Well this sample course is only 138 yards. That means that the handler has 37 yards to improve his guess. Or, the correct way to look at it, the handler needs to correctly guess what obstacle to begin with that is 175 yards from the table.

Calibrating the Dog’s Working Speed

There are a variety of games in agility in which the handler needs to understand how much work his dog can do on a per second basis. Typically we talk in terms of Yards Per Second (YPS). But it is actually much more rational for the handler to learn to measure a course in Paces Per Second (PPS).

Prior to the Petit Prix you should use every opportunity in competition (and maybe in practice) to calibrate your dog’s speed so that you always know the answer to the question… how fast does my dog work?

  1. Begin by walking the numbered courses that you run. Use a natural stride… we’ll call that your “Pace”. I must emphasize that the stride be “natural”, because it’s too difficult to maintain an artificial stride of precisely 1 yard.
  2. Now calibrate your dog’s speed. Run the course, and get the recorded time for your dog. Knowing the time the dog was on course and knowing the length of the course as measured by your paces, you calculate the dog paces per second (PPS) that the dog works. The formula for this measurement is # paces/time on course. And don’t forget to deduct 5 seconds for the table!If a course gets wobbly for your dog, the value of the measurement will be put in question. You should take into consideration any wobbliness. If the run was exceptionally wobbly, you should disregard the results and go on to the next numbered course.
  3. A practical test: Challenge yourself to test your pace against the dog’s speed. Continue to pace courses that you run, and calibrate your dog’s speed. But as soon as possible you should begin guessing how fast your dog will perform. And don’t forget to add 5 seconds for the table!

If you really want to get scientific about calibrating your dog’s working speed, you should pace and measure all sorts of courses. What is the difference in PPS when your dog is working a Jumpers course as compared to a standard course? What about Touch ‘n Go (contacts and tunnels)? What about Tunnelers? Indeed, you may want to compare PPS measurements of your dog’s working speed in the big dog venues versus his working speed in the TDAA. There is an illusion created in the big dog venues that a dog is actually working faster than he works in the TDAA. But the truth of the matter is that technical obstacles (contacts and weave poles) are an excessive drain on a dog’s PPS or YPS. In the big dog venues a dog will have a lot of additional room on the flat to drive those numbers back up. Not so in the TDAA. Not only are our obstacles diminutive, but the transitional distances between obstacles tends to be considerably tighter as well. He might be working just as fast (or faster, as most dogs do), but it will not be reflected in the YPS or PPS measurement.

Be a scientist. Calibrate your dog’s working speed. It will pay off.

The Alternate Option Strategy

Now we’ll see who is paying attention!

Most handlers will, in pedestrian fashion, understand that they don’t have to start with jump #1. But the will figure that the last obstacle they do before heading for the table is the last obstacle on the course. In the case of the sample course we go from jump #18 to the table.

But the fact of the matter is that nowhere in the rules of the game does it actually say that the dog has to go from the last obstacle to the table. Indeed, the “last obstacle” is defined as the last one the dog does, not the obstacle with the highest number. The sample course has an excellent alternate option. The dog might very well be directed to the table after jump #11, rather than jump #18.

Why does this matter? If you study the 5 obstacles prior to the #11 jump as compared to the 5 obstacles before the #18 jump you’ll note that from #6 it’s a ripping kind of sequence. Starting at #13; however, the dog will have a rather technical and rough sledding kind of sequence. While the dismount from #18 has more cumulative points—considering the 5 predecessor obstacles—the dismount from #11 will be faster and may allow the handler to back up even more than a mere five obstacles to begin the dog.

Know thy dog.

Final Words

This is what I call a leveling game. It doesn’t really matter how fast or well trained the dog is or how keen and deft the handler. If the handler cannot correctly guess the performance of his or her dog, then it’s very unlikely that they shall take home the win. The slowest dog in the field has a chance of winning.

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.


2 Responses to “Who Dares Wins”

  1. Francis Harvey Says:


    It’s so flattering that you champion the game I made up all those years ago. My wife and I are on to other dogs now, and while we don’t do agility any more (kids, work, travel) we still are involved with dogs and we’re now trying to get a canine fitness revolution off the ground.

    As far as I know, ADAA never took on Who Dares Wins. On the far side of the world, you’re using it to separate the very best handler and dog teams to find the champions. Thank you for really seeing what the game means.


    • budhouston Says:

      Hi Francis,

      It’s great that your game gets proper recognition.

      Exactly as we figured, this was a tremendous finals game for the Petit Prix; and the winners of this game determined the winners of the tournament. The winning runs were stirring, gripping, fantastic displays of team play.

      The only thing I would change about your game (and will recommend in the future) is that the dog does not start with the time-keeper’s whistle. We had a bit of difficulty with “communications” between the handler on the field and the steward whose job was to get them started. If the communication between them is wobbly then it becomes a disservice to that competitor. Hence, I’d likely recommend that the dog be started on the plane of the first obstacle; that should be easy enough to accomplish.

      Very good to hear from you. I hope you get a chance to play the game again some day.

      Bud Houston

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