TDAA Petit Prix – Strategic Teams

In preparation for the 2009 Petit Prix in Racine, WI I will be discussing all of the games to be played both at the Friday team competition and in the Petit Prix itself.

Take a look at this course. Devise a strategy for three dog and handler teams. Remember that the name of the game is “slice & dice”. Come back to my analysis when you’re done figuring a working strategy and I’ll show you my answer.

Strategic Teams



In Strategic Teams, a course is laid out that the team must run. Each member of the team must do at least one segment, more if desired or necessary. Where the teams switch dogs does not matter. That’s why it’s called “Strategic” Teams.

A team will walk a course and predetermine who will run which parts. This is complicated by faulting any obstacle. On a fault, a different dog than the one that incurred the fault must resume at the faulted obstacle (on a jump, the jump bar must be reset first). Off-courses are not faulted. However, if the “active” dog takes an obstacle out of sequence after starting any segment of the course, another dog must resume the course at the next correct obstacle.


Strategic Teams is scored time only. The team with the fastest time wins. Faults are penalized by the time it takes to switch dogs. There is no standard course time. Strategic Teams is judged under TDAA Intermediate rules for performance.

Analysis and Exegesis

What the Strategic Teams course might provide is the obvious kind of disconnect in the flow of the course so that it seems obvious that it would be easier and quicker to allow to dogs to the the two separate bits rather than having one dog struggle through an ungainly transition between obstacles. Examples of the “ungainly transition” in this course include #1-2; #6-7; #7-8; #13-14.

The course challenges the team to find the transitions that would be better served by picking up with a second dog. The question will be… what other dog and handler on the team will be able to gain the position to make the transition? There should be some discussion on the team about each dog’s relative strengths and weaknesses; you want a dog that is reliable on contacts doing the contact obstacles; you want a fast & accurate weaving dog doing the weave poles.


Now, I’ve taken the same course and overlaid it with a good slice ‘n dice Strategic Teams strategy:

Dog #1 is the black path starting at jump #1. Note that he isn’t called upon again in the course until obstacle #8. And so  his job is to get into position without getting in the way, or dropping any bars that are still required for performance.

Dog #2 is the red path. We’ll put him on #2 through #6 because it is logical and flowing and faced with no “ungainly transitions”. His next station will be the pipe tunnel at #10. The handler has to be careful not to drop any bars enroute to set up for the tunnel, and so should probably hold him on side on the flat and make a no nonsense outrun towards the dogwalk, and make a turn to the tunnel after getting past the #12/19 jump.

Dog #3 is the blue path. He’s been waiting in position at the #7 pipe tunnel… which he promptly performs as red finishes up with #6. His next station will be the #14 tire. He’ll follow along behind #1 black dog to be ready.

Dog #1 black dog pushes through the A-frame at #8 and on to the tire at #9. He’s deposited neatly on the approach to his next station… which will be the #15 weave poles. The handler only has to wait and be watchful for the blue dog to finish the #14 tire.

Red dog #2 puts his dog in the #10 pipe tunnel and pushes through the three  jumps #11 thru #13.

Dog #3 blue dog picks off the #14 tire. His next station is the dogwalk. The handler’s only concern is not to get in the way of the dog behind him who’ll be doing the #19 jump. It would be no harm no foul for him to go on into the right side of the #10 pipe tunnel in order to find a path close to the edge of the ring in order to stay out of the way.

Dog #1 black has been waiting patiently on the approach to the weave  poles at #15. He will continue through jump #18.

Red dog #2 picks up jump #19, neatly solving the threadle.

Blue dog finishes the course with dogwalk and on to the table to stop time.

Notes for the Designer

The real challenge when designing the Strategic Teams course will first of all to design into it the obvious ungainly transition. A bit more on the crafty sides will be including the subtle transition in which it would be advantageous to switch dogs.

Strategic Teams is a game I often play at camp. There’s this trick that I play with campers. I’ll divide them into three groups and give each of them a third of the floor and a third of the obstacles. Then I’ll tell them to design an interesting handling exercise using their third of the floor. Only when they’re all done do I give them the briefing for Strategic Teams! It makes for a very fun and interesting game. And, leave it to campers (and students) to design stuff with “ungainly transitions”.

Notes for the Player

One of the real difficulties of Strategic Teams is that if the active dog faults an obstacle then another dog must resume the course at the faulted obstacle. Dropped bars are a bit problematic because someone must first set the bar before the course can be resumed. Typically this job should be left to the handler of the dog that dropped the bar because he or she will be the closest to it. Note that there should be a discussion among the team about how to deal with faults. A very good plan will have one player shadowing another to be in good position to resume a faulted obstacle.

The team might also develop a strategy for calling out when they are done with their individual bits. Simply saying “Go!” might be a good enough trick. Since the scoring basis for the game is ultimately time-only, the transitions between dogs need to be efficient.

The Infamous Dr. Brinkley

I was born in Brinkley, AR, evidently named after the notorious John Brinkley. When I was a young man my grandmother, Marie Thompson, regaled me with a number of stories of the region. She told me that Dr. Brinkley was considered something of a heroic genius and even had a statue erected to him in the park. However, he was shamed by his theory and belief that human parts could be replaced by those of a goat. The townspeople of Brinkley tore down his statue in the park.

These many years I’ve imagined that Dr. Brinkley must have been something of a visionary and was mostly defamed by some narrow-minded religious opposition to using animal parts to cure humans.

Oh my… look what I found on the internet:

Now in reading this excellent article, I finally know the truth of the matter. I should like to know if the story of the tearing down of the Brinkley statue is true. Maybe I should contact the Brinkley Argus (the weekly paper) to see if they covered the event.

Petit Prix Warm-up Workshops!

This year I will be leading no fewer than six opportunities to prepare competitors for the Petit Prix. This is the revised (carefully edited) list:

  1. August 11-14, 2009 – Teacup Camp at Country Dream, Waterford, OH. Followed by …
  2. A TDAA seminar/trial on August 15 & 16, 2009. Accommodations are no longer available. There will be a Live to Run Again Library Exchange at this event. For more information contact
  3. September 18, 2009 – Teacup Dogs Seminar, Springfield, IL; Followed by a TDAA trial on September 19-20, 2009; Followed by a Basics seminar on September 21; Followed by an Advanced Handling seminar on September 22&23, 2009. For information contact
  4. TDAA seminar/trial on September 26-27, 2009 in Exton, PA (near Philadelphia). For information contact Denise Lacey
  5. September 29 – October 2, 2009 – Teacup Camp at Country Dream, Waterford, OH. Accommodations available. There will be a Live to Run Again Library Exchange at this event, as well as during the TDAA trial of October 3-4. For more information on camp contact
  6. October 7-8, 2009 – Petit Prix Warm-up Workshops, Racine, WI. These will be delivered in four modules of three hours each; focusing on different Petit Prix games; and all inexpensively priced. Participants may sign up for one, or all, to accommodate your travel plans to the National Tournament. For information contact


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my new publication the Idea BookAgility Training for a Small Universe available at


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