Be Not Afraid!

We begin our games camp with a breakdown of two games: Louganis and Pinball Wizard. The last time I did a games camp I nearly killed myself trying to set some kind of record for the greatest variety of games played in a 3-day format. I think we got in around 38 with some 20 dogs playing. That was then, this is now.

Quality over quantity is more the point of this camp. I want the players to understand the games we’ll be playing with a keenness that makes them superb competitors. As it happens the two games we subjected to our practice and analysis will be played later this month in Washingtonville, home of the Big Ass Fans.

There’s a terrible resistance to games in the American agility culture inasmuch as much of our culture is derived from players in the AKC where “follow the numbers” is really the only game.

What often happens at a TDAA trial the player trying the venue for the first time will sign up for all the standard runs but will decline to enter the games because of the scary prospect of the unknown. Of course when they see everybody else out there having fun with their dogs on some interesting kind of game they say to themselves “we could have done that!” and will feel a twinge of regret.

Be not afraid. It’s all only a game.

We began the morning with Louganis. I invented this game a number of years ago while doing around-the-clock contact training with my own dogs (mostly in preparation for USDAA gamblers challenges). I thought then that there might be a fun game that could be spawned out of the skill.

Back when, players in agility used to call a dog bailing high off a contact obstacle a “Louganis” because of the similarity to a diver launching himself into space. It’s kind of a cute expression, eh? I actually met Greg Louganis out in California a number of years back while judging. It was pretty funny, I don’t think his little JR hit a contact all weekend choosing instead to fly off into space in the grand style of an Olympic diver (at least he didn’t hit his head). I teased Greg a little about it on the weekend. I also told him about the game I’d invented, and later sent him a copy of what we played in League.


This game derives its name from a great Olympic champion of the springboard and platform dive, Greg Louganis. His name is often borrowed to describe a dog that plunges into space from some high point above the yellow contact zone on the down-side of a contact obstacle.

For those of you too young to remember, Greg Louganis was winner of the springboard and platform at the 1979 Pan-American Games; At the 1982 World Championships, was the first diver in a major international meet to earn a perfect score of 10 from all seven judges;. And in 1984 was winner of gold medals for both the springboard and the platform at the Los Angeles Olympics *and* winner of the Sullivan Award to America‘s best amateur athlete. In 1988 he became the first to win double gold medals for diving in two consecutive Olympics.



Louganis is like a curious mixture of Power & Speed and Time Warp or Call Direct & Send. The course begins with the untimed performance of two contact obstacles. The dog’s time will begin only when he crosses the starting line after the second contact obstacle.

However, bonus points may be earned if the handler advances beyond any of the handler containments shown on the course. The first containment applies only to the teeter, and will earn a 10 point bonus. The second containment will apply to teeter and A-frame on one side, and dogwalk on the other. On the Teeter / A-frame side the dog will earn 10 points for the teeter; and another 20 points for the A-frame. On the dogwalk side the dog will earn 15 points for the dogwalk alone.

On this course the QCT will be 25 seconds. No points can be earned with the whistle blows marking the end of time.

Should the dog miss any downside contact or leave one of the contact obstacles after committing all four paws, then all bonus points are lost. Although the opening is not timed, the handler will forfeit any possible bonus if he returns to reset a dog left behind. The timer will indicate the start of judging by declaring “Ready” to the handler awaiting the start of his course.

The bonuses are “all or nothing”. If the dog fails to perform an obstacle or misses a contact, no bonus can be earned. No faults will be given the dog for missing a contact or failing to perform one of the contact obstacles. So, should the dog earn a point, the handler should go on with the jumpers course.


Louganis is scored Time plus Faults less Bonus. TDAA rules will be used to determine faults:

  • 5 faults for dropped bars and wrong courses
  • 20 faults for failure to perform
  • Elimination for two or more failures
    • Refusals are not faulted

The dog with the lowest score wins.

Training Recap

Working at a distance from the dog is an important litmus of whether the dog truly understands the performance of an obstacle, whether the dog’s method for performance is a two-on/two-off performance or a running contact.

We found out fairly straightaway that mostly our dogs didn’t understand the recall over two contact obstacles (excepting my dog Hazard, but we practice calling over contact equipment).

So after playing the game once we backed up and turned it into a training exercise; forward-chaining the performance, giving lots of treats and praise to our dogs.

A position forward of the dog is very different from a lateral position by the handler. Some dogs will bail the contact in their haste to catch up to the handler’s position. The handler should use good judgment in determining for which dogs the handler should even consider proofing the performance with a lead-out.

Everybody’s scores were improved dramatically. There’s nothing like training your dog to make you look smart in competition.

Pinball Wizard

Pinball Wizard is a brand new game invented by Margaret Hendershot. I believe it will be played for the first time in competition in Washingtonville. Oh… and off course we gave it a pretty good workout this morning. This isn’t the course she designed (that would be cheating). But we expect the concept to stay pretty pure regardless of the set of the obstacles.



The goal is to accumulate as many points as possible within course time (50 seconds for 12/16, 55 seconds for 4/8).

The start obstacle is the dogwalk (in either direction). After successfully completing the start obstacle, the team will continue to accumulate points by completing obstacles of the handler’s/dog’s choosing. All obstacles may be completed twice for points. No obstacle may be taken back-to-back.

Once the start obstacle has been completed successfully, the triggers obstacle becomes active. In this case the designated jumps are the trigger obstacles. To complete the bonus one of the trigger obstacles must be taken first then the bonus. (The trigger may be either designated jump taken in either direction and is considered part of the bonus and does not earn any points.) The successful completion of the bonus triples all points accumulated. (For example, the team earns 10 points, then bonus, then 7 points, then bonus, then 5 points, then bonus – the final score would be 348 i.e., 10×3=30+7=37×3=111+5=116×3=348.) The bonus is the two designated tunnels in any order and any direction. The bonus may be earned three times during play.

To re-activate the triggers after completing the bonus, at least one point must be earned. A whistle sounds at the end of 50/55 seconds signally the end of point accumulation. The team should go directly to the table to stop time.

If a fault is called, the triggers become dormant. A fault will not affect points previously earned but no points will be awarded for the faulted. The team must complete the start obstacle to re-activate the triggers. Point accumulation resumes immediately after the faulted obstacle, but the bonus cannot be taken until the successful completion of the start obstacle to reactive the triggers. (The start obstacle may be taken for points only twice but may be taken multiple times as needed to activate the triggers.)

Faults include: knocked bar, missed contact, taking bonus without taking one of the triggers, taking an obstacle between the trigger obstacle and the bonus obstacle (including backjumping the trigger), taking the trigger obstacle when it is not active. Knocking a trigger bar means that trigger is out of play for the rest of the game – the remaining trigger may still be used.


1 point: Jumps

3 points: Tire, chute and weaves (weaves need only be completed)

5 points: Contacts

The table is live through out play. If the dog touches the table it is a tilt and play ends.


Games 1: 50 points

Games 2: 100 points

Games 3: 150 points


It’s a funny thing. I went into this pretty much imagining that I had figured out the killer strategy before the first dog had run. Here’s my logic… since it takes 150 points to qualify at the GIII level… then it makes sense to collect pretty much precisely just enough in the opening salvo so that it would add up to a qualifying score if tripled only twice. That would be I figure 16 or 17 points.

And then, as we diligently pursued this line of reasoning… all of our dogs timed out smack in the middle of the third tripler.

We sat and pondered this for awhile and arrived at an interesting conclusion… It would be considerably better points-wise to go into the bonus period with a more modest accumulation of points, say 10 or 12. That will allow time to get the third tripler. That means instead of having a score hovering just above 150 points… the dog would have a score more in the range of 350 +.

Now, what you have to take into consideration is that we were not running on a TDAA course. We were running on a big dog course. So had we all scored our third tripler using the initial logic… then our scores would have been more in the vicinity of 450+ points.

We learned some other interesting things as well… like why it doesn’t pay to melt down when the judge calls a fault.

This was a very cool game and likely a keeper in the TDAA.


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


One Response to “Be Not Afraid!”

  1. MARGARET HENDERSHOT « Name Searcher Says:

    […] HENDERSHOTMARGARET – Be Not Afraid!Be Not Afraid! Pinball Wizard is a brand new game invented by Margaret Hendershot . I believe it will be played for the first time in competition in Washingtonville. Oh… and off course we gave it a pretty good workout this morning. … […]

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