The following conversation might make your head hurt. I’m giving a relatively new game in the agility world a critical analysis and trying earnestly to settle down the rules of play and maybe even provide a strategic peek for the competitor.

SuperDog is the invention of Ilze Rukis… and so naturally qualifies as another Crazy Ilze game.


SuperDog is a strategic point accumulation game.  In concept it is based on the old PACMAN computer game that if the smiley ate a “power pill”, it could move faster and gobble up things in its path.  The point accumulation period is 50 seconds for 12/16 and 55 seconds for 4/8.  Time starts when the dog crosses any point of the start line at handler’s choice.  Point accumulation ends with a whistle. The team must touch the table to stop time. The table is live at all times. Fastest time decides any tie points.

  • Jumps – 1
  • Tire/tunnel/chute – 3
  • Contacts/weaves – 5

There are two Power Pills on course. This course features two nearly identical Power Pill sequences which are two jumps with an intervening tunnel. The jumps can be taken in any order, in any direction. After the performance of the first jump the dog must take the next jump (and nothing else) to activate the Power Pill ten-fold multiplier.

Each may be used once successfully. A Power Pill may completed at any time during the run. When the dog has successfully completed all of the obstacles in the Power Pill sequence (in any order but only once per obstacle) then the next four obstacles taken by the dog have a ten fold point value (50 – 30 – 10).  Once the four obstacles have been taken, the scoring reverts to 5 – 3 – 1 until the dog retakes the other Power Pill sequence.  Power Pill obstacles may NOT be scored for ten fold values.  If the dog intentionally or unintentionally takes Power Pill obstacles while the Power Pill is in effect, they count as one of the four obstacles but given only the regular point value.  The Power Pill is in effect ONLY when the 3 obstacles have been correctly performed.  If one of the bars on a Power Pill obstacles is dropped, then the handler must replace the dropped bar before reattempting the Power Pill sequence.  At no time may obstacles be repeated back to back (including a contact or tunnel if the dog mounts/enters with four feet and bails). All obstacles (except Power Pills) may be used twice for points.

No points are awarded for missed contacts or  dropped bars, etc.  Non-Power Pill jump bars are not reset.  While the Power Pill is in effect, an attempted obstacle counts as one of the four obstacles even if points are not awarded (an attempt is defined as four paws on a contact or in a tunnel, crossing the plain of the weaves, launching for a jump). The judge will call ZERO.

Qualifying Criteria

As this is something of a new game the qualifying criteria needs to be reasonable. It’s always a SWAG when finding precisely the correct litmus for determining whether a dog has been working at a reasonable speed and under the control and direction of his handler. Sometimes we learn over time for individual games what might “skunk the field” and what might “give away the farm” we want something between.

To establish qualifying criteria I figured that most dogs would not earn the second power pill and so the qualifying should really be based upon a single power pill performance.

Follow along with this logic:

  • GI will require a 1-3-5 introduction to the first power pill and a 10-10-10-10 performance in the Power Pill sequence: 48 points to qualify.
  • GII will require a 1-3-5 introduction to the first power pill and a 10-30-10-30 performance in the Power Pill sequence: 88 points to qualify.
  • GIII will require a 1-3-5 introduction to the first power pill and a 30-50-30-50 performance in the Power Pill sequence: 168 points to qualify.

We’ll leave the second Power Pill to the brave and the bold.

Anything that can go wrong…

… will go wrong.

The other agility organizations with their tiny suites of well tested games really have it easy compared to the TDAA (and the upcoming C-WAGS CCAP). When playing new games the judge and designer have to imagine everything that might happen. Here are a couple of observations on rules and nuances of the game that mightn’t be terribly clear to the judge before assuming the field.

  • The power pill jumps are eligible for routine scoring only when it is not eligible to activate the power pill ten-fold multiplier. For example, as the dog is performing three obstacles to activate the Power Pill one of the power pill jumps may be taken at the 1-point value; however, the judge must remember the prohibition against taking obstacles back-to-back just in case the handler thinks he can turn his dog around to retake the power pill jump to activate the multiplier. Also, the dog may be directed over a power pill jump while the multiplier is in effect; though note the rule that a power pill obstacle will never be accorded a ten-fold value.
  • The discussion above is important to understanding when the power pill is eligible to be burned (faulted, thus losing the ten-fold multiplier). If a) the three obstacle sequence has been finished and b) the ten-fold multiplier is not in effect then, when the dog commits to the first obstacle of the Power Pill sequence, it must be finished without fault.
  • The judge should call fault for any obstacle faulted, or a repeat performance of any obstacle that has already been performed twice. And the fault should be recorded as an “F” in the linear scribing of the game because the faulted obstacle, while yielding no points, will count as a performed obstacle… one of three to charge the power pill or one of four when the ten-fold multiplier is in effect.
  • The judge should declare “you burned it” if the dog faults a power pill sequence. This is to advise the handler that he’s wasting time if he thinks he can save it… and should head for the other power pill sequence.
  • It doesn’t seem to be completely clear in the first draft of the rules whether the handler should, if the dog burns the first power pill sequence, direct the dog to perform another three obstacles at simple value before attempting the second power pill. We decided to make an executive decision…. No, the three-obstacle requirement has already been met. The handler should direct his dog straight-away to the second power pill sequence and hope that he doesn’t burn that one… because you can’t qualify without at least one Power Pill.
  • It’s pretty silly to make the stipulation that the table is “live at all times”. It serves no real purpose to make the table a “land-mine” that punishes the team to the extent that it ends the game. Since this punitive rule serves no practical purpose it is better to say that the table is live after the time whistle. The judge might otherwise stipulate that when not “live” the table is a) a part of the floor or b) a zero value obstacle (that will be counted in a string of three obstacles at simple value or string of four obstacles when the ten-point multiplier is in effect.

Strategies for Play

This is the kind of game that is won by efficiency of path and cool unhurried technical handling. The three point sequences to activate the Power Pill sequence need to be neat and concise, with modest “area under the curve”.

It just doesn’t make any sense to start the game with a big sweeping sequence of 6 or 7 obstacles. Those little simple value obstacles don’t mean much when accounting towards a qualifying score or placement in the game. Indeed, the handler should also be keen to keep the dog away from time consuming obstacles like the dogwalk or obstacles with which the dog has performance issues.


Note in this opening the handler picks up 9 quick points with his dog and has a very efficient distance transition to the Power Pill sequence (yeah… the dog is right there!)

When the Power Pill ten-fold multiplier is active… be greedy. There’s no reason to use up the multiplier on ten point jumps when there are obstacles worth 30 and 50 points on the course… even if those higher value obstacles are a few more seconds away.


Note in this scoring sequence (which fits nicely with the Power Pill opening illustrated above) the handler is careful to avoid performance of 10-point obstacles, preferring instead to go for the money.


I found myself quoted on a web page in (I think) Finland. Hey! I sounded pretty profound here:

It’s interesting that similar concepts and foundation methodologies have occurred in so many different places during the development of our sport. It’s almost like all of these different people had the same marvelous idea all at the same time.

It just could be that our dogs have been neatly training us. The thing that works in California is the same thing that works in Texas, Ohio, England, Finland… and Japan. And the reason it works is the propensity of the dog to understand something that is natural to him.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at

4 Responses to “SuperDog”

  1. 2mindogtrainer Says:

    Your power pills, as illustrated in the course map, are both 2-jump power pills versus the three-wing-jump and two-jumps-and-weaves as you describe. The two-jump power pill was hard enough!

    • budhouston Says:

      Yup, thanks. The briefing was from another judge’s SuperDog. While I described the performance of the two Power Pills I put in my course design, I failed to delete the former judge’s text. Got it fixed now.


  2. Michelle Says:

    Thanks Bud, for fleshing this out. I want to include SuperDog as a game in one of SOAR’s trials next year and needed more details. I was going to email Ilze last week, but time got away from me.
    This game might be a contender for a Petit Prix semifinal in 2010, don’t you think?
    I am printing this out and adding it to my Games book. I need to go back through your blog and find out where you discussed Jeff’s Truth or Dare game which I also find interesting, and get that one printed out.

    Are you playing Superdog this weekend at your trial?


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