Archive for October, 2009


October 16, 2009

I’ve been distracted this week by the goings on in a TDAA BOD meeting on Wednesday last. You’ll recall that I said I was finishing up the design of some 40-odd courses for a couple judging assignments I have at the end of next month. Well, that left me pretty exhausted and in no good mood for a TDAA teleconference call. Dang I shoulda been there.

As it turns out two members of the board went on the full attack, taking advantage of the idea that I wasn’t there to protect myself. Mostly what they were doing, I presume, was making argument to disenfranchise me of duties related to the TDAA (like my responsibilities for Rules; heading the judging corps; overseeing the Judge Advocates group; development of Petit Prix Tournament Rules; my ability to have input on the selection of judges and games and so forth.)

Let me see… they want to get me fired from a job that I don’t get paid for, and I spent hundreds of hours working at in the past year. Hmmm! How should I feel about that? (Losing a non-paying job, I mean).

You must know that I abhor politics; and specifically because it brings out the calculating side in some people. I’m not completely dark-minded pessimistic about this. We have several members of this BOD whose work has been both spectacular and tireless. We’ve gotten a lot of work done this year.

Awhile back I mentioned that I might quit the TDAA because of the political BS. I mean, it’s not like I don’t have anything else to do in life. But you know Marsha pointed out to me, correctly, that if I were to walk away then I’d pretty much be relinquishing my privilege to have any kind of voice in the organization whatsoever. Further, that means that the schemers win. I feel like I’m in one of those bad slasher movies where I go back into the house to investigate rather than getting my ass the heck outta of there.

Anyhow, I’m expecting a CD with a recording of the BOD meeting that I missed, so that I can live through every delightful moment.



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

It Came to Me in a Dream

October 15, 2009

Literally, I will wake up from time to time with a certainty about some matter or another. I may have been mulling over the thing in the back of my daytime conscious mind; but it was certainly solved during sleep. That can only mean that I do problem solving in my dreams.

With the new C-WAGS agility program coming online soon, I need to make a pitch to change the scoring basis in the standard classes from Faults, Then Time to Time, Plus Faults. I know that this is nearly heresy by the standards for dog agility in the United States. Bear with me on this…

What is it that makes the average American handler a super-conservative micro-managing one-dimensional kind of creature? I do believe it’s that we give disproportionate consideration to the “perfection” of our game, that is, the avoidance of faults. As a consequence we have a culture that abhors playing for the win and going for the gusto.

Someone will surely argue that if we go to a Time, Plus Faults scoring basis it will benefit only the fast dogs. Well, that might be true. Yet I think it will also condition the average player to understand that the game that they should be practicing, the game they should be playing, is a running game. This is Commandment #8 of the Jim Basic/Nancy Gyes Power Paws 12 Commandments: Run with Intent!

I understand that Shirley Ottmer has someone else looking at the proposed rules for C-WAGS. I’d very much like to run this by them.

Return from Racine

I could call this “no rest for the weary”. I return home and immediately have to sit down and complete some 40 odd courses for two USDAA judging assignments I have coming up at the end of next month. I also spent a good part of the day making travel arrangements, flights, rental cars, hotels and so forth. Part of the mix will be a NADAC judging clinic in early December. So after a relatively quite month… I’ll be tested in my travels.

It’s been a year of hard work, in retrospect. And with us putting the wraps on the 2009 TDAA Petit Prix in Racine I’m taking a long breath as I feel the world relaxing around me. I assumed course review duties for the TDAA about a year ago; which has been quite demanding on my time. Reviewing courses for this organization is something more than checking to see if all the required obstacles are in place. I also have to get a clear understanding that the judge understands every game being played which means a comprehensive analysis of briefings. That’s not something you can do in just a couple of hours. So I tend to spend as much as a day on a single suite of courses and games.

I also was involved with redefining the Petit Prix Tournament rules; including the background scoring system and the “weighted” leveling between jump heights. At some point I need to sit down and explain my thinking—and what those rules actually are—to TDAA members. I’m sure they want to know. At the end of the Petit Prix however, I was gratified to see so many deserving dogs (particularly in the 8” and 12” jump heights) with an opportunity to shine in the final round. At first glance it looks like the system worked admirably, and as I initially envisioned it.

Frankly the background scoring system would have been impossible without the diligent work of Don Wolff (our web master and author of the TDAA trial scoring software) who developed an automat system to implement our background scoring. Don gives his expertise freely to the TDAA. As I am fond of saying… if we had to pay for what Don Wolff has done for the TDAA… we wouldn’t be able to afford it. Thanks Don!

Chutes & Ladders


This course was offered during the Petit Prix warm-up trial on the Friday before the Petit Prix. It’s truly one of those nonsensical games that is played purely for the fun of it. What a concept… just for fun.

Although I find the course somewhat inconsequential from a handling and performance point of view; I am also fully aware that all dogs and handlers are presented with the same level of consequence. And so, equal is fair. While I mentioned the other day that some competitors disdained two or three of our courses as not being “championship caliber” the concept of “race-track” as opposed to “herk & jerk” somewhat appeals to me. Let them have it at full speed… and we find out something very interesting about the team. I think judge Beth Moline did a terrific job with this course. And, it was fun for everyone.

I found fascinating how many dogs missed the approach to the #13 pipe tunnel; more than a few of them incurring a wrong course after the miss. I studied the phenomena a long while. And clearly what was happening was that handlers weren’t really living in the moment and were more concerned with the course downfield than they were with the immediate course at hand. And frankly more often than not if this spot on the course wobbled it was because the point of handler’s feet managed to disagree with the point of the arm. I’m reminded again that a handler points more surely with his feet than he will ever point with his arms.


The objective of Chutes ‘n Ladders is to negotiate the course of tunnels and contact obstacles as quickly as possible. Time starts as soon as any part of the dog crosses the start line and stops as soon as any part of the dog crosses the finish line. The finish line is not live until the dog finishes the last obstacle.

Faults will be assessed for missed contacts and off courses. The 4 paw rule will not be in effect. If the dog goes off course and it is not corrected the team will not qualify.


Chutes and Ladders is scored time plus faults, the team with the fastest time wins. To qualify the dog’s score must be equal to or less than the SCT for each level.


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

More Petit Prix Notes

October 14, 2009

Only a handful of us actually understood how the back-ground scoring worked for the Petit Prix. I’ll try to explain it… but be warned that it’ll make your head hurt.

We’ve noted in the past that the entry to the Petit Prix is disproportionately in the 8” and 12” jump heights. So what happens at 4” and 16” is that some weaker players make it into the final round while some very nice dogs at 8 and 12 have to sit it out. So what we determined to do is give jump heights a share of semi-final round and Final Round participation based on their percentage of entry. This would mean, for example, that there are 3 guaranteed slots for 16” dogs in the final round, rather than 10.

However, before we give away the other 7 slots to another jump height, we added a criteria that the dog in another jump height taking away that Finals slot would actually have to beat the 16” dog.

We also imposed a “leveling” handicap for jump heights so that as we compared results the smaller dogs were given some advantage in time and scoring. 8” dogs had a 10% advantage over 12” dogs; and 4” dogs had a 20% advantage. These are well tested numbers that reflect the rates of travel of dogs of different stature.

Anyhow, I figure that very few people really understand how the background scoring worked. At least a couple competitors had to be called back to Festival hall to play in the final round because they pretty much figured that they had been cut because of foreground scoring numbers. I think in future years competitors will be less likely to leave before the Finals berths are announced.

One fellow even gave me a good chewing out because he figured out background scoring couldn’t possibly be fair. I’m sure he was accounting for his own dog. Now I’m wondering if he was chagrined to actually have made the final round with his young Sheltie.

Dare to Double

One of the favorite games of the TDAA is Dare to Double a game invented by Darlene Woz. A new high score was set by Mark Wittig’s Corgi girl Ebby. He reported to me a score of 8,500 or so. That is unconfirmed as of this writing; though it has me thinking that it’s little wonder that Ebby had her pads burned off.

I’ve been teaching winning strategies for Dare to Double for a couple of months now; though I did note that some pretty impressive scores were put up at the Petit Prix. TDAA players have become a culture of gamers. There’s not many games that aren’t quickly turned over in the mental calculators and turned into impressive performance.

One of my favorite strategies of the game is to accept the final “Fault” (losing half the dog’s points)… and remaining instead at the A-frame to continue doubling until the second whistle blows. I’m not too sure at all if Mark went this route with Ebby.



Dare to Double is a dogs choice game, it is scored points then time. For every obstacle completed successfully the team earns points appropriate for that obstacle. The team will make their own course and complete the obstacles in the order they choose. Time allowed to accumulate points is a follows: 12 & 16” dogs 50 seconds, 8” dogs 55 seconds, 4” dogs 60 seconds.

The game starts at the start line and ends at the table. In order to keep all points earned they must get to the table before time expires. If they fail to get to the table before time expires they lose half their points. The team with the most points wins. In case of a tie, time will be the tie breaker.

The value of obstacles is:

Jumps=1 point

Tunnels, and tire=3 points

Teeter, and weave poles=5 points

Dog walk=7 points

Obstacles may be taken back to back if done in a safe manner. They may be taken twice for points. Knocked bars will not be reset.

The A-Frame is the double obstacle. During the run the handler may direct the dog over the doubling obstacle to double all points. A successful performance of the doubling obstacle doubles all points earned to that point. If the dog faults the A-Frame the team loses half its points to that point.

The A-Frame may be taken as many times, or as often as the handler chooses. The A‑Frame may not be taken back-to-back. There must be at least one point scored after the A-Frame is attempted, no matter if faulted or not.

A warning whistle will sound 15 seconds before time runs out. A second whistle will blow at the end of allotted time and not more points will be awarded.

The table is live after the 15 second warning whistle. After the first whistle if the dog makes contact with the table, time and scoring cease.

Scoring and Qualification

Dare to Double is scored Points, then Time. 160 points are required to qualify:


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

Who Dares Wins

October 13, 2009

I should begin by thanking our Petit Prix judges Paul Jensen and Beth Moline for some fantastic courses at the 2009 Petit Prix in Racine, WI. This was clearly our most exciting and competitive national tournament ever.

I want to spend a moment with the finals game… Who Dares Wins. This was an unusual sort of game; and what I call a leveling game. It simply was not enough to have a fast dog… which is usually what you get in any national tournament offering. This required both the fast dog and the canny handler, clearly a hallmark of the TDAA dog and handler team.

And the winners were:

4” – Emma – Lindsay Decker – Rochester, MN

8” – Winn – Chris Mosley – Prior Lake, MN

12” – Ebby – Mark Wittig – Muskego, WI

16” – Kipr – Diane Barlau – Duluth, MN

It looks to me like Minnesota had quite a showing.

The crowd was fairly electric throughout the final championship round, giving applause and cheers for everyone. But the great performances roused the spectators and set us all on the edge of our seats.

Chris Mosley’s run with Winn might have been the finest run of the evening… as the final buzzer announced her perfect strategy about a half second before her dog hit the bar of the finish jump. It was amazing. I think she’ll remember that the rest of her days.

Mark Wittig with his fine little Corgi girl Ebby actually sat out the semi-final rounds, resting on the weight of his quarter-final points. Ebby burned her pads off on the carpet in the early rounds. So he coolly rested up for the final round knowing that Ebby’s early points would carry her into the finals. I’ve known Mark for a number of years now, and he has trained with me from time to time. He has come a long way since I first met him; and has turned into one of the exceptional handlers in this game.



The object of Who Dares Wins is to accurately estimate how many points your dog will score in the standard course time of 50 seconds. After walking the course all handlers must submit their estimate of the number of points their team will earn in the 50 second course time, using a 3-2-1 scoring system,

• 3 points for contact obstacles

• 2 points for tunnel, and tire, and a set of 6 weave poles

• 1 point for jumps

The handler and dog may complete more than one circuit of the course and the first circuit may start anywhere on the course.  All obstacles must be taken in the order and direction indicated by the judge. Handlers must provide their written estimate to the assistant scribe prior to any dog running the course.

Handlers are not allowed to use their wristwatches or stopwatches or any other timing aid during their run or walkthrough. Any and all types of Outside assistance is disallowed and if used will be faulted.  In their turn, each team proceeds to their chosen starting point on the course. Teams may start anywhere on the course and my complete more than one turn through the course.  Dogs are started with the timekeeper’s horn.

Points are awarded for correct performance of the obstacle, faults will not be called.  No points are awarded for faulted obstacles.  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.  If the dog fails to attempt an obstacle and “goes on” it is off course.  No points are awarded for off course obstacles.  The dog is not considered “back on course” until it has attempted the “skipped” obstacle.  Points will not be awarded for jumps that had their bar dropped during the previous round. 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. The handler may restart the weaves as a means of correcting the performance as many times as they wish.  No points are awarded for any partial performance of the weave poles, and continuing without an attempt at completing the performance will be deemed a wrong course.  An attempt is defined as 4 attempts at the correct entry or 50% completed correctly.

The timekeeper’s horn will signal the end of point accumulation time at 50 seconds. No points may be earned after the 50 second horn.  Time stops when the dog cross the finish jump. The finish jump is bi-directional. A dog loitering in the general area of the finish jump near the end of the team’s 50 second run will earn a 10 point penalty for unproductive loitering.  This 10 point penalty is added to the dog’s time efforts.

The judge will call the points earned for each obstacle. (1, 2, or 3)  The judge will not call faults.

Scoring and Qualification

Who Dares Wins is scored points only. The dog with the most points (highest score) wins. The tiebreaker is the dog with the highest estimate. 30 points are required to qualify.

Score calculation

  • Point errors – the difference between the estimated points and the points scored for the run.
  • Time Errors – The difference between the dog’s time and the standard course time is calculated. The dog’s time is rounded down to the nearest second.  If the dog has earned a loitering penalty, the 10 faults are added to the time errors. Thus increasing the total time errors by 10 for this dog.
  • Total Errors = Time errors + Point errors
  • Points Earned = Points the dog earned for successful performance of obstacles on course.
  • Score = Points Earned – Total errors. This total score determines placements.


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

Long Lines

October 10, 2009

On the Friday before the Petit Prix we run a regular trial. This allows people to put their dogs on equipment and work through nerve issues they might have with performance and equipment before the national competition begins. I reckon that within a very few years the Friday trial will be subsumed by the Petit Prix as the entry increases to the extent that the two weekend days can’t provide enough hours to run the tournament classes.

Festival hall in Racine turns out to be a nice showcase arena with two rings running simultaneously in the center. It’s an octagonal building, so the rings are surrounded by spectator seating and all of that surrounded by tightly packed dog crating. Dogs are running on carpet. And while some people find objection to this, it tends to be fine for small dogs, given that they’ll spend only a very few minutes in the ring each day.

The conduct of the rings hasn’t been terribly smooth on this first morning. We’re hoping to get everything smoothed out before the Petit Prix begins in the morning, as we’ll be more pressed for time.

I’m impressed by the keener performances of dogs this year. Following the historic trends of all agility venues, each year we are faster and keener and more competitive. This promises to be the finest Petit Prix ever.

Standard Course


The first thing I heard this morning was an exhibitor complaining that the standard course was too simple, and wasn’t really of “championship” caliber. I had to bite my tongue on that one. Long straight lines are no kindness to any handler with a fast dog.

As it turns out, this course had a surprisingly low Q rate.

Straight away we had quite a large number of on & off the table faults as the opening line accelerated the dog forward. And of course the handler racing the dog down the line only adds fuel to the accelerating quality of the line.

The turn from jump #9 to #10 probably represented the most obvious technical moment in the course. Funny how it works… but fewer dogs faulted this corner than elsewhere on course.

I think the spot on the course that gave more trouble than might have anticipated was picking the dog up out of the collapsed tunnel at #12 for an approach to the jump straight ahead. Once again, because of the long straight line dogs were beating their handlers through the chute and so naturally curled back after the exit making a clean approach to jump #13 a problem.

The Tournament Begins Tomorrow

Friday is simple preamble to the Petit Prix Tournament. It gives everybody an opportunity to get their dogs used to the site and familiar with the equipment. And, it allows handlers a chance to work their nerves out; and the host club to get a little rhythm in the logistics of the trial. I’ll report back tomorrow with early results.


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


October 7, 2009

We took a leisurely approach to getting to Racine, Wisconsin… about twelve hours of driving, spread out over two days. Okay, that’s pretty lazy. But sometimes casual is a pretty good way to go. Marsha and I share driving duties. I’m always very careful to let the driver be the driver and I just let the drive be and mind my own business. Though I noted that as we drove through Chicago Marsha was pretty keen to follow the speed limit. And so she settled behind a US Mail truck that sedately chugged along in the right-most lane while the locals whipped by us on the left at 20 or 25 MPH above the posted limit.

It rained the most of the way on our trip up. By the time we got here the rain had pretty much stopped; though Tuesday was a windy day. We’re staying at the Radisson which is a nice hotel if you could the comfort of the mattress and the number of nice soft pillows as key indicators.

Our back window looks out over a marina and something of a view of Lake Michigan. I saw a young fisherman pull a ten pound Salmon out of the marina water right behind our room. I was sorry I hadn’t brought along my fishing pole. Though to be sure, I’m not too sure what I’d do with a big salmon.


We went for a walk down to the levy. The water was whipped up pretty fierce by the wind. Oh, and Marsha took this picture of me and Kory.

Don’t see me? Well… if you look at the stand of trees in the back… we’re under left-most tree. Okay, I couldn’t see it myself, so I used photoshop to cut out the little area that might be us… and blew up the frame to this:


Okay. Close enough.

Warm-up Clinics First Day

We had a pretty good day at the Greater Racine Kennel Club. About a dozen showed up to get the first two of four Petit Prix warm-up workshops. Another six or so will join the group tomorrow, so we’ll probably do split group work.

It’s a very nice bunch of dogs. I’m working with skills, strategy, and a mind-set for a competitive go at the Petit Prix, which begins in three days. I’ll keep you all up-to-date on how things go along.


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


October 3, 2009

Okay, just to prove (to myself) that I’m not a complete technological ditz, I sat  down to figure  out how to insert a YouTube video into a WordPress post.

Pretty song, by the way.

Yay! I’m not stupid.

On Politics and the Symbolism of Language

October 3, 2009

America has become a culture of intellectual waifs. I regret that I am not more widely read. But I see very little on the horizon to give cheer. To put it mildly… there is no Renaissance of thinking or literature in America. About the only individual even trying to tell the truth—much less make any sense of it—is American film-maker Michael Moore.

Over the last year or so I have grappled with the parallels between the American Republican Party in the present time compared to the German Nationalist Socialist party in the 1930’s. But the context of history and the conditions of the world manage to obscure a neat reflection between the two. And yet, there is a clear basis for comparison… A once proud people, bankrupt or at least floundering economically, with a deep seated propensity for casting blame based on racial, socioeconomic, and sexual stereotype and nationalistic and religious prejudice.

As I study the Republican discourse I have observed a clear use of public media for the presentation of symbolism intended to sway the individual free citizen (and voter) to a reaction of hate or fear or revulsion. While there is nothing on the Republican agenda that profits the citizen or enhances the survivability of a nation it is as compelling as a the lunar tide; so even individuals of the Republican faith who have in the past showed signs of rational thought, like John McCain and Orin Hatch, have succumbed to the pressure and sold out any values they might have henceforth owned.

The nature of social relations is determined by the forms of communication that a society employs. This is a bit McLuhanesque I suppose. The masters of the new symbolic language are hate mongers like Rush Limbaugh, and just about the entire cast of Fox news. I’d like to think that there is an evil intelligence behind what they are doing. But in fact, it’s just capitalism. Hate and fear and stupidity sell. They are all big money icons and laugh all the way to the bank.

Forget the flu. The only pandemic we need fear in America is our disgust for truth and the obvious. The Republicans represent the only political party in this country that can be effective. They will orchestrate our demise; they will be effective in this. That truly is not the point. Democrats are the target of the assault of the machinery of symbolism and so can only be ineffective no matter how lofty their ambition for any platform issue… like providing health care for all Americans or keeping us out of stupid wars. They must fail.


On the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks

This is not a clash of civilisations or religions, and it reaches far beyond Islam and America, on which efforts are being made to focus the conflict in order to create the delusion of a visible confrontation and a solution based upon force. There is indeed a fundamental antagonism here, but one that points past the spectre of America (which is perhaps the epicentre, but in no sense the sole embodiment, of globalisation) and the spectre of Islam (which is not the embodiment of terrorism either) to triumphant globalisation battling against itself.

– Jean Baudrillard, 1929-2007


I apologize to my weekend readers for my political diatribe. On the weekends my stats drop down to less than a hundred… on weekdays it goes up ten-fold. Mostly nobody will ever read this but a few inspired fans of my dementia.



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


October 2, 2009

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

The Agility Underground – C-Wags CCAP

October 1, 2009

We are working to establish an inexpensive community-based approach to the game of agility. C-Wags CCAP makes provisions for reporting scores and awarding titles for play. So the enthusiast/player has a track for measurable progress.

The idea is to bring agility back into the community in a way that contains the host club’s costs. The host has the flexibility to use its own training facility (it doesn’t actually have to be a training facility) and use local affiliate judges.

Under CCAP rules… the host club (and, it doesn’t actually have to be a club) can conduct competition (league play, tournament play, whatever) under the rules of any agility organization. And so if the idea is to strengthen players for the performance standard of a venue predominate in the area, this can be accomplished easily.

The club or informal group of enthusiasts will have to get local affiliate judges sanctioned by C-WAGS. That means studying up on our rules, and passing the judges test.

You can look up other information at:


We discovered in the TDAA a long time ago that in today’s agility world any new venue will require championship at the grass roots level. Everywhere the TDAA exists there are people who worked very hard to get the venue going in the community. C-Wags will require championship.

Over the next year or so I will be communicating with agility clubs and training centers all over the country to introduce them to CCAP and the concept of agility as an inexpensive recreational sport. I know… this is a tough mission. Profit and ambition are powerful forces in the agility world. We are actually proposing a venue that probably won’t be a cash cow and isn’t terribly ambitious.

C-Wags has been careful to define a suite of rules of conduct for competition that allows the host club to contain their expenses. You can use your own facility, and you can use local affiliate judges. This is unique in the agility world. And what we are really hoping is that the modest expense for the conduct of an agility trial or  tournament will be passed along to the competitor.

Ambitious Projects

League Play – I’m working to establish a league play network in which we all play the same game or run the same course each week so that we can compare results from around the country. The really fun and simple thing about league play is that it can be scheduled in around existing agility classes. So there is no added expense for the exhibitor who is already traveling as a student to get to class. We ran league at Dogwood for about 8 years… and it was really a lot of fun. More on this later.

Agility Games Camp Road Show – I’d like to get on the road to get people going on the concept of playing agility games. Most agility venues (aside from the TDAA) have a tiny suite of well-defined games. C-Wags agility however will allow nearly any conceivable game to be played as bonafide competition… eligible for qualifying scores and titling. Clubs, judges, exhibitors all need to be educated on games. Of course I have to do this considerably below my usual seminar rate (and I don’t have a terribly high seminar rate as it stands.) While I’m out there I can qualify and test judges for CCAP, and get host groups understanding what is required in facilitating recreational agility competition.

Thread the Needle

This game turned out to be considerably tougher than it looked like on paper. I made a command decision to include the collapsed tunnel in the mix… pretty much pointing at the time-stopper table.


Just so you know… the rules for this game are posted at:


Of course the handler wants to reserve the chute for the last tunnel performance. It will be a measure of both skill and composure to recover from an inadvertent performance of the collapsed tunnel.

This game is reminiscent of The Impossible Tunnel Game (which you’ll find documented in the Clean Run Book of Agility Games). Keeping the performance of tunnels straight—order and direction—is really the difficulty. While the Impossible Tunnel Game is a numbered sequence, this game is dog’s choice which makes it fun and spectacular.


Key for the handler is to approach the puzzle with an organized kind of strategy. It might be a good idea to work the puzzle backwards. In this case the handler picks the last tunnel performance in the sequence that creates a straight shot to the collapsed tunnel.

In order to create good flow the dog should be directed across the box as much as possible. So to begin, the handler seeks to solve two of the tunnels. And, to add to the sense of “organization” and keep order and direction straight, the first two tunnels are solved Left-Left-Right-Right. To finish, the second two tunnels are also solved Left-Left-Right-Right.

A Training Game?

Okay, let’s face it, all games are training games. This one is mostly about discrimination… or, precisely directing the dog when there are multiple options. There’s a lot to be said for teaching the dog the difference between obstacle focus and handler focus. But then, that’s also an objective for handler training. Many dog and handler teams will have a superb obstacle focus work ethic… but will fail in handler focus. And handler focus is the key element to solving tricky technical bits on course (like obstacle discrimination).

Refinement of Rules

I stipulated that if a dog begins the performance of a tunnel, then that tunnel and entry have been selected. We used JFF/TDAA/C-Wags/USDAA Starters rules for definition of commitment: four paws.

Also, there’s no clear definition for what happens if a dog repeats a tire performance before committing to another tunnel performance. This is complicated too by a dog who might do the tire after taking a wrong course pipe tunnel (one that has already been performed). For the purpose of getting through the game without having to sit down and ponder the issue thoroughly I adopted a “no harm no foul” POV for the tire. “The tire is required to be performed between correct tunnel performances.” Note that the tunnel doesn’t have to be performed after a wrong-course tunnel.

Remember… when you can play any game under the sun the judge/game designer is faced with a comprehensive puzzle of analysis: Anything that can happen will happen.



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