A League of Your Own

The agility league is designed to organize match play and let people compete as part of a team. Prices are kept very low to encourage participation by large and diverse groups of students. For example, we charge $5 a dog for league play out of this we pay recording fees and registration for the league (to C-WAGS and USDAA, for example).

Back in the day when we ran Dogwood, our leagues were made up of 95-120 dogs in any two-month session; running 25-30 teams of three dogs each. Now, in this rural part of Ohio where we’ve moved in semi-retirement, we’ll be lucky to have 15 dogs a week running in league. We will not be running a team league here… all MVP (most valuable puppy).

The JFF Community

There’s a Yahoo list where we’ll be posting weekly games and courses: JFFAgility-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Just so you know, you can play the game at your facility any time you like and, if you send me your results, I’ll put it all into a permanent listing associated with the game or course. [In other words… the original game might have been in Nov ’09… and you could play it in Mar ’10. No worries.]

I’ve worked with C-WAGS for more than a year to establish a community-based recreational approach to the game. The CCAP is pretty much the result of that effort. Check http://c-wags.org/ for more information. And you can find information about the USDAA’s league play at http://www.usdaa.com/.

Picking a game

We use the Clean Run book of Agility Games as our league play-book; and refer often to the JFF Agility Notebook (over five years of league play games and lesson plans nested for four levels of instruction). You can choose a completely different game. Our games are designed to minimize equipment movement between the game and your class instruction.

And, of course, I’ll be publishing a new game or course just about every week in conjunction with our local agility league. I’m hoping too that other clubs who have designed their own games or courses (sometimes for unique competition spaces) will also publish their courses and games to the JFF list on Yahoo so that others might be able to use their courses and play their games.


We’ll do this through the week on a ledger system. Create columns for “points,” “faults,” time,” as well as team placements. As dogs run the Game of the Week, record the data in the appropriate column. Each week’s game will involve the collection of different data. For example, Snooker is scored “points, then time.” Timed Gamblers is scored “time, plus faults,” etc.

With all the scores assembled determine placements using these accumulated totals. For MVP standings, the first place team earns 10 points; the second place team earns 9 points; the third place team earns 8 points… and so forth, all the way down to ten place, which earns 1 point. All other teams earn a zero for the week.

As the league session progresses, team scores are totaled, earning overall placements at the end of the scoring period.


We’re working to coordinate competition with a other leagues and training centers around the country (or the world); in which we can pit our performance against the performance of dogs from another league.

What we’ll attempt to do on the JFF list on Yahoo is post our ongoing games and standard courses. If another training center runs that game or course, they can send their results to me for posting. So aside from having our own local league results we’ll have results that reflect (kind of tongue in cheek) a national or world-wide placement on the same game our course. I haven’t completely figured out the logistics of this yet. But I’m working on it.

Final Analysis

This sounds very involved and time-consuming. But the benefits far outweigh your efforts. Back at Dogwood we noticed a marked increase in attendance (people might miss their class, but they’d never let their team down by missing league play), and a wonderful sense of community built around league teams.

If dog agility is to remain a game we play with our dogs and our friends, we first want to shift the focus away from the infrequent and costly qualifying attempt to a light-hearted and weekly romp in the park. As well as being just plain fun, it can also serve to strengthen our relationship with our dogs. As we lighten up and get more chances to play the game, our mood lifts, our nerves settle, and our dogs are seen having a much better time.


Sounds great!! Does the dog need to be registered under USDAA or CCAP to participate?

Not at all. Here at Country Dream we will seek affiliation with organizations that support league play, partly to acknowledge their leadership in providing an inexpensive recreational approach to the game; and partly to titling opportunities and recognition of performance from these organizations. If you want to play the game from the cheap seats we are fine with that. Make sure that you pass on the less expensive accommodation to your local agility community.

This sounds like great fun. Could we play on TDAA equipment?

The whole idea of league play is that local clubs can get ready for competition in their own favorite venues. So whether your club is chiefly NADAC, or USDAA, or AKC… or even TDAA you should use your league play to get ready for that venue. Of course most venues outside of TDAA won’t be particularly interested in the wide variety of the games that we’ll play in league (you know how anything but follow-the-numbers makes an AKC player’s head explode).

A thing I learned very long ago… all games are training games. It is mistaken to believe that a player who mostly wants to learn to master the numbered course has nothing to learn from games like Tag 10 and Who Dares Wins.

Oh… so the answer to your question is: Sure, you can use TDAA equipment. It strikes me that if you change the equipment (and maybe even spacing) on a league course we’ll have to put an asterisk next to your dogs’ results when we post the national or world-wide results for the game or course.

How does league play benefit the host club? I’m not sure I get that. It sounds like a lot of work

Well, it certainly is a bit of work. But it’s good work. It is first of all profitable; but in a way that is casually inexpensive for the player. You don’t have to rent a facility or hire a judge. And if you do it right your students will run their league play game in conjunction with class. So for them there are no additional travel expenses.

One of the great values we’ve always found in league play is that you can see how your students are translating your teaching when they are put under the pressure of competition. It is one thing to lah de dah around a training sequence; but it’s quite another when they are being scored and put under the stopwatch. Rather than chasing your students around the region to see how they do in competition in their various venues, you can see them right in your own training center. That will give you valuable input as to where your teaching needs to go with them.

I would like more info about the requirements for clubs to participate in the league.  Among other things, I am wondering if our facility has the necessary space as it is long and narrow. It sounds like a lot of fun.

Obviously, you won’t be able to put up the same courses and games that people with bigger and squarer floor space can put up. However, the whole intention of this is to use the resources that we have at our disposal. What I would recommend is that you adapt a course or a game to your space, and then post it to the JFF list so that anyone with a comparable space could put up the same game or course.

The only real requirement is that you join the community and share your results. While I would like to see clubs register with and support C-WAGS (CCAP) and the USDAA… even this is not a requirement.

A Great Dog Trainer’s Resource!

Someone sent me this great link: http://www.veterinarytechnicianschoolsonline.com/?page_id=37

This site is complete with YouTube videos for teaching your dog a variety of tricks. I’m a great advocate of trick training because it builds on the training relationship between the dog and handler. For instructors this is certainly an invaluable resource. One of the things an instructor needs to do is teach his or her students how to train a dog. It would be very nice to point them to a good teaching web-site… and maybe even making an assignment for teaching one of the tricks or skills.





Common Sense

Every man becomes civilized between the ages of 18 and 25. If he does not go through a civilizing experience at that time of his life, he will not become a civilized man. The men who went to war at 18 missed the civilizing. All you young people who served in the war are a lost generation. You have no respect for anything.
~ Gertrude Stein


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available on the Country Dream Web Store.

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