Only a Game?

I had a long sleepless night to muddle through the difficulties with the Petit Prix. And lest you think that it was pangs of conscious that kept me awake, never you mind. I took the red-eye home.

Here’s the deal… we advanced many of the wrong dogs into the Final Round and failed to advance many who deserved it under our tournament rules. Around the first of November, 2009, I published the Tournament Rules clearly stating that a dog’s scores would be cumulative through both the Quarter-Final and Semi-Final rounds.

However, our automated scoring system dumped all of background points from the Quarter-Finals when it advanced dogs in to the Semi-Finals. I actually found out about this as I waited in line to walk the first of the two Semi-Final courses. I was telling somebody that they need not fret because they had enough points from the first six contests to breeze into the finals no matter what they did in the Quarter-Final Round… and I was corrected on the point by somebody nearby.

An electric jolt went through me. I hunted down our developer to see if this was true. He confirmed this scoring and told me that it was based on a conversation he and I had at last year’s Petit Prix. Well you know, I had at least 400 conversations at last year’s event… and I’ll be darned if I remember this one. And I clearly did not because I published the Tournament Rules not a month later with contrary advice.

A Perfect Storm

I know what I should have done. I should have brought the matter to the trial committee and insisted that they hand score the results from the Semi-Final rounds; carrying the background points forward. It would likely have added two or three hours to our day.

I immediately saw this as a huge conflict of interest. I’m at the Petit Prix as an exhibitor and have no association with the trial committee at all. My girl Hazard had enough Semi-Final points that I could have sat out the Quarter Finals altogether; an idea I had truly considered following the model of Mark Wittig from the 2009 Petit Prix. It just would not have looked very good for me to approach the trial committee and demand that they change the scoring to benefit my dog.

I actually knew—to explain the electric jolt that went through me—that suddenly it didn’t matter that Hazard had done well in the first six contests. Now everything was riding on the two games of the Semi-Finals. Hazard and I would have to prove ourselves again.

Several hours later something else occurred to me… what I should have done is make sure that everyone had the same electric jolt as me. We should have stopped the world and told everyone what dumping the Quarter-Final background points would mean to them. It would mean that they had to focus and prove themselves yet again. They might or might not have done so… but at least they wouldn’t be blind-sided. And frankly, had we had the conversation it might very well have come to pass that everyone would insist on hand scoring the Quarter-Finals even if it did cost us an extra two hours or three.

At the End of the Day

This was my fault. To be fair to the players in the 2010 Petit Prix somebody needed to step up and do the right thing. I clearly failed to do so.

What this means is that I should not show my own dogs in the TDAA. While I think my motives were correct; in the final analysis my actions were not. At this late date I’m sorry that I ever turned the TDAA over to membership. It makes me just another “club” functionary who can step aside when the hard decisions need to be made and claim “it’s not my job man!” I should have taken ownership when called upon to do so.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special00” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.


12 Responses to “Only a Game?”

  1. Kim Boothe Says:

    Bud, Check your personal e-mail for a private accounting of my thoughts. Another thing that was not addressed in the scoring for advancing from semi finals to finals is how dogs that were beat by other dogs in the same height class somehow got higher background points. Regardless of your feelings of withdrawing your own dogs from TDAA competition, there were innumerable times that the situation could have been addressed before it blew up in our faces and left many of us angry, disappointed, and disillusioned.
    Kim and Zibbit

    • budhouston Says:

      Yep… I got your private accounting. “There were innumerable times” may be true. But the first whiff I got of actually mis-scored results was from the owner of a dog named Zephyr… at the very moment pictures were being taken of placements from the finals.

      I got your private accounting two days after the Petit Prix. You must admit that more timely information would have been of some use to me… an exhibitor at the Petit Prix.

      What to do about it is what I’m contemplating right now. I think there is a fix. It won’t make everybody happy. I am just not capable of that feat.


      • Kim Boothe Says:

        You got my private accounting 2 days later because I was completely blind sided. The decisions had already been made before I knew anything about it. I found out all the things in my letter AFTER the fact. I didn’t even have the advantage that you did of the “electric shock”. I am still so angry that I am physically nauseated.

        As far as I know, there was only one “mis-scored” result. That is the least of the concerns as that dog actually was mis-scored in the final round and actually got to have a score to miscount.

        The rest of us were just hung out to dry with no information at all.

        Sorry so angry, there is no fix.

  2. Wayne Says:

    Sorry Bud I disagree with you. Not your fault.

    Issues that arose need to be addressed by the trial committee. Group process created the petit prix. Group decisions run the petit prix. Which is why in my opinion dictatorships can be productive in some cases.

    Certain things need to be fixed before next year. Pick up and then we go on.

    Some things work in life some things don’t, we learn and we try to make it better next time.

  3. Kim Boothe Says:

    The trial committee would have been happy to address any issues that arose. The trial committee was not included in any of the decision making about the change in scoring. It would have been nice to have had the opportunity to have a voice in the matter. I agree that Bud is not the one to blame here, but don’t be so quick to blame the trial committee that was summarily left out of the decision.
    Thank you,

    • budhouston Says:

      I want to be very clear that assigning blame to hard-working volunteers shouldn’t really be on anyone’s agenda. The problem is a broader one that I’ll look at addressing over the next couple of months.

      I’m going to shoulder the responsibility and the fault. Sometimes taking responsibility means that one should become proactive.


  4. Doreen Says:

    Having attended so many Petit Prix Tournaments, nothing will surprise me….
    The Petit Prix in Vermont had it’s issues also…nothing I plan to share….
    BUT communication or lack of communication seems to be consistant

    Blame is useless
    Learning is what it’s all about

    As one of the judges of record, I also feel somewhat to blame

    As a judge, you should be aware of what goes on at a trial…that means everything…This INCLUDES scoring….The judge is in charge of the trial

    I had no idea until I stood in front of the Gate sheet for the final round to see names that were missing from the run order

    Teams that had performed to the best with the best had not made it into the final round, I was shocked…and very confused


    If you did not make it into the Final Round….I am SO sorry
    You know, the other teams know and I know how well you did

    Those of you who did make it into the Final Round….
    CONGRATULATIONS….You Did Awesome

    These comments do not mean that you and your dog did not do well at the Petit Prix…..YOU PERFORMED AWESOME!

    Thank You to Everyone for a wonderful time

    • budhouston Says:

      Yeah! That’s the ticket! Let’s blame it on the judges!

      Actually Doreen, I disagree with you. I think that the judges have to operate with a moderate degree of trust in the organization and capability of the conduct of the trial. And so for now you’re off the hook (except to explain your definition of a “major fault” … but that’s another story. lolz)

      I agree… we had an awesome field of dogs at this event. Some of them absolutely gave me goosebumps.


  5. Pam Says:

    I was unable to attend the PP this year, and from what I’ve read, I’m glad I didn’t! My dog is too old to have had another chance next year to make up for scoring problems this year. That being said, it sounds like the problem comes down to a programming error, which was compounded by the programmer’s misinterpretation of what was desired for scoring and by not testing the program prior to the PP. I know there were several scoring issues at last year’s PP because my score and others had to be corrected during the course of the PP. I was assuming this would have triggered more work on the program to assure this didn’t happen again.

    Bud, you know the old saying “Hindsight is better than foresight.” It’s not always easy to know what the best decision is or should be. Sometimes you get condemned for trying to do more. Everyone makes mistakes, and it sounds like they were made by others as well. I don’t think withdrawing your dogs from TDAA is a solution. I think the solution is to work on the computer program, make sure that the programmer understands exactly what is needed, and test the program several times before next year’s PP.

    It’s very unfortunate that this wasn’t brought to everyone’s attention before the final round was started, so the people and dogs who deserved to be in the final round could actually be there. While the ultimate goal is to have fun with your dog, doing well at the PP is a reward for all of your years of effort and training, and is a great way to honor a wonderful companion. I look at Kes’ win at the 2007 PP as the highest accomplishment I’ve achieved with my dogs. So, I can really feel for the people who didn’t get to be in the final round, and I can understand how hurt and upset they may feel. But it’s too late now to change what happened. We can only try our best to change the program so it doesn’t happen again.

    I’m wondering if there might be a way to honor the dogs that should have been in the final round. Obviously we can’t get everyone back to the show site, but could they be honored at the next trial at which they compete? Is there a way they could be sent a special rosette or something if they do well at their next trial? They could submit their score and then be sent the rosette? Just a thought.

  6. Cindy Bankston Says:

    I agree with Pam that there should be some way to honor the dogs that duly earned a place in the final round of the 2010 Petit Prix. Her comments reminded me of how the figure skating scandal was corrected in the Winter Olympics in 2002. In the end, TWO sets of Gold Medals were awarded, without taking anything away from any of them. I am not IN ANY WAY suggesting that there was even any hint of the shadiness in the Petit Prix scoring that took place with the judging in the 2002 Winter Olympics. Nor am I suggesting that the Petit Prix is on the international and historical or the skill level of an Olympic game. But in our own little agility world, as Pam suggests in her comment above, it is the highest accomplishment many of us will ever achieve with our dogs and something of a “personal Olympics.” I am presenting the link to this article below to show that it is possible to bring justice with integrity and to right a wrong after the fact…No, none of us can go back and do it over again and yes, that skating pair will never stand on the podium to hear the cheering for them and to hear their national anthem played. That moment was gone for them forever, and yes, that’s life and now, 8 years later, few even remember it (though I did). But you can bet they were more than honored and thrilled and justified to receive their rightfully earned gold medals, albeit a week after they’d earned them…even though their shining moment had passed.

  7. Chris Schultz Says:

    While I was not at the Petit Prix, I can only imagine the disappointment of those who suffered from the scoring issues. From the little knowledge I can gain from reading the various posts, one thing is quite clear; what happened was not deliberate. Just as clear is that those involved are behaving with integrity and taking responsibility. Bud, as you work towards finding a way to make amends, please know that those of us who love our little dogs and their little venue wish you wisdom, for all our sakes.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: