Putting On the Dog

Having just finished a TDAA judges’ clinic in Dallas over the past week I have uppermost in my mind a discussion of ring efficiency and how important the judge is as the catalyst for a well-managed trial.

Inefficiency results in what we’ll have to call dead time; that is time that creates lag, creates drag, and makes the day go longer than necessary.

How to Cure Dead Time

Nesting ~ The math is inescapable. If we have 10 transitions or course rebuilds a day that require 30 minutes to get done… we’ll have five hours of fundamentally dead time. Our target for a rebuild must be 10 minutes at an absolute maximum. Now we’re only at a mere hour and 40 minutes of dead time.

Briefing ~ Because we play a limitless variety of games in the TDAA the written briefing must be complete and cogent and anticipate the questions an exhibitor might ask. It’s especially important that any strategy for play of the game can be grasped while the exhibitor is sitting in his seat outside the ring. This takes pressure off of both the briefing and the walk-through.

The briefing for a standard course should take no more than two minutes; and possible five minutes for Beginners. The briefing for a game should take between five and ten minutes. Our goal is to average 8 minutes per game briefing.

Walkthrough ~ The walkthrough should be allocated no more than ten minutes with first dog on the line after another two. The judge needs to multi-task wheeling the course while exhibitors walk; report course distance to the trial secretary; find and brief ring personnel. Don’t fail to blow a whistle at the 10 minute mark and call for first dog in the ring in two minutes.

Conduct of the Ring ~ Our goal is to run a dog a minute!

  • The gate steward must be briefed on how/when exhibitors enter the ring; announcing jump height changes; alerting the scribe to changes in the running order.
  • The scribe must check the scribe sheets against the posted running order so that they are in the same order. Out of order dogs can cause long delays and dead time in the conduct of a trial.
  • It’s a good idea to have a scribe assistant to take the scribe sheet from the scribe and a stopwatch from the time-keeper at eh end of each run. The assistant will write the time on the scribe sheet and clear the stopwatch. There will have to be two stop-watches for this system to work. So with this system the time-keeper hands of his watch, turns to the exhibitor at the start line and announces “Go Now!”
  • In general the time-keeper should not look for a thumbs up “I’m ready” signal from the judge before telling the exhibitor to begin. Timely conduct of running dogs is the time-keeper’s responsibility and being awake is the judge’s responsibility.

    Furthermore the time-keeper should not delay for the ring personnel at the back of the ring who might be straightening the chute or resetting a jump bar.

  • The judge might set and enforce a maximum course time and possibly a maximum fault limit. Also, the judge should have a low tolerance for dogs ceasing to work; though mostly these dogs can be caught out by a maximum course time.

Course Design

Courses should be designed to avoid conflict between the dog entering the ring and the dog exiting the course. Simple conflict can cause as much as 30 seconds delay between dogs. The course should begin at the front of the ring, near the entrance. The course should end at the front of the ring, near the exit.

Games should be perfect nested. This means that all dogs at all levels will essentially play the same game. The distinction between levels will be established in variance of time on course and qualifying criteria. This allows the judge to give a single briefing and conduct a single walk-through.

Let’s Go Back and Check the Math!

Okay let’s assume 12 classes a day ~ game/std/game/std; and 240 runs each day. If we do our efficient best it should run:

70 minutes for course building

34 minutes for briefing

96 minutes for walk-throughs

240 minutes for conduct of the classes/running dogs

That’s a total of: 440 minutes or about 7 hours and 20 minutes. A trial that begins at 8:00 in the morning should finish around 3:20 pm. Imagine how this trial might have gone if we did not.

I’ve left out of this calculation down time for the judge taking a break or for lunch. In my own judging I do not seek a break for lunch; and will usually take lunch catch as catch can. With any luck the trial committee has provided for someone to bring the judge rather than requiring him to walk a half a mile and stand in some long line of exhibitors. That’s a silly excuse for down time.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: BudHouston@hughes.net. Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training ~ Issue #0 ~ August 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: http://countrydream.wordpress.com/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.

5 Responses to “Putting On the Dog”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I think this might go into a club letter to all the host clubs. It may help the host clubs train the ring help before the day of trial. If everyone is on the same page, then things run much more smoothly.

  2. Robert Soukup Says:

    I was at a show this weekend in the Milwaukee area and we had some problems.

    The judge although new did a good job of judging the trial.

    Some of the people that were there were rude and that’s saying it nicely.
    On three seperate occasions a person who was at this trial approached me and said no that jump goes here not there or tunnel what ever. She was allowed to tweek the course as she felt even though it was not what was designed. They continued to ask for help, but I refused to help again.
    That happenned to two of us that were at your trial.

    There seems to be a need for more education for the regular and heart and soul of your orginization. People who scribe or time need a quick refresher course. They also need to be part of the setup before you start your trial not asked for at the last minute.

    I’m just an occassional particapant in Tea Cup, but would like to see it grow.

    • budhouston Says:

      It’s really hard to police the behavior of anyone in this world. I’m an old timer in agility and remember fondly a time when there was more grace in our sport.

      All I can say is that each of us is responsible for his or her own behavior; and we individually have an obligation to conduct ourselves with integrity and, whenever possible, dignity.

      Any agility organization is characterized by those who play in it. I would hope that your experience would be very different in another place (and, not all that far from you).


  3. robin sallie Says:

    Most of these tips carry over to Rally O! Thanks.

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