How ‘bout them Buckeyes?

Ohio State’s win in the Sugar bowl last night was sweet. I wasn’t terribly optimistic about the game. I really enjoyed it because it was a thriller to the last minute. I wish my dad were alive to watch it. Being an Arkansas boy and all he was a big Razorback fan. He used to tell me “they been playing football in Arkansas for more’n a hundred years” And it’s no exaggeration. Arkansas boys are strapping on a helmet by 11 and learning to hit other boys in the mouth. Football coaches in that state approach the game like they’re going to war.

I continue my review of agility games below with Beat the Clock. It hasn’t changed substantially from how it was published in the Book of Agility Games, 2d ed. These days agility competitors and course designers alike are becoming wary of using the tire because at “today’s speeds” it can be perceived as a dangerous obstacle. The real problem of course is that in a dog’s choice game the course designer has little control over creating the square and safe approach to the obstacle.

But then, when we play games that feature freestyle handling, the handler can become quite expert in becoming the architect of the dog’s path and fashioning the square and safe approach. Add to that the notion that we might teach the dog to square himself up for the performance of the tire… and some of the objections to this obstacle seem a bit weak.

Beat the Clock

Beat the Clock has long been a favorite game in the U.S. Originally the game was used as a warm-up game in the USDAA; a simple, open-entry game in which novice dogs and handlers could compete with more advanced teams. These days Beat the Clock is a popular titling game in the TDAA.


The objective is for the team to perform the clock of obstacles before the time expires. Typically, the standard course time is sixty seconds.

The dog and handler begin in the center of the clock where the dog must perform an obstacle that begins course time and then perform a quarter of the obstacles on the course (first #1 through #3; then #4 through #6, and so forth). The handler must direct the dog to the obstacle at the center of the clock-face prior to beginning each quarter of the obstacles on the clock. After completing the final sequence of obstacles, #10 through #12, the dog must be directed to the finish line or to a table, at which time the clock is stopped. After completing the #12 obstacle while the dog is on the way to the table or finish line to stop time, he’ll not be faulted for taking additional obstacles.

If a dog faults an obstacle in a designated sequence, the judge will call “fault.” The handler must direct the dog back to the obstacle at the center of the clock face and reattempt the same sequence. Any points previously won in the group are lost.

Faults are assessed for dropping bars, missing contacts, and taking an obstacle out of order (or from the wrong group). Refusals may be faulted at the discretion of the judge and course designer.


Beat the Clock is scored points then time. The team earns the clock value of each obstacle successfully performed. The winner is the team who accumulates the most points and therefore has the highest score. If two or more dogs have the same number of points then time breaks the tie.

Faulting an obstacle results in no points earned for that obstacle but the team can still continue on course. An off course results in an immediate cessation of scoring and the team must go to the finish line or table to stop time.

A total of 78 points is possible.

Course Design

This is a typical example of a Beat the Clock course. This course was designed by Bud Houston and originally played in the agility league at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, Ohio.

A Beat the Clock course consists of twelve obstacles, numbered from #1 to #12. The layout is roughly circular with the #12 obstacle positioned at 12 o’clock and the other obstacles arranged in a clock-like fashion.

Another possible design would be to create four quadrants which might each contain more than three obstacles. That would certainly make the game more interesting.


The handler should find the sweetest path for his dog and push for as much speed as possible without sacrificing the reliability of the dog’s performance.

The different variations of Beat the Clock offers greater opportunity for strategy and daring. In the Cuckoo variation, the handler should carefully measure the length of his dog’s course. From this measurement the handler should get a pretty good idea whether it’s possible to complete the cuckoo and earn the cuckoo bonus points within the allotted time. During the run, if there is a bobble that takes any amount of time to correct, the handler might think very hard about abandoning the strategy to go for the cuckoo.

In the Dealer’s Choice variation, the handler should carefully analyze each of the three-part sequences to find the most efficient line for the dog. Indeed, the tire should always be considered a fourth obstacle to close the three-part sequences. The handler should consider what kind of approach to the tire solving each of the sequences will give his dog.


•         Combination Obstacles – In this variation, combination obstacles might be used much as they are used in USDAA-style Snooker. A combination obstacle is when more than one obstacle is used to form a single obstacle for performance. This is especially useful when nesting courses for Novice and Advanced levels. The more advanced competitors would have to do the combination obstacles while the Novice level competitors would use only a single obstacle out of the combination. This variation can be used with standard Beat the Clock or the Cuckoo and Dealer’s Choice variations. In the Dealer’s Choice variation, the judge may specify that the combination obstacle has to be taken in a certain order or direction.

•         Cuckoo – This variation of Beat the Clock adds a thirteenth obstacle to the clock. If a dog and handler have completed the first 12 obstacles and believe they have enough time left on the clock, they may attempt to perform the cuckoo. If the team completes the cuckoo within the original sixty seconds, then the team’s score is doubled. If the team attempts the cuckoo but fails to perform it correctly within course time, then all points are forfeited. This variation is credited to Gordon Simmons-Moake.

When using the Cuckoo variation it is important to specify whether the dog must be directed to the obstacle at the center of the clock’s face before (or after) attempting the cuckoo obstacle.

•         Dealer’s Choice – This variation of Beat the Clock allows the handler to choose the order and direction of obstacles to be performed in the segments of the clock; and may allow the handler to choose the order of the segments themselves.

In the Dealer’s Choice variation of Beat the Clock, the obstacles in each group may be numbered, but these numbers do not indicate the order and direction the obstacles must be taken. This is left to the handler to determine or the dog, as it were.

Qualifying and Titles

In the TDAA and Top Dog, qualification should be set on the basis of points and time, the points earned by the dog should be doable and appropriate to the level of play. While Games II and Games III might require the same number of points, the qualifying time for Games III would be more demanding. For example:

•         Games I – For a score of 9 or better

•         Games II – For a score of 12 or better

•         Games III – For a score of 12 or better

In the Cuckoo variation, this might be changed to require the Master handler to go for the Cuckoo in order to win the higher games qualifier.

•         Games I – For a score of 9 or better.

•         Games II – For a score of 12

•         Games III – For a score of 24

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Who was the fellow that Deborah Kerr was supposed to meet on top of the Empire State Building?

And an interesting follow-up question. What was the name of the Collie at that fellow’s grandmother’s house?


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.


3 Responses to “How ‘bout them Buckeyes?”

  1. Bernadette Says:

    Shoot now I have to watch the movie again and I was just at the Empire state building last week thinking about that movie! 🙂

  2. Nora Says:

    The ACTOR was Cary Grant, and the character’s name was Nickie Ferrante. No idea what the collie’s name was, though.

  3. Deb Auer Says:

    I believe the dog’s name is “Jacques.”

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: