Understanding Refusals on Contact Obstacles

There are several scenarios for determining when a dog has committed a refusal on a contact obstacle. I’ll attempt to be comprehensive in this discussion. This discussion is more or less limited to understanding performance in the TDAA.

A refusal is called for “turning away” from the approach. Most rules for performance attempt to define this type of refusal as the dog turning away after having begun the approach. In general this is a matter for judge’s discretion. The question really is whether the dog begun the approach before he turns away.

To make matters a bit simpler we’ll use Woz’s “Rule of Thirds”. Divide the space between the obstacle shaping the approach and the contact obstacle: In the first-third, the judge will not call a refusal for turning away; the dog has not begun the approach. In the third-third the judge will absolutely call the refusal; the dog has certainly begun the approach. In the second-third, however, it is a grey area matter for the judge’s discretion. If you thought you were going to get out of this without exercising judgment… sorry to disappoint.

Another important type of refusal is stopping or hesitating on the approach to the contact obstacle. Typically rules for performance define this as a “significant” hesitation on the approach.  For the stopping refusal use Woz’s Rule of Thirds for determining this refusal call to answer the having begun the approach question.

Some judges pull the trigger on this call far too quickly, often calling a refusal even when it’s clear that the dog is just slowing to gather his feet under him. The litmus I want to use is “significant”, and in this context: If you can say the word “significant” in a nice slow southern drawl and the dog is still stopped… then it is a refusal. If, however, all you can get out is “sig…” then it is not a refusal.

And certainly going slow is not a hesitation at all. The dog should not earn a refusal no matter how slowly he makes the approach.

By the way, the TDAA’s rule of four paws for commitment is important in this discussion. If the dog gets to the A-frame and puts two feet up on the ramp and stops, then a significant hesitation will incur a refusal penalty. In the USDAA (at the Masters level) the two paws on the ramp would constitute commitment, and no refusal should be called because the dog has begun the performance.

The Runout refusal is called when the dog passes the back plane of the contact zone. This is relatively straight-forward.

It’s possible that the dog could get up onto the contact obstacle while crossing the run-out plane. The judge should not double penalize the dog for both a missed contact and a refusal. Note that the up-contact is judged in the TDAA only in the case of a side mount, as in this illustration.

When the tunnel is used under a contact obstacle the dog would not be called for a refusal if he’s actually in the tunnel when crossing the run-out plane. Of course this would be called a wrong course; but not both a wrong-course, and a refusal.

If the dog clearly has to pass through the run-out plane before committing to the wrong-course obstacle then both the refusal and the wrong-course penalties would be assessed against the dog.

In the USDAA and probably in the AKC this would be called a refusal, because the dog has run past the approach to the A-frame and turns away from the obstacle rather than towards it. In the TDAA, however, this would not be called a refusal because a) the dog never began the approach and b) the dog did not cross the run-out plane.

The refusal comes into play in the performance of all the contact obstacles after the dog has committed. All three need their own discussion.

The dogwalk:

This will sound repetitive… A) if the dog commits with two paws and significantly hesitates, it is a refusal.

B) If the dog bails from the ascent ramp after having committed all four paws, it is a refusal.

C) If the dog jumps off the center plank in the TDAA it is a Failure to Perform (unsafe performance); in the USDAA this would be a refusal.

D) If the dog jumps off the down ramp without touching the down contact, it is a missed contact only.

The A-frame:

A) If the dog commits with two paws and significantly hesitates, it is a refusal.

B) If the dog bails from the up ramp after having committed all four paws, it is a refusal.

C) If the dog jumps off the down ramp without touching the down contact, it is a missed contact only.

The Teeter:

A) If the dog commits with two paws and significantly hesitates, it is a refusal.

B) If the dog bails from the ramp after having committed all four paws ~ and the plank does not move ~ it is a refusal.

C) If the dog bails from the ramp after having committed all four paws ~ and the plank moves; and does not touch the ground ~ it is a fly-off.

D) If the dog bails from the ramp after having committed all four paws ~ and the plank moves; and touches the ground ~ no call, so long as the dog demonstrated control of his movement.

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Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

What was James T. Kirk’s paternal grandfather’s name?

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.

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3 Responses to “Understanding Refusals on Contact Obstacles”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Perfect! Thank you for this entry – it confirms much, clarifies some, and adds good insight.

    One question – in the examples where you cite two paws on ascent, would the answer be the same for 1 or 3 paws? As I read your description, I would say that it is.

  2. Angel Says:

    This is sort of a guess, but I think that Capt’ Kirk’s paternal grandfathers name is Tiberius Kirk (The T in James T. Kirk is for Tiberius).

  3. James Porterfield Says:

    I enjoy technical discussions and writings about agility, but I’ve lost all interest as trying to be aware of this stuff on course or preparing for a run. (I’m getting older faster than I ever imagined.) My dog and I try to run fast, first, and clean, second. AKC convinced me that competition isn’t necessary to aspire to having a competent team and revel in the runs, good, or not so good. USDAA doesn’t have enough local trials.

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