Archive for February, 2011

Calculating QCT for TDAA Games

February 21, 2011

Because we play so many different games in the TDAA we’re always faced with the riddle for setting time for games and consequently, qualifying criteria. The Qualifying Course Time (QCT) has several possible approaches to be solved.

Numbered Courses/Sequences

This is actually kind of easy. You can apply the rates of travel from the standard classes at the same basic level. But there can be some thinking involved.

Unlike the standard classes in which the YPS rates of travel are fixed, games allow for a range in the rates of travel. I know we all have them memorized, so I won’t bother to recite them here. But do expect them to be on the next judges’ exam you take. If a course/sequence has a good number of technical obstacles and technical options then you should use the smaller number in the range; if the course/sequence is fast and mostly made up of jumps and tunnels, then you should use the larger number in the range.

I had a judge once submit to me a Minuet course using 8 jumps in the sequence; and also requiring the traditional number of books to qualify: (GI = 3; GII = 5; and GIII = 7); all in a QCT of 50 seconds. I wrote him back and pointed out that the GIII dog would have to do 56 jumps in 50 seconds in order to qualify (and suggested that he revisit the qualifying criteria).

“What Would You Do?” Analysis

Almost any game designed by a judge deserves a bit of “What Would You Do?” analysis. That means the judge/course designer will trace through and measure several possible strategies for the dog’s choice game. From these the judge can modestly extrapolate things like how many points a dog should score and how long he should be given to play.

Often when reviewing courses I’ll ask the judge if he will draw me a possible strategy or two. This should be easy to do as there’s probably one or two on his computer already. You see… I’m an optimist. From the judge’s own idea of strategy I can talk about performance constraints of the game.

Almost always the measured path of the dog can be compared to the rates of travel from the standard classes to determine if either the points required to qualify or the time provided to score points are reasonable.

The Gamblers Rule of Thumb for QCT in a Dog’s Choice Game

We have a number of games that require the dog to accumulate a specific number of points in a set period of play. A good method for determining the number of points required to qualify was developed in the USDAA years ago for defining points required in a Gamblers class. It works like this…

Multiply the highest value in the scoring system by the QCT/10.

In Gamblers there are two traditional point systems: 1-2-3-5 and 1-3-5-7. So the high values of those systems are “5” and “7”. The point accumulation period might be 30 seconds, or maybe 40 seconds. Divide either of those numbers by 10 and you’ll have a value of “3” or “4”.

Follow the logic here.

  • The 1-2-3-5 system in 30 seconds requires 15 points to qualify (5*3=15);
  • The 1-3-5-7 system in 40 seconds requires 28 points to qualify (7*4=28).

This logic can be used in any game in which the pointing system is comparably straight-forward.

You have to watch out for pointed games that have null value obstacles. In games like The Weakest Link, for example, the dog is required to periodically take the tire which has no inherent value of its own; so it will skew the points accumulated and possibly cause the judge to ask for more points to qualify than are reasonable for a good percentage of the class.

QCT Calculator

I’m going to post to the TDAA Judges list on Yahoo today a file named: QCT Calculator.xls. This is a simple analysis tool for making a ballpark guess as to how to set a Qualifying Course Time when you generally know how many yards the dog will have to work in order to qualify. The calculator can help you set a realistic QCT (course time) or amend your expectations of what the dog will accomplish. After all, we don’t really want to set course times of two and three minutes.

  • The number in the dark blue cell/gold lettering can be modified, and will set the start point for this table.
  • Course times are incremented by 10% reflecting the essential difference in time between big dogs and small
  • The leftmost column shows what to add to the base SCT to get the high end of the range for games.
  • Once you know how many yards are required for a qualifying strategy:

o       Find the column in which the yardage fits in the range for the dog’s respective level and jump height

For Example

o       If the path measures 96 yards; and you want to see what time to give tall dogs in Games I:

  • In the analysis you’ll go row by row and find where the yardage fits. Just look at the top of the column to find where you’d set the QCT. Note that if it’s a “fast” course (jumps and tunnels) you’d want to use the lower time; if it’s a technical course (contacts and weave poles) you would use the upper.
  • Here’s a comparable analysis for GIII tall dogs:

Using the CRCD Path Tool

The Path Tool in Clean Run Course Designer us useful both for measuring the overall length of a sequence or course or for performing analysis of transitional distances between obstacles. For example:

Here’s a simple numbered course. You no more want to guess at it’s overall length than you want the time-keeper guessing at a dog’s time on course. Yes, I know you’re going to measure it when you build it. But you can measure it in the design tool as well.

To view the Path tool, click on the Path Tool button, shown here.

In the Dog Path Properties menu you should select:

  • Connect to numbers
  • A 12” jump height
  • Check “Show path lengths on path”
  • Feet and Inches as Units

Now you can see the dog’s path:

This is especially useful for getting a good look at the distance you’ve put between obstacles in your course design: Nice short transitions in the straight-away; 12′ or more in the turn or on the approach to a technical challenge.

But of course what we’re really interested in right now is the overall length of the dog’s path. So let’s go back and amend the dog’s path properties (you can see the Dog Path Properties menu now by right-clicking anywhere on the path you’ve already drawn):

Now change the Number of arrow heads to “One for whole path”… and change Units to “Yards.” You can see the overall length of the dog’s path:

Sometimes you have to look pretty hard to find the number. It’s always midway. In this case you can see the number up on the weave poles at #11. The length of the path is 86.9…  or you can call it a nice round 87 yards.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

In the Clean Run Course Designer how do you “hide” the dog’s path so that you can remove it from the course map for printing without actually deleting it?


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check7  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.

The Irish Wolf Hound

February 16, 2011

I didn’t really watch Westminster. I know it’s a big deal in the conformation world. But I was occupied yesterday by other priorities. Busy busy busy. That’s me. I did get a look at the Wolf Hound. What a handsome fellow.

Among the many projects that I’ve got working, I continue to work on the Games Book 3d ed. I’ve managed to take a perfectly silly and fun game (Cherry Picking, below) and document it a completely serious and erudite manner.

The book is at about 500 pages right now. I’m considering marketing it as a beta product. That means I will have to update everyone with the final version. In the mean time, they will all have the most comprehensive reference to agility games that exists in the world today.

I’ll be geeking out the final version of course. That means I want the capability for the reader of the PDF to click on the upper-right corner of the course map and spawn it right away into Clean Run Course Designer. That kinda solves the tabula rasa problem that a lot of people have with designing their own courses.

Cherry Picking

Sometimes called “Picking Cherries” this is a simple game invented by Bud Houston that can be played using the set of equipment from nearly any standard course without having to move equipment around at all. The game was originally designed to teach a unique Snookeresque skill, the ability to move a dog across the field without taking obstacles that might be in his path.


The purpose of this game is to direct the dog only through the performance of the “cherries” which can be defined as “all the round things”: tunnels and tire; and, at the judges discretion, the weave poles.

This is a dog’s choice game, so refusals are not faulted. If the dog takes an obstacle other than a cherry, his game is over and must leave the course.

Course Design

This is an adaptation of a standard course. There was no real attempt to “design” the Cherry Picking course. All the ring crew has to do is pick up any number cones and then define the start and finish line. The judge might turn around the one-directional obstacles or possibly reshape the tunnels to make the challenge more interesting.

Resist the temptation in this game (or any dog’s choice game) to start and/or finish on the table. Defining the start or finish points for a dog will do little more than limit possible strategies.

This is really such a simple game. I’ll often play Pickin’ Cherries to break the tedium of handling drills or when I’m feeling a bit of paralysis by analysis in my students when doing numbered courses.

The purpose of this game is to pick off all of the tunnels on the floor without doing any other obstacle. On this course the start and finish line are a common line. So, we may start anywhere across the front of the course, and finish anywhere on the same line.

Pickin’ Cherries is a dog’s choice game. That means we can pick off the tunnels in the order and direction of our choosing. The game is scored time plus faults. Doing any obstacle other than a pipe tunnel will result in a 5 second fault. Tunnels may be repeated without fault… if you think that’s actually an effective strategy for the game.


Traditionally Cherry Picking is scored Time Only. Dog’s that take an obstacle other than a “round thing” will be scored Elimination.

The game might also be played Time, Plus Faults. In either case the judge will set an aggressive Qualifying Course Time (QCT). If the dog’s score is less than the QCT he will qualify.


This game requires both strategy and skill. The handler might want to cultivate the ability to begin the game by drawing the dog across the field from the start line to pick off the most difficult obstacle. This is a skill that is useful in games like Snooker and certainly in Picking Cherries.

Also look for flow. Dog’s choice games are often won or lost by the brefity of the dog’s path.

In the second example course (above) ~ Most Pickin’ Cherries course are considerably harder than this as we often have to move the dog across the field avoiding obstacles placed obtrusively in the dog’s path. As it happens, this set of the floor makes for about the prettiest Cherries course I’ve ever seen. Two essential strategies emerge, both being the same overall length.

And yet, even from a simple game like this there are lessons to be learned. Either of the two possible strategies must begin with the approach to an obstacle discrimination puzzle. How does a handler solve a discrimination puzzle? What can go wrong in the transition to and from pipe tunnel at the back of the floor (at the top of the course map)?

Judging Notes

Note that in a Time, Plus Faults game the weight of the penalty should coincide in point value with the schedule of faults in the standard classes. And weave pole faults in the games classes should reflect the performance required in the standard classes.

Taking an obstacle that is not in the target group (e.g. “round things”) is equivalent to a wrong course. However, the judge should aggregate the penalty, meaning that the fault is earned for each wrong obstacle performed; otherwise it might be a perfectly acceptable strategy to intentionally take a wrong course line on the course.

Establishing a QCT in any dog’s choice game is a bit of an art form. The easy thing for the judge to do is find one or two possible strategies and them measure them, applying liberal rates of travel from the standard classes in order to set the QCT. We don’t really want to encourage any handler to “heel” his dog around the course so the QCT should be aggressive enough to make the dog actually run. But don’t be so aggressive that all the Yorkies fail the test just because their leg’s are only 3″ long. As a rule of thumb the QCT will be about 20 seconds on the low end, and certainly no more than 30 seconds on the high.


  • Jumps Variation ~ rather than to the round things, the handler must direct the dog to perform all the jumps on course. It’s the judge’s choice whether the tire should be included.
  • Group Choice Team Variation ~ This variation is played by three dog and handler teams. One dog will do all the “round things” (tunnels and tire); one dog will do all contact obstacles; and one dog will do all the jumps. It’s the judge’s choice whether to put the weave poles with the contact obstacles or the “round things”; and it’s the judge’s choice whether to put the tire with the jumps or the “round things.”

Qualifying and Titles

Cherry Picking is a qualifying game only in the TDAA and Top Dog. The dog earns a qualifying score for stopping time at or below the QCT.

Premium Blurb

Picking Cherries is a simple dog’s choice game. The dog might be directed to as quickly as possible get all the tunnels on the course… and nothing else. Picking Cherries is scored Time Only.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

Please identify this packaging. Specific trumps generic.


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.

Bound, Bound, Bound and Rebound

February 10, 2011

I worked about 14 hours today, I think. Mostly I’ve been grinding on getting TDAA trial premiums posted. It’s a much more detailed process than you might think. I meddled in the premiums only to an extent, as I’ve been working on getting the “blurbs” for games written in consistent manner. And when I’m done I have to drive it to PDF, get it posted on the TDAA website, link it to the calendar, and update that file as well. Oh… and I have to record the particulars in my tracking worksheet.

Today was a good day though. I can actually see the holes now. This is important. When it’s all a fog or a blur you don’t see the holes. If you see a hole, you can fill it. If you don’t see the hole, you fall in it. You follow me?

A Winter Wonderland

I thought the world was warming up to an early spring. By last weekend all the ice and snow had melted here and you could feel some warmth from the sun on your cheek. Then on Monday the temperature dropped and it began to snow with renewed earnest. Marsha and I witnessed a weather phenomenon neither of us could remember having seen before… the heavy downfall of snow at a distance. We’ve all seen that in rain systems. When it’s snow, it’s quite impressive. Then it moved over on top of us and gave us a white-out as the snow fell and whirled so furiously we could not see the road in front of our house. The snow fall continued until we had about four inches. When it moved away (to torment the east coast) it left behind a picturesque world in a heavy blanket of fat moist snow.

Now I wish that it would go away.

Agility Games Book 3d Ed

This isn’t an announcement or anything. I’m constantly interacting with the draft, making improvements, adding new resources. A lot of it I have to share here. Today I’m bending my head around Snooklers. I believe this is a Jeff Boyer invention.

I’m in a bit of a quandary about the documentation of some games. If I see something in the game that doesn’t really make any sense I’m inclined to want to fix it so that it is rational and balanced. But there you go… if I meddle in the games then I’ve passed beyond the simple role of journalist, documenter, or historian; which is what I really what I did with the first two editions of the book.

“What man is a man that does not make the world better!” ~ a line from the movie Kingdom of Heaven. I loved the movie tho it was not well received by the critics and had a short run in theaters. Of course it’s in my DVD collection.


Snooklers is a point accumulation game with elements of both Snooker and Gamblers.  Like Snooker, there is an opening and a closing sequence.  Like Gamblers, there are on course challenges that require the dog to work away from the handler.

The jokers or gambles are the red obstacles. The Snooker enthusiast should understand this language: Do a red; then do a color.

During the opening period, the team must successfully do the gamble sequence of choice in order to earn the right to attempt a colored obstacle, numbered 1-7.  The team must attempt all three gamble sequences before starting the closing sequence.

As in the traditional game of snooker the red gamble sequence is worth only a single point. And each may be taken only one time. If the sequence is faulted (ie, missed down contact, leaves the containment area and commits to another obstacle before completing the gamble, knocking a bar, or the handler stepping over the line) then the team must move on to another red gamble sequence or begin the closing sequence.

After successfully completing a red gamble the team is required to do one of the colored obstacles which have values corresponding to their sequence numbers in the closing. Faulted colored obstacles earn no points.

After attempting all red gambles and earned colored obstacles the team begins the closing sequence and may continue to earn points until: the are all done, or an obstacle is faulted; or time expires.

Small dogs have 60 seconds

Big dogs have 55 seconds

Time begins when the dog crosses the start line and ends when the dog crosses the finish line.  No points may be earned after the time whistle blows.


  • Legacy variation ~ as the game was originally defined gamble sequences may be repeated.  The value of the gambles might have a weight that reflects the difficulty of each. For example, there might be a 5 point gamble on course, a 10 point gamble, and a 15 point gamble.

    The real difficulty of this variation is that it departs too dramatically from the definition of Snooker both by allowing the repetition of the “red” obstacles and by giving a point weight to them that makes establishment of qualifying scores difficult to assess.

Course Design

There aren’t a lot of examples of Snooklers courses out in the world except maybe in the TDAA. I’m usually disappointed by TDAA “distance challenges” because the line might be 18” away from the obstacles in the gamble as though that were a “challenge”.

I’ll let this course of my design sit as a placeholder for awhile. I’ll have to sleep on whether I actually like the design. It seems somehow tougher than the traditional Snooker course; Admittedly, the course was designed for a relatively small space feels a bit crowded.


Game I – 35

Games II – 37

Games III – 37


Snooklers is scored Points, Then Time.

Premium Blurb

Snooklers is a point accumulation game with elements of both Snooker and Gamblers.  Like Snooker, there is an opening and a closing sequence.  Like Gamblers, there are sequences on course that require the dog to work away from the handler. Snooklers is scored Points, Then Time.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

A world class athlete? This fellow is in both the Baseball Hall of Fame and the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Who is he?


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.


Another Dollar

February 7, 2011

We did play Ralphie’s Run ‘til You Drop in our Sunday clinic. It was quite fun. Several of us are heading for the Petit Prix this year and want to be tuned up nicely on this game. You can refer back to for a game briefing. [Though wouldn’t you know it, I abridged it in several respects. I’ll have to go back and tweak the documentation to reflect those changes.]

One of these days I want to share with you a good discussion on how to come up with qualifying criteria for points games. Not tonight though.

Below I’ve given a gentle rewrite to the rules for “Copycat”. One of the embellishments I’m adding at the bottom of games documentation is what I call the “Premium Blurb”. This is really a problem area. When I review TDAA premiums I typically have to rewrite almost every games description. Someone has suggested that we need a solid catalog of games descriptions that the host club can plug into their premiums. The games book seemed like a logical place to put such a thing.


Copycat is the invention of Trisha Stall from Latham, New York.


Copycat is a “dog’s-choice” game. That means the handler can direct the dog through the performance of obstacles in the order and direction of his own choosing, or the dog’s choosing, as the case may be.

Big dogs will have 35 seconds and small dogs will have 40 seconds to gather points. Point values for obstacles are:

  • Jumps 1 point
  • Tunnels, and tire 3 points
  • Contacts and weave poles 5 points

The dog may perform each obstacle only twice for points. Obstacles must be correctly performed to earn points. If the dog performs obstacles of the same value one after the other the dog will earn a fault for “copycatting”. For each copycat fault the dog will be penalized 5 points; (and will not earn the value of the second obstacle). Every second over course time will be penalized one point.


Copycat is scored Points, Less Faults, Then Time. The dog with the highest number of points wins. Time is a tiebreaker only.

The scorekeeper is responsible for determining faults for copycatting. In a copycat sequence the dog is not awarded the value of the second obstacle.

Time starts and stops when the dog crosses the start/finish line.

Course Design

The course should be designed with subtle traps for repeating two obstacles of the same value. The line of jumps in the center of the course should obviously be avoided by the handler. Less obvious is the possibility of being trapped by the tunnels and tire at the right side of the course; and by the weave poles to teeter at the top of the course.


  • Games I      16 points or better
  • Games II     18 points or better
  • Games III    20 points or better

Premium Blurb

Copycat is a dog’s-choice game. The handler’s job is to avoid taking two obstacles, one after another, of the same point value for which the dog earns a “copycatting” fault. Copycat is scored Points, Then Time.


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.



February 5, 2011

I’ve been working like a dog. That’s a curious expression, eh? No dog I’ve ever had did a lot of very hard work. Indeed most every one of them had more of a talent for napping than any particular labor.

I haven’t written to my web log in quite awhile. I think this is the longest hiatus that I’ve taken. It’s not that I haven’t had things to say or to share. It’s just that the blog thing hasn’t risen to a level in my priorities list to warrant my effort. In other words, it becomes an indulgence for which I have to set aside something that really needs to be done.

It’s not that it’s any less of an indulgence right now. I just wanted to take a moment to let everyone know that I’m alive.

The business of the TDAA has kept me busy. We’re making gradual headway bringing under control systems that were designed for a small army of volunteers to conduct; and without the services of the small army.

Superbowl Sunday

We’ll start the day tomorrow with a run of Ralphie’s Run ‘til You Drop. The design I have here has several hidden objectives. They’ll have to remain hidden for now.

This was our Thursday night set-up. The set of equipment spawned about a dozen unique exercises. The numbered sequence I’ve put here Features several perilous options. Clearly I’m always looking to teach my students compelling and timely handling skills.

 This wasn’t so long ago. The drawing creates an interesting illusion that I’ve moved equipment around quite a bit. But it’s a cheat. Can you spot it?

All Done!

You didn’t get much from me today except to share a couple drawings. I’ll usually share a bit of prose that is inspired at the confluence between artistry and ego. But today I’ll leave you with just the pictures.

It is funny looking at a course map. It’s almost impossible to trace the dog’s path without the antics of the handler and the touchy response of the invisible dog superimposed on the imagination. I wonder sometimes what it is that you see.

Anyhow, almost always my web log reflects what I’m working on at any given time. Today is no different. I’m installing software on a new computer. And, I have to make sure everything I use for my web log is installed… and it works. Do you know what all I use? I use Microsoft Word; the Clean Run Course Designer; Photoshop CS2; and of course Internet Explorer. I’ve been at it all day long.


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.