Games of the 2011 Petit Prix ~ Part 3

I turn my attention to the game Twelve Tone Row. There have historically been some scoring ambiguities to the game which really must have given score-keepers a bad headache. I’ve attempted to clarify these scoring foibles in order to make the game clearer to exhibitors and score-keepers alike.

I’ve highlighted the paragraphs in bold type below to indicate the paragraph’s I’ve edited for clarity.

Twelve-Tone Row

Twelve-Tone Row is the invention of Becky Dean. It is a game of strategy and keen handling. The game is modeled after an obscure musical analogy. You’ll have to ask her if you’re really curious. Otherwise, just read the rules below and have a good time with this game.


The purpose of Twelve-Tone Row is to accumulate as many points as possible while performing 12 and only 12 obstacles. Each obstacle has the value of its number on course. The same obstacle may have different values, depending on the direction in which it is performed.

The handler may direct his dog to perform the obstacles in any order he chooses. If the dog chooses the obstacle to perform, the handler will have to live with it. Only 12 obstacles may be performed. The 12th must be the weave poles, in either direction. The dog and handler team will earn the assigned point values of the obstacles taken. No points are awarded for a repeated obstacle.

If the dog faults an obstacle, he will not earn the points for that obstacle. Further, the obstacle may not be repeated. It will not be counted as one of the dog’s 12 required obstacles.

If the dog repeats an obstacle, he will not earn points for that obstacle. It will not be counted as one of the dog’s 12 required obstacles.

For each obstacle more or less than 12 total obstacles, the dog will be penalized 20 points. Any obstacle taken after the twelfth obstacle, on the way to the finish, will earn the extra obstacles penalty. The dog will be penalized 20 points if the weave poles is not the 12th obstacle performed; however, this fault will negate one (and only one) fault for performing more or less than 12 obstacles.


Twelve-Tone Row is scored points minus Faults, Then Time.

The judge will call out the value of each obstacle as the dog performs that obstacle. It will be up to the score-keeper to determine if the dog has performed the correct number of obstacles and that the value for the weave poles is earned in the 12th obstacle position.

Faults are deducted from the points earned by the dog. No standard course time is used.

Course Design

This Twelve-Tone Row course was designed by Becky Dean for play in agility league at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, Ohio. The table was designated the start and stop obstacle.

In Twelve-Tone Row the numbers are randomly assigned to the obstacles on the field. Obstacles may have different values if performed by the dog in different directions, at the discretion of the course designer.

The weave poles (the last obstacle to be performed) should be placed in close proximity to the table or other designated time-stopper.

This is a Twelve-Tone Row course I designed for play in the TDAA at Medina Swarm (you’ll probably recognize the columns that run down the center of the building). Note that the judging position will be somewhere central. And so the number cones should be arranged to face back to the judge’s position. They aren’t there for the convenience of the exhibitor.

If an obstacle has numbers on either end, for the purpose of play of the game it constitutes two different values and so two different obstacles. If the obstacle has only one number associated with it, then it is (if possible) bi-directional, and should be taken only once.


The greedy man’s strategy will be to seek the most possible points. It’s a simple matter to figure this out. If only 12 obstacles can be performed, the handler should seek the performance of the 12 with the highest value. In a 20-obstacle course, that would be #9 through #20. Once this is known, the approach to these high-point obstacles becomes a bit of a “What’s My Line?” problem to determine the best approach to pick each of them up in some kind of logical flow.

The handler should remember that taking an off course obstacle is not a tragedy. It just means that the handler will have to balance the accumulation of points by omitting an obstacle that was in the plan to make up for taking the one that wasn’t.

Note that an obstacle already performed may be taken for flow with no real down-side, except the time required to perform that obstacle.

Qualifying and Titles

Twelve-Tone Row is an eligible qualifying game for both the TDAA and Top Dog.

  • Games I – 78 points or better
  • Games II – 114 points or better
  • Games III – 138 points or better

Note that this system is based on a course of 20 numbered obstacles. It is impossible to get such high values with a course numbered with only 15 obstacles. Indeed, the most points that could be scored in a 15-obstacle course would be 114. And so, for a 15‑obstacle course the qualifying criteria might have to be redefined as:

  • Games I – 78 points or better
  • Games II – 90 points or better
  • Games III – 102 points or better


  • Start and stop method – The method for starting and stopping the game can be adapted by the judge. For example, the judge may allow the exhibitor to begin on any obstacle he likes. Time would begin when the dog commits to that obstacle. This allows handlers to develop more diverse strategies for solving the course.The method of stopping time could be changed from the table to a finish line. The judge may also stipulate that the dog’s time stops as the dog makes his exit from the weave poles.In the original rules for the game the start & stop was defined in this manner: “The game starts and stops on the table. Time starts when the dog leaves the table. Time ends only when the dog gets into a down position on the table.” A judge may return to this original variation at his own whim. However, it should be noted that when a specific obstacle is used for start or stop (or both) the number of possible strategies to solve the overall course.
  • A different 12th obstacle ~ While traditionally the 12th obstacle is the weave poles, the judge might designate another specific obstacle to be the twelfth. This might be useful when a course is carefully nested and the judge wants to designate an obstacle near the finish line other than the weave poles.

Judging Notes

If we take a scribing scenario: 1 5 8 3 9 10 15 20 18 17 11 9 13

We’ll scratch through the second performance of the “9”. If the #13 obstacle was the weave poles, then it’s a big no harm/no foul situation; It’s just a waste of time to repeat the obstacle.

We could change the notation to test something for the benefit of the scorekeeping table:

1F 5 8 3 9F 10 15 20 18 17 11 9  13

1 2 3       4  5   6    7   8   8  10 11

In this notation two faulted obstacles (the “F” after the number) are indicated. The dog faulted number 1. He doesn’t get the 1 point and it doesn’t count against the total number of obstacles; same with the #9. The second line is the scorekeeper’s count. So the dog loses 20 points for being one obstacle less than the required 12. He might also get a 20 point fault for the weave poles not being the 12th obstacle; but that fault washes with the less than 12.

The scribe records the linear sequence of events. In the conduct of the game if a dog faults an obstacle the judge would call out the number of the obstacle and then say “Fault”. The judge should brief the scribe to write down both the number and the “F”… or write down the number and maybe circle it.

Premium Blurb

Twelve Tone Row is a dog’s-choice game in which exactly 12 obstacles must be performed for points. Each obstacle has a different value; and sometimes a single obstacle has different values depending on the direction taken. The 12th obstacle is required to be an obstacle designated by the judge (usually the weave poles). Twelve Tone Row is scored Points, Then Time.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. Be sure to check out my distance training series: The Jokers Notebook; an (inexpensive) elaboration and improvement on the work I did in Go the Distance.


One Response to “Games of the 2011 Petit Prix ~ Part 3”

  1. Houston Says:

    Really cool course design. I’m going to have to try this with my Jack Russell. He loves agility.

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