Private Thoughts

We return from the 2011 TDAA Petit Prix invigorated by a fine competition and an absolute minimum of controversial drama. I worked as a score-keeper all weekend and so for the first time ever was neither a competitor nor a spectator at the Petit Prix. I assure you that I had an interesting and vicarious view of the competition portrayed by numbers and notations on a river of scribe sheets.

I’d share with you our score-keeping methods; but nobody really wants to know how sausage is made. I’m proud to say that we advanced a terrific field of dogs into the final round.

Beginning tomorrow I’ll be actively seeking two or three sites for the 2012 Petit Prix. It’s true that we are determined to go to a regional format so that a considerably larger number of players will have affordable access to the championship venue.

Lessons Learned

The host clubs, Agility Acres and Happy Feet, Karen and Gloria, Wayne, Deb, Kim and Mark, and a host of volunteers were responsible for an amazingly well-run national event. I’ll be after their organizational notes as the basis for the model for running the Petit Prix in future years.

Except for a couple very brief moments I pretty much stayed away from the microphone over the weekend. I felt that I should not create even the hint of illusion that this event was anything but the effort of Agility Acres and Happy Feet.

Marsha bravely took on the role of Petit Prix Liaison Person. Even while attending the Petit Prix as a competitor (she ran our girl Hazard) Marsha did an amazing and important job dealing with a variety of problems in a very level headed manner. Marsha identified and fixed some important logistical problems, managed the correction of scoring errors in an organized manner, and deflected unreasonable nattering.

While the business model for the Petit Prix allows the host to pick the games to be played, I confess that I had a strong hand in the selection of the game we played in the final round. Several years ago I had the interesting notion that since we are a games-oriented venue we shouldn’t be shy about putting up a game as the final event. I think the concept worked really well with Who Dares Wins. But you know it hasn’t worked much since. In 2010 we played a dog’s choice game in Auburn that was hard to follow from a spectator’s point of view. And our game this year involved distance challenges that nearly skunked the field and wasn’t much of a showcase.

Completely chagrined by my own vision, I’m really thinking that all the “grinding” stuff needs to be in the quarter finals, and maybe the semis. But the final round should be a straight-forward though challenging standard course. This will allow the simple showcasing of skill in the game. I promise that’s where we’re going.

Competition has a way of bringing out the both the best and the worst in people. I understand that. Soccer moms have nothing on us. However, I’m especially mindful of the behavior of TDAA judges when in competition. I know it is very tough for one to separate his private ambitions as a competitor from his real obligation to be a role model and representative of sportsmanship, dog agility, and the TDAA. Nonetheless, we should all make the effort.

Back to the Blog

My most hectic season is winding down. I have a TDAA judges’ clinic in a couple weeks in Illinois; and I’m doing a seminar/judging gig in central PA in three.

I’m unlikely to put it on the road this winter, especially after totaling my Suburban and being a reluctant head trauma patient in a hospital in Indianapolis last winter. Home seems like a nice safe place.

The cold and quiet months hold some appeal to me right now, mostly because I have some dog training objectives that need to be tended. I’ll return to my blog and the documentation of handling and training in dog agility which is all I ever wanted to do with it (the blog). Every now and again I slow down and share a private thought or two… and pray that it doesn’t get me in trouble.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The Country Dream web store is up and running. You know… I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an embarrassingly inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

10 Responses to “Private Thoughts”

  1. Erica Says:

    As much as I love the game of agility, especially your view of it, it’s just as much the private thoughts or two that keep me coming back to the blog. Literacy is not overrated!

  2. Michelle Says:

    I’d be interested in the score keeping methods. Was the tournament trial software used? If so, was the glitch fixed that wiped out the quarterfinal scores last year?
    We are having a tournament style Challenge Cup in OR in a few weeks and if the score keeping method used at the 2011 PP is viable I’d like to use a similiar system.

    • budhouston Says:

      We did not use the tournament software. This was strictly seat of the pants with me using Excel and doing the summary without the use of any internal coding or macros. It was a fascinating experience as I was able to correct errors in the score-keeping software that was being run on the other two computers. (Did you know our score-keeping software doesn’t know how to score Gamblers?)

      I’d be happy to send you the spreadsheet I used. But the task will require a person who:
      a) Has a good working knowledge of Microsoft Excel
      b) Knows how agility games are scored


  3. Karissa Says:

    I loved looking through the results on the Yahoo list. While I couldn’t begin to understand the method behind the madness of those tabulations, I had a great appreciation for what went into it and didn’t find anything that made me question the results.

    I thought having the final round be a winner takes all format on a games course that rewarded distance dogs was a little unfair. I will admit that my experience with Teacup is limited (my wee one didn’t enjoy the tight spaces or the small tire), but from what I did see, distance skills don’t seem to be high on the priorities of many TDAA folks. It was, therefore, not much surprise for me to see those who do multiple venues end up on top at the end.

    I’m curious to know why you choose to go with a winner takes all format instead of rewarding those who do consistently well in all classes. It’s nice that someone can come from behind, I guess, but I see national events as kind of a “long haul” trial where your cumulative efforts should be rewarded.

    I suppose your HIT award does that in a way. BTW, what a nice group of 12″ dogs there must have been this year, as I saw they rounded out the top seven spots!!

    It sounds like the Petit Prix was a brilliant success this year. Kudos!

    • budhouston Says:

      The Petit Prix has always been “winner take all”. I’m considering proposing a format that totally dispenses with foreground placements (points in competition height)… and using only the score against the field (background scoring). That means that HIT would also be the winner of his own jump height. The downside of it is that mostly the final round would be about jockying for a position or two in the overall placement… with most dogs having no real chance of winning all with a winning run.

      And yes, the 12″ division was magnificent this year.


  4. Michelle Says:

    Bud, that would be great. We do have someone (or 2) who is very adept with Excel. Yes, I knew the gamblers was not in the trial software the way I wanted to score it. I just played it again recently and had the same issue.
    Please send me your spreadsheet and we might use it for the Challenge Cup in November.

  5. Pugahontas Says:

    First off — thanks for all you did behind the scenes for the 2011 PP!
    And thanks for pushing me — all of those little comments you have made over the years helped me to realize I needed to just go-for-it on every course and I walked away from this trial feeling that we gave it our all & it felt great!

    As far as the Finals… as you mentioned, possibly a Standard course would work (sans table)– a well-designed course with several challenges for all heights… that is the kicker I think… I was in Racine in 2009 & was lucky enough to play Who Dares Winns ( we renamed it here in MN after Winn Mosley)… what I loved about that game was that we created one large ring and got to really run full out – but you really had to know YOUR dog! It was fair for all heights and styles of running. It was a very exciting finals that year as the audience & participants were left guessing as to who won!

    In reality though, Time Warp was basically a Standard course with an aggressive QCT and I saw several people handle it as such -without even looking at the bonuses. I have to agree with Karissa; however, that it may not have been the best choice to have a distance game be the Final. I think the “gamble” tape itself was a bit of a drag as handler after handler got tripped up in it. Although I saw some very exciting runs by some stellar teams in every height category !!!

    For the finals, it is fun to see a course that highlights the BEST parts of Teacup Agility and also has some element of greed, timing and strategy to it… Run Til You Drop would actually be a super Finals game….the greedy do not always survive that one!!
    I remain uncertain of how I feel about the “clean slate” for the Finals…it definitely does not let anyone coast by which is good, but then again, the team could exhibit a 100% 1st place rate up until that point and still not be the winner in their height… I guess the Overall HIT does deal with that issue a bit…regardless, I had a Blast on all of the courses!

    Thanks again for all you did Bud!
    Kelly in MN
    (finally the Bride-haha)

  6. budhouston Says:

    I was also thinking that Run ’til You Drop would be a fun finals game. I think we need to be careful in the selection (henceforth) so that the game allows everybody to exhibit their best qualities.

    You were a great competitor this year Kelly. You got that killer instinct!


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