Training Games

I am an advocate of games in agility training. Games test the skills of both dog and handler. They promote a playful approach to the sport. I find playing agility for the fun of it is obvious on the one hand, but radical on the other. Below I’ve illustrated Four-Leaf Clover, one of my favorites, a distance training game.

Meet Me In Gahanna!

I’ll be judging TDAA at ARF in Gahanna Ohio this weekend. If you aren’t signed up for it, I’m pretty sure they have day of show entries! ARF Dog Training Center is located at 1000 Morrison Road, Suite I, Gahanna, Ohio 43230. The Trial Secretary is Suzanne Terrant

One of the games we’ll be playing is…

Four-Leaf Clover

This is a delightful training game concocted by Canada’s M.J. Thuot. This is a directional game mostly intended for Novice dogs and handlers. It can be played individually or in teams of two or three. This is just the ticket for tunnel enthusiastic dogs. Perfect for a Corgi, eh?


The dog runs the numbered sequence beginning with the weave poles (the stem of the clover) and then performs each of the leaves of the clover. Note: Although the clover is numbered the leaves can be performed in the order of the handler’s choosing. The dog earns a 5 point bonus for each element performed without fault while the handler remains in the box. Tunnels are bidirectional. A dog that earns all five bonuses will earn an additional 25-point bonus.

Qualifying course times are:

Games I           4″ / 8″ dogs         43 seconds
                        12′′ / 16′′ dogs     41 seconds
Games II          4″ / 8″ dogs         38 seconds
                        12′′ / 16′′ dogs     34 seconds
Games III         4″ / 8″dogs          31 seconds
                          12′′ / 16′′ dogs     28 seconds

Scoring and Qualifying

Four-Leaf Clover is scored Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonuses. The judge will signal both faults and bonuses. Faults will be added to the dog’s score; bonuses earned subtracted.

The dog earns a qualifying score if the final score is equal to or less than the QCT


This was obviously designed for play in the TDAA. You can tell by the short transitional distance between the obstacles and the diminutive size of the equipment. It would be possible, I suppose, for a dog to qualify without doing any of the distance challenges. But that handler wouldn’t be distinguishing himself in this game. Given the five distance challenges and the possibility of an additional 25 bonus points, it’s very likely that some dogs will have a negative over-all score.

Though I’ve been playing the game for years I think I noticed just for the first time the little bit in the intro paragraph “It can be played individually or in teams of two or three.” I don’t think I’ve ever played it with teams. I’ll have to cogitate on that one.

Four-Leaf Clover for the Big Guys

If you have a field of excellent distance working dogs this is romping design. Remember that the clover doesn’t have to be taken in the numbered order. The order the leaves of the clover are entirely up to the handler. There might be a bit of strategy for picking the order.

The Club Trainer

There are a variety of categories of trainers in the dog agility game. The Club Trainer is one of the most prevalent. Typically these come from the established Dog Training Club (DTC) or Obedience Training Club (OTC). However, it might even be a club that was established specifically to do agility. The Club Trainer is a volunteer position and sometimes even an elected position.

The difference between the Club Trainer and the franchise holder is strictly a matter of ownership. And there’s the respect (to quote Hamlet) to make calamity of life so long!

To give the Club Trainer his respect, a great number of them are very knowledgeable about training dogs and handlers to be successful in agility. They understand the importance of foundation work; they understand dog training and how to create a conditioned response; they understand the role of relationship between the agility handler/trainer in the development of the team.

But, like they say, a dead clock is right twice a day.

The real problem with the Club Trainer is that the students they are charged to serve are not their customers. The Club Trainer doesn’t pay the bills. He never looks at bottom line. He holds up measures for success that have very little to do with the viability of agility training as a business.

The break-out attribute of the Club Trainer is his ability to treat his students (and customers) with compassion and respect.

Nobody Gets My Joke

I’ve been saying that they aught to send Jerry Sandusky to Uganda for the disposition of his troubling legal matters. But nobody seems to get the joke.

Speaking of punishment… If the Philadelphia Eagles lose another football game they’ll likely take Michael Vick, hook him up to a bunch of car batteries, and throw him in the pool. I think Michael actually invented the trick for dogs that can’t win. It’s cheaper than euthanasia.


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.


One Response to “Training Games”

  1. Linda Says:

    I’ll give my sister in Gahanna a call tonight. Although she doesn’t do agility with her little dog, she might be interested in going to watch.

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