Archive for the ‘Agility for Small Dogs’ Category

Designing Games

November 10, 2012

This is a tutorial that is applicable to a variety of games that might be played in the TDAA. The sample happens to be a game called Tunnel Vision. I have presented below both the designer/judge’s course, and the briefing submitted for course review. I’ll have comments on each. My comments below will be written in blue.

To be really fair about this course review, the designer has been given a game that is interesting, but rarely played. Part of our objective in the course review process is to give the rules of the game a good work-out and improve upon our understanding of play, as well as design.

Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision is the invention of Darlene Woz, one of the foremost innovators in the field of agility games development. This is the perfect game for clubs that are rich in pipe tunnels and want something really fun and really different to play.

Briefing

Tunnel Vision is played on a course consisting of only pipe tunnels, jumps, and weave poles. The obstacles must be done in the numerical order specified by the judge with these caveats:

•     All obstacles can be taken in either direction.

•     Each clump of tunnels may be performed in any order and in any direction, so long as each of the tunnels is ultimately performed. This could mean that the handler has to adapt his running strategy on the fly if the dog selects a tunnel other than the one intended by the handler.

•     The handler must remain behind the indicated containment line for each group of tunnels.

The judge will specify a separate standard course time for each different skill level competing, for example:

•     Games III:  Large dogs: 40 seconds, Small dogs:45 seconds

•     Games II:   Large dogs: 50 seconds,  Small dogs: 55 seconds

•     Games I:     Large dogs: 60 seconds, Small dogs: 65seconds

If the closing whistle hasn’t blown by the time the dog reaches the jackpot jump (#15 on the sample course), 100 points will be awarded. The dog may then attempt to complete the inner circle of obstacles (sans tunnel groups) for an additional 100 bonus points.

As long as the whistle hasn’t blown by the start of the dog’s inner circle run, the turn may be completed although the dog will finish with some time faults.

Scoring

Tunnel Vision is scored points, minus Faults, Then Time. The winner is the dog with the highest score.

Rules will be used for assigning faults:

•     5 faults for dropped bars or missed weave pole

•     20 faults for wrong-course or failure to perform

•     10 faults for stepping on or over a containment line with one foot

•     20 faults for stepping over a containment line with both feet

•     Refusals are not faulted (no contact obstacles on course)

Any time faults (whole numbers) will be subtracted from the dog’s total score. Any time remaining on the clock (whole numbers) will be added to the dog’s total score.

Qualifying:

Games III:  150 points

Games II:    100 points

Games I:      75 points

* What jumps out at me immediately about the course is that the course designer understands the game and contrived to lay out obstacles to suit the rules of the game. You’ll notice that the sequencing itself, outside of the approaches to the tunnel riddles, is completely contrived and uninteresting. That design is something of a copy of the design given as an example in the Book of Agility Games.

* The most obvious down-side of the design is that it’s almost impossible to nest the design against anything else that might be played on the day. So it’ll cost you a minimum of a half an hour to tear down what was there and build the new course; and a minimum of a half an hour to tear down this one to build the next. You’ve cost everyone a full hour in the conduct of the trial.

* A more interesting and productive approach to course design is to find a nice flowing handling sequence that has already been designed and find the game within the context of that design.  I’ll test that premise…

I went out on my computer and found a random course that I like. That course is right here. 

The course I found was on a different field size than the Tunnel Vision course that was submitted to me for review; so I tweaked it around a bit so that it fit.

After studying the course for a moment I determined to put the Tunnel Vision riddle as you see above. Note that this area is approached (at least) twice in the course. So, rather than having two big areas in this very small floor occupied for the use of the tunnels we use just one space, and approach it twice. [I was thinking about that statement in the description of the game that is for “tunnel rich clubs”. It doesn’t really have to be that way.]

I did some tweaking of the course to give lots of room to approach the tunnel riddle; room to solve; and room to continue once it’s been done.

Unfortunately this course doesn’t really serve as a good Tunnel Vision course. It’s too long; and we have to solve the riddle of the “inner circle” which is taken after the “jackpot” obstacle. So I’ve amended as illustrated below.

You’ll note that I took several obstacles out of play in the white numbered sequence. The original rules of the game leave the impression (intentionally or otherwise) that the dog should run the entire sequence again, sans tunnels. But I seized on the idea of “inner circle” and made a uniquely numbered sequence; so that the obstacles I took out of play are reincorporated into the game.

You have to admit that this is a more interesting kind of sequence than the submitted course. I’m aware that the example in the Book of Agility Games is based on a Jumpers sequence; and the silly writer of the description of the game said “Tunnel Vision is played on a course consisting of only pipe tunnels, jumps, and weave poles”. I think we can move away from that constraint.

* * *

I’m going to gently rewrite the briefing, and discuss the changes I’ve made.

Briefing

Tunnel Vision is played on numbered sequence. The obstacles must be done in the order specified by the judge with these caveats:

•     All obstacles can be taken in either direction.

•     The “clump” of tunnels may be performed in any order and direction, so long as each of the tunnels is ultimately performed.

•     The handler must remain outside the indicated containment lines for each clump of tunnels.

I rewrote the intro paragraph which establishes Tunnel Vision as a Jumpers course. This is a needless constraint. In the bullet list I took out the observation that things will get interesting if the dog chooses the order of tunnel performance, rather than the handler.

The standard course time is based on a path measured by the judge using rates of travel comparable to the standard classes respective to jump height of each dog. The timekeeper will be instructed to blow a whistle at the end of time if the dog has not completed the Jackpot obstacle.

I’ve changed the discussion of course times so that the example course times don’t become a codified requirement of the game. Also I have introduced the idea of the closing “whistle”.

On this course the Jackpot obstacle is the teeter. If the plank has tipped and touched then it has been completed.

The judges briefing should indicate which obstacle is the joker obstacle.

A dog completing the Jackpot obstacle under time earns 100 bonus points. The dog may be directed to the table to stop time; or may be directed to complete the Inner Circle of obstacles for an additional 100 bonus points.

As long as the whistle hasn’t blown by the start of the dog’s inner circle run, the turn may be completed although the dog may finish with some time faults.

Scoring

Tunnel Vision is scored Points, Less Faults, Plus Bonus, Then Time. The winner is the dog with the highest score.

Performance faults will be the same as those used in the standard classes. In addition, faults will be assigned as follows:

  • 10 faults for stepping on or over the containment line with one foot
  • 20 faults for stepping over the containment line with both feet
  • 1 fault for each full second over the course time.

A one point performance bonus will be awarded for each full second under course time.

I’ve removed from scoring the long list of possible performance faults; informing the exhibitor instead that we’ll just use the performance faults that we recognize in the standard classes. This allows the special faults recognized in this class to stand out.

Note that it’s unusual for time to be a matter of faults and bonus. It is an important consideration in this game. As the handler finishes the Jackpot obstacle with his dog he has a choice of going to the table to grab additional bonus points, or go after the “inner circle” for bonus points.

Qualifying

  • Games I ~ a score greater than 95
  • Games II ~ a score greater than 100
  • Games III ~ a score greater than 150

I’m not so sure our qualifying criteria makes great sense. It would be good to see 100 dogs run on the game; with 100 dogs just about everything that can happen, will happen. The Games 1 qualifying criteria was probably too lenient. If the dog has more than one performance fault on course, then he’d better be quick enough to earn bonus points for seconds under course time.

Clearly, no dog who hears the time-keeper’s whistle will qualify. And just as clear, the inner circle is not an optional exercise for the G3 dog.

* * *

I hope this discussion has helped!

The Busy Season

I came off of ten day of travel, work and play attending two TDAA Regional Petit Prix tournaments. I’ll turn my attention back to those tournaments early next week as we study our “Lessons Learned”; and begin planning for next year. Stay tuned eh?

We returned the day before Election Day. You should know that Marsha and I have been busy and involved in this election. Of course we’ve donated money to President Obama’s election campaign and to the DNC. We’ve also made our house available as lodging for volunteers and as a center for telephone canvassing. So on Election Day we joined the troops on the ground for last minute door-to-door canvassing.

For a few days I worked on chores. Chores have no compassion for or understanding of the “Busy Season”. I fixed the door to the chicken coop, for example.

Today begins a Work Study Camp here at Country Dream. Five or six young ladies are here to help out with a couple big chores. They’ll work with me in the morning, and spend the afternoon in agility training. These young ladies by the way are the principal actors in an annual dog training camp at Country Dream called The 4H Teen Dog Experience… or something like that. We make facilities available at a very attractive price. And so they come back to us every year. I’m really looking forward to working with them.

Top Dog Agility Players

You know, my last editorial in the Clean Run Magazine before I sold my share off to Monica Percival was a statement of a dream that dog agility could be inexpensive and affordable enough for just about anybody who owns a dog. I think I’ve finally found the correct model. I’ve continued working at launching this very low-key recreational agility venue.

Refer to my “blog space” for the venue at: http://topdogagilityplayers.wordpress.com/. The rules will be published soon. And frankly, even though I’m not completely ready to deal with data management I’ll likely launch the venue at the end of next week.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Fast Eddie Option

October 18, 2012

In course design for dog agility I would make an argument for speed-building flow in which the handler can release the dog to work. Each riddle of the course deserves subtle presentation so that the dog is working at a breath-taking romp. Even at full speed, or I should say especially at full speed, the riddle might testify to the analytical skill of the handler as much as the physical prowess of the team.

The handler’s role on the agility team might be defined as communicating the order and direction of the course to the dog. While I like a course that allows the handler to release the dog to work; I’m mindful also that the handler has a job to do to fulfill his role on the team. With this in mind, I’d like to share an interesting riddle:

I’ve left on this short sequence the sleepy-dreamy lines of the Clean Run Course Designer. Taken as a picture this is just about as simple a sequence as you can imagine. What the drawing lacks is a true understanding of the dog’s path. I’ll try to explain.

When analyzing the dog’s path I think in linear terms. I like straight lines, and sharp corners. So in this illustration I’ve added an “X” at the terminal of the opening line to demonstrate where the corner of the turn might be. Please note that this “corner” is variable in nature. The corner may shorten the opening line, or lengthen it based on variables like the speed of the dog, the length of his stride, and the cues of the handler.

What is most important to understand is that the “corner” dictates the approach to the next jump. And the dismount on the next jump is dictated by that approach.

The first corner dictates the approach to jump #3 in this sequence. I’ve put another “X” to represent yet another “corner” after jump #3. I’ve also continued the line to show the wrong-course presentation of the pipe tunnel if the handler doesn’t communicate that change of directions to the dog.

I could launch into a pithy lecture of the one true way to handle this counter-side tunnel discrimination. In my heart I believe that whatever works is right. The handler could do a Front Cross, or pre-cue the turn, or vee-set the approach, Post & Tandem, or Flip the turn (Front Cross+Blind Cross+Tandem/Flick). Frankly, as far as that goes, a big wide sloppy turn after jump #2 would bring the dog neatly to the correct entry to the tunnel.

The handler needs to see this picture of the dog’s path. Knowing that there is a turn after jump #3 is important. I guarantee that just about everyone who loses their dog into the wrong end of the tunnel will be surprised that it was logically presented to the dog.

Before I leave this discussion I must return to my comment above about the variability of the “corner” of a turn. You must know that the corner turned by a Doberman will be very different from the corner turned by a Yorkie. It is clear that the turning radius of the turn might contribute to both a different presentation and a different outcome on course. And for the handler who has taught the dog a tight wrapping pre-cued turn the calculation of the corner will influence the dog’s consequential path.

Temecula to Grand Junction

I’ve been on quite a pace these days. A couple weekends ago I was in Temecula, CA for a TDAA club building event. This seminar/trial format was hosted by Jump’n Canines, run by Cindy Valdez. The site is beautiful, on a high vantage overlooking a nearly tropical desert.

This early morning photo I took (from the side of the agility field) doesn’t really do much justice. You can just make out a half-dozen or so hot air balloons coming up in the cool morning air (center left) in the valley below.

Temecula is about equidistant between San Diego and Los Angeles. I made the mistake of booking my flight through LAX. That means I got to re-experience insanely crowded Los Angeles commuter traffic.

Anyhow, I got home fine… but only got to sleep in my bed for two more nights…then it was off to Grand Junction, CO for a three day handling seminar.

This was a cool seminar as I had more auditors than working spots. It was a nice big group of friendly people, lovely to work with; and I’m just so sorry I don’t have pictures to share. I was at K9 PowerSports run by Geoff Teare. You can find them on the web at: www.k9powersports.com.

After a flight home that had me absolutely sappy… I recovered enough to spend a day running down to Athens, OH to see President Obama on one of his frequent trips through Ohio these days. We stood in the longest line ever in the world, for hours and hours to get in. Ultimately, this was the view I had of the President:

Anyhow, the sound system was good and his speech was inspiring. I think I could have watched it on television though.

I got a good view of that, anyhow.

I’ve been away from my blog for some time. To tell you the truth even when I’m on the road I have to continue working on business. I spent my days in airports and on airplanes reviewing courses for the TDAA, for example. Returning home I note my chores have been neglected. I’m earnestly hoping I have a work/study camp coming up soon. But I’m too tired to look at my calendar.

I got to take a picture when Marsha and I took the dogs out for a family walk this evening. I’ll share:

The rainbow was more spectacular in person I think.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Temecula

October 4, 2012

I’m heading out in the morning for a TDAA Club Building event in Temecula, California. Temecula is somewhere between Los Angeles and San Diego. I don’t know much more than that.

The Club Building event is an interesting format. It is both seminar and trial. That is, in the context of the seminar all of the games we play and courses we run will be genuine qualifying opportunities. I’m looking forward to making new inroads into California where the sun shines all year long; and there’s lots of small dog agility enthusiasts.

We’re always in an uphill battle getting the TDAA established in a new area. There is a lot of uninformed prejudice about what the TDAA is. The truth of the matter is that the TDAA is the toughest agility venue in the States. Think about it. Our courses are appropriately technical, by level, and there’s only about 8′ to 12′ between obstacles.

Aside from the standard, numbered courses, the TDAA is a game players’ venue. Part of my objective on the weekend will be to make an introduction to a number of our games. I think everyone will have a blast.

Anyhow, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Dear John

Hey John, you know that course we were working on together… for the Petit Prix? I’m so sorry but I’ve now published it in my blog. So we need to move on to something else. I just couldn’t resist setting it up in the building to play with (I won’t be running a dog at the Petit Prix).

It was a lot of fun. Great course. The feature is the concave serpentine, taken twice.

But it was really too small for my boy Kory. So I went down on the lower field and set it up, with some tweaking. This is the course I’ve been using all week to work on our contact protocol.

Here’s a YouTube of me running Kory on this course: http://youtu.be/l4zrYTQGCPE

Blog877

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 7

September 27, 2012

The idea of a championship tournament in the dog agility world is to showcase great performances and to honor those dogs that play at the top of the game. Every venue has its own formula for this endeavor. In the TDAA our championship tournament, the Petit Prix, seeks a balance between speed and accuracy, skill in sequencing, distance work, and strategy; and without giving inordinate weight to any of these individually.

And so the format is this, all dogs compete against all other dogs earning a ranking within the field. Consequently dogs will continue to earn points for placement that accumulate to the very last game that we play. At the end of the day, when the dust settles, the dogs with the highest accumulation of points will place at the top of the field.

There is a calculation to appropriately compare the performance of our smallest dogs, to the performance larger dogs. Rankings within the field are handicapped. Placements will be accorded by jump height.

The Game within the Game

At the Petit Prix a dog can earn a qualifying score that goes towards our titling programs. Of course, the qualifying score is earned at the dog’s respective level. That being said, all games will be scored using Superior rules for performance and faults.

The idea of qualifying can be an unnecessary distraction in Petit Prix competition. The very worst thing a handler can do is abandon a game in abject resignation because the dog has committed some fault that leads to a non-qualifying score. The competitor should get it into his head that he’d much rather his dog earns the background ranking points of dogs in the 70 to 80 percentile than in the zero to 10 percentile.

Melting down in competition is little more than surrender. If you fall down, pick yourself up and make a respectable finish.

Preparation

We’re working with the Host clubs to prepare a catalog that will have all of the courses, games and briefings of the Petit Prix. As much as possible the briefings will be concise and clear enough that every competitor can grasp the play of the games and map out the strategy for each of your dogs before you walk into the ring for briefing.

If you have questions about how to play a game that is pertinent to your strategy be sure to ask those questions in briefing. As a courtesy to other exhibitors ask your questions while the judge has everyone’s attention… rather than asking the judge that question offline, so that nobody else gets the benefit of his answer.

Warm your dog up before you go into the ring. Remember that “warming up your dog” refers to his mind as much as his body.

Petit Prix Warm-Up Workshops

For each regional Petit Prix we’ve scheduled four workshops over two days, working game-by-game through the classes of the Petit Prix, discussing handling and strategy choices.

We’ve made one important change to the format of these workshops. We’ve decided to use the Warm-Up Workshops to test our new tournament software; and since we’re doing all that work… the warm-up games we’ll be playing will eligible for qualifying scores and will go into the record-book. Otherwise, there’s no change in price or in the format. I believe we might have a spot or two still open. But I won’t guarantee that.

You can find the registration forms here:

Latrobe, PA: http://www.k9tdaa.com/documents/Trial%20Premiums/2012_TDAA_Petit_Prix_warm-up_PA_workshops.pdf

Wichita Falls, TX: http://www.k9tdaa.com/documents/Trial%20Premiums/2012_TDAA_Petit_Prix_warm-up_TX_workshops.pdf

Blog877

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 6

September 26, 2012

The game to be played as the final round of the TDAA Petit Prix, our national championship tournament will be Jumpers. This is a game that doesn’t need much of an introduction as it is a popular format played by every agility venue in the world.

The Game Within the Game at the Petit Prix (you’ll have to see tomorrow’s blog) is the steadiness and overall performance of a dog in this competition. In a departure from all years previous there will be no elimination of dogs from the competition for falling below some arbitrary set-point of accumulated score. That means every dog will compete in every competition.

And, mind you, this is not a winner-take-all round.

At the 2012 Petit Prix the top 40 dogs will be set aside for a final showcase run on the Jumpers course. They will be run by jump height in reverse seed order. This round will be theirs to win or lose. It’s possible, and actually somewhat likely, that some of the exhibitors sitting as spectators during the showcase round will move up into the top 40 on the basis of their performance in the final round.

Jumpers

The Jumpers class measures a dog’s ability to jump and turn and the handler’s ability to exert control and timing in this fast-paced version of the agility game. Though the dog only needs to learn to jump to begin competing, Jumpers is one of the most difficult games to perfect as dogs move at a much greater speed than in other classes.

Briefing

Jumpers courses consist only of hurdles and tunnels, with some limitations between the different venues. The dog is required to run the course in the sequence indicated by the judge.

Follow the numbers. And keep the bars up.

Jumpers is judged according to the performance rules for the respective venue.

Scoring

Jumpers is usually scored Faults, Then Time the winner being the dog with the fewest faults. If two dogs have the same number of Faults, Then Time breaks the tie.

Jumpers can be scored Time, Plus Faults. The winner would be the dog with the lowest score.

Course Design

This is an example of a USDAA Masters course. A USDAA course requires the performance of at least three spread hurdles. These courses are not inconsequential in terms of challenge and handling. You’ll see options and traps and the need for excellent timing and deft handling.

This is an example of a Novice course. Note that it is nested perfectly with the Masters course example. The course designer may want to move out unused obstacles so that the lower levels are not presented with “dummy” jumps.

Excepting play in the AKC (and possibly in USDAA Team/PVP) only tunnels and hurdles may be used on the course. As the level of competition rises, so does the complexity of the course. In addition, as the level of competition increases, the time to perform the course decreases.

This is an example of a Jumpers course designed for play in the TDAA. The spacing between obstacles is considerably tighter than in any other venues. What’s worth remembering about the TDAA is that it is intended for dogs of small stature. And so the Jumpers course especially emphasizes the central idea of the TDAA, to present to the small dog handler challenges that are comparable to what big dog handlers face on any given weekend.

This is an example of an important variation of Jumpers called, appropriately, Jumpers With Weaves. The performance standard for AKC Excellent Jumpers With Weaves requires an unflinching mastery of the course.

This is an example of a DOCNA Jumpers course (arguably it would be suitable for NADAC as well). You’ll note that DOCNA does not use tunnels, and all of the jumps are wingless. In the NADAC-style venues the courses are devoid of challenges that are routine in venues like the USDAA, AKC, and TDAA; you’ll find no options, or traps, hard-about turns, or wicked handling moments. Everything is flow and go. As a consequence, the rates of travel for NADAC and DOCNA are more aggressive and demanding than in any other venue.

Strategies

The basic advice in the Jumpers class is to follow the numbers, and keep the bars up.

Since only jumps and tunnels (where allowed) are used, Jumpers courses tend to be more difficult for handlers to memorize than other types of courses. To be successful in Jumpers, it is more important than ever to remember course flow and sequences rather than individual obstacles.

Also, the handler’s movement and timing are important on Jumpers courses in the control of the dog as the action is coming fast and furious. The handler should be sharp, and timely.

The most common faults in Jumpers are wrong courses and refusal. Thus, emphasis should be placed on considering approaches, angles, and distances to obstacles during the course walk-though.

The key strategy for Jumpers is to train the dog to jump and to be responsive to handling in fast and flowing situations.

Qualifying and Titles

Nearly every venue features Jumpers as a titling class and an element of the respective championship programs.

Qualifying is based on the measured length of the dog’s path; usually at considerably more aggressive rates of travel than the standard classes. Whether the scoring basis is Time+Faults or Faults, Then Time, the score must be equal to or less than the established SCT. The lowest score wins.

Variations

  • Jumpers with Weaves ~ This format is used by the AKC. In a departure from the Jumpers class in most venues, Weave poles are featured in the jumpers course.
  • USDAA Dog Agility Masters® (DAM) tournament Jumpers – The format for DAM Jumpers is different from the Jumpers played in USDAA titling classes: 1) weave poles are often included; 2) a refusal is penalized 2 points; and 3) The scoring system is Time, Plus Faults.
  • Land Rover Drive – This game, also known as Jump and Drive, is perhaps a historical footnote. The Land Rover Drive and Jumping contest grew out of the sponsorship by Land Rover for agility trials in the U.K. The handler loads his dog into a Land Rover, drives a designated course, parks the vehicle in a garage and then jumps out to run his dog over a Jumpers course. The judge will designate the starting point for the Land Rover, the path of the vehicle and the garage where the vehicle must be parked. Dog and handler (and the course clock) start on foot across a starting line designated by the judge.
  • Black and Whites – This British variation is Jumpers for black and white Border Collies only (or black and white dogs with any hint of BC in them).
  • Jumpers with Weaves Plus ~ loosely based on the AKC Jumpers with Weaves titling class, but with multiple weave pole challenges. The Purpose of the game is to complete the course in the specified order, as quickly as possible, without faults.

This is an example of a Jumpers with Weaves Plus course (closely based on a course designed by Ilze Rukis for play in the TDAA in Warrensburg, IL on April 12, 2003).

Premium Blurb

Jumpers is a favorite game in the dog agility world. Courses are made up of jumps and tunnels only, so the play is fast and furious. Follow the numbers and keep the bars up.

Blog876

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 5

September 25, 2012

One of the favorite games of the TDAA is Quidditch. It is a game of strategy, skill and daring. It is a game that owns a unique terminology and one that promises to make your brain explode as you work to understand the nuance of rules. Do you remember the first time you played Snooker? It’s kind of like that.

Quidditch begins the day on Sunday. It is fitting that this game of skill will be the game that decides what players will be set aside to finish the day to determine our national champions.

Quidditch

Hairy Pawter’s Quidditch is the invention of Becky Dean and Jean MacKenzie. The game was played for the first time at DogwoodTrainingCenter in Ostrander, Ohio.

Briefing

The objective of Quidditch is to perform three sequences and attempt to earn a bonus (the Beater) after each. The point values for each of the sequences are 15, 20, and 25 points respectively. Each sequence can be successfully completed only once. The sequences can be taken in any order.

The judge will assign Qualifying Course Time (QCT) respective to big dogs small dogs. All levels will compete with the same QCT (as each level has different qualifying points).  When time expires the dog[1] should be directed to the table to stop time.

In case of a fault the team can immediately reattempt the same sequence or move to another sequence.

The three individual sequences can be successfully completed only once. Reattempting a sequence will not earn additional points.

When time expires no new points can be earned.

The Beater

Upon the successful completion of a sequence the team will have the opportunity to earn bonus points for a successful performance of a tire; the Beater bonus, for which the team will earn an additional 25 points.

At the option of the judge the attempt of the beater may require the handler to remain behind a containment line, making the beater a distance challenge.

Refusals will be faulted on the beater (the tire). The initial direction of the dog’s approach to the tire will define the run-out plane of the obstacle for the purpose of judging refusals. If a dog commits a refusal on the tire, the Beater bonus is lost.

After attempting the Beater bonus the team should attempt another three-obstacle sequence. Faulting the Beater does not fault the sequence prior to the attempt.

The Bludgers Rule

  1. A Bludger (wrong course obstacle) performed during the performance of an individual sequence shall result in a sequence fault. No points are earned for the performance of any individual obstacle unless the sequence is not completed due to expiration of time.
  2. Performance of a Bludger after the successful completion of a sequence on the way to the Beater (tire) shall be considered a fault of the Beater. The ability for the team to earn the Beater bonus is lost. The team should proceed to the next sequence, or to the table if appropriate.
  3. If the wrong course occurs: Bludgers (wrong courses) shall not be faulted: between the starting line and the first obstacle of a numbered sequence; between the Beater and the first obstacle of a numbered sequence; between the Beater and the table (to stop time).
  4. No points shall be earned for the performance of any Bludger.

The Keeper

If the team completes each of the different three-obstacle sequences, they will earn a ‘Keeper’ bonus of 50 points in addition to the points of the individual sequences. Note: the Keeper bonus is based on the three sequences alone and is not influenced by success on attempts to earn Beater bonuses.

The Golden Snitch

If a team successfully completes all three sequences, earns all three 25 point Beater bonuses, and touches the table prior to the expiration of time, the team will earn the Golden Snitch bonus of 75 points.

Scoring

Quidditch is scored points then time. The dog with the most points wins. In the case of a tie, the dog with the shortest time will be the winner.

A perfect score requires completion of all three sequences and successful performance of the Beater bonus. The scoring notation would look like this: 15-25-20-25-25-25-50-75.

Course Design

With several years experience in designing and playing Quidditch (both in league play and in the TDAA) the game has evolved into a more interesting game of strategy and daring. In the early going each of the scoring sequences were typically limited to three obstacles only. This turns out to be not terribly interesting in terms of challenges.

The judge/course designer should be aware that when the length of sequences are expanded the Qualifying Course Time (QCT) might have to be a bit longer. The rational system for applying QCT is to actually measure a modest strategy and then apply the rates of travel used in the standard classes, giving a small fudge factor for transitions between sequences.

Considerable thought should be given to the placement of Bludgers between the end of a scoring sequence and on the approach to the Beater. Sometimes the Bludger can be a simple ham-handed trap; and sometimes a subtle nuance of erstwhile scoring obstacles presented to entice the imagination of the dog.

The Quidditch course is a matter of some simplicity. It requires three sequences that are arranged about the Beater. The Beater should be the tire.

Other obstacles that are not involved in scoring sequences are positioned about the course mostly to confound the team. These are Bludgers[2]. Often these Bludgers are positioned in that transition from a scoring sequence to the Beater. And so the dog’s path might take on a snookeresque quality and is the true test in the handler’s canny ability to manage the movement of his dog.

Use the same course for dogs competing at all levels. The level at which the dog qualifies depends upon the number of points earned.

Send to Beater

Adding a bit more challenge to the Beater Bonus, in this variation the handler must send the dog to the Beater (the tire) from some distance. Therefore in the description of the Beater bonus the briefing should use this description:

Games II might also be required to send from a well-defined containment line; and possibly even Games I. However, Games I typically doesn’t need this complication.

Dealer’s Choice

The scoring sequences are unnumbered. The dog may be directed to do each of the obstacles in that sequence in any order. Note that a Bludger is not faulted between the Beater and any scoring sequence. Consequently, the handler may choose to direct his dog over an obstacle that is not a part of the intended scoring sequence before beginning it.

Judging Notes

Rules for performance respective to the dog’s level will be applied in judging the scoring sequences. That means (not to be exhaustive) the weave poles should be judged by level, and the contact obstacles by level.

Be aware that you will be judging the tire for refusals after the completion of a scoring sequence.

Understand how to judge Bludgers. A wrong course obstacle is only significant when the dog has freshly completed a scoring sequence and is approaching the Beater or, as in a standard course, taking a wrong course obstacle after beginning one of the scoring sequences. A skillful handler may direct his dog over obstacles for flow from the start line or after performance of a Beater.

Qualifying and Titles

Qualifying points required by level shall be:

  • Games I: 110 points
  • Games II: 135 points
  • Games III: 160 points

Variations

* Houses of Hogwarts variation ~ In this variation there are four sequences, rather than only three. Typically on the course map the judge will assign both the name of the house and the value of the sequence: Gryffindor 25, Slytherin 25, Hufflepuff 20, and Ravenclaw 15.

* Original Rules ~ Some of the original rules of the game have been gently nudged aside to become more of a historical footnote and are not much observed these days. These are summarized below:

If a team completes or attempts one sequence more than once the final score for the team will be zero.

Each obstacle has individual point values that are earned by a team if a sequence is only partially completed prior to time expiring.

  • 1 point for jumps
  • 3 points for tunnels
  • 5 points for contact obstacles and weave poles

The application of individual obstacle values can be ignored in routine competition in Quidditch. It really is not possible for the dog to qualify if all three sequences are not completed. However, in competitions like the TDAA’s Petit Prix this accounting method should be used because the last smattering of points earned will give additional differentiation for placement within the field.

Competitors Analysis

Remember that Bludgers are significant only when you’re done with a scoring sequence and on the way to the Beater. Sometimes it might be desirable to take an obstacle for flow to move from one part of the field to another. Even if the dog offers performance of an obstacle when you’re making a transition across the field you should not waste time will silly call-offs. It’s better to take the flow and go.

The attempt of the Beater is a distance challenge. Give yourself room to move well. And, you don’t always have to look at it as a raw send (with your toes to the line, flapping your arms). It might be solved with you moving parallel to the dog, but at enough distance to stay on your side of the containment drawn by the judge.

Also, remember that the Beater is not tied to the scoring sequence. If your Beater fails… you need to go on to the next scoring sequence.

The game will be won, and possibly the Keeper bonus earned, if your strategy gives your dog the most efficient possible path. Beware of long unproductive transition between scoring opportunities.

Your analysis of the scoring sequences must include both the approach to the Beater (and awareness of Bludgers) and the flow from the Beater to the next scoring sequence, or to the table to end time. Make your dog’s movement as smooth and logical as possible.

Blog875

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


[1] In this variation of the game the dog is naturally the Quaffle. But for the sake of clarity, we’ll just call him a dog.

[2] If we were to be true to the original game envisioned by J.K. Rowling, the Bludger would be a stick, and stewards might be assigned to whack the handler as he attempts to direct his dog to the Beater. At the end of the day, we decided to forgo this definition of the Bludger.

Games of the Petit Prix ~ Part 4

September 24, 2012

The TDAA seeks a balance in the types of games played in the Petit Prix, our national tournament. Heinz 57, described in some detail below, is a relatively simple game that is a test of the steadiness of the dog and handler team. It is a game of arithmetic, a simple calculation of obstacle values, multiplied by two along the way, to arrive at precisely 57 points.

A dog who faults an obstacle is not lost! However the handler had better be very capable of recalculating his arithmetic on the run.

This is a continuing series that provides a careful analysis of the games to be played at the 2012 Petit Prix. The 2012 Petit Prix will be run in two regions. All winners from either venue will be recognized as our national champions for 2012. A dog may compete in either tournament; or both.

Heinz 57

Heinz 57 is the invention of Bud and Marsha Houston. The premise for the invention of the game was silly enough… they started with the name of the game and made up the game to fit the name. It turns out to be an interesting application of math to solve the qualifying criteria.

Briefing

The purpose of this game is to score 57 points as quickly as possible. For the purpose of point accumulation, point values are:

  • 1 pt for Jumps
  • 2 pts for pipe tunnels and the tire
  • 3 pts for contact obstacles
  • 5 pts for weave poles
  • The collapsed chute is doubling obstacle

Obstacles can be taken twice for points; back-to-back performances are never allowed. Another obstacle must be performed before the dog can be redirected to an obstacle (whether or not it was faulted). The collapsed tunnel has a special value, it is a doubling obstacle. The collapsed tunnel can be taken twice; and cannot be taken back-to-back.

With the exception of jumps, if a dog commits to any obstacle with four paws he is required to complete the performance that obstacle, whether or not it is faulted. A faulted obstacle may be repeated, but only after another obstacle has been attempted.

The table marks the finish of the course. The table becomes live after the dog has earned one point (the Mr. Banks rule). The handler should exercise caution when directing the dog to obstacles near the table because if the dog gets on, then scoring ceases, without regard to the handler’s intentions.

Scoring

Heinz 57 is scored points then time. 57 points is the benchmark. Any amount over or under 57 will be subtracted from 57 to determine the dog’s final score. Time is a tie-breaker only; but in a game like this time is a very important tie-breaker.

Course Design

Heinz 57 requires a random distribution of unnumbered obstacles. It is a game that could easily be nested from the set of equipment another game or course with little equipment movement.

This Heinz 57 course was put up as a Team Gambler in a USDAA Dog Agility Masters Tournament. The course is closely nested with a Masters standard class previously run.

You’ll note in this design the collapsed tunnel is placed at considerable distance from the table. The handler’s strategy for point accumulation will have to carefully account for obstacles to be taken, or avoided, moving from the second performance of the doubling obstacle to the table.

In a kindly course design the handler should be coming out of the collapsed tunnel with 56 points… anything more than 1 more point will NQ the team. The judge’s design might place the chute in a friendly position towards the front of the ring, providing for a one-point obstacle on the way to the finish.

This course was designed to easily pick up one final point at the end of play and head for the table to end time. This TDAA course illustrates: as the point accumulation can be quite modest Heinz 57 can be played in a relatively few obstacles and in a small space.

This Heinz 57 course, also a teacup design, has placed the collapsed tunnel at a considerable distance from the table with a lot of obstacles between the tunnel and the table. The riddle isn’t quite as easy as it looks, as the dog needs to earn an odd number of points before getting to the table.

Qualifying

The qualifying criteria for Heinz 57 shall be:

  • All levels – a score of 57

Strategy

The essential strategy of Heinz 57 is to find the most efficient path that scores the required number of points in the least amount of time. The game will surely be won by the best time to the table or finish line.

Heinz 57 is a game of arithmetic. The scoring mantra is “13 & Double, 2 and Double, 1 and Done”. This math outlines the strategy for the game when the kindly judge makes it an easy matter to pick up a single point and get to the table without terrible conflict.

On the other hand, the course could put the collapsed tunnel at some distance from the finish. This can be a test of skill, and canny handling, for the handler to bring his dog out of the chute with a number of points that is balanced with the value of a closing sequence of obstacles. It’s important to acknowledge that coming out of the tunnel (the doubling obstacle) the score of the dog will always be an even number. That means the accumulation to the table will have to be an odd number to get to 57.

It’s nearly impossible to run this game in a willy-nilly fashion, doing the required math as you run. And so the handler should seek a strategy that is as fixed and sure as though it were a numbered course.

Recovering from error will be the real test of the handler’s mettle. If the dog drops a bar before the first double, the handler should find a way to make up the point as he works, keeping in mind that the “make-up” should be one point before the first double; two points after the first double; and four points after the second double.

Judging Notes

If a dog faults an obstacle the judge should call fault simply as advice to the handler that his dog did not earn the point value for that obstacle. Be mindful that the dog is required to attempt the performance of another obstacle before returning to the faulted obstacle. However, dropped bars will not be reset and the jump with a downed bar will have no value.

Note that “fluffing” the chute of the collapsed tunnel will be problematic as the two doubles should come in rapid succession. Be alert to a problem of twisted fabric, which may be caused by the wind in an out-of-doors trial, or by the yaw of the dog in the performance. The judge might quickly step in to give the corner of the chute a tug to straighten it out. In dire circumstance the judge could halt play to prevent a twisted chute from being dangerous to the dog.

Premium Blurb

Heinz 57 is a strategic dog’s choice point accumulation game. The purpose of the game is to score exactly 57 points using a doubling obstacle (usually the collapsed tunnel). Heinz 57 is scored Points, Then Time.

Variations

  • Alternate doubling obstacle ~ the judge/course designer might specify an alternate doubling obstacle for Heinz 57.
  • Original Rules ~ The following rules have been amended or removed from play of Heinz 57:JFF rules will be used for performance faults. For example, no specific faults are associated with the weave poles. However, any error must be fixed or the dog will not earn points for the obstacle.With the exception of jumps, if a dog commits to any obstacle he is required to reattempt that obstacle until it is not faulted to keep the handler from doing something unsafe for the dog should the dog volunteer for an obstacle unaccounted for by the handler’s strategy. No new points will be awarded until that obstacle has been performed.

The Champions’ Vest

We decided this year that the top 40 players at each Petit Prix should win commemorative apparel. We settled on a high-quality fleece vest that is American made. Marsha and I both are huge advocates of buying American products[1] whenever we have the choice.

How the vests will be awarded put us momentarily into a quandary. In the final round of the Petit Prix the top 40 players will be set aside to run last, by jump height, in showcase fashion. The difficulty is that, after the dust settles, it’s possible that the 40 players on the floor will not own the top 40 scores. Remember that this is a new format for the Petit Prix; every player will play every game and earn placement points against the field.

What we’ve decided on is this… the Champions’ Vests will not be given out before the showcase round. They will be given to the top 40 winners after all dogs have run, as part of the awards ceremony.

The vests will be royal blue with this embroidered emblem:

In case you are wondering there will be only one vest to an individual handler, regardless of how many dogs that handler placed in the top 40 dogs.

Blog874

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.


[1] The cost is maybe four times what we might have done; a lower quality item manufactured by child labor in Malaysia.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 3

September 21, 2012

This is a continuing series that provides a careful analysis of the games to be played at the 2012 Petit Prix. The 2012 Petit Prix will be run in two regions. All winners from either venue will be recognized as our national champions for 2012. A dog may compete in either tournament; or both.

Oct 26 – 27 – 28, 2012  PENNSYLVANIA PETIT PRIX
B & D
Creekside Activity Center
Latrobe, PA
Judge:  Deb Auer (IL), John Finley (OH)
Contact:  Janice Reynolds  (e-mail: arcmasterjanice@comcast.net)
Premium

Nov 2 – 3 – 4, 2012  TEXAS PETIT PRIX
Wichita Falls
/Wichita Co. Multi-Purpose Events Center
Wichita Falls, TX
Judges:  Deb Auer (IL), Wayne Van Deusen (WI)
Contact:  Kim Brewer  (e-mail: tantantanner@yahoo.com)
Premium

The games we’ll play are described in this series. For additional information and sample courses refer to The Book of Agility Games at www.dogagility.org/newstore.

What’s My Line

Named after the old television game of the 50s and 60s, What’s My Line? presents the obstacle course in the form of a puzzle. The game provides all handlers the opportunity to come up with a strategy for running the most efficient course possible. In the U.K., this game is known as Take Your Own Line.

Briefing

The objective of What’s My Line is to perform all of the obstacles on the field without repeating or omitting any or omitting any, as quickly as possible.

The handler earns one point for each obstacle his dog performs successfully. Each obstacle has the same value, regardless of the difficulty of performance and regardless of the number assigned to the obstacle.

If an obstacle is performed twice, the dog will lose a point for the performance.

If an obstacle is faulted, the team will receive no point for that obstacle. Further, the obstacle will be counted as used/completed. So the dog would earn an additional fault if the obstacle is repeated.

A four-paw commitment to a contact obstacle will commit the dog to the performance of that obstacle. Under this rule, if a dog commits to a contact obstacle with all four-paws, then bails off, he has committed to that obstacle. While the on-and-off refusal will not be faulted, the dog must be directed to finish the contact obstacle.

Time will be started and stopped at points designated by the judge. A maximum course time can be applied at the discretion of the judge.

Scoring

What’s My Line is scored Points, Then Time. Time is a tie-breaker only. The team with the most points will win.

Performance faults might be based on any rational system.

Course Design

What’s My Line uses obstacles laid out in a random pattern on the field, without numbers, and with no suggested course flow. What’s My Line can be played on virtually any configuration of obstacles. It is an ideal game to nest with another game or standard course so that only a minimal amount of tweaking of the obstacles is required.

This What’s My Line course is based on an existing numbered sequence. You can see it here: http://wp.me/pmSZZ-15p. This set of the field has a nice elegant solution, or two. Note that neither the start of the finish is constrained to a small area or single obstacle. This allows for a variety of possible solutions.

Course design may also be approached as a puzzle intentionally designed for What’s My Line. This design challenges the participants to see the lines and flow that might be less obvious.

The course designer should avoid big obvious loops that solve the riddle of order and direction. The riddle should be more like a puzzle.

Qualifying and Titles

Qualification should be based on the number of obstacles on the course. At the Masters/ Superior level the dog should earn all points; and only slightly fewer points should be required for lower levels.

For example on a field with 16 obstacles (and consequently 16 points) the qualifying criteria might be:

  • Games 1 ~ 14 points
  • Games 2 ~ 15 points
  • Games 3 ~ 16 points

A kinder judge might back these point requirements down by a single point.

Judging Notes

Obstacles may be numbered at the judge’s discretion. These numbers are for the judge’s reference only and in no way suggest a sequence for running the course. The advantage of numbering the obstacles is that the judge simply accounts for each obstacle performed; the bodies will be sorted out at the score-keeping table (meaning that the score-keeper will analyze the numbers for completeness of the mission, repeated obstacles, and so forth). Note that any game that requires the judge to yell out numbers lends itself to scribing errors.

Rather than numbering obstacles the judge might use the Mind Like a Steel Trap method for keeping track of accounting for the dog’s path. In this method is the judge’s responsibility to call the fault when an obstacle is repeated. The judge could signal one point for each obstacle performed or could inform the scribe of the total number after the dog has run.

Variations

  • Never Cross the Line variation – In this variation, invented by Helix Fairweather, in addition to the stipulation that the dog cannot repeat any obstacle, he is not allowed to cross his own line (meaning, no crossing patterns).

This is an example of Helix Fairweather’s “Never Cross the Line” variation. The dog is required to do all of the obstacles without repeating any, with the additional stipulation that he’s not allowed to cross his own path.

  • Zero Value Obstacle – The judge mentions the zero value of the obstacle in the general briefing. Whether the handler directs his dog to perform the obstacle depends upon whether he was paying attention in the briefing or whether he wants to give the dog time on the obstacle as a warm-up for a later class. There is no penalty for the dog performing the zero-valued obstacle. Frequently, the valueless obstacle is the dogwalk.
  • Scoring variation – Another scoring variation is to award the obstacle point values as in Gamblers, instead of just 1 point. More difficult numbers are assigned to the more difficult obstacles. The more obstacles on course, the higher the maximum possible score. This assignment of numbers might affect the handler’s strategy, as the handler might attempt the higher point values earlier in the solution to the course.
  • Original rules ~ If an obstacle is performed twice scoring will cease immediately. The team keeps points earned and must be directed to the time-stopper to stop the time.Also the original rules stipulated that if an obstacle is faulted “The handler may choose to retry the obstacle until it is performed correctly.”

Competitors Analysis

The handler’s job is obviously to find the most economical path for the dog to perform all of the obstacles. The handler should be ingenious in looking for lines through the course, which should not be limited by vertical and horizontal lines. Diagonal lines in the course should also be considered.

More important than finding a solution to the riddle is to find the shortest path that solves. Distance from the start  line to the first obstacle and distance from the last obstacle to the finish line should be taken into consideration.

Whenever possible use your handling skills and training foundation to steal a second or two from the competition. For example, if there is a moment in the course that requires a hard-aback turn after a jump, use your ability to pre-cue the turn or get an efficient wrapping turn to gain an advantage.

Blog872

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Games of the 2012 Petit Prix ~ Part 2

September 20, 2012

There was a real attempt in the selection of games for the 2012 Petit Prix to offer a balance of different games that test the skills of a team in sequencing, strategy, distance, and consistency.

The final round will be Jumpers, a fast and furious sequencing game. Note that in a real departure from the format of any previous Petit Prix, the accumulated score from the entire tournament are held by the dog without being washed away. Our national champions will be determined by their earned aggregate score. The significance of this, please note, is that a dog can lose the final round… but win the tournament!

The games we’ll play are described in this series. For additional information and sample courses refer to The Book of Agility Games at www.dogagility.org/newstore.

Call, Direct & Send

Call, Direct & Send is a numbered course that features the three distance challenges that give the game its name. This original AKC game is the invention of Will Koukkari and Sharon Anderson. Call, Direct & Send was once considered by the AKC as a “distance” game that might have become a part of the suite of required titling games. But this game was abandoned. Ultimately the AKC moved to the game FAST as the feature distance game.

Briefing

In Call, Direct & Send the dog and handler team are challenged to solve three distance riddles on a numbered course. The three distance challenges that give the game its name include: a Call over one to three obstacles; a Direct or mid-course distance challenge of two to five obstacles; and a Send over two to three obstacles to close out the game.

In Call, Direct & Send, boundaries are drawn to indicate an area into which the handler may not advance while the dog performs obstacles at a distance. Otherwise, the dog should follow the numbers.

For each distance challenge successfully completed the dog earns 10 points. The scoring basis for this game is Time+Faults-Bonus.

Call – The Call is a lead-off at the start line, requiring the handler to call the dog over the opening obstacles. In the Call the dog is placed on a Stay at the beginning of the course while the handler leads out to a point on the course designated by the judge. The handler must then call the dog over the initial obstacles and continue on course.

Direct – The Direct is a mid-course gamble sequence in which the dog will be required to work at a distance from his handler. The handler must direct the dog over the sequence of obstacles without crossing a containment line indicated by the judge and continue on course.

Send – The Send is the final gamble challenge. The handler sends the dog to perform the finishing obstacles while working at a distance from the dog in an area designated by the judge.

This sample Call, Direct & Send course is based on an Excellent JWW course designed by AKC judge Melinda Harvey at Oriole DTC on April 18, 1999.

Scoring

Call, Direct & Send is scored Time+Faults-Bonus. The team with the highest score wins.

Course Design

While traditionally Call, Direct & Send (CDS) was a Jumpers game, often including weave poles, the game has evolved over the years to include technical obstacles. It’s likely that this was an evolution of convenience as it allows CDS to be nested with standard courses.

Call, Direct & Send is not a standard course! That means that there are no required obstacles and there is no required number of obstacles, by class, as there is in the standard classes. This affords the course designer the leisure to design something lean, and to the point. That is the essence of the game.

This is a TDAA (teacup) example of a Call, Direct & Send course. It is nested closely with another game with minimal equipment movement. You can see the previous set of the floor here: http://wp.me/pmSZZ-15v

This course is fairly business-like in getting the three distance challenges done. The Call features a longish lead-out, by TDAA standards. The Call doesn’t really have to be anything tricky. It is intended to demonstrate whether the dog will stay for a modest lead-out.

In the Direct¸ from #4 to #6, the containment lines might seem generous. It is a riddle none‑the‑less and might not be as easy as it seems.

The Send, from just behind #12 to #13, is the end of the course. This closing gives a long straight lane of approach on both sides of the sequence. It is an honest test of the handler’s ability to send his dog straight-away over obstacles at a modest distance.

One of the most common errors in course design is approaching a distance challenge with a disturbed dog’s path or an intrusive handling moment. Allow the dog to flow into the gamble. Or, if you really want to make it a handling moment, at least provide enough real estate for the handler to demonstrate that he understands your riddle.

This discussion might suggest that the course designer’s objective in Call, Direct & Send is to dumb-down the challenge and make everything as simple as possible. That should never be your objective. But remember this, if you have never walked on the moon yourself, please don’t try to give us lessons.

Note that there’s a real opportunity to design a course that runs fast and gets you through the day quickly. Call, Direct & Send should not be a marathon.

Qualifying

A dog earning a score equal to or less than the Qualifying Course Time (QCT) will earn a qualifying score.

Establishing QCT

The QCT for the sample course shown above, in Course Design, might be established like this:

I’ve measured the course (in CRCD) and came up with a course distance of 66 yards. I’ll call it 68 just to add a fudge factor Running this through my Rates of Travel (RoT) calculator (applying rates of travel from the high end of the range since this is mostly a Jumpers course), I come up with the following numbers:

Games I 4″ / 8 “

45

35

12′′ / 16′′

43

33

Games II 4″ / 8 “

40

20

12′′ / 16′′

36

16

Games III 4″ / 8 “

32

2

12′′ / 16′′

30

0

The third column shows what would be the SCT if the correct rates of travel are applied. The QCT for this game, however, is reflected in column four. These numbers incorporate an “expectation for success”.  GI gets a QCT reduced by 10 points, anticipating that they’ll solve at least one of the distance challenges; GI gets a QCT reduced by 20 points, anticipating that they’ll solve at least two of the distance challenges; GIII gets the bad news, a QCT reduced by 30 points, anticipating that they’ll solve all of the distance challenges.

These numbers aren’t as onerous as they might sound. If the GII big dog, for example, runs the course in 29 seconds, but solves only one of the distance challenges. He’ll still qualify because his time, less the 10 point bonus, gives the qualifying score.

Please note that the table above is based on TDAA rates of travel, and TDAA jump heights.

Judging Notes

The judge should determine in advance how he will signal earned bonuses to the scribe. It might be a simple authoritative announcement of “Bonus!” Or, it might be an arm signal.

Note that this game should be judged using the rules for performance respective to the dog’s level. The weave poles, for example, might be judged differently for every class/level. And any contact obstacle would be judged for refusals for the higher levels; and possibly with a four-paw safety rule for Beginner/Novice.

It is possible for all levels to share the same briefing, and even walk the course at the same time. The real differentiation between classes will be the rates of travel and the qualifying criteria. The course itself can be the same for all levels. However, it’s common enough for the judge to draw different containment lines for different levels.

The judge needs a position on course to get a clear view of the containment lines. A gamble or distance challenge succeeds only when the handler stays on his side of the line, and the obstacles are performed without fault (dropped bar, wrong course, missed contact and so forth).

The judge should determine early how he or she will deal with people who return to their dogs at the beginning of the course to put the dog back in position for breaking a Stay. The tradition in the game is that when the handler leaves his dog the test has begun, and returning to the dog will negate the gamble bonus.

The Original AKC Variation

While the rules have morphed by play in other agility organization that actually play Call Direct & Send, it’s worth noting what were the rules of the game as it was played in the AKC. These are presented without warrant below.

Jumpers CDS (Call, Direct, and Send)

Scoring is based upon a 100 point system, 100 being perfect. Faults are deducted from the 100 points. 85 points are required to qualify. Time is used as a tiebreaker.

Call, Direct & Send is scored Points, Then Time. The team with the highest score wins.

Faults will be scored as follows:

  • Each refusal is faulted 5 points. In the Novice class, three refusals will be scored Elimination. In the Open class, two refusals will be scored elimination. In the Excellent class, one refusal will be scored elimination. (Note: An improper entry or missed weave pole in AKC is scored a refusal).
  • Each off course is faulted 5 points. Three off courses in any class will be scored elimination.
  • A knocked bar is scored elimination.
  • If the handler steps on or over any containment line while the dog is performing the indicated obstacles, the dog will earn a failure to perform.
  • Failure to perform any obstacle is scored elimination.
  • Failure to perform any of the three distance elements (Call, Direct, or Send) will be scored elimination. This includes stepping on or crossing the containment line.

All other performance faults will be applied as in the Standard classes, respective to the level of the dog.

Course Design ~ The typical Call, Direct & Send course will consist of jumps, tunnels, and weave poles. The contact obstacles are not used.

Competitors Analysis

A dog trainer who has given good focus to distance skills in the dog’s training foundation will have a pretty good idea about possibilities for success in a distance challenge or gamble. Know thy dog!

If the handler believes that the attempt of a distance challenge will likely fail and will certainly cost more time and frustration than it is worth… then the clever handler will decide in advance to forego the bonus and just run his dog through the sequence. The differential for the bonus might be made up in the dog’s speed in the overall course. Also, if competing in the TDAA’s Petit Prix (for example) the dog is accumulating a back-ground score for placement within the field. So even if the dog doesn’t qualify he’ll not be set back so far.

Good distance work has very little to do with standing still. Aside from the Call, the handler is more likely to have success with the distance challenges by applying the pressure of movement, while at a distance, and while honoring the containment lines of the course. The riddle of the distance challenge is in balancing the efficacy of movement against the placement of containment lines.

There is an excellent series of eBooks for distance training available: The Joker’s Notebook, issues #0 through #4, available at www.dogagility.org/newstore.

Notes on CRCD-4

  • It used to be I could click on an obstacle or object on the course map, or select a group, and then nudge them in 1′ increments using the arrow keys. This was very useful for getting exactly the desired measured distance between obstacles, while maintaining the alignment of obstacles. Unfortunately in this new release the obstacles are locked to the underlying grid. And so, they will no longer nudge.

I will move my continuing notes on the Clean Run Course Designer v4 to a page on my blog, where I will continue to store notes. Ultimately I’ll point the developer/Glen Kime to that page in case he has any interest in usage notes to be taken into consideration for future mods and releases. That page is here: http://wp.me/PmSZZ-15B.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. I have five volumes (over 100 pp each) of The Joker’s Notebook available on my web-store at an inexpensive price. These are lesson plans suitable for individual or group classes for teaching dog to work at a distance.

Dog Agility IS Dangerous!

January 9, 2012

Recently we’ve proposed a change in the upper cut-off jump height for the 16″ division of the TDAA. We want to invite dogs as tall as 20″ to compete. It’s actually a simple practical matter that gives that jump height balance with the other jump heights in the TDAA.

What has emerged from this single change in the rules is a nearly hysterical discussion of safety. This has prompted me to share with everybody an uncomfortable truth:

DOG AGILITY IS DANGEROUS!

I have facts to back up this claim. Several examples: a small poodle and former AKC National Champion fell off the dogwalk and died from a broken neck; a young sheltie broke her jaw because she turned abruptly and slammed her face into the side of a dogwalk ramp; several dogs have received debilitating injuries from bad collisions with the tire; a multitude of dogs have ruined their shoulders by slamming against the A‑frame; a dog was suffocated by being bound in an unattended collapsed tunnel in the back yard. These are just things I know about… I’m certain the list is considerably longer.

Please note that none of these things happened in TDAA competition.

If dog agility is dangerous why do we risk our dogs playing this game? Do we have no compassion and sympathy for what might happen?

All of that being said, to quote Bilbo Baggins: “It’s a dangerous business going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

We Need a Balanced and Objective Discussion

I can think of no sport that is without danger and risk. People who compete in the equestrian sports face danger to both rider and mount! But, consider only dog sports… disc dog is dangerous, herding is dangerous, go to ground is dangerous, lure coursing is dangerous. [I’m having a hard time putting Rally-O on that list; so there ya go.]

Someone took the liberty to poll handlers of dogs marginally taller than 17″ (at an AKC trial, I believe) whether they would do TDAA with their dogs. The answer was resoundingly “No! It would be too dangerous!”

Really?

I’ve had three fast little Shelties who’ve earned championships in multiple venues and have aggregated something like 7 or 8 national championship titles in the TDAA. How could I possibly have survived with fast little Shelties in the TDAA? And why didn’t they get killed playing this dangerous game?

It is a discredit to all of our TDAA national champions over the years to imply that speed is unsafe. These are wickedly fast little canine athletes. Dog agility requires a superb dog trainer and a skillful technical handler to thrive in the sport. Anybody can handle a small dog in the big dog venues because you can commit multiple errors between obstacles and still correct to survive. That is not likely to happen in the TDAA.

Stride of Dog

The argument will continue that the “stride of the dog” is what makes the TDAA unsafe for even the marginally taller dog. It will probably appall you to hear that I doodle around on TDAA courses with my 21+” BC Kory. He does 16″ tunnels (almost as fast as he does 24″ tunnels); he does the 16″ tire, almost as though he had a brain and figures out how to measure his own stride and collect himself.

For many years I’ve lurked in the conversation of the NADAC-style enthusiast explaining how the USDAA and the AKC are unsafe venues for dogs. And now we endure similar opinion-without-warrant from USDAA and AKC competitors in their consideration of the TDAA.

It’s all good. Everyone will do what they feel comfortable doing and what they have the skill to do.

Make No Mistake About It

The TDAA has no intention of changing the central course design philosophy. The venue will feature course design for the small dog; exactly as every other venue in the world features courses designed for the big dog. If dog’s measuring more than 16” can prosper in the TDAA it will be wicked good fun to watch.

Aggressive Dogs

For years I’ve been sensitive to the problem that dog clubs will not support their smallest canine athletes in a venue designed for them, although the small dog people have supported the big dog venues for many years. Now we see this puzzling turn-around in sentiment in which small dog people will discriminate against big dogs simply because they are big.

As we all know, every dog over 17″ is a murderous incident waiting to happen. [If you quote me, please try to convey the entire context.]

Indeed one of the things that people have reported to me over the years is that they feel safer bringing out their small dogs in the TDAA than in the big dog venues. That sentiment is probably warranted.

The way the TDAA is approaching this problem is instituting a clear and severe policy regarding aggressive dogs. It’s not just a matter of a dog attacking another dog… we will not allow dogs that threaten or intimidate other dogs to participate in this venue. It’s not just a matter of putting tall “snow fencing” to keep dogs separate, safe and segregated. We will not allow aggressive dogs to play, at all.

By the way… this goes for small dogs as well as big dogs. Most big dogs will tell you that the “incident” is often caused by the snarky little dog. This too, will not be allowed in the TDAA.

I should end this segment by saying that I know a large number of wonderful lovely dogs measuring more than 17″ with whom I would feel completely safe allowing even my little girl Hazard to be in off-leash company. And I would love to share a weekend of relaxed agility competition with any of them.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The Country Dream web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.