There are agility handlers who have difficulty with so-called “dog’s choice” games because a path has not been clearly plotted for them. It seems a bit unsettling to randomly and haphazardly commit the dog through the performance of obstacles.
The key to a dog’s choice game is that it should be resolved to a plan as clear and precise as any numbered course.
Games of the 2014 Petit Prix
We’ve played this game before, at the Petit Prix. It was the 2008 Petit Prix Semifinal Game, on October 10, 2008, judged by Diane Jensen,
The following rules for Tag 10 are a preview to those that will be used at the Petit Prix being faithful to the inventors’ (Martin Gadsby and Lisa Brownschilde) original vision of the game.
Small dogs will have 60 seconds, Big dogs 55 seconds for each team to accumulate as many 10-point sets as possible.
- Jumps 2 points
- Tunnels 3 points
- Contacts 5 points
- Weave poles 5 points
Play starts with a “tag” (performance of a tire) and ends with a “tag” after the time whistle blows. The logic of the game is simple:
- After the initial “tag”,
- the team gathers a 10-point set (exactly 10 points),
- then “tag”,
- gather another 10-point set (no more, no less than 10 points),
- then “tag” and so on until the whistle blows
- at which time the team should quickly “tag” to stop time.
Each 10-point set must be unique. The team may not repeat a sequence—either forward or in reverse. Dogs cannot take the same obstacle back-to-back. They can take the same obstacle twice (and only twice) in a sequence as long as a different obstacle is taken in between.
Tag 10 is scored points then time. Time is a tiebreaker only. Each 10-point set earns the team a score of 1.
If the team “tags” after a non-unique set, the judge will call “COPY” which means that set does not count.
If the dog Tags with more or less than 10 points, no points for the set shall be awarded. The judge may call “TAG”; but it’s not the judge’s job to do the math. The score-keeping table will sort out the bodies.
If the dog is in the middle of accumulating a set when time is called, the points earned in that set will be converted to a decimal score. For example, 4.6 points are earned for the fourth attempted set in which 6 obstacle points were accumulated. If the team does not stop time by “tagging,” they will keep their points but their time will be 999 seconds.
If a dog faults an obstacle, no points are awarded for that obstacle. The dog must perform another obstacle before repeating the faulted obstacle. If a bar is dropped the jump is out of play.
Games I Two sets (at least 20 points)
Games II Three sets (at least 30 points)
Games III Four sets (at least 40 points)
This is not the actual Tag 10 course that will be run at the Petit Prix.
Tag 10 requires the dog to score in books of 10 points. It is a good idea to immediately understand how to put together ten points:
- Technical obstacles (contacts and weave poles); So, two technical obstacles = 10 points;
- Jumps = 2 points and tunnels = 3 points; So, two tunnel/jump combinations = 10 points.
- Putting together the first two: A technical obstacle and a tunnel/jump combination =10 points
- Five jumps = 10 points.
You can’t make five points with jumps alone.
You can’t make five or 10 points with tunnels alone. If you score three tunnels, you are in a pickle. There’s nothing else to do but Tag away the tunnels (even though you lose all the points). Don’t waste time standing in the middle of the ring pulling your hair out.
Strategy of the Game ~ A Smooth Road
Your strategy for the game must be to find something smooth that delivers up blocks of 10 at your dog’s best working speed. Any fifth grader can make combinations of obstacles that add up to 10 points. It is the master handler who recognizes those that are quick business.
Two things to take into consideration in a point accumulation game like this will be the economy of the path and the relative difficulty of the obstacles on that path.
Take the fastest smoothest books of ten first. There is no sense in going after tough tens with there are quick tens to pick up by the bushel basket.
The thing to do, then, is plot as many unique 2-tunnel and 2-jump sequences as possible as the opening gambit. When these are exhausted look for a technical obstacle paired with a jump and tunnel. And finally look for two technical obstacles.
Given this strategy, we’ll use the sample course to visualize what the dog might do in 55/60 seconds.
On this course are three tunnels. The entry to the collapsed tunnel/chute is so far removed from the rest of the action it should probably be used only once during the 2-tunnel & 2-jump part of the strategy. One of these two paths might be the smoothest opening of the course.
Be aware that the transitional distance between these books of ten, to and from the tire, may decide the winning score in Tag 10.
The judge has a mind like a steel trap and will call “COPY” if you repeat a sequence either forward, or in reverse.
On the sample course envision at least four unique combinations for the two-jump & two-tunnel strategy after the opening. The plan must insist on conducting all of these, because these will comfortably produce the points required to qualify at the Games III level.
At this point you have all of your fast and easy books of 10. Now you plan to work until somebody blows a whistle.
In your plan, visualize the books of Ten with the longer path and using the technical obstacles. Failing to have a plan will leave you flat-footed and feeling silly (in front of God and everybody).
When they blow the whistle… head for a last “Tag” of the tire. Don’t dawdle in this last moment. You can bet a lot of dogs have your dog’s exact score… and time is the tie-breaker.
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.