I spent the morning setting the floor for league play and class this evening.
As I did this work I gave a great deal of thought to the difficulty of “league play” in a training center or agility club. Most agility students have little concept of the amount of work that goes into providing for a couple hours of class. Quite a bit of work goes into designing curriculum and managing schedule and registration for classes. But that’s onlyt he beginning of the work. Think about it… mowing and cleaning up outside; vacuuming the floor; putting away the old course; and setting up the new.
I describe this work to point out that if we’re going to have a competition on top of the routine of class, we’ve added several important tasks. Seriously, the competition requires a judge, a time-keeper, a scribe; and a score-keeper, though the scorekeeping task can be done later.
This is a real test of the culture and work ethic of the group. A lot of people come to class so that they can chat and be relaxed, expecting to do nothing more than manage their own dog and go out from time to time to take a turn on the floor.
So the agility trainer/provider is likely to take a big pass on doing league play if it’s a boatload of new and unappreciated work.
Intro to League Play
It’s a lovely idea to involve league players in the work of running a ring. Everybody should have a job. Everyone should know what work needs to be done around the ring, and how to do it. Introducing your group to league play should be as much about the work as about playing games.
Our game this week is Dare to Double. I realized this week as I was setting the floor that the briefing, as written, is inadequate. For example, the published briefing says, when defining point values for obstacles “7 points for one of the obstacles in the 5-point list, usually given to an obstacle in a difficult placement”. Eeek! This was clearly written for the course designer as the audience. In fact, when the briefing goes to the exhibitor, these things should be thoroughly defined.
The weave poles will be the 7 point obstacle. There is no dogwalk and there is no teeter on the field. Consequently, there are no 5 point obstacles.
Dare to Double is the invention of Darlene Woz and was the winner of the 1995 Clean Run magazine games contest. Dare to Double is a game of strategy and daring. This game is sometimes referred to as Double Dog Dare Ya.
Dare to Double is a simple dog’s-choice game, which means that he will earn points for taking obstacles in the order and direction of his own choosing. The team has 50 seconds to accumulate as many points as possible. The game begins at the start line and ends at the table.
The team must get to the table before course time elapses. If the team gets to the table before time expires, they keep all points accumulated on course. If the team fails to do so, half of the team’s points are lost.
The value of scoring obstacles is based on a simple 1-3-5-7 system:
- 1 point for jumps
- 3 points for tunnels and tire
- 5 points for teeter, dogwalk and weave poles
- 7 points for one of the obstacles in the 5-point list, usually given to an obstacle in a difficult placement
- For our game… the weave poles will be the 7 point obstacle. The A-frame has a special value (Note that the A-frame was not included in this list above). It is the doubling obstacle. During the run, a handler may double his current points by performing the doubling obstacle. A successful performance doubles all points earned up to that time. If, however, the dog faults the A-frame, then the dog loses half of his existing points.A warning whistle is blown 15 seconds prior to the expiration of time.
- A handler may double points any time he wishes, as many times as he wishes. The only restriction on doubling is that the A-frame cannot be performed back-to-back. Thus, the handler must do another obstacle, for points, before attempting to double point values again.
- Scoring obstacles can be taken only twice for points. Back-to-back performances are allowed. Jumps that are knocked down will not be reset.
Dare to Double is scored Points, Then Time. The winner is the dog finishing with the most points. In case of a tie, time is the tiebreaker. The table is live during the entire run. If the dog gets on the table at any time, scoring ends.
Tunnel / Contact Discrimination ~ Certainly the tunnel under the contact trick can be solved with handling. But it should be a very certain training objective to teach a dog the name of these obstacles so that we can approach such a challenge in competition with a degree of confidence, and without actually having to “handle” it.
The simple training method is to spend at least 20 minutes a day on repetition in which we give the dog a) the name of the obstacle, and b) praise and reward for doing the obstacle that we’ve named. Okay, that sounds simple enough. I should remind you that consistency is the means by which the dog learns.
When teaching the dog to discriminate in this fashion, the dog trainer should be carefully remove any handling cues from the presentation of the obstacle except for maybe generally facing in that direction.
Praise should be warm and genuine. And the reward should be something that the dog greatly desires, whether that be food, or a game with a toy.
* * * Practice these skills daily. We’ll test your commitment to homework at our next session together.
Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.