Archive for the ‘Houston’s Book of Agility Games’ Category

On the Road to the Petit Prix

October 14, 2014

I’m on a flight from Seattle to Chicago as I write this, returning from the TDAA Judges Clinic and trial in Lynnwood, Washington. I get to be home for one day before getting on the road for Latrobe, the warm-up workshop, and the Petit Prix.

We had a great clinic in Lynnwood. They were, for the most part, well prepared for the testing, and approached the work with palpable enthusiasm and electricity. The trial on the weekend was fun/interesting as well. They have a great community of players in that part of the world. They are very supportive of each other and dedicated to the prospect of having a bit of fun with their dogs. You gotta love it.

Training Your Dog

We’ve made a Facebook page for our young rescue Cedar. Over the next couple of years I’ll share some of her foundation training on that page. I’ve got several recordings that I need to get up on the page. This is a busy time of year for me. I just need to make time.

Here’s a video http://youtu.be/DZhjKSdZ0VA.

I was thinking about this up in Lynnwood. Back when I started doing agility about all of us were dog trainers. We ran agility out in an open park in the middle of the city with nothing but a thin flutter of plastic ribbon defining the sides of the ring. It was inconceivable that a dog would be out there with us who didn’t have a prompt happy recall. These days… we surround the agility field with impenetrable fencing, even to the extent that entry and exit gates are tightly shut. What happened to dog training?

Cedar’s FB page.

Heinz 57

I want to share with you a discussion we had about Heinz 57, one of the games we played on the weekend. I had my own learning moment with the game. You may know that the tradition is to put the chute (doubler) at the front of the ring so that the handler can neatly finish with the doubler, score a point, and head to the table to stop the clock.

During course review I was well on my way to pointing out this “tradition” when in virtually the same breath noted that the math could be very different with the chute at the back of the ring as the handler should reserve the performance of some obstacles (adding up to 57, of course) for the transition from chute to table.

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Briefing

The purpose of Heinz 57 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 tunnels and tire
  • 3 pts for contact obstacles
  • 5pts for weave poles
  • The collapsed chute is doubling obstacle

Obstacles can be taken twice for points. Back-to-back performances are not allowed. Another obstacle must be performed before the dog can be redirected back to an obstacle (whether or not it was faulted). The collapsed chute has a special value, it is a doubling obstacle, and can be taken twice, like any obstacle, and can be taken at any time during the dog’s run. No specific faults are associated with the weave poles, however, any error must be fixed or the dog will not earn points for that obstacle.

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

In this course the dog getting on the table marks the finish of the course. The table becomes live after the dog has earned one point. The handler should exercise caution when directing the dog to obstacles near the table because if the dog gets on, then the game is over.

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.

4″/8″  /  12″/16″

Games I –        55 sec  /  50 sec

Games II –      50 sec /  45 sec

Games III –     45 sec /  40 sec

Qualifying

57 points is required to qualify

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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.

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Tag 10

September 21, 2014

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.

Briefing

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:

  1. After the initial “tag”,
  2. the team gathers a 10-point set (exactly 10 points),
  3. then “tag”,
  4. gather another 10-point set (no more, no less than 10 points),
  5. then “tag” and so on until the whistle blows
  6. 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.

Scoring

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.

Qualifying

Games I           Two sets (at least 20 points)

Games II         Three sets (at least 30 points)

Games III        Four sets (at least 40 points)

Sample Course

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Variations on Dare to Double

November 29, 2013

For a prospective TDAA judge I assembled a document containing three distinctly different variations of the game Dare to Double in order for her to understand how the game might be played. My original objective was to find on my computer an example of the game with a “robust” briefing. And of course I stumbled across two interesting variations.

To summarize:

Example #1 is a course design and briefing from a trial I judged in August of 2009. This is the most common version of Dare to Double. What makes it distinctive is a rule declaring that “A warning whistle is blown 15 seconds prior to the expiration of time.” Of course the table isn’t live until that whistle blows. This is a favorite game in the TDAA. The most canny competitors have a doubling strategy for the opening; and a rule-of-thumb strategy for the last 15 seconds. If this variation has a down-side, it is that fast dogs with excellent A-frame skills (and a handler who gets the math) will always rule the game.

Example #2 features a variation of Dare to Double designed by TDAA judge Victor Garcia. This game was played in competition at the Petit Prix Warm-up Workshop held in conjunction with the 2013 Petit Prix in Latrobe, PA, and using the rules of the Petit Prix. What makes this different from the “common” version is that there is no warning whistle. And so the competitor is left with trusting to an internal clock as to when to go to the table. But to tell the truth this version exposes and encourages the popular “Double ’til the end of time” strategy. The essence of the strategy is to work on doubling ’til the bitter end, and don’t go to the table, accepting the loss of half the points as a push.

Example #3 and last example is the “Flanigan” variation of Dare to Double. In this variation the dog is limited to two performances of the doubling obstacle; introducing an amazing challenge of timing strategy. Doubling ’til the end of time isn’t a good option. This variation offers the possibility that good timing and performance might very well prevail over speed.

Dare to Double example #1 ~ common

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Briefing

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 a start line designated by the judge and ends at the table. If the dog gets to the table before time expires, he keeps all points, if he fails to do so half the 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

Scoring obstacles can be taken only twice for points. Back-to-back performances are allowed. Jumps that are knocked down will not be reset.

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.The dog may double points any time, as many times as time allows. The only restriction on doubling is that the A-frame cannot be performed back-to-back. The dog must do another obstacle, for points, before attempting to double point values again.

A warning whistle is blown 15 seconds prior to the expiration of time.

Scoring and Qualifying

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. To qualify:

Games I – 40 points
Games II – 80 points
Games III – 160 points

 

Dare to Double example #2 ~ sans warning whistle

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Briefing

The objective is to score as many points as possible in the given time: 12″16dogs 50 seconds; 4″8 dogs 55 seconds. The table stops time and is live at all times.  A dog arriving at the table after time expires is “Faulted” half of all points. Jumps are 1 point; Tire and Tunnels 3 points; Dog Walk, Teeter and Weaves 5 points. Obstacles can only be taken twice for points.  Back to back performance is permitted.

The A Frame is the Doubling obstacle: During the run a dog will earn “Double” all points by successfully performing the A Frame. On a missed down contact on the A Frame, the dog is “Faulted” losing half of all points. Points can be doubled at any time and as often as the handler wishes. The A Frame is eligible for doubling only after any other point has been earned. When the A-frame is not eligible for doubling the dog may still Fault half of points in the performance.

Scoring

Dare to Double is scored Points, then Time. GI dogs need 50 points to qualify; GII dogs need 100 points to qualify; GIII dogs need 150 points to qualify

 

Dare to Double example #3 ~ Flanigan Variation

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Briefing

The game begins at the designated start-line, and ends at the table. Big dogs have 50 seconds to accumulate as many points as possible; Small dogs have 55. The dog must get to the table before course time elapses. If the dog gets to the table before time expires, he keeps all points accumulated on course. If the dog fails to do so, half of the points are lost. There will be no warning whistle. If the dog hits the table at any time during the run, scoring and time will cease.

Obstacles can be taken only twice during point accumulation. Back-to-back is permitted. Jumps that are knocked down will not be reset. Jumps = 1 point; tunnels and tire = 3 points; contact obstacles and the weave poles = 5 points.

During the run, all current points can be doubled by performing the A-frame. A successful performance doubles all points. If, however, the dog faults the A-frame, half of the existing points are lost. In the Flanigan Variation the A-frame can be performed only twice during the dog’s run, and an obstacle must be completed for points between each performance of the doubling obstacle.

Scoring and Qualifying

Dare to Double is scored Points, Then Time.

  • Games I => 40 points
  • Games II => 70 points
  • Games III => 100 points

Strategy

In the traditional Dare to Double you can double as often as you want, so long as you score points in between performances of the A-frame. The savvy player will quickly get the fundamental underlying math. Basically you get a handful of points on your dog and then start doubling until the end of time.

But the Flanigan variation is something else entirely; you only get to do the A-frame twice for double points. Now, if you double too early it lowers your capacity to score the most points. If you double too late time may expire and you’ll lose half your points. It is certainly a canny game of timing.

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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.

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.

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.

Tweaking the Rules for Mute Agility

July 15, 2012

We have a game in the Book of Agility Games that we call “Mute Agility” (most likely the invention of Stuart Mah). The basic flaw in the documentation of the game was to establish that there is “no standard course time” … and, failing to establish a qualifying criteria.

If you look at the game objectively, it us a simple Time, Plus Faults game. But we can’t sort out the bodies at the scorekeeping table without qualifying criteria; and certainly that calls for a Qualifying Course Time (QCT).

Another basic tweak to the rules of Mute Agility is to establish as a standard that the handler is allowed a verbal cue for release from the Start Line as it is a good practice for the handler/dog trainer to release the dog from a stay for a verbal cue and not for a physical twitch. With this in mind, the table is not an obstacle recommended for the Mute Agility course

Consequently I’ve amended the text in the book as follows:

Mute Agility

As a training exercise or for a real competition, Mute Agility is a wonderful test of the dog and handler relationship and often a lot of fun for spectators. This game is frequently used to show the importance of body position and body movement and how much this influences the dog’s performance of the course. This game is sometimes called Silent Snake. Mute Agility is most likely the invention of Stuart Mah.

Briefing

Mute Agility can be run on any standard agility course. The dog must perform each obstacle on the course in the sequence designated by the judge.

Unlike on a standard agility course, however, the handler must run the entire course silently. No verbal cues are allowed; that means no verbal commands, no clapping, no stomping the ground, no whistling, and so on. Body language must speak for itself.

A Qualifying Course Time shall be established by the judge based on the rates of travel used in the Standard classes respective to level and jump height.

Scoring

Scoring is on a Time, Plus Faults basis.

The system used for judging faults should be consistent with the game that is being played.

Mute Agility adds a fault restriction for speaking. Usually, the judge will assess the handler 5 faults for each word spoken on course. The verbal cue for releasing a dog from the start line is typically exempted from any penalty  in this game as it is a good practice for a handler/dog trainer to release from the start line with verbal rather than physical cues.

Course Design

The design of the course should include appropriate challenges for the level of competition. The Mute Agility course should strike a balance between nice flow and basic technical challenges like changes of side, crossing patterns, and changes of direction. The following course is based loosely on a Mute Agility course designed by TDAA judge Sheryl Lynch.

Variations

  • Silent Snake variation – In this variation of the game, created by Sue Tovino and Betty McArthur, the course consists of a constant change of sides or snaking motion. 15 faults are assessed the first time a handler breaks the silence. The second occurrence results in elimination.
  • Single command – In a variation of this game the handler can give one command, which must be declared to the judge before the dog’s run. Thus, for example, a handler may choose tunnel or weave. Ideally, a handler should choose the command that is most necessary to control the dog. A come command might be a good choice.
  • Mute agility games – Almost any agility game can be played in the Mute Agility format. However, this format might not lend itself too well to games like Gamblers, which often rely on the handler’s voice commands to achieve the joker.
  • Monetary penalty – This variation of the game is a good club fundraiser. The handler is penalized $1–$5 for speaking (or whispering!).

Qualifying

To qualify the team must score equal to or less than the established course time.

Premium Blurb

Mute Agility is the game of agility with a silent handler; though usually judges will allow a verbal release from the start line. Mute Agility is typically played using a standard course, but really could be played with any agility game.

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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.

Minuet in G

February 24, 2012

This week we will play the Minuet. On the surface, the Minuet is a simple game with a straight-forward sequence repeated over and over again. In fact, the game will expose every flaw in movement the handler might have as the handler must also repeat his movement over and over again. There will be dropped bars, refusals and even off courses. This game demonstrates a simple principal. Most performance faults are the fault of the handler and not of the dog.

Following the briefing and description of the game I intend to write an educational bit to TDAA judges who are assigned the mission to design a minuet for competition.

Briefing

The dog and handler have 50 seconds. Repeat the sequence as a continuous loop until the expiration of time.

The judge may specify that the dog has to cross a finish line or go to a table to stop time after the whistle blows to end scoring.

Scoring

One point is earned for each completion of the loop. One decimal point is earned for each jump in an uncompleted loop when time expires. For example: In 50 seconds, the dog does 7 complete loops and the first two jumps in the sequence. The dog’s score shall be 7.2.

If the dog drops a bar, the handler must stop and reset the bar.

If the dog goes off course, one point is lost. Counting of the loop will not continue until the dog returns to the next on-course jump.

Strategy Note

In a game, like this, with a finite number of possible scores the time to the table will often determine placement. When the 50 second whistle blows, you should head for the table without hesitation.

Qualifying

Games I
4″ / 8 “
1.2
 
12′′ / 16′′
1.3
Games II
4″ / 8 “
1.4
 
12′′ / 16′′
1.5
Games III
4″ / 8 “
1.6
 
12′′ / 16′′
2.0

Course Design College

What you should immediately understand about the Minuet is that it is a small sequence with a feature technical challenge. TDAA judges often struggle with setting appropriate qualifying criteria for the game.

The qualifying criteria should reflect an appropriate rate of travel for the level and jump height of the dog. The only way to do this is to measure the sequence.

We have here a measured path (courtesy of the Clean Run Course Designer) that has the dog’s path at about 55 yards. Note that I took the table out as the end of sequence obstacle, because all real scoring takes place in the repetition of the basic sequence, which flows from jump #7 right back into jump #1.

The number of complete circuits a dog should be required to qualify really must be related to the rates of travel from the standard classes. Here are my calculations:

Games I
4″ / 8 “
37
0.65217391
9
 
12′′ / 16′′
34
0.69565217
10
Games II
4″ / 8 “
32
0.73913043
11
 
12′′ / 16′′
29
0.82608696
12
Games III
4″ / 8 “
26
0.91304348
13
 
12′′ / 16′′
24
1.00000000
14

What I got immediately from this table is that the Games III dogs should be about to do two complete circuits in 50 seconds. Lord knows that if a dog makes an error in the Minuet he’ll really deserve the Q of he picks himself up and still finishes in time.

The fourth column is a weighted percentage based on the rates of travel by level and jump height. So in the fifth column I’ve extrapolated how many obstacles in the sequence the dog should be able to complete. This would have been considerably more complicated if the sequence featured technical obstacles.

Beethoven’s Minuet in G

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSXRJwspGU0

Nancy Gyes’ Alphabet Drills

You guessed it: this week’s game is based on the Letter G, right out of Nancy Gyes’ Alphabet Drills. The workbook and disk with all the drills in CRCD format are available at www.cleanrun.com.

This is exercise #17… though jump #7 was added to close the loop to make it a Minuet. Note that the transition from #7 through jump #1 creates a complication that was not included in the handling discussion in Nancy’s workbook.

The Rest of the Floor

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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.