Posts Tagged ‘Games and Courses’

The Van Deusen Riddle

September 9, 2015

The National Dog Agility League September league course was designed by Wayne Van Deusen. This course features some interesting handling challenges, with a definite international flavor.

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In my own classes (which attend league play) we spend a bit of time walking through the league course to talk about handling strategies to solve the course we are running. My mission as instructor is ever to teach my students the basic skills to solve the riddles posed by the course designer.

The handler is the architect of the dog’s path. And so handling should always begin with a visualization of the dog’s path. Once we set that very basic goal, just about anyone can rummage through the inventory of skills they might have to conduct the dog upon that path. Whether the plan is right or wrong will sort itself out when we test the proposition with a dog in motion (with time-keeper, scribe and judge all playing their part in the drama).

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These days most of us own some rudimentary approach to a “back-side” jump. Clearly the approach to jump #2 is a managed approach. On this course, however, the back-side is the beginning of a more complicated riddle.

Jump #2 actually gives the handler a choice of turning directions. I’m inclined to begin with the natural turning direction as the natural choice unless other factors talk me out of that choice. What the drawing shows is that a right turn (which is the natural turning direction) at jump #2 will expose the wrong course tunnel option at #4.

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Turning the dog to the left at jump #2, as previously noted, fights against the natural turning direction. It also exposes a wrong course option (presenting jump #1 again to the dog). And it also calls for a considerably depressed angle approach to jump #3. But, the consequential path sets the dog up neatly for the correct entry to the pipe tunnel at #4.

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On the dismount of the #4 pipe tunnel the handler might simply attack jump #5 and work to pre-cue the turn to #6. This strategy probably raises the odds of the dog dropping the bar at jump #5, and clearly sets up jump #2 as a wrong course option.

The red line in the diagram shows the handler creating a corner of approach to jump #5 which lines the two jumps up neatly, with a consequential path that carries to the weave poles. This will probably result in a longer path than the “attack jump strategy”, but not much longer.

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After the excruciating grind of the opening this course opens up into a bit of a helter-skelter romp around and to the A-frame. The handler should be aware of the not terribly obvious challenges in this simple part of the course: a) The dog dismounting from the pipe tunnel at #9 needs to be turned to jump #10; b) the #3 jump is exposed as a wrong course option after jump #11; and c) the weave poles are set as a wrong-course option after jump #12. The handler might be advised not to take it all for granted.

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The interesting turn the course takes here is really a question of the handler’s downfield control position. While the dog is on the A-frame the handler must be calculating how to get in position to handle the closing bit, jump #17 to the pipe tunnel at #18. But the handler is obligated to turn the dog out of the #14 pipe tunnel to tag jump #15. And in that moment of prudence the handler might surely sacrifice the forward-of-the-dog control position after jump #17.

And the handler should be aware of the wrong course options presented to the dog. The A-frame is surely an option for the dog coming out of the pipe tunnel; jump #3 looms again after jump #16; and the weave poles are somewhat compelling after jump #17.

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I shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a left turn at jump #17, though to my own thinking it’s crazy and perilous. The right turn clearly opens up the wrong course side of the pipe tunnel.

It was clearly not my intention to open the discussion to the handling skills needed to solve Van Deusen’s riddle. Maybe I’ll return to this course after we’ve run it in league play so that I can inventory handling skills that proved to be successful, and some that weren’t particularly so.

Jumping in to the League

If you have interested in jumping into League Play, you still have time to play on the second course of the summer league. The workbook can be downloaded here: September League

If you have interested in jumping into League Play, you can still play on the first course of the summer league; but under our league rules results submitted after August 31 cannot be counted towards league standing. The workbook can be downloaded here: August League

The score-keeping workbook for the out-of-league course can be downloaded here: Pick-up Game

Earned LPP

The National Dog Agility League has published Top Dog standings based on the accumulation of Lifetime Performance Points: LPPMaster

The details of LPP earned can be found here: LPPDetail

Blog1043 Home

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.

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The Event

February 6, 2015

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Steeplechase Briefing

This is a simple numbered course. The scoring basis is Time, Plus Faults.  Follow the numbers, keep the bars up, hit the paint. And have fun.

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Time Warp Briefing

This is a simple game, run like a standard course. The Scoring Basis is Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus.

There is an opportunity on this course to earn a 50 point bonus which is subtracted from the Time, Plus Faults part of the dog’s score: if the handler can stay on the opposite side of the containment line through your dog’s performance of obstacles #12 through #15, then the dog will earn a 50 point bonus. Note that the bonus is lost for any performance faults in the distance challenge.

Otherwise, it’s follow the numbers, keep the bars up, and hit the paint.

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Standard Briefing

This is a standard course. The scoring basis is Faults, Then Time. Follow the numbers, keep the bars up, and hit the paint. And have fun.

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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.

Snooker ~ Petit Prix Warmup

October 7, 2014

This is part of a continuing series, Games of the TDAA’s 2014 Petit Prix. Today I’ll talk briefly about Snooker, a familiar game in our agility culture.

On first glance, the closeness of the obstacles feels a bit daunting. In other agility organizations everything is spaced for the long-striding dogs who will cover 20′ or so in two or three strides. This gives us an opportunity to remember the Mission of the TDAA:

The purpose of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association is to provide a competitive venue for dogs of small stature without regard to breed or pedigree, and to encourage course challenges that are comparable to the course challenges which face large dog handlers in other popular venues.

So there you have it. There’s nothing easy about the TDAA. We have a high standard for performance and spacing between obstacles so that small dog handlers face the kinds of challenges that big dog handlers face on any given weekend of play… in the big dog agility organizations.

Snooker

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Snooker is a two-part game. Each part is played and scored on a different basis. The objective of the opening sequence (the first part) is to score as many points as possible by alternately performing all of the red hurdles; and scoring points from the numbered sequence. The objective of the second parts is to run a short numbered sequence without fault.

Time starts when the dog crosses the start line.  Time stops when the dog crosses the finish line after the horn sounds or after completing the closing sequence. 12” and 16” dogs have 45 seconds; 4” and 8” dogs have 50 seconds.

Opening Sequence:  The game begins with an opportunity for the dog and handler team to earn points by successfully performing red obstacles, always jumps, valued at 1 point each. A successfully performed red earns the team the right to attempt one of the colored (non red) obstacles on the course, valued at 2 to 7 points. The team earns those points if the dog successfully performs the selected colored obstacle.

This is a 4-of-4 red format. All four red hurdles must be attempted.

When performing the combination obstacles, both obstacles must be attempted before going on to the next red or starting the closing.  If the first obstacle of the combo is faulted, the dog must be directed to perform the second obstacle even though no points can be earned.

In the opening all obstacles are bi-directional in;  combination obstacles can be taken in any order or direction.

Closing Sequence:  After the opening sequence, the team will perform all colored obstacles in the numerical sequence indicated by their point value (#2, then #3, then #4, and so forth, through #7). The dog and handler team will earn the value assigned to each of these obstacles as long as the obstacle is not faulted.

In the closing, combination obstacles must be taken in the numbered order and direction.

Scoring

Snooker is scored Points, Then Time.

Qualifying

  • Games I 35 points
  • Games II and III 37 points

Strategies of the Game

There are old pilots.  There are bold pilots…  There are no old bold pilots.
~ Chuck Yeager

There are two essential strategies of this game: Flow and Greed.

Flow

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I’ve drawn here a basic/logical flow strategy. The circled numbers represent the value of the obstacles; the square numbers represent the intended sequence. I recognize that the wrap from the fourth red hurdle to the A-frame is a bit of a technical moment in the flow… but there’s nothing out there really for the dog to attack after that final red hurdle except for the A-frame.

This course measures about 80 yards. Note that I’ve included the transition from the last “non-red” obstacle to the #2 jump because that is an important part of the puzzle.

Note that in this strategy the dog will still have to do the first four obstacles of the numbered sequence to earn a qualifying score. Anything after that is gravy.

There are other flow strategies that might be contemplated. It’s important for the handler and competitor to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of his dog. Find something fast and smooth with as little technical churn as possible.  And, where you can be a little greedy, what can it hurt?

Greed

I had to share the old Chuck Yaeger quote above. I am always reminded of it when I thing about the “Greed” strategy. That being said, it is the greedy player who wins the game.

I will not endeavor to draw a path for the “Greed” strategy. The greediest opening would be all four of the #7 obstacles. Inasmuch as the approach to the A-frame is a problem from the two red hurdles to the left… maybe these can settle for a performance of the #5 or #6 (a combination).

Final Words

Remember that if you do the #2 jump after your last red hurdle, you’ll have to do the #2 jump again to begin the numbered sequence.

Let the judge be the judge. Don’t call faults on yourself.

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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.

Gamblers ~ Petit Prix Warm Up

October 2, 2014

This is third in a series, taking a serious look at the games of the 2014 Petit Prix. Please note that B&D has extended the closing date for the Petit Prix. You can get a copy of the premium here: Petit Prix Premium.

Gamblers is an old game in the dog agility world. I’ll present an example of Gamblers (a Teacup Dogs course) and then follow up with a discussion of strategy.

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Briefing

The objective of Gamblers is for the dog to accumulate as many points as possible in a specified time and then to perform a designated gamble (sometimes called a joker), also within a specified time, which consists of a sequence of obstacles with the dog and handler working some distance apart. Gamblers is a two-part game: the point-accumulation period and the gamble period.

Point accumulation period – You can take obstacles in the order and direction of your choosing. The dog may perform obstacles only twice for points. Back-to-back performance is permitted. There is no restriction as to order and direction except that the dog may not take two gamble obstacles, one after the other, during point accumulation. Obstacle values are:

  • Jumps are worth 1 point;
  • Tunnels and tire are worth 3 points;
  • The A-frame, teeter and weave poles are worth 5 points;
  • The dogwalk is worth 7 points.

The time allotted for the point-accumulation period shall be 25 seconds for big dogs; and 28 seconds for small dogs.

Gamble period – Successful performance of the gamble is worth 25 points. Time for the gamble shall be 16 seconds for big dogs; and 18 seconds for small dogs.

  • Gamble points will be lost if any of the following occurs:
  • The dog exceeds the time allotted for the gamble period or faults a gamble obstacle.
  • The handler steps on or over the containment line to aid the dog in performance of the joker.
  • The dog is directed to loiter near the start of the gamble while time remains in the point-accumulation period;
  • The dog performs any two gamble obstacles one after the other during the point-accumulation period;
  • The dog knocks down a jump included in the gamble sequence during point accumulation, making correct performance of that jump in the gamble period impossible.
  • The dog commits any performance fault during performance of the gamble.

Scoring and Qualifying

Gamblers is scored points then time. The team with the most points wins. Time is a tiebreaker only.  To qualify:

GI – 16 points; and successful completion of the gamble

GII & GIII – 18 points; and successful completion of the gamble

Strategies for Play in Gamblers

Timing

Be armed with a strategy that delivers enough points to qualify, and positions the dog near the start of the gamble with options for productive loitering.

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I’ve drawn on this course map a dog’s path that works the obstacles in the upper-right corner of this course. The line actually shows two performance of each of the obstacles in that corner.

Be mindful of the rules of the game. First of all, the dog is allowed to do obstacles only twice. And, you should understand the rule about “loitering” near the start of the gamble. If you are running your dog in a circle over obstacles your dog has already taken twice the judge—with a mind like a steel trap—will likely call you for loitering and negate the dog’s gamble. So, you should take care to reserve the performance of the obstacles in your “productive loitering” strategy until it’s time for that strategy to reveal itself.

If the dog already has the points to qualify (that’s what I said to do first, if you’ll remember), than chances are that the whistle will blow while working this performance of obstacles. But that’s the whole point. From anywhere in this corner the dog will have a good run at the opening jump of the gamble.

Where you almost certainly don’t want to be is coming down the A-frame in the direction going away from the gamble. The gamble time isn’t really that generous.

The 7 Point Obstacle

An important tradition in the Gamblers class is for the judge to give a higher value to an obstacle on the field. This is usually a technical obstacle, and typically gives a bonus of 2 points; so the 5 point dogwalk becomes a bonus obstacle worth 7 points.

Note that the 7 Point Obstacle is typically one that has some risk associated with it. For example, it might be so far away from the start of the gamble that it becomes a timing risk.

However, on this course, the risk associated with the 7 Point Obstacle is clearly the possibility that the dog could do two gamble obstacles, one after the other, during the point accumulation period. If you’ve paid attention to the briefing… doing two gamble obstacles (one after the other) will negate the gamble.  NQ

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On this course map I’ve numbered an opening strategy that neatly picks off the 7 Point Obstacle. The plan avoids going anywhere near the two jumps that start and the gamble. We’ve already established that the dog isn’t allowed to do two gamble obstacles (one after the other).

Dropping a bar in the gamble during point accumulation will also negate the gamble.  So, stay away from those jumps if at all possible.

This strategy delivers a qualifying score for the class. It would be fairly easy now to slide into the Timing strategy for the end of point accumulation that I described above.

Play to Your Dog’s Strengths

If your dog has a weakness, say on the teeter or in the weave poles you should not waste time with an optimistic reliance on the performance of those obstacles in the point accumulation period. Save that optimism for a standard class when performance of the risky obstacle is required, rather than optional.

On the other hand, if there are obstacles on which your dog will demonstrate amazing speed and skill, these obstacles should be the centerpiece of your point accumulation strategy. For example, the dog might have an amazing running contact and so the A‑frame might be highly desirable during point accumulation.

Flow and Transitions

Turning a dog degrades the dog’s rate of travel. A good point accumulation strategy for the Gamblers class should not feature a lot of gratuitous technical movement. Instead, the canny handler will devise a flowing plan of attack that allows the dog to work at full extension and at his best speed.

A notable exception to pure flow is the back-to-back performance. Obstacles like a pipe tunnel, the tire, the A-frame… maybe even the dogwalk are candidates for back-to-back performance. If you think about it, by turning the dog straight back you’ve made the transitional distance between obstacles negligible. Steal a second, earn a point.

The Gamble

A dog is well directed by movement, even when the handler is at some distance. The handler should calculate his movement to give a steady signal to the dog, and give pressure to the dog to move in the direction of the numbered sequence.

The gamble in the sample course above features a discrimination (two obstacles in close proximity) and the performance of a technical obstacle at a distance. Don’t be tongue tied as the dog makes his turn after jump #1 in the gamble. Give your command/verb for the dogwalk; Face the dogwalk; Point to the dogwalk; Move toward the dogwalk. And don’t step over the line.

It’s nearly fruitless to try to describe what the handler should do to raise the chance for success in a Gamble. They are always different.

A terrific strategy for success in Gamblers is to train your dog to work independently and at a distance.

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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.

Class Plan

July 16, 2013

Okay, it’s about a bazillion degrees outside; and I spent the morning yesterday setting up this course on the grassy out-of-doors agility field. I don’t actually have minions to help me, so you can imagine the buckets of sweat that soaked my clothes.

Marsha isn’t a big fan of out-of-doors play. For me playing on grass is fundamental. It’s how agility was meant to be played. I’m sympathetic to Marsha, and everybody who prefers to play in the shade and away from the bugs. Weather is cruel more often than not in Ohio. Either it’s freezing and icy; or it’s muddy and wet; or it’s brutally hot. There might be a dozen days out of the year on which conditions are perfect for both human and canine.

I’m very aware of the safety issues when working a dog out in the sun. With our dogs, I’ll only work outside for ten or twenty minutes when temperatures are so high.

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This course, by the way, is both the oldest and the latest course challenge for Top Dog Agility. We’ve had a subtle rules change that allows re-running of any course. What it really means is that a course or game never “closes” but is left open like the high scores on a video game at the arcade where everybody has a shot at getting to Top Dog.

I’m having a conversation with a club down in Valencia, Argentina about joining us in the play of this course. That should be fun! Hey… isn’t it Winter in Argentina?

Meanwhile back at the ranch

I have a class coming this evening. The out-of-doors course will be our league play course. But class needs to be in the building (in the shade). I don’t have air conditioning in the building. The best we can do is run the big fans on people and dogs.

Since I dragged all of our big equipment down onto the field, that means I had to come up with a set of the floor for lesson planning purposes. Small Universe comes to the rescue! This is a product that I created (several years ago now)… which is a .pdf with a wide variety of sequences that are arranged by different dimensions. All I have to do is scan through them, find one I like, and then click on the picture to spawn it into Clean Run Course Designer. Then, of course, I can modify it for my immediate needs.

Small Universe has been a life saver for me many times over.

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I shared in my last blog a new contact training protocol for the 2o2o position. Marsha immediately put it to use for her crazy redhead BC Phoenix, and it has been transformative and amazing, IMHO. And so I wanted in this lesson plan to provide a foil for testing and practicing the method. What’s substantially different in Marsha’s work with Phoenix and this lesson plan… is that Phoenix gets to do his thing in the presence of other dogs and people. That heightens the crazy redhead gene, to be sure.

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I’ve reversed the flow so that we get to work in both directions. Naturally I have about six or eight sequences that are based on either set of the bi-directional equipment. You should know that our full-size teeter is on the lower field. I’ll actually be using one of teacup teeters (8 ramps) in class.

Crazy Calendar

For like the next three weekends I’ll be out on the road doing judges clinics for the TDAA. I’ll be traveling with Hazard and Haymitch and will have an opportunity to run both of them in the TDAA trials that are part of the TDAA clinic experience. It’s actually problematic whether I’ll be able to run them at all, because I’ll be very busy in the conduct of these clinics.

At any rate we’d love it if you can come out and run your small dog in one of our clinic trials. If you are anywhere nearby I’d appreciate the opportunity to meet you and see you work with your small canine athlete. Here’s the immediate schedule:

Jul  20 – 21, 2013  Trial   T13067 Agility Cues For You LLC
Louisville, KY
Judge-of-record/Presenter:  Bud Houston (w/judge applicants)
Contact:  Christina Wakefield   (e-mail:  agileticket@gmail.com) Indoors on astroturf with rubber infill.  Day of show entries allowed. Classes to be determined
Premium

Jul  27 – 28, 2013  Trial   T13027
Bella Vista Training Center Lewisberry, PA
Judge of Record:  Bud Houston  (applicants will be judging, records will show Bud Houston as judge)
Contact:  Stephanie Capkovic  (e-mail:  bvwestie@ptd.net) We have had an in-fill sport turf installed, 3 standards and 5 games
Premium

Aug  3 – 4, 2013  Trial  T13016
Rocky Mountain Agility

Arvada, CO
Judge of Record: Bud Houston (judge applicants and recerts will judge performance) Contact:  Zona Butler (e-mail: Zona@rmagility.com) dirt surface
Premium

Of course, I copied all of this right off the TDAA Events Calendar.

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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.

Who is the Top Dog?

November 30, 2012

Only time will tell!

It’s been a hardworking and somewhat bittersweet week. I went back through all the records of the TDAA and identified all the winners of the Petit Prix, by jump height since its inception. We have retroactively conferred upon all of those winners the Teacup National Agility Champions title.

The list of title winners is published here: http://k9tdaa.com/prixresults.php

Bittersweet ~ I have two dogs who are gone over the bridge. Bogie and Birdie had between them five national championships. I miss  my boys.

Hardworking ~ As the league secretary for Top Dog Agility Players I’ve selected two numbered courses and a game (the Minuet) for play. If you would like to play these with us you need to go to www.dogagility.org and download the posting file. It’s a very simple matter: set the course up; play and score it; then report your results.

Since this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, I figured I’d share each of the TDAP events. I’ve cut the standard course to the size of the Queen City competition floor (no actual pressure Erica!) I’ll keep challenging them until they come on board.

113012A86x98 a numbered course

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This is a numbered course, judged under TDAP rules.

Competition shall be conducted by a judge and stewards appointed for specific tasks in conduct of the event. No certification process exists for judges. TDAP will rely on good sense in the selection of experienced persons to perform this task. A judge is initially registered with TDAP upon submitted event results.

The judge or appointed stewards shall observe and signal course or game faults or points. The judge alone will sign off on competition results.

The Event Closing Date is December 21, 2012.

113012B60x90 a game: The Minuet

The Minuet was invented by Bud Houston at Dogwood Training Center in Ostrander, OH as a physical conditioning exercise for his dogs and a training game for his students. The game was first played in 2001 in Dogwood’s ongoing agility league. On the surface, the Minuet is a simple game with a simple 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.

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Briefing

The dog and handler have 50 seconds. Repeat the sequence as a continuous loop until the expiration of time. The dog must go to the table to stop time after the whistle blows to end scoring.

Scoring

The Minuet is scored Points, Then Time.

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 obstacles 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 the current loop is lost. The dog must return to the first obstacle in the loop to resume.

Strategies

Surviving the Minuet requires simple discipline. The handler should work in clean lines through the jumps and show turns only after the dog has committed to each jump. These are simple disciplines that keep the bars up and help prevent refusals. If the handler’s movement gets lazy, something bad is bound to happen.

Please note that in any game with a finite number of possible scores, time to the table will very often determine placement. When the time whistle blows, don’t dawdle. Get to the table as quick as possible.

Qualification

To earn a qualifying score, the dog must score 5 points or more.

113012A70x70 a numbered course

Historical Footnote: This was the first standard course played at the TDAA Petit Prix Eastern Regional in Latrobe, PA on October 26, 2012. The dogs that played on that day will be included in the event results.

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This is a numbered course, judged under the rules of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association (TDAA). The course requires equipment of the preferred specification. Refer to the rules of the TDAA at: www.k9tdaa.com.

Abridgement to Rules: In this competition, as at the TDAA Petit Prix, event judges are instructed to assign a score of “20” faults for each failure to perform rather than a score of “E”.

Competition shall be conducted by a judge and stewards appointed for specific tasks in conduct of the event. No certification process exists for judges. TDAP will rely on good sense in the selection of experienced persons to perform this task. A judge is initially registered with TDAP upon submitted event results.

The judge or appointed stewards shall observe and signal course or game faults or points. The judge alone will sign off on competition results.

The Event Closing Date is December 21, 2012.

* * *

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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

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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 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.