Posts Tagged ‘Petit Prix’

Preparing for the Petit Prix

April 30, 2015

We’re getting excited about the upcoming TDAA championship tournament. Here’s the calendar listing (complete with links to download premium & tournament rules)

PA

Oct  16 – 17 – 18 , 2015  PETIT PRIX T15999
B&D Creekside Activity Center Latrobe, PA
Judges:  Joan Wiekowski and Beth Moline
Contact:  Pat Kelm
Indoors on field turf. Three standard classes and 7 games. Special ribbons, special prizes, great swag this year!
Premium
Tournament Rules

On a very personal level, this will be the “championship” debut for our young girl Cedar, who (due to age) might have only a couple of local trials under her belt before the Petit Prix. That is not to say she won’t be ready. She’s been getting two-a-day training sessions since she was 8 weeks old.

Cedar’s competition will be a field of outstanding agility dogs; handled by some of the best agility gamesmen in our sport.

It is time for me to publish a series on the games we will be playing for the benefit of everybody who attends. In the TDAA nearly any conceivable agility game is eligible for competition and titling. Fans of the TDAA are students of a wide variety of games.

In the following discussion, I’ve moved the “Strategy” heading to the top of the briefing, rather than burying it down below.

Cha-Cha

Cha-Cha is the invention of Jeff Boyer. The Cha-Cha dance was invented in Cuba sometime in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. A Latin dance, it is characterized by two slow, rocking steps, followed by three quick steps (the “cha-cha-cha”) danced to a 4/4 beat. The handler must figuratively dance the Cha-Cha with his dog around the “ballroom” (the agility ring).

Strategy

It is true that Cha-Cha is a dog’s choice game. That means that obstacles can be taken in the order and direction of the dog and handler’s choosing. It is not, however, a completely free & loosy goosey point accumulation game like gamblers which rewards the dog for obstacles performed indiscriminately.

Cha-Cha requires a very specific tempo of scoring: two slow obstacles, followed by three fast obstacles.

Unnumbered courses can be a tough intellectual challenge. Some people aren’t equipped to “make it up as you go along”. Well, that’s the wrong way to look at it.

The canny handler will plot a winning strategy, and lay it out as a plan, as surely and specifically as any numbered course. This is fundamental to success in any so-called “dog’s choice” game. Plan your work, and work your plan.

This game gets a little complicated on any performance fault by the dog. The rules specify that on any fault the unfinished bar is lost, and the dog must begin again.

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Briefing

The objective is for the team to accumulate as many bars of Cha-Cha steps as they can in the time allotted. A Cha-Cha bar consists of any two obstacles other than jumps followed by three jumps. For example, a bar might be a contact obstacle, a tunnel, and then three jumps. Or it might be two tunnel performances followed by three jumps. For each successful bar, the team will earn one point. The game is scored points, then time. Time is for tie-breaking only.

Bar jumps may be used as often as desired. Other obstacles may be used only twice for credit. Obstacles other than bar jumps may be taken back-to-back, as long as this is done safely. Bar jumps may not be taken back-to-back. The first obstacle to be taken at the start of any run may not be a contact obstacle.

The following faults will be in effect:

  • Dropped bars (dropped bars are not reset and the jump is out of play)
  • Missed contacts
  • Incomplete weave pole performance
  • Back-to-back performance of a bar jump
  • Taking an obstacle more than twice (except for bar jumps)
  • Taking a contact obstacle as the first obstacle in the run
  • Incorrect number of “slow” or “quick” steps since the last successful bar

The judge will call “one” for each successful bar (set of 5 obstacles). In the event of a fault, the judge will call “fault,” and the team must begin a new bar. Counting of a bar will begin only once the “slow” steps are started.

The dog may begin anywhere along the start line. Time begins when the dog first crosses the Start line. The timer will blow the whistle at the end of point accumulation time, at which point the handler must direct the dog across the finish line or to the finish obstacle to stop the clock.

Course Design

Course design should enable reasonable paths around the ring, with bar jumps liberally sprinkled all over. Transition distances and approach angles should be consistent with venue rules as much as practicable. For safety, contact obstacles should not be placed where they are likely to be taken as the first obstacle in the run. The obstacles should be set to enable multiple likely paths, yet allow the judge the ability to view all of them with minimal difficulty and movement. A Standard course might lend itself well to reuse as a Cha-Cha course. The number and types of obstacles in a FullHouse course might also be a useful guideline.

The sample course above tests the random nature of the game. It was based on an existing standard course. Still I found myself adding jumps to the course to create three jump pinwheels and jump sets so that the jumps weren’t isolated (nothing but trouble under the stated rules.

Scoring

Cha-Cha is scored Bars (Points), Then Time

Qualifying

To qualify in TDAA, the teams must accumulate the following minimum number of bars (points):

  • Games I – 30 points (3 Bars)
  • Games II – 34 points (3 Bars and 4 points)
  • Games III – 40 points (4 Bars)

Variations

In the Tillman variation the game is scored by obstacle point values. And so the scoring basis is Points-Then-Time, rather than “Bars”-Then-Time. In the first use of this variation TDAA judge Vickie Tillman set obstacle values as: “Contact obstacles-3 pts; Tunnel & tire)-2 pts; Jumps 1 pt.” Qualifying criteria was then established as:

  • Games 1 – 16
  • Games 2 – 24
  • Games 3 – 32

Premium Blurb

Cha-Cha is a game that requires the dog to earn points to the beat of the Cha-cha: two slow beats (non-jump obstacles) followed by three quick beats (jumps). This is a game of strategy and precision.

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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. 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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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.

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.

Pinball Wizard

September 22, 2014

Pinball Wizard is a game invented by Margaret Hendershot, played for the first time at a TDAA trial in Washingtonville, OH in July, 2009. The game seems a bit like Dare to Double, but with some important differences that the canny competitor should appreciate.

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Briefing

The goal is to accumulate as many points as possible within course time: 50 seconds for big dogs and 55 seconds for small dogs.

The start obstacle is the dogwalk; in either direction. After successfully completing the start obstacle, the team continues to accumulate points by completing obstacles of the handler’s/dog’s choosing.

  • Jumps – 1 point
  • Tire, tunnels (other than the bonus), and weaves – 3 points
  • Contacts (other than the start) – 5 points

All scoring obstacles may be completed twice for points; triggers and bonuses can be taken many times. No obstacle may be taken back-to-back. The table is always live. If the dog touches the table it is a tilt and play ends.

Once the start obstacle has been completed, the triggers become active. Triggers open the bonus obstacles allowing the dog to triple all points earned. The bonus is the two tunnels marked bonus, in any order and any direction.

The bonus may be earned three times during play. The successful completion of the bonus triples all points accumulated each time it is completed.

To reactivate the triggers after completing the bonus, at least one point must be earned. A whistle sounds at the end of point accumulation. The dog should be directed to the table to stop time.

If a fault is called, point accumulation continues, but the triggers becomes dormant. The dog must do the dogwalk/start again to reactivate the triggers. Faults include the usual performance faults like: knocked bar, missed contact, starting the weave poles without completing. These special faults also apply:

  • taking a bonus tunnel without taking one of the triggers first;
  • taking an obstacle between the trigger obstacle and the bonus obstacle (including back-jumping the trigger);
  • jumping the trigger when it is not active.

Knocking a trigger bar means that trigger is out of play for the rest of the game. The remaining trigger may still be used.

Scoring

Pinball Wizard is scored Points, Then Time.

Qualifying

Games 1: 50 points
Games 2: 100 points
Games 3: 150 points

Strategy

It’s true that this game feels a lot like Dare-to-Double as the dog gets to multiply points previously earned multiple times. An important difference between the two games is that the dog is penalized for any fault in Pinball Wizard by having to repeat the time-consuming/zero value start obstacle (the dogwalk).

The Mental Game

It would be fairly easy to lose heart on any fault, knowing that your strategy has unraveled and your dog probably won’t be able to earn the points to qualify.

Your dog will not be the only dog to fault in Pinball Wizard. There will be a bunch of faults out there. What differentiates the field of players at the Petit Prix is the ability of the handler to pick himself up and go on. The fault wasn’t crushing. Melting down on a fault is crushing.

Simple Math Strategy

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. Plan to run without fault.

Two Bonus Strategy

The game might be approached with the simple math to achieve a qualifying score:

17 * 3 = 51; + 1 = 52 * 3 = 156

This strategy requires the dog to do trigger and bonus only twice. The dog needs to begin with a minimum of 17 points to get to a GIII qualifying score.

15 * 3 = 45 + 5 =50 * 3 = 150

Three Bonus Strategy

Three bonuses will surely yield more points than only two. The burning question shall be… how many points should be scored before engaging in the bonus strategy.

6 * 3 = 18; + 1 = 19; * 3 = 57 + 1 =58 * 3 = 174

In this strategy the dog begins with only six points, and picks off a single point before returning to the trigger and bonus. Note that this can be done with a fairly economical 12 obstacles, raising the possibility that the trigger and bonus might be approached a fourth time.

12 * 3 = 36+ 5 = 41+ 3 = 123+ 3 = 126 * 3 = 378

This strategy is a bit more ambitious. Not only does the dog begin with 12 points, but gets more transitional points between trigger and bonus performances.

The Finish

There is no good reason to run for the table as soon as your strategy is exhausted. There is no real downside to getting to the table after the whistle has blown to end point accumulation. You might take another shot at trigger and bonus. Or, at the very least, continue accumulating points for the simple performance of obstacles until the whistle blows.

Analysis

I wrote the following bit way back in July of 2009. Apparently we played the game in League to give it a workout:

* * *

It’s a funny thing. I went into this pretty much imagining that I had figured out the killer strategy before the first dog had run. Here’s my logic… since it takes 150 points to qualify at the GIII level… then it makes sense to collect pretty much precisely just enough in the opening salvo so that it would add up to a qualifying score if tripled only twice. That would be I figure 16 or 17 points.

And then, as we diligently pursued this line of reasoning… all of our dogs timed out smack in the middle of the third tripler.

We sat and pondered this for awhile and arrived at an interesting conclusion… It would be considerably better points-wise to go into the bonus period with a more modest accumulation of points, say 10 or 12. That will allow time to get the third tripler. That means instead of having a score hovering just above 150 points… the dog would have a score more in the range of 350 +.

Now, what you have to take into consideration is that we were not running on a TDAA course. We were running on a big dog course. So had we all scored our third tripler using the initial logic… then our scores would have been more in the vicinity of 450+ points.

We learned some other interesting things as well… like why it doesn’t pay to melt down when the judge calls a fault.

This was a very cool game and likely a keeper in the TDAA.

Variations

  • Pinball Wizard is often confused by judges/course designers with Wild West Pinball. So it will appear in the world with elements of the latter game utterly distorting and obscuring the original Margaret Hendershot game.
  • Timing Variation ~ time begins when the dog dismounts the dogwalk… rather than when the dog commits to the dogwalk.

Premium Blurb

Pinball Wizard a dog’s choice point accumulation game with on-the-field bonuses that triple all of the dog’s points. The game starts with a performance of the dogwalk; rather like pulling back the plunger on a pinball table before releasing the pinball onto the table and racking up points.

Homegrown Tomatoes

Courtesy of Kory Kruckmeyer: “Guy Clark on an old old Austin City Limits, with “Home Grown Tomatoes”, his 2nd most famous song.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-QzLIjL1u4

Do tell… what’s Guy Clark’s most famous song?

Homegrown Garlic

This is heirloom garlic given to me by Cookie Nee.

Garlic

She gave me something else that I’ll always remember. She says, “In the ground on Columbus Day, and harvest on the Fourth of July!” This is like old farmer timing wisdom… and is easy to remember. The timing has always been a complete mystery to me.

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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.

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.

Meet Me in Latrobe

September 16, 2014

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Here’s a picture from our front porch that I took a couple days ago. Fall has arrived with an abrupt turn in the temperature, chilling just enough to scare the tomatoes and make the humming birds consider the southern horizon. It’s a beautiful view and begs for sitting on the porch in the morning with a hot cup of coffee, wearing your robe a bit longer into the day than most people do.

Petit Prix

Hey, I have a couple events up and coming that will take me to Latrobe, PA. Obviously, there is the 2014 TDAA Petit Prix my very favorite agility event. That’s like six weeks away. For two days before the Petit Prix we’ll be doing the warm-up workshop. I get to work with canny competitors to gear them up for the tournament and give them a competitive edge in understanding the strategies of the games we’ll be playing. There might be a couple working slots still available. Contact Marsha Houston.Marsha@gmail.com for information.

Top Dog

This Saturday we’re doing a Top Dog league intro in Latrobe. I have no idea if anybody is actually going to show up. I didn’t take advanced reservations (because it’s not my league). But we’re going to film it with our vague notion of a reality show; and we’re going to play three games. It’ll be fun discovering who the Latrobe league team will be for the September Top Dog Challenge.

Now, if you’ve read down this far you’re actually reading my blog. I can loosen my tongue and not have to sound like I’m selling something. I have this vision you know, of an inexpensive/recreational approach to the game of dog agility. These are terms that easily slip off the tongue but don’t have much real definition in the world.

So let me put it like this, I’m a semi-retired man living in a cabin in the country. I have half a dozen continuing students. My wife and I run a small but very fun agility organization. And I subsist by the occasional seminar and selling ebooks for training dogs in agility. And you know, I can’t really afford to do dog agility like I want to. Agility trialing is like 10 times more expensive than a golfing habit.

I’m trying to create in Top Dog a model for play of the game that is as inexpensive and natural as a pick-up game of softball in the corner lot. Very few people really understand Top Dog. There’s plenty of information out there; I know because I’ve published it. But dang, we’re in the age of information over-load.  Being semi-retired I’m not in any hurry. I know that this new lonely outcast idea has to be built a brick at a time, a dog at a time, a club at a time.

Top Dog Challenge at Home

The weekend following the Top Dog intro in Latrobe, I’m going to invite a bunch of people to our place here in Watertown to run the challenge courses. This might be the last bit we can do outside this year.

Class Plan

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I pulled out an old skills exercise for our class this past week. This set-up is used for teaching the Tandem Turn which, as you should know, is a form of the rear cross in which the handler crosses behind his dog on the dismount of an obstacle, or on the flat.

We filmed most of the exercises (I bought a new camera last month!) I’m thinking that I want to make a DVD though I have no experience or particular expertise at that kind of publishing. I do know how to teach people to be master handlers… and that is the bit I’d like to share. It seems like a lot of work and bandwidth to put it all up as YouTube.

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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.

Ripsaw

May 12, 2014

“Ripsaw” is terminology that I pretty much made up to apply to a sequence that uses a pipe tunnel that sets the handler up to run into his dog on the exit of the tunnel. This is easy to illustrate:

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In this sequence the handler probably wants to try to get the dog on his right side on the exit of the tunnel. Without drawing the lines myself I’m trusting that you’ll see that the dog’s path and the handler’s path cross like a scissor cut on the exit of the tunnel. This is a recipe for collision.

When I review courses I typically try to discourage this convention. But I’ve noticed in the real world that it occurs often enough. From time to time I’ll intentionally put the rip-saw tunnel into play in my own classes; but not without a discussion about how it should be handled.

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This is a fun sequence that features no fewer than two ripsaw tunnels. It’s a bit on the technical side; be content that I’m considering this for some USDAA Masters Challenge course down the line.

Without belaboring the handling advice, I find the thing I most often have to teach in a sequence like this is that the handler points more with his toes than with his arm and hand. So picture the handler in the transition from the #6 pipe tunnel to the #7… running the dog past the #7 tunnel, pointing at it with his hand, but ignoring it completely with his feet. <heavy sigh>

On the Road Again

I’m about set for a long road trip. This next weekend I’ll be in Pottstown, IL for a TDAA trial at Dinky Dogs! And then it’s on to Golden, CO for the Western Petit Prix. I’ll do the usual two-day warm-up workshop before the three day event. I’m actually competing with two dogs, Hazard and Haymitch; though I’m not holding out to be terribly competitive on these old creaky knees. I’ll also be bringing along my by Kory. He’s been carrying is rear left leg and so the trip will be nothing but crate rest for him.

The Petit Prix is about my favorite competition in agility. We don’t have any sudden death events. Everybody gets to stay in the game ‘til the very end and will ultimately be measured for placement by overall performance. Some of the finest small dog athletes in the country will be in attendance. It’s like small dog agility heaven.

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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.

Petit Prix

October 22, 2013

We’ve just arrived in Greensburg, PA for the beginning of a week that will include my favorite agility competition of the year… the TDAA Petit Prix!

The tournament features ten rounds of games and courses. There will be no sudden death penalties or dismissing any dog from the competition. In each round every dog will earn a score based on the overall placement against the field. When the dust settles… the dog with the most points wins.

Seven games and three standard rounds comprise the competition.

I’m thinking that the TDAA has developed the finest games players in the sport of agility. We can play any game imaginable; and we often do. Agility is not just a matter of “follow the numbers”. Anybody can do that. The TDAA challenges our fans with games of strategy and skill, games of cunning and guile, and games of speed.

The Petit Prix is the national tournament. It’s the one event every year where the best of small agility dogs get together to compete in a mix of games that test a variety of skills.

Obviously, I’m excited by the competition.

Tomorrow we start with the warm-up workshop. A few competitors who come early will spend two days training with me in study of the strategies for the games we’ll be playing in the Petit Prix.

I hope to share results of the Petit Prix on a daily basis here in my blog. I’m hoping that I have energy and effort to live up to this ambition. I’d very much like to publish or point to YouTube accounts of the competition. So, if you plan to be there… send me something to link!

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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.

Turning Choices

October 6, 2013

Last weekend I was in Grand Junction, CO for an agility seminar. While the participants were largely novice, they were willing and brought along a nice bunch of dogs to work with. I look forward to working with them again.

Did I mention this is my busy season? I’ve tried to stay up on chores and miscellaneous projects around the property. Sometimes I wish I owned two mules and a 14 year old boy. But it’s just me and Marsha. I’d share my list of chores and projects with you. But you know, it’ll just sound like a bunch of work.

Aside from the torture of physical labor I’ve been reviewing courses until my brain turns numb. And you know, I have a trial coming up next weekend (USDAA) and I’m only just now wrapping the course design process with reviewers. I’ll be on the road by Friday, heading for Louisville. Is it Louisville? I’d better check.

I’ve also been continuing to work with my girl Prim. At the moment I’m concentrating on Left and Right, a back-pass, and the weave poles. And I’m enjoying playing with about a 50’ send. She can be amazing.

And, don’t you know, we have the TDAA Petit Prix coming up. This is my favorite event of the year and I’m really looking forward to the competition. Some of the best small dogs and handlers in this country will converge on Latrobe, PA to show their skills. It’s on the calendar (http://tdaanews.wordpress.com/tdaa-events-calendar/). I hope you are planning on coming! I know that I need to write some white paper notes on the games we’ll be playing, and publish them in this web log. Need to get started on that. The Petit Prix is in about three weeks.

As is our tradition, I’ll be heading up two days early for the Petit Prix Warm-up Workshop. It’s packed full. Of course I intend to give everyone a real intense work-out, and get them primed for the competition.

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For my Tuesday night class I have the set of the floor pictured here. There’s something I saw in a course I was reviewing that I’d like to present as a lesson to my students. I’ve talked about it before… the logic of turning direction when a jump presents a choice of turning directions. Just to pick out an obvious example of turning direction: in the sequence pictured above, what direction should the handler turn his dog after jump #3?

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If you follow my writing at all you probably know that I have an analysis I go through to make an informed decision about turning direction. I take into account things like “natural turning direction”, risk, length of path… and as this exercise illustrates: “consequential path”.

This illustration seems to be a bit of a no-brainer. Though surely when some people put their dogs on course they don’t even do the no-brainer analysis.

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It wouldn’t take much to draw some of the other elements of analysis into turning direction analysis. And yet “consequential path” still makes its own powerful argument. Maybe what it really argues for are handling skills.

* * *

It’s late now and I think I’m just going to go to bed. There are some things I leave for solving while I sleep and I need to get to those.

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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.