In preparation for the TDAA’s 2013 Petit Prix today I’m going to give the game Last of the Mohicans a robust discussion.
Last of the Mohicans is a game that has grown from training game, to a game for qualifying and titling. And like any converted training game, the training lessons attend the competition.
It’s possibly a bit of a risk putting a game like this into our national tournament. Calling a handler for “stopping” can be a bit subjective. It’s like calling a refusal. And whatever the handler does, it’ll be a big glaring debatable fussover for everyone outside the ring. If it helps any the criteria for calling the handler for stopping is discussed in the briefing of the game, below.
Also, the game requires the judge to have a mind like a steel trap when evaluating the dog’s path and whether, or not, it crosses back over itself. Prior to the tournament I’ll have a long discussion with the judge of record for the class to make sure we’re ready, and to minimize the potential for error. Ideally, this game will get a lot of play in regional competition and we’ll be more prepared, having more depth in experience.
Last of the Mohicans
In the years before the American Revolution certain frontiersmen were greatly feared and respected by hostile Indians because they had learned to load their muskets with powder and shot, and even fire their muskets, while on the run without stopping or even slowing down. This agility game was devised as a means of teaching the very Novice handler to stay in motion when running an agility course (and not stop alongside every jump on the way).
You’re a settler comfortable in your homestead (the collapsed tunnel) when word comes to you that a band of marauding Indians is on the war path, killing and scalping -defenseless settlers. You know that your only chance to survive is to make it to the fort (the table). As the crow flies it’s not very far away. But to get there you must go all the way around the mountain (the A-frame).
The dog will earn one point for each obstacle performed without fault between the homestead and the fort. The homestead (collapsed tunnel) and the fort (table) have no point value. The dog with the most points wins. Time is a tie-breaker only.
However, should you be caught by the Indians, and scalped, your dog will earn no score. And the scribe will indicate on the scribe-sheet: “RIP”.
These events will lead to you being caught and scalped by the Indians:
- The handler stops (the Indians will catch you while you’re standing still)
- The dog runs past an obstacle and the handler turns back to correct (you’ve run back towards the Indians. Bad strategy)
- The dog’s path crosses itself (again, your path has taken you back towards the Indians). By definition, if a dog repeats an obstacle, he has crossed his own path.
- The dog commits to any contact obstacle with all four paws.
Last of the Mohicans gives the course designer an opportunity to use the set of equipment on the floor, making a transition from a standard class with very little movement of equipment. However, the course designer shouldn’t be too lazy in the transition. Competitors will seek a perfect score in this dog’s choice game. So, the solution shouldn’t be absolutely obvious or predictable. Some movement of equipment might be required to make the task a handler’s riddle.
Let’s take a TDAA standard course for example. This is the course on which the Last of the Mohicans course above was based:
What I immediately like about this standard course, for the purpose of setting up Last of the Mohicans is that the A-frame is central on the field. You’ll note in the briefing the requirement to “go around the mountain”. It helps to have a mountain to go around.
The immediate requirement for equipment movement will be in the start and stop obstacles. The tradition is for Last of the Mohicans to begin with the collapsed tunnel and end on the table. The collapsed tunnel probably needs to be closer to the front of the ring; and a table should be added to the field.
Last of the Mohicans is one of the rare games in which you must be a judge of the handler; specifically for stopping or significant hesitation. This fault, since you are taking their scalp after all, should be accorded the same measure of restraint that you might use for calling a hesitation refusal on the dog. The word “significant” gives us a good measuring tool: If you can say the word SIGNIFICANT as the handler hesitates, then you must blow the whistle and take his scalp. However, if all you can get out is “SIG…” you’re doing the team a disservice.
Mindful that the original intention of the game was to encourage handlers to stay in motion with their dogs, the judge should establish criteria for movement at the beginning of the course and at the end. In briefing the judge might advise that the handler could be standing still when calling the dog through the collapsed tunnel (the homestead); but had better be in motion when the dog comes out. Also, the table (the fort) is where time ends; so if the handler comes to a stop on the approach to the table… then it is such a shame that he will be scalped right outside the front gate. However, if the handler moves past the table to the side opposite the approach, then the judge will deem that he is safely in the fort.
Note that the scalping fault for the dog crossing his own path should be the obvious and measurable only. We’ve already stated that repeating an obstacle will constitute the path-crossing scalpage. Also, look for this sort of thing:
During the briefing you can reassure exhibitors that you won’t be looking for bulges in the dog’s path to find crossing faults; but having a mind like a steel trap you’ll certainly be calling the obvious.
Last of the Mohicans is scored points, then time. Time is a tie-breaker only. The dog earns 1 point for each obstacle performed correctly.
If the handler stops or attempts to go back to correct any obstacle he is deemed dead by the judge. At that point the game ends and the team earns zero points.
Typically the number of obstacles should dictate the qualifying criteria. Give GI a nice easy flow; make GII a bit more challenging technically; and make GIII stretch a bit for the qualifying score. In no case should a perfect score be required at any level. In our sample course above, with 15 scoring obstacles, the qualifying criteria might be:
- Games I ~ 7 points
- Game II ~ 9 points
- Games III ~ 11 points
The significant strategies to this game are:
- The Q and keep your scalp strategy: Don’t try to be a hero, understand how many points are required to qualify; go out and get them and get safely into the fort.
- The greedy man’s strategy: This is like a game of “What’s My Line”. Go for the gusto; figure out what are the maximum number of points available, then figure out a way to get them without stopping and without causing the dog to cross his own path. Just remember: No guts, no glory.
Staying in motion is a pretty good strategy for agility in general; and certainly in this game will keep the handler from being scalped. If the dog runs past an obstacle without committing to the performance the handler will have to accept the missed point and continue. Remember that going back to correct the dog is a scalpable offense.
Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our webstore at: www.dogagility.org/newstore. Our web store includes more than five years of lesson plans for three levels of agility training in the pages of The Just For Fun Agility Notebook; and each includes a “game of the week” for league play. Many of these are the games we play today in the TDAA.