The TDAA’s Western Petit Prix shall be held from May 20th to the 22nd, 2016 in Castle Rock, Colorado. This event is hosted by Hosted by Rocky Mountain Agility Associates; Rocky Mountain Agility Dog Training Center, and All Positive Dog Training.

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The games of the 2016 Western Petit Prix shall be:

The Box Game; Twister; Dare To Double; Gamblers; Wild West Pinball; Weakest Link; and Jumpers. There are also three standard rounds scheduled.

I shall endeavor, over the next few days to write an introduction to each of these games. Although a couple of them are very traditional in the agility world, several are known to few agility enthusiasts outside of the TDAA.

I will begin the discussion with the Box Game. The discussion is written to a great extent to future designers of the game.

The Box Game

The Box Game is the invention of USDAA judge, Brian McGunigle. Brian conceived this game for a USDAA Starter/Novice-only trial held by ARFF in Massachusetts in 1999. People said they had fun running the game. One of the club members later reported to Brian to say they had subsequently used it in class for training.


The dog is required to perform the course in the order and direction specified by the judge.

Once the dogs clears hurdle #1, the handler must stay within a containment area specified by the judge until the dog completes the course. A 5-point fault is assessed for each time the handler leaves the containment area before the dog completes the course.

A bonus of 5 points is given to the team for each successful send. This might off-set any failed sends.


The Box Game is scored Time, Plus Faults, Less Bonus.

Course Design

A typical example of this game as played in the TDAA is illustrated by this course designed by Donette Belknap:


This is nearly a duplication of the original design of the Box Game by Brian McGunigle. What often happens with games taken from the Book of Agility Games… the original game is taken literally as a constraining definition of what is and what is not allowed.

While Donette’s design is flowing, and a lot of fun (for dogs that will work at a modest distance), it’s possible that at the Petit Prix the designing judge might test the dog and handler in a more interesting variety of distance skills.

For example:


This was a course that was not originally designed as a Box Game course. As you can see, it was a Jumpers course (played at the Racine Petit Prix in 2009). This illustrates that the course designer doesn’t really have to begin with the rigid fixture of a box. A better idea is to take a course that already has lovely flow to it, and then find the box that is hidden within it.

Significantly, the distance challenges have become more interesting than the fixed box variation. For example, on the initial send to the #5 pipe tunnel the dog’s trajectory of movement might not be to the correct entry of the tunnel. So it is left to the handler to be a bit of an engineer of the dog’s path, and sweeten that approach.

#7 through #9 isn’t a send to a tunnel at all, but a turn into a three-corner pinwheel that includes a tunnel discrimination.

#11 through #15 is a longer bit that features a wrong-course tunnel option. [The judge might in advance decide that this send is worth more than just 5 points.]

#17 to #18 features a send to the tunnel, but doesn’t really allow the handler to camp on the landing side of the last jump. [The judge might specify that this sequence gives no fault for stepping outside of the box, as the sequence is on the dismount of the course; but give the bonus 5 points if the handler stays inside the box.]


We’ve borrowed another course (slightly tweaked for the game) just to test the idea that you can take an existing course and “find the box”. The big leap we take is to move beyond the constraint that the Box Game is only and can only be a numbered Jumpers course. You have to admit that this course is considerably challenging.

It’s worth remembering that games at the Petit Prix are not necessarily about qualifying. The games are more invested in differentiating the field in terms of their levels of skill. And the test isn’t always which is the fastest dog.

The course design should be willing to think outside the Box and find some of the rich possibilities for distance work that the game ultimately affords.


Qualifying is typically based on what would be the routine QCT or SCT for a numbered sequence, building in some expectation for success in the performance of the agility team.

Keeping in mind that each successful distance challenge is typically worth 5 points; qualifying in a design of the game with three distance challenges might be:

  • GIII ~ QCT minus 10
  • GII ~ QCT minus 5
  • GI ~ QCT

Note that these qualifying criteria didn’t require perfection from GIII. But the GIII dog will certainly have to be a nifty competitor. For GI, a straight QCT is no giveaway. Remember that the dog is earning a 5 point fault every time the handler steps outside the box. So for GI the QCT merely seeks balance.

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