The TDAA’s Western Petit Prix in Castle Rock, Colorado features seven games and three standard runs.

Today we’ll focus on Gamblers, a dog’s choice point accumulation game that finishes with a distance challenge that earns the dog bonus points. Gamblers is a fundamental and traditional agility game in America. The requirement to direct a dog at a distance informs our training.

Below is a sample course with the simple briefing. Following the briefing is a short discussion of strategy.


Trisha Stall, from New Lebanon, New York will judge Gamblers at the Petit Prix. Gamblers is scheduled for the afternoon of May 20th at the Douglas County Fairgrounds in Castle Rock, Colorado. The sample course shown here is not the course designed by Ms. Stall for play at the Petit Prix.


Gamblers is a point accumulation game with a distance challenge. The objective is to accumulate as many points as possible in the opening period, then to perform a designated distance gamble within the specified closing time.

In the opening point-accumulation period, teams accumulate points by performing obstacles up to twice for points. Back-to-back performance of any obstacle is allowed. If an obstacle is faulted the team can still attempt it twice for points. Jump bars are not reset if dropped, and that jump is dead for the rest of the run.

In the closing, the dog must do the numbered gamblers sequence while the handler stays behind the containment line. The dog may re-cross the line, but the handler must stay behind it. The dog must complete the obstacles, without fault, before time runs out to get credit for the gamble.

The gamble is worth 20 points.

Special Notes about the Gamble:

Any fault during performance of the gamble will negate the gamble bonus.

Performing two different gamble obstacles one after another in the opening will negate the gamble bonus.

Unproductive loitering near the start of the gamble before point accumulation time has expired will negate the gamble bonus.

Dropping a bar on a gamble jump during the opening will negate the gamble bonus.


12″ & 16″ dogs = 30 seconds opening, 12 seconds closing

4″ & 8″ dogs = 33 seconds opening, 14 seconds closing

Obstacle values, opening period:

  • jumps – 1 point
  • tire, tunnels – 3 points
  • Aframe, teeter, weaves – 5 points
  • Dogwalk – 7 points
  • Mini-gamble, 2 jumps performed, A-B circles or squares (as marked) while handler stays behind line – 10 points. If done any other way or not behind line, each jump is worth 1 point. Each jump can only be done twice for points, either as gamble or individual obstacles.

All obstacles, including the mini-gamble, can be taken twice for points in the opening period. Weaves can be corrected for credit.

Scoring and Qualification

Gamblers is scored Points, Then Time. The dog with the most point’s wins. Time is the tie breaker.

To qualify:

  • Games III – needs 23 points in opening plus gamble
  • Games II – needs 21 points in opening plus gamble
  • Games I – needs 19 points in opening plus gamble


Remember that Gamblers is scored Points, Then Time. The dog will either earn the Gamble bonus… or he won’t. While the gamble is required to “qualify”… it isn’t necessarily required to earn a respectable placement score. So the handler should consider a strategy that racks up as many points as possible in the opening point accumulation period.

Because of the “loitering” rule, the handler should save the performance of several obstacles near the start of the gamble for the very end of the point accumulation strategy. When the horn sounds ending point accumulation the dog should be near the start of the gamble, and the handler have enough time to make the approach without haste or panic.

Note that if you’ve used up the “loitering” obstacles near to the start of the gamble, you can do the first jump of the gamble to score points and continue to loiter. Be careful though, because if you drop the bar you’ve negated the gamble bonus.

Our judge has put on the course a “mini gamble” that earns the dog a generous game-changing bonus equal to the end-game Gamble bonus. There is no penalty for trying. Make the attempt on the mini gamble before time expires in the point accumulation period. Get it done early.

There’s a lot to be said for finding a flowing path for your dog during point accumulation. Stay away from obstacles with which your dog has issues. Find opportunities to do back-to-back performances of high value obstacles… a back-to-back, if done neatly, can take a lot of real estate out of the transitional distance between earned points.

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