Snooklers :: The Competitors Guide

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Earlier I presented the game of Snooklers, which we shall enjoy playing at the 2019 Petit Prix. The “audience” for the blog was judge and course designer, and not so much for the competitor. Today, I remedy that.

Pardon me if I just call this game Snooker today. It’s uncomfortable switching between the two names for essentially the same game.

The best Snooker players in the world are, arguably, from the U.K., Canada, and the United States. Snooker is intrinsic to championship titling in the USDAA. And indeed, the USDAA requires a Super Q, which is substantially a win at the game. So, the USDAA “Championship” is more than a time over money proposition, grinding away at the Q. Championship means winning.

We’ll begin with this premise: In Snooker 51 points is likely required to win the game. If you aren’t playing for 51 points, then you aren’t playing to win. In case it isn’t obvious, in a three-red Snooker format, 51 is the maximum number of points that can be earned.


On the sample course published earlier (Snooklers variation)… it is clear that to earn 51 points both dog and handler must own some mad skills.

What might be the strategy to earn three 7’s in the opening? As a competitor, would approach this game with the following logic.

We must first get the #4 red distance challenge. Surely the transition from this red to the #7 dogwalk is problematical; But if I don’t take it first then I will have both that problematic dismount, but also a problematic approach.


Beginning with the #4 red, I see two possible transitional paths to the #7 dogwalk.

The purple line is slightly shorter and it is a continuous flow. This path just about demand that the handler can out-run his dog… and that, after giving the dog a 12′ head start. At the top of the field the handler must pull the dog through, between jump and the back fence. And, the transition ends with an obstacle discrimination with the pipe tunnel craving the dog’s attention.

The blue line is slightly longer, and it features a hard-aback change of directions after the tire; and two distinct pull-through challenges, presenting plenty of options to the dog.

On With the Show


Having made the approach to the dogwalk on the blue path the handler needs to step over the containment line to the right as the dog makes his dismount. As the #3 red is bi-directional the handler has the option of either turning the dog away to the left (green line), or drawing the dog in to turn back into the other side of the tunnel (blue line). Personally, I like the blue line here because the transition back to the #7 dogwalk is considerably less cluttered and risky.


For the final red distance-challenge I would opt for the 2b to 2a send, as it is a nice straight line off the dogwalk. The handler should endeavor to set up for a Front Cross on the dismount to make this send.

The direction that the dog turns after jump 2a is an inscrutable coin flip. The natural turning direction would be to the left (purple line); turning back towards the handler, to the right, would be ideal (green line). What the handler needs to remember here is to run the dog, and not the plan. Whichever direction the dog turns should have a programmed response. And do remember that the containment lines don’t mean anything after the dog has jumped the jump.


The final calculus is the approach to the #2 jump in the closing sequence. If I had my druthers I’d make the approach from the back-side, as wrapping the dog might be a bit messy. Be mindful that the dog might take it straight on. But, once again don’t run the plan, run the dog and have a prepared response.

Gambling on Flow


I’ve drawn here a simple 49 point strategy for the game.

I once won a USDAA Super Q with my old boy Bogie (gone a dozen years now <sigh>) on a flow strategy. There were a lot of heavy-hitter Border Collies playing in the 24″ division against my 16½” Sheltie that day. I opted for a flow strategy that won the day, while they all crashed and burned on a greedy 51 point strategy.

It’s a gamble. Do you feel lucky?



Questions comments & impassioned speesches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.

Snooklers :: Games of the 2019 Petit Prix

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Designing a Snooklers course can be a challenge to the course designer. A Snooker course is bad enough. But in Snooklers rather than using red hurdles the designer will use distance challenge: [ergo Snooker/Gamblers, or Snooklers.]

These distance challenges should be modest in nature. A tough distance challenge might skunk half the class in USDAA’s Gamblers or in the AKC’s FAST class… and so we should NOT have three distance challenges, each of which invite the proverbial skunk.

I’ll share with you a sample design for this class. I’m assuming TDAA equipment and spacing, on a field that measures 60′ by 70′.


What strikes me immediately about this class is that the designer and judge must explain the distance challenges in the written briefing. Clarity should not be left to the verbal briefing. I will attempt to describe the three distance challenges in this sample course:

  • Red #1/2 ~ This gamble consists of two jumps only. From the front of the ring it can be taken as 1a to 1b or as 2a to 2b.

    While this distance challenge was originally designed to be taken from the front of the ring only, I decided that design would constrain the number of possible solutions to the game. So, I added a line at the back, making this distance challenge bi-directional. From the back, the distance challenge can be taken 1b to 1a or from 2b to 2a.

  • Red #3 ~ Send the dog into the pipe tunnel from behind one of the surrounding containment lines. #3 is bi-directional.

    While the handler must be behind the containment line, the dog is not required to originate from behind that line. For example, the dog might make the approach to the tunnel from the dogwalk.  If the handler can turn the dog from the dogwalk and into the tunnel—while the handler is on the other side of a containment line—then the dog can turn neat into the tunnel and satisfy the distance challenge.

  • Red #4 ~ Send the dog from jump to tire from behind the line. This distance challenge is also bi-directional; and from the opposite direction the challenge is from tire to jump while the handler remains behind the containment line.

Other performance issues should be addressed in the briefing. For example, on this course the judge might stipulate:

  • All obstacles are bi-directional in the opening excepting #6, a combination obstacle, which must be taken as numbered.
  • All obstacles must be taken as numbered in the closing excepting #2, which is bi-directional.

The Briefing

Modeled after Snooker the written briefing for Snooklers is likely to run a couple pages of dense prose that promises to numb the mind. While there are a lot of Snooker players in the world that only need a couple lines of explanation, the novice Snooker/Snooklers player might very well need the dense text.

Rather than sharing with you the mind-numbing intro to the game, I will show my old “Candy Store” briefing (adapted for this variation of the game):

Candy Store Coupon (Snooklers) Briefing

You’ve been given three coupons for free candy at a chain-store. Only one coupon can be redeemed at any store. Being a clever devil, you decide to visit a different store to redeem each coupon. The three red distance challenges on the course allow you to present the coupons for candy.

If your dog cleanly performs the distance challenge, that means the cashier accepted your coupon. You get to redeem the coupon! There are six different candies in the store, each having a different value, from 2 points to 7 points. You can get any one you want (even the same candy for each different coupon!) You are entitled only to one box of candy only. If you get more than one, they’ll call the police on you. Your game will be over (and you head to the exit).

If your dog faults the distance challenge, that means the clerk tore up your coupon, and you need to go to a different store. If you go out and get a box of candy anyway, they’ll call the police on you. Your game will be over (and you head to the exit).

After redeeming, or attempting to redeem all three coupons, you decide you love the candies and so you will go into the store and buy them all! You’ll pick them up in order, starting with #2 and finishing with #7. If in your haste you break one of the candies (fault an obstacle) your game will be over at that point (and you head to the exit).

Setting the Qualifying Course Time

As a general rule of thumb a little extra time should be accorded for each technical obstacle. The same rule might be applied an any distance challenge. This Snookler’s course will require a longish QCT. The course designer/judge might measure a modest strategy and base course time on that estimation.

For this game, consider something like this:

  • GI small 75 sec ~ tall 70 sec
  • GII small 70 sec ~ tall 65 sec
  • GIII small 65 sec ~ tall 60 sec

Of course, at the Petit Prix we’ll use the bottom line only as all games and courses are judged using Superior rules for performance and rates of travel.

Qualifying, however, might be more generous to the lower levels than the requirements typically used for Snooker, mostly because of the distance challenges. Consider a schedule like this:

  • GI 31 points
  • GII 34 points
  • GIII 37 points

Notes for  the judge

Anything that can happen will happen. It is a wicked burden on the designer to anticipate every situation that arises.

After writing this, it occurs to me that in the verbal briefing at the front of the class somebody is going to ask if they are allowed to call through the distance challenge. Picture the handler taking a long lead-out in order to solve the #4 red. The handler never steps between the containment lines, after all.

The judge’s answer in the verbal briefing becomes codified, superseding the written briefing. And you can just about bet about a third of the competitors did not hear it. This information needs to be in the written briefing.

You might also consider answering this question in the written briefing: At what point on the #3 red can the handler step over the containment line? The answer might be “when the dog is all in the tunnel”. Or, it might be “when the dog has completely exited the tunnel.” Make a choice and put it in writing.

Do you have questions not addressed here? Please share. Inquiring minds want to know.

Designing Snooklers ~ A Found Poem

One of the biggest errors course designers make with games like this is failing to nest the game with courses that run before or after. Un-nested courses tend to add 30 minutes to an hour to the length of the competition day.

A better approach: study the adjoining standard course or game and “find” the game, with minimal equipment movement. This requires some mental gymnastics. But it’s better for the course designer to sweat and fret for an hour than to demand that all the exhibitors endure the long wait between courses that aren’t adequately nested.


The sample Snooklers course I’ve used here is based very literally on this sample TDAA Standard course:

The course designer should resist the temptation to remove the contact obstacles to find the Snooklers or Snooker course. Hauling contact equipment in and out of the ring by definition is a time-consuming and tedious chore.

On this course we removed the weave poles, a couple jumps, and all the number cones… making the transition between classes something on the order of five minutes.



Questions comments & impassioned speesches to Bud Houston Visit our web store: You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.