Games of the 2016 Petit Prix ~ Weakest Link

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The Weakest Link is a game invented by TDAA judge Tara Choate for a Teacup Dogs judging assignment. Tara is a member of Columbia Agility Team in Portland, Oregon.


The objective of The Weakest Link is to score as many points as possible in the allotted time. Only “banked” points will count toward the final score. Small dogs have 60 seconds and big dogs will have 55 second to accumulate the best score possible.

The point values are:

  • Jumps, 2 points
  • Tire or tunnels, 4 points
  • Contact obstacles, 6 points
  • Weave poles, 8 points
  • Gamble earns double the usual value of the obstacles. The gamble is bi-directional.

Start the round by directing the dog to any obstacle to earn points. Each obstacle taken by the dog must be worth as much as or more than the previous obstacle taken. The dog’s potential score will increase as each obstacle value is added to the overall total. But the dog can’t keep or count on these points until they are “banked”.

Points are banked (on the sample course below) when the dog performs the green colored pipe tunnel in the center of the course. Banked points are kept secure toward the final score and cannot be lost and the potential points score is set to zero. After banking the dog may begin with a low value obstacle.

Each sequence banked must be unique. There must be at least one difference from any sequence previously banked.

Back-to-back performance of obstacles (and the gamble) is permitted, but only back-to-back. A third performance shall constitute a fault.

If a dog faults, all potential points are lost. Faults include:

  • Dropped bars
  • Missed contacts
  • Taking an obstacle of a lesser value than the previous taken
  • Repeating a banked sequence
  • Taking an obstacle out of sequence in the gamble (only faulted if the cumulative sequence violates the points rule)
  • Failing to bank points before the final whistle

When a dog faults the judge will call “fault”. The handler is obligated to direct the dog to the first obstacle in a new sequence to earn potential points.

If a bar is dropped on a jump, that jump is out of play for the remainder of the game except when that jump is in the gamble sequence. Every attempt will be made to reset the bar on a gamble sequence; if it has not been reset, the dog must be directed between the standards of the jump.


Weakest link is scored points, then time. Time is a tiebreaker.

Course Design


There are a variety of games which can be easily nested with a standard course, and the course designer might be tempted to do the same with the Weakest Link course. But this lazy approach should be approached with some caution. It might be a better approach (no less lazy, but a lot smarter), to nest the standard course based on the set of the well-crafted Weakest Link course.

The overriding design challenge is to provide flow in such a way it might be a real trick of handling to perform obstacle of ever increasing values. The design shouldn’t be obvious or a give-away. However, no obstacle should be left orphaned by meaningless placement or unrealistic risk.

One of design challenges is to provide a reasonable approach to the “bank” from the high value obstacles, including the distance challenge or gamble. This is more difficult than it might appear. A high value obstacle that has too much low value clutter and risk will end up being ignored by most players and thereby actually reduces the size of the floor and the number of strategies that might develop.

Another consideration is to provide some flexibility and variability in the approach to the distance challenge. By rule, each banked sequence must be unique, differing in some way from any previously banked sequence. And so, if the distance challenge has only one real approach, then it will play a diminished role in the game.

Frankly, the game should be about the distance challenge. For those with the requisite skill the strategy should be a study in how many times and how many ways the gamble can be successfully scored and banked.

Judging Notes

You will note that the list of faults does not include a fault for stepping over the containment line of the gamble. This is very important for the judge to understand. For the purpose of point accumulation the gamble (in the sample course) is considered a single 24 point obstacle. If the handler steps over that line all of the obstacles revert to their simple values and the rules of escalating point values will apply.

So, in the sample course if the handler comes out of the tunnel and does one jump on the way to the gamble, and at any time steps over the line, the judge would award the simple value of each obstacle. If, however, the handler approaches the gamble from the A-frame and then steps over the line, the dog will immediately be faulted for doing the first jump, because it is an obstacle of lower value than the last taken.

Blog1159 TDAA

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Games of the Petit Prix: In & Out


At face value, In & Out is a simple follow-the-numbers game. The judge will measure the length of the course and establish a Qualifying Course Time (QCT) based on rates of travel respective to level and jump height. The dog is awarded a bonus of 1 point for every full second under the established QCT.

In & Out is scored Points, Then Time.

Design and Strategy

For a moment I’m going to indulge myself in a discussion of design for this game. In & Out is not an easy design.

IMHO, the In & Out course should feature two concentric rings of obstacles. For the sake of our conversation we have an In loop and an Out loop. The In and Out loop, then, would be a weaving together of the two concentric loops. The In loop should be in one direction; The Out loop should be in one direction; The In & Out loop should feature one or more changes of direction.

A real difficulty in the design of the course is finding smooth transitions between the two loops for the In & Out.


Each loop is worth a given number of points to be earned, based on a 1-3-5 schedule for performance of obstacles (jumps=1, round things=3; technical obstacles=5).

The rules stipulate that in a faulted loop the dog earns the value of obstacles up to fault, and then the dog must be directed to restart that same loop.

It’s possible that for strategic reasons, the handler might intentionally fault a loop, in order to repeat the performance of a higher value obstacle when restarting the loop. In the example course above, for example, the handler might begin the Out loop and then, on the dismount of the A‑frame, bring the dog back over the #6/11 jump for a wrong course, necessitating a restart of the Out loop. This strategy earns the dog an additional 8 points. The handler might commit this fault a couple times, calculating that he’ll earn more for the repeated obstacles than for the time bonus at the end of the course.

The handler might opt to continue the “faulted loop” strategy until the expiration of time. That would be an interesting gamble and calculation.

The judge’s design might cleverly and intentionally include such a bonus opportunity. Note that if the #13 obstacle had been a jump rather than a 3-pt pipe tunnel, the risk might be marginal, at best.

Note on Timekeeping

Fundamentally when time expires the dog can earn no new points. And so if the dog is still out on the field when time expires it is very important that the time-keeper or electronic equipment signal the expiration of time so that the judge will know to stop awarding points. Aside from the fact that the dog will earn no bonus points for stopping the clock under the QCT, there is no additional fault or down-side to time expiring.

Mind Like a Steel Trap

The judge might like to signal to the scribe the previously calculated value of each loop as the dog finishes. This approach might be very complicated as the dog could fault the second to last obstacle in any loop, thereby earning the value of every obstacle in the loop, save the last two obstacles. The canny judge, with a mind like a steel trap, could simply do the math for each loop, including faults. The only real alternative to this method is to bellow out the value of each obstacle as it is successfully performed.

There’s some call for the handler too, to have a mind like a steel trap. The handler should be completely aware of what obstacle constitutes the “gateway” to each of the three loops. And, on any fault, should direct the dog to that obstacle with all due haste. Note that the gateway obstacles are indicated on the sample course above.


Oct  13  , 2016  Petit Prix warm-up workshop  T16057
B&D Creekside Activity Center
Latrobe, PA
Presenter:  Bud Houston
Contact:  Marsha Houston at
At Petit Prix site, lots of crating space, food on site. Seven games strategy and lecture, run as actual trial with qualifying scores and titles possible.

Oct  14 – 15 – 16 , 2016  Eastern PETIT PRIX number T16999
B&D Creekside Activity Center
Latrobe, PA
Judge:  Brenda Gilday, Emil Pohodich
Contact:  Darlene Schmucker at
Indoors on field turf, lots of crating space, restaurant on site. Three standard, 7 games, tournament scoring (see <> blogs for tournament scoring rules, over 3 days.

Blog1153 TDAA

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston The web store is up and running. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.