This is a continuing series featuring the games of the TDAA’s Western Petit Prix in 2016. Today we’ll have a look at Twister, a mostly dog’s choice game that requires the handler to count, and make timely changes of direction.

Following is a sample course with the simple briefing. Following the briefing is a short discussion of strategy for this game.


Twister is a game invented by Ilse Rukis. The game has a modest element of strategy but will be, once underway, a test of extension and collection. John Finley of Columbus, Ohio will judge Twister at the Petit Prix. This game is scheduled for the morning of May 22nd. The sample course shown here is not the course designed by Mr. Finley for play at the Petit Prix.


Twister is a point accumulation game with multiple changes of direction on a circular course consisting of inner and outer tracks. The course is not numbered.

The game begins at the Start line and on the outer track. The handler may choose a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction or either side of the Start line to begin. After successfully completing five obstacles, the team must turn and take four obstacles going in the other direction on the inside track; then reverse back to the outside for five obstacles; and reverse back to the inside for four obstacles. This dizzy scamper continues until time ends.

A run with no dropped bars or wrong courses shall earn the dog a 50 point clean-run bonus.

4″ and 8″ dogs have 43 seconds; 12″ and 16″ dogs have 39 seconds. The judge shall count out loud the completed obstacles. Play continues until the horn sounds, whereupon the handler must direct the dog to the finish line.

Knocked bars are not reset and the jump is not counted as part of the outer or inner track required to be completed prior to a turn. Consequently the handler must continue in the correct direction until the required points are earned for that track.

A wrong course shall be defined as: a) taking an extra obstacle on the current track (going over the allowed count); b) taking any obstacle after a missed/skipped obstacle; or c) reversing direction to the alternate track before the scoring track is finished. On any wrong course the dog will lose the clean run bonus.

Refusals are not faulted on jumps or tunnels: The handler might skip the run-by obstacle; but the dog will lose the clean-run bonus.

On the time-keepers horn the handler must direct the dog to cross the Finish line.

Scoring and Qualification

Twister is scored points, then time. The team with the most points wins. Time is tie breaker. Points are earned in a doubling manner:

  • First 5-set of outer obstacles: 10 points
  • First 4-set of inner obstacles: 20 points (total 30 points)
  • Second 5-set of outer obstacles: 40 points (total 70 points)
  • Second 4-set of inner obstacles: 80 points (total 150 points)
  • and so for forth …To qualify a dog must earn a score respective to level:
  • Points are awarded for partial completion of a loop if the whistle blows before a loop is completed: 1 point for each obstacle in the partial loop.
  • Games III  150 points or better
  • Games II   120 points or better
  • Games I     70 points or better


The first thing you must do in Twister is choose the direction you will start your dog. You can go clockwise or counter-clockwise… and you can take the Start line in either direction.

Aside from the obvious requirement that you count obstacles as your dog performs them, this is largely a game of extension and collection. When in extension you want the dog opening up and running; when in collection you want the dog to shorten his stride and prepare to turn neatly. A lot of study and training and science is given over to extension and collection these days.

In the ideal world you will neatly do the consecutive five-on-the-outside and consecutive four-on-the-inside strategy until the horn or whistle sounds to end scoring. A qualifying score for Games III requires only 5-4-5-4. That performance without a wrong course or dropped bar scores 200 points plus whatever more your dog picks up before time expires.

The world is not always ideal. Be very clear about what any error or fault means to you:

  • Rule #1: Any fault will negate the 50 point clean-run bonus.
  • Rule #2: The count on the current track is never lost or restarted.
  • Rule #3: Once the clean-run bonus has been lost, it cannot be lost again.

Let’s look at what these rules mean in several scenarios:

  • Dog drops a bar ~ The jump does not add to count of your current track. Continue on! The clean-run bonus has been lost.
  • Dog reverses from one track to the other before the count was finished ~ This is a wrong course, the judge will not resume the count until your dog has returned to the correct track [and it frankly does not matter what obstacle you go to on the correct track.] The clean-run bonus has been lost.
  • Dog takes an obstacle more than his count on the current track ~ This is a wrong course. The judge will wait for your dog to switch to the alternate track to begin counting for that one. The clean-run bonus has been lost.
  • Dog runs past an obstacle and continues on ~ This is technically a wrong course. The missed obstacle isn’t counted; but the count continues with the next obstacle taken. The clean-run bonus has been lost.
  • Dog runs past an obstacle ~ Refusals are not faulted on jumps and tunnels in the TDAA. The handler should bring the dog around and complete the obstacle. No harm, no fault! But note rule #3, above. If you’ve already lost the clean-run bonus it might be smarter and more timely just to go on without correcting missed obstacles.

Please note that the judge will have a constant cadence, actually counting your obstacles for you as you go. So if you lose track… you might listen to what the judge is saying. However, don’t count on the judge to immediately reflect faults liked dropped bars. It’s more than possible that the judge could blurt out a number for a jump the instant before he realizes that the dog has dropped the bar on that jump. So you should be aware of whether your dog keeps up the bars, or not.

Note that in any game with a finite number of possible scores, time to the finish line might very well determine placements. When that time whistle blows you should direct your dog to the finish line with a real sense of urgency.

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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 part.