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.

Briefing

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.

Scoring

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

Course Design

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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 Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Weakest Link ~ Games of the Petit Prix

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This is the final post in our series featuring the games of the TDAA’s Western Petit Prix in 2016. We’ll have a look at the Weakest Link. This is a dog’s choice game that requires the dog to save or “bank” earn points, or lose them on any fault! This is a dog’s choice point accumulation game features a valuable (but optional) distance challenge.

Following is a sample course with the simple briefing. After the briefing I will provide a short discussion of strategy.

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The Weakest Link is a game invented by Tara Choate. This is a game of point accumulation and strategy. Trisha Stall, from New Lebanon, New York will judge the Weakest Link at the Petit Prix. This game is scheduled for the morning of May 22nd in Castle Rock, Colorado. The sample course shown here is not the course designed by Ms. Stall for play at the Petit Prix.

Briefing

The Weakest Link is a point accumulation game. The object of the game is to score as many points as possible in the allotted time. Only “banked” points will count toward the final score. Points are banked when the dog performs a tire. There are two tires on the field!

Each obstacle taken by the dog must be worth as much as or more than the previous obstacle taken. To keep points earned, they must be “banked” by the dog going through the tire. There are two tires on the field! After points have been banked a new sequence of points-gathering begins. Each sequence banked must be unique, which means there must be at least one difference from any sequence previously banked.

Back-to-back performance of obstacles is permitted, but only back-to-back. A third performance shall constitute a fault.

Unbanked points are considered “potential” points. If a dog commits a fault, all potential points are lost. Faults include dropped bars, missed contacts, taking an obstacle of lesser value than the previous one, failing to bank points before the final whistle. Weaves just must be completed for points, but once started, if not completed before going on it will be called a fault. When a dog faults the judge will call “fault”. The handler then must 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.

This course features a gamble that earns the dog significant bonus points. The numbered sequence (jump, weave poles, tunnel) is worth 28 points.

The gamble must be taken in the order and direction shown, with the handler behind the gamble line. If the dog knocks a bar, or misses a weave pole, or goes off course in the middle of the gamble – the judge will call “fault”. If the handler steps over the containment line the dog is faulted only if the order of performance breaks the weakest link point value rules.

Points values of obstacles:

  • jumps – 2 points
  • tire, tunnels – 4 points
  • contact obstacles – 6 points
  • weave poles – 8 points

12″ and 16″ dogs have 50 seconds; 4″ and 8″ dogs have 55 seconds to accumulate points. When time is up the horn will sound and the dog must cross the finish line to stop the clock.

Scoring and Qualification

The Weakest Link is scored Points, Then Time. Time is a tiebreaker only.

To qualify:

  • Games I – 30 points
  • Games II – 40 points
  • Games III – 50 points

Strategy

The Weakest Link is loosely based on an old television program in which contestants had to answer questions while they accumulated a load of “potential” money. If they missed a question a slightly rude English lady would proclaim “You ARE the weakest link! Good bye!”

In this game, like in the television program, all points earned by the dog are “potential”, until they are banked. And once banked, they cannot be taken from the dog. The only real restriction as to order and direction is that each obstacle performed must be worth as much as or more than the last one taken.

If your dog earns a fault keep your composure! The next obstacle that the dog takes will be the first obstacle in the accumulation of potential points.

The distance challenge or “gamble” gives a bonus that amounts to double (or more) the normal value of the obstacles in it. On this course the “bank” has a clear and easy approach from the last obstacle in the gamble. So, if a dog has nice distance skills the distance challenge is the key to a solid scoring strategy.

The only real restriction in the performance of the gamble is that each sequence must be unique. The savvy handler should plot a variety of preamble sequences that change the overall sequence. The gamble should be considered like a single obstacle which has the highest point value on the floor. Consequently, it must always be the last one taken.

Note that stepping over the containment line isn’t automatically a fault, unless the scoring of obstacles violates the as-much-as-or-more-than rule. Well, if you make the approach to the gamble from a higher value obstacle (like the teeter, in the sample course)… then automatically the judge will have to call “Fault” if the handler steps over the line.

The real question about banking is how often the dog should be directed to go there. The tire has no actual value of its own, and will use up a bit of time to direct the dog through it. Do you run to the bank every time you earn a nickel? Or, do you risk lugging around a big bag of coins (points)… the risk being that any fault will lose the entire bag.

Remember that unbanked points are lost when time expires. It is better to do the longer sequences first, and then finish with shorter sequences in anticipation of the expiration of time. It is better to be caught short of finishing a three obstacle sequence than it is to be caught short on a fifteen obstacle sequence.

Be aware of the proximity of the bank any time you direct the dog to a high value obstacle. It’s possible to trap yourself well away from a tire with no reasonable approach. In the sample course, for example, if you take the A-frame from the back of the field to the front… you are slightly stuck (though it might be very possible to turn the dog around on the dismount and head for the teeter to save the points). Also, since the judge has allowed back-to-back performances, the handler might just turn the dog around and take the A-frame in the opposite direction.

As in any point accumulation game, you should find nice logical flow for the dog so that you can move smoothly with your dog and rack up points at the dog’s best working speed.

Blog1129 TDAA

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.