This is a continuing series featuring the games of the TDAA’s Western Petit Prix in 2016. Today we’ll have a look at Wild West Pinball. This game is about scoring points and choosing an efficient path for the dog.

Following is a sample course with the simple briefing. After the briefing we’ll study the possible strategies for such a game.


Wild West Pinball is a game invented by Ilse Rukis. This is a game of point accumulation and strategy. Trisha Stall, from New Lebanon, New York will judge Wild West Pinball at the Petit Prix. The game is scheduled for the afternoon of May 21st 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.


The objective of Wild West Pinball is to accumulate as many points in possible in the time allotted. This is a dog’s choice game. Obstacles may be taken in the order and direction of the handler’s choosing.

The objective of Wild West Pinball is to accumulate as many points in possible in the time allotted. This is a dog’s choice game. Obstacles may be taken in the order and direction of the handler’s choosing.

Time begins when the dog takes the Tire/Slingshot (0 points):

  • 45 seconds for 12″ &16″ dogs;
  • 50 seconds for 4″ & 8″ dogs.

A horn will blow when time expires. The clock continues to run until the dog puts at least one paw on the table. The table is always live (TILT!).

Point Values

  • Gold Bone Tunnel (Chute) – 100 points
  • Silverton Mining Tunnels – 150 points. Must be taken in order and direction shown
  • Cowdog Cliff Hanger (Teeter) – 150 points. Must approach from between the 2 C-shaped tunnels (without taking either tunnel). The dog may not earn points on the Cowdog Cliff Hanger immediately after taking the Silverton Mining Tunnels.
  • Brekenridge Ski Slalom (Weave Poles) – 150 points. Can be taken in either direction.
  • Pikes Peak Trail – 100 points. Must be taken in order and direction shown.
  • Millenium Bridge – 200 points. Can be taken either 1a to 2b, or 2a to 2b.
  • Golden Nuggets (unnumbered jumps) – 10 points each, bi-directional
  • Slingshot (Tire) – 0 points

Faults: 10 points for knocked bars, missed contacts. Doing sequences incorrectly is not faulted; it’s just wasting time. Knocked bars are not reset, and are out of play for the rest of the run. Popping out of the weaves is not faulted, but credit will only be given if they are restarted and completed.

Obstacles and sequences may be taken only twice for points. Back-to-back performances are permitted. Bonus obstacles and sequences that are faulted will result in no points for that attempt. Weaves must be completed without fault. There will be no partial credit given for incomplete sequences. Unnumbered jumps (golden nuggets) may be taken as many times as desired.

Scoring and Qualification

Wild West Pinball is scored Points, Then Time. The most points wins. Time is tie breaker. To Qualify:

  • Games I – 400 points
  • Games II – 500 points
  • Games III – 600 points


This game will be played on Saturday afternoon. Some competitors will get caught looking past Wild West Pinball, because the game is fanciful and silly looking. It would be a very good idea to take serious stock of this game.

The handler’s obligation is to devise an efficient path to score the most possible points in the time allowed by the judge. For the purpose of the Petit Prix the handler shouldn’t be overly transfixed by the 600 points required for a Games III qualifying score. Almost certainly the top scores will be 1000 points or more.

If your strategy ever features more than a couple of obstacles that don’t score bonus points, then the strategy is probably flawed.

Find a path that flows and allows the dog to move at top speed. A course that is complicated by fussy micro-management can’t do anything but slow the dog down.

The interesting bit in this course is the approach to the Cowdog Cliff Hanger which is worth 150 points for a simple performance of the teeter. The cliff hanger bonus can only be earned by passing between the pipe tunnels (called the Silverton Mining Tunnels) without taking either. If the handler is trying to make the approach to the cliff hanger and the dog takes one of the tunnels, then the handler might as well stay in and score the points for the Silverton tunnels. But then, in order to make the cliff hanger eligible for points again, the handler will have to take the dog out of the area of the tunnels (perhaps doing the jump on the side away from the teeter) before making the attempt again.

The high value bonus sequence on this course is the Millenium Bridge, valued at 200 points. The obstacles that make up the Bridge are slightly different in two different directions. It might be a good idea to earn these points early in the run. Though it’s worth remembering that the dogwalk can be a time consuming obstacle and missing a contact will put a dent in the dog’s score (no bonus, plus 10 faults).

Please note that the table is live at all times (Tilt!). It’s a very good idea to keep the dog well away from the table until the time whistle blows. There’s not much down-side to going overtime, as time is a tie-breaker only.

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