Welcoming New TDAA Judges

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Join me in congratulating to our recertifying judges and new judges after an intense TDAA Judges Clinic in Norman, Oklahoma, March 16-19, 2017.

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Cathy Jacobs ~ Floydada, TX (new)

Sara Brown ~ Norman, OK (new)

Lori Graham ~ Kerrville, TX (new)

Melissa Pugh ~ Chickasha, OK (new)

Carol Wyatt ~ McKinney, TX (new)

Deb Maicach ~ McKinney TX (new)

Debbie Vogel, Austin, TX (recert)

Emma Coombes ~ Georgetown, TX (new)

Regina Schmerfeld ~ Yukon, OK (recert)

Jeanette Bider ~ Norman, OK (new)

Kaye Kirk ~ Oklahoma City, OK (recert)

Lynn Foster ~ Temple, TX (recert)

William McGovern-Fagg ~ Norman, OK (new)

Lyn Johnson ~ Bartlesville, OK (recert)

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Carol Wyatt and her dog Deuce earned the TACh 2 at the trial in Norman. Presenting the TACh bar and ribbon for this accomplishment was newly certified (and barefoot) TDAA judge William McGovern-Fagg.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

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Designing for the Long Side

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I’ve been preparing for a TDAA Judges’ Clinic on Norman, OH next week. As homework the judge candidates are required to design a suite of standard courses and all the games to be played on the weekend. All of the clinic participants were invited to send their courses and games for advanced review. Several of them have done so.

Course design by novice judges can be a predictable exercise. Some things we learn only by the pain and agony of experience. Though I suppose I’m obligated to share a canny bit or two and spare as much pain and agony as possible.

An important constraint in designing for Canine Sports Academy is that the “front” of the ring is on the long side of the field. The location of the entry and exit gates is a bit of a mystery (and probably should not be). The consequence of the location of the front and the ambiguity of dictated entry & exit has led to a variety of course designs in fulfillment of the home work that has the dog starting the course in one corner of the ring, and finishing somewhere at the back.

My purpose in this discussion is to design a Superior Standard course for this space, partly to get a feeling for how difficult it might be, and partly (certainly) as a tutorial for the approaching clinic.

A Blank Slate

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This is the scariest moment in the life of a course designer… tabula rasa. From this blank slate I’m charged with creating something that is appropriate, first of all; but ultimately I want it to be fun, maybe even exciting.

I’ll tell you before I begin that I have little interest in my own course designs to put in a bunch of those ugly little “international” twists that has the handler micro-managing every movement of the dog. Design something that flows and causes both the dog and the handler to run. And if you need some ugly little bit to test whether the handler is awake, you can tweak it in later.

Designing with Scribbles

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I scribbled a random line on the course. My only guideline is that I wanted start and finish along the front of the ring… the long side of the ring. The obvious advantage is that the time-keeper should be able to get a nice “down-the-line” view of both the start & finish lines.

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My first observation of this scribbled line is that it has no fewer than seven crossing patterns (when the dog’s path crosses itself). That’s quite a riddle. The easiest obstacle for a crossing pattern is a jump. Though, to be sure, the dog’s path should be able to cross itself on the flat. You’ll often see crossing on the flat with box work.

At any rate, I decided to hard-code the crosses by setting jumps on several of the crosses.

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Fairly early on the course designer should set contact equipment with a mind for the judge able to get position to see the contact performances for each.

Ordinarily on a floor of this shape you would probably want the dogwalk to be on the long wall at the back. Unfortunately my “scribbles” didn’t show the dogwalk on the back wall… so I’ll tentatively set the dogwalk on a short wall.

The down contacts for both the dogwalk and the A-frame face into the spectators. The judge gets the peanut gallery second-guessing every contact performance. My advice: Be in position, and get the call right.

The tunnel under the A-frame solves another of the crossing patterns.

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Something is starting to take shape here. But I’m back to the riddle of the dogwalk. The problem with putting the dogwalk on the short end of the floor is designing a sequence that serves up the dogwalk safe and square. Following the lines of the “scribble” I set a pipe tunnel up in the corner with an exit that serves up an approach to the dogwalk nicely.

On the other side of the ring I’ve added obstacles to shape the approach to the tunnel under the A-frame. A significant challenge is shaping up in this design. The handler must negotiate the length of the floor from the dismount of the weave poles to the approach to the dogwalk. Setting the teeter on the approach to the pipe tunnel helps slow the dog and softens the mad race to the opposite side of the floor.

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I’m left only with filling in the gaps in the sequence. Adding a jump or two does the trick. The jump after the A-frame is now a “soft” back-side approach, leaving the handler plenty of room to handle it big and wide, or tight and neat.

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Finally, the course must be numbered. If the numbering happens to come out with more than 20 or less than 17 (as required for the Superior class) I’d have to make adjustment to the course. With a bit of dumb luck, this course numbered out at 20.

The table is optional in the TDAA. If I were forced to add a table it should be swapped with the obstacle at #7 or #12 or #14. I like the idea of #14 because it gives the handler time to get nervous about the big looping flourish of a finish to this course.

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A final detail in design is adding the course information in the border of the map. I like making the name of the class big & bold so that it jumps out for the agility players picking up their courses in the morning of the trial.

I expect I would also number the grid. If at all possible the designing judge should try to find out how the floor is already numbered so that the numbering of the map matches it. And, if the club uses the baseline course building method, then baseline course maps should be prepared for the master course builder.

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After throwing away the original “scribble” I used the path feature of Clean Run Course Designer to redraw the path by following the numbers. This was the result.

Credit

The whimsical line approach to course design isn’t new at all. This methodology was clearly documented more than 20 years ago in Stuart Mah’s Fundamentals of Course Design. I couldn’t find the book on the Clean Run webstore… but I did find it here: http://www.agilityclick.com/prod96.htm

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. 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.

Teacup National Agility Champions 2016

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The winners of each jump height in Petit Prix competition are accorded the TNAC title. This is a unique title in dog agility as it demands true championship. Each dog earns a weighted score over ten separate events. The winner of each jump height is the dog with the highest aggregate score. So the TNAC is certainly a measurement of consist high placement in each class.

We are pleased to present to you the four TNAC winners at the TDAA 2016 Petit Prix East:

4″ Division

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Presenting the winner of the 4″ Division ~ McCorkle, a Scottish Terrier handled by Melinda Mull.

8″ Division

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Presenting the winner of the 8″ Division, and high in trial at the 2016 TDAA Petit Prix ~ Nikki, a Jack Russell Terrier handled by Cindy Ponyah.

12″ Division

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Presenting the winner of the 12″ Division ~ Karoo, a Cavalier King Charles handled by Stephanie Stempfer.

16″ Division

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The winner of the 16″ Division was Skye, an Australian Shepherd handled by Vic Belebczuk.

Final Results

You can view the final results of the 2016 TDAA Petit Prix HERE.

Event Winners

We are proud to acknowledge the winners of each of the ten individual events at this Petit Prix competition. Winning one or more events certainly contributes to overall success in the Petit Prix, but is no guarantee of final placement. We would be remiss in overlooking these individual class champions.

Standard 1 ~ The first standard course of the tournament weekend was won by Nikki [8″ division], a Jack Russell Terrier handled by Cindy Ponyah. Nicki finished this course with zero faults in an adjusted time of 30.21 seconds.

Full House ~ This popular point accumulation game was won by Cosmo [12″ division], a Papillon handled by Sue Belebczuk. Cosmo finished with game with 61 points, in a time of 38.89 seconds.

Weakest Link ~ This game of strategy and distance skill was won by UNeeQ [8″ division], a Papillon handled by Cookie Nee. UNeeQ won with a score of 186 points, in a time of 64.20 seconds.

Standard 2 ~ The second standard course of the weekend was won by UNeeQ [8″ division], a Papillon handled by Cookie Nee. UNeeQ finished this course with zero faults in an adjusted time of 18.37 seconds.

Beat the Clock ~ This game of sequencing skill was won by UNeeQ [8″ division], a Papillon handled by Cookie Nee. UNeeQ finished the game with the cuckoo bonus, earning 13 points in a time of 37.65 seconds.

Gamblers ~ The winner of this traditional game of distance handling skill was Nikki [8″ division], a Jack Russell Terrier handled by Cindy Ponyah. Nikki finished the game with 81, and a successful gamble, in a time of 44.70 seconds.

Rekoons ~ This game of strategy and skill was won by Jasper [8″ division], a Chinese Crested handled by Susan Eienson. Jasper finished the game with 56 points in a time of 49.12 seconds.

Standard 3 ~ The final standard course of the weekend was won by Annabelle [8″ division], a Cavalier King Charles handled by Stephanie Stempfer. Annabelle finished the course with zero faults with an adjusted time of 26.81 seconds.

In & Out ~ This game of sequencing skill and strategy was won by McCorkle [4″ division], a Scottish Terrier handled by Melinda Mull. McCorkle earned 63 points in a time of 31.04 seconds.

Black Hole ~ The final game of the Petit Prix was won by McCorkle [4″ division], a Scottish Terrier handled by Melinda Mull. McCorkle blistered this wicked Black Hole challenge with zero faults in an adjusted time of 21.20 seconds.

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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 Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference for learning the rules and strategies of the games played by agility dogs and their handlers.

TDAA 2016 Petit Prix East ~ Saturday Results

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Standard 2Standard 2

The second day of the Petit Prix featured four events: Three games and a single Standard run. Below you will find a link to the results for each of these events, followed by the combined results which show the total points accumulated by each dog.

Gamblers

The top scoring dog in the Gamblers class was Nikki, a Jack Russell Terrier handled by Cindy Ponyah. Nikki scored 81 points in a time of 44.70 seconds!

Beat the Clock

The top scoring dog in the Beat the Clock class was UNeeQ, a Papillon handled by Cookie Nee. UNeeQ scored 13 points (with the cuckoo!) in 37.65 seconds!

Rekoons

The top scoring dog in the Rekoons class was Jasper, a Chinese Crested handled by Susan Eisenson. Jasper scored 56 points in 49.12 seconds!

Standard 3

The top scoring dog in the final Standard class of the 2016 Petit Prix was Annabelle, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel handled by Stephanie Stempfer. Annabelle finished this course with zero faults with an adjusted time of 26.81 seconds!

 

Tournament Current Results

 

Friday Results

On the first day of the Petit Prix featured four events: Two standard rounds and two games. Below you will find a link to the results for each of these events.

Standard 1

The first Standard class of the 2016 Petit Prix was won by Nikki, a Jack Russell Terrier handled by Cindy Ponyah. Nikki finished this course with zero faults in an adjusted time of 30.21 seconds!

Full House

The top scoring dog in the Full House class was Cosmo, a Papillon handled by Sue Belebczuk. Cosmo scored 61 points in a time of 38.89 seconds!

Standard 2 ~ fixed link!

The top scoring dog in the second Standard class of the 2016 Petit Prix was won by UNeeQ, a Papillon handled by Cookie Nee. UNeeq finished this course with zero faults in an adjusted time of 18.37 seconds!

The Weakest Link

The top scoring dog in The Weakest Link class was UNeeQ, a Papillon handled by Cookie Nee. UNeeQ scored 186 points in 64.20 seconds!

 

Tournament Friday Results

 

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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.

TDAA 2016 Petit Prix East ~ Day 1 Results

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On the first day of the Petit Prix we have run four events: Two standard rounds and two games. Below you will find a link to the results for each of these events, followed by the combined results which show the total points accumulated by each dog.

Standard 1

Full House

Standard 2

The Weakest Link

Tournament Current Results

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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.

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.

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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.

Games of the Petit Prix: In & Out

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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.

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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.

Calendar

Oct  13  , 2016  Petit Prix warm-up workshop  T16057
B&D Creekside Activity Center
Latrobe, PA
Presenter:  Bud Houston
Contact:  Marsha Houston at Houston.marsha@gmail.com
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 arcmasterdarlene@comcast.net
Indoors on field turf, lots of crating space, restaurant on site. Three standard, 7 games, tournament scoring (see <k9tdaa.com> blogs for tournament scoring rules, over 3 days.
Premium

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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.

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