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.


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.


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


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.

Power and Speed

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Some years ago, circa 1992 or so, I entered a USDAA trial out in Pomona, CA. On the premium was this game called “Power and Speed”. I had no idea what it was at all. In contemplation of my little 13″ Shetland Sheepdog—Winston the Wonder Dog—I thought well heck he’s not a powerful dog. The game sounded pretty darned intimidating. And so I did not enter him in the class.

At the trial I got to sit outside the ring rope and watch all of my friends play this game and have just a whole bunch of fun with it. And there was nothing intimidating and nothing beyond the realm of our developing skills. It was just plain old agility played under a set of rules measuring somewhere between odd and unique.

Since that day I have never avoided entering a games class.

Don’t you know I’m sympathetic to new players in the TDAA who don’t play games wherever else they got their start in the game. It’s just a game; it’s just agility. And, we’re going to be playful with it.

I’m moving the Strategy section to lead the discussion. Most interested parties already know the rules to the game. But, if you need a refresher, skip over Strategy to the Briefing.



The Power section is untimed and features mostly technical obstacles. It is unusual to find a hurdle in this section.

What I really want to emphasize here is the importance of the “untimed” attribute of the section. As Power and Speed is mostly offered as a warm-up game, this is a marvelous opportunity for the handler to reinforce the dog’s obstacle performance with some gusto and emphasis. A dog with a 2o2o contact performance can be left in the unambiguous position for a length of time with no degradation of the overall performance score. Indeed it allows and even encourages a bit of training in the ring (nudge-nudge/wink-wink).

Time actually begins at the Starting Line which is intermediate to the last obstacle in the Power section, and jump #1 in the Speed. Take special note of this advice. On this course the handler might actually position the dog in a straight line addressing jumps #1 and #2 and take a lead-out into the speed section… with no degradation of the overall performance score. On the course I’ve drawn above, if the handler attacks the #1 jump from the dismount of the dogwalk, he has surely introduced the wrong course option into the pipe tunnel after the first jump.

Odd and Unique

I sat down and designed this course just for this blog entry. I wanted something that would allow me to do make some important teaching points about the game Power and Speed. Please note that the game has evolved over the years. In the TDAA the game has some important differences from the game that used to be played in the USDAA. For example, in the old USDAA version of the game any fault earned in the Power section was an immediate “E” and dismissal from the field (you’ll understand that terminology after reading the briefing below). In the TDAA version we treat any fault in the Power section as a simple fault which is added to the overall score.

Power and Speed

Power and Speed, a British import game, is the Iron Dog competition of dog agility games. The game demonstrates the ability of the handler to exercise tight control (power) through a part of the course, then show loose control (speed) over another part of the course.


Each handler and dog runs a course that is split into two sections: Power and Speed.

Power – The Power section typically consists of technical obstacles; contacts, and weave poles. The Power section may also contain spread hurdles or other specialty hurdles.

The Power section is un-timed. Consequently the start-line is positioned between the last obstacle of the Power section and the first obstacle of the Speed section. If the time is getting close to the course time the timer is instructed to watch the dog. If the dog’s time exceeds the course time, the dog will still be allowed to continue on the Speed section, but there will be no score awarded.

Any faults earned by the dog will be added to the dog’s score. For example, if the dog misses a contact or earns a refusal on a contact obstacle, his score would be 5 for the Power section. Obviously, the ideal score for the Power section is 0.

Speed – The Speed section contains a straightforward Jumpers sequence. The goal is for the dog to run the course as fast as possible, preferably with no faults.


Scoring for Power and Speed is Time, Plus Faults: faults from the Power section plus time from the Speed section plus faults from the Speed section. The dog with the lowest score wins.

Power and Speed is judged under the performance rules respective to the venue, and level or class of the dog in competition.

Blog1010 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 Book of Agility Games, an invaluable reference to clubs engaged in league play.

Petit Prix 10 Event Winners

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We’d finally like to recognize the 10 Event Winners from the 2014 Petit Prix East tournament: 2014 Petit Prix 10 Event Winners

See you all next year!


2014 TDAA Petit Prix ~ Latrobe, Final Results

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Final Results after Round 10, Run ’til You Drop: 2014 Petit Prix Scoring FINAL

Run ‘til You Drop



The objective of Run ‘til You Drop is to accumulate as many points as possible, within the allotted time, and finish on the teeter before time expires.

Time starts when the dog crosses the start line. Time ends when the dog performs the teeter. If the teeter is performed before the horn sounds then the dog’s points are doubled.  The teeter must be the last obstacle performed.  There is no penalty for going over time other than the doubling bonus cannot be earned.

Big Dogs (12″ – 16″) have 30 seconds; Small Dogs (2″ – 8″) have 33 seconds.

  • Obstacle Point Values are:
    Jumps – 1 point;
  • Tunnels/Tire – 2 points;
  • Weaves and A-frame – 3 points;
  • Teeter – 0 points

All obstacles can be taken only twice successfully for points.  If a bar is dropped during the run, the jump is out of play.

The teeter is live at all times, and will count as the last obstacle if the dog commits to it with all four paws. Time stops when the teeter plank touches the ground.

Scoring and Qualification

Run Til You Drop is scored Points, Then Time.

A dog qualifies scoring a minimum of 28 pts.

Petit Prix Results through Round 9

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Almost done…here are the results through Round 9: 2014 Petit Prix Scoring Rnd 9

The round 9 course/game follows.

Pinball Wizard



The goal is to accumulate as many points as possible within course time: 50 seconds for 12/16; 55 seconds for 4/8.

The start obstacle is the dogwalk (either direction). After completing the start obstacle, the team will continue to accumulate points by performing obstacles of the handler’s choosing. Obstacles may be completed only twice for points. No obstacle may be taken back-to-back.

Obstacle values: Jumps 1 pt; tire, chute, weaves, and tunnel (other than a Bonus) 3 pts; Contacts 5 pts.

Once the start obstacle has been completed without fault the trigger obstacles become active. The designated jumps are the triggers. To earn the bonus (triple all points) the dog must take the trigger and perform the bonus obstacle. Both are bidirectional. The bonus may be earned three times during play.

To re-activate the triggers after completing the bonus, at least one point must be earned. At the whistle the dog should be directed to the table to stop time.

On any fault the triggers become dormant and can only be reactivated when the dog again completes the start obstacle.

Aside from routine performance faults, the dog will also be faulted for taking a bonus obstacle without taking the trigger; taking an obstacle between the trigger and the bonus (including back-jumping the trigger).

If a trigger bar is knocked, that trigger is out of play for the rest of the game. The remaining trigger may still be used.

Scoring and Qualification

The table is live throughout play. If the dog touches the table it is a tilt and play ends.

To qualify: 50 points for Games 1; 100 points for Games II; 150 points for Games III.

Petit Prix Results through Round 8

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The cumulative results through Round 8: 2014 Petit Prix Scoring Rnd 8


Lucky 13



The objective of Lucky 13 is to collect as many points as possible while correctly performing a total of 13 obstacles (no more and no less).

On the course map the number next to the obstacle is its’ value. An obstacle with a single number is bidirectional. An obstacle with numbers on either side may be taken in both directions for the numbered value. Each number can be performed only once.

Course time is 50 seconds for big dogs and 55 for small dogs. Time begins at the start line and finishes at the table. The table is live after the dog has scored 1 point.

Key points

Each bi-directional obstacle may be done once in each direction for points. Each directional obstacle correctly will count as one of the 13 obstacles.

Repeated obstacles will not count for the obstacle count or assigned points

A faulted obstacle is included in the count of 13 obstacles but will receive no points.

Scoring and Qualifying

Lucky 13 is scored points, less faults, then time.

  • Games 1 needs 102 points
  • Games II needs 128 points
  • Games III needs 154 points







The objective of Gamblers is for the dog and handler team to accumulate as many points as possible in the allotted time and then to perform a designated gamble.

Gamblers is a two-part game: the opening point-accumulation period and the gamble period. Time starts when the dog attempts the start jump in either direction.

12″ and 16″ dogs have 25 seconds in the opening and 16 seconds for the gamble.
4″ and 8″ dogs have 28 seconds in the opening and 18 seconds for the gamble.

Obstacle Values:

  • Jumps – 1 point;
  • Tunnel/Tire/Chute – 2 points;
  • Weaves, Teeter, A‑Frame – 3 points; Dog Walk – 5 points.
  • A successful gamble will earn 25 points.

Obstacles can be taken only twice for points.  Back-to-back performances are permitted.

If a gamble jump is taken during the opening point-accumulation period and the bar is dropped, this bar is not reset, and the gamble is negated.


Gamblers is scored Points, Then Time.


A dog must score a minimum of 13 points in the opening and successfully perform the gamble to qualify.




Petit Prix Results through round 6

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I previously posted results with mismatched results. This has been fixed. Trying again.

Here are the results for the first six rounds of the tournament, cumulative: 2014 Petit Prix Scoring Rnd 6


Time Warp



The objective of Time Warp is to run all of the obstacles in a numbered sequence as fast as possible without faults and turn back the clock by performing one or more Time Warp distance challenges.

Twenty-five seconds are taken off the final time for each Time warp distance challenge successfully completed with the handler behind the containment line. There is a possibility for a negative course time, hence the name of the game.

There are three distance challenge opportunities offered: 6 to 8; 13 to 15; and 17 to 19. If completed without fault the dog will earn a 25 second bonus for each.

If handler steps over the containment line, there is no additional fault other than dog has failed the Time Warp challenge distance and simply does not receive the bonus.


Time Warp is scored time, plus faults less bonus.

If handler steps over the containment line, there is no additional fault other than dog has failed the Time Warp challenge distance and simply does not receive the bonus.


A score equal to or less than the Qualifying Course Time (QCT) for each level will earn the dog a qualifying score.




Standard 3


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