Sunday, December 21, 2008

General Rules for a Successful, Strategic Run

Each dog is different. When you get to choose your own course, it should be fun for the dog. Unless you are training something, avoid your dog’s weaker obstacles. Scout isn’t the speediest weaver, so if we don’t need to do them, we don’t.

  1. Highlight your dog’s assets. If your dog loves tunnels and contacts, select a course around that.
  2. Flow is key. Back-to-back obstacles can be demoralizing and actually slows the dog down. Wrap the dog around a jump before sending him up the A-Frame again.
  3. Run with your dog. If you’re not running, then why should your dog?

With an older dog, I do not recommend back-to-back obstacles. Ever. You risk injury to your dog with the sudden stop, 180 turn, and the need to accelerate again. This is the voice of experience.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


The first step in rehabilitation is to admit you have a problem.

Hello, my name is Jessica, and I am an agility addict.

Now that I have that squared away, you can attend my briefing.

Scout is my first agility dog. She is first and foremost a beloved house pet. I discovered agility on accident two years after I adopted her from the pound. Click for Scout's Story. Everyone kept telling me she’s a 16” dog. What does that mean? It means that if you are over 16” at the shoulder, you are jumping 22” in USDAA in the biggest height class. Scout is 17” at the shoulder and 20.5 pounds. If she is not the smallest dog in her class by height, she most certainly is by weight. Oh, and she’s not a border collie or Aussie or Sheltie. She’s an All-American Mutt.

I began trialing with Scout when she was at least five. Since her birth date is unknown, I felt it best to compete with her in the Performance Program. In some areas, the USDAA Performance Program is very small, but not in the Southwest. The Performance entries at trials rivals those in the Championship program. I had several people tell me that I would have to travel outside my region to get the SuperQs necessary for the APD (Performance equivalent to an ADCh).

The point being is that I was going to have an uphill battle getting the champion title on Scout.

I traveled to the Midwest (along with a family visit) and snagged two SuperQs. There were three open dogs in Performance. Cool! One more!

And it became discouraging… getting Qs and that’s it.

Then the miracle happened in January 2008, San Diego, California. A three or four red snooker with a 7 jump-tunnel-jump combo, and the 6 was an A-frame. A scratch in the 22” class meant that the open dogs were combined. Three 16” dogs did all four reds. I estimated that I could do two sixes and a seven and complete the closing. Scout bounced the last jump and the horn blew. Perfect timing. I paced. And waited for the 22” class to run. Scout was in fourth place. That’s encouraging. I paced some more. After the 22” score table tallied the 22” class, I realized that we earned the last SuperQ.

Not too bad for an 8-year-old dog I was told would never get it.

At a trial in March, we stumbled upon another SuperQ. I picked a flowing course. At a May trial, I picked a nice course, and had a ton of time left over. Not good! Scout and I could have had more points! My friends Linda and Leslie encouraged me to go for more points because I can. So that’s what I do since I finally figured out the game.

I have an up-and-coming dog, Bug. He’s another pound adoptee and competes in the 16” Championship class. I acquired him in April of 2007, and began training him in September of that year. He’s now a Snooker Master.

I have quite a few people ask me for Snooker courses, as if I am some sort of guru. I’m not. Once you figure out the game, it’s easier to play. And succeed.

This intent of this blog is to discuss strategy (following numbers isn’t strategy!) in agility games.

  • Timing Snooker for maximum points

  • Finding flow and time estimation in Gamblers

  • Flow and shortest distance in Snakes-and-Ladders

  • Determining assets and liabilities to maximize success