I like strategy games. They allow handlers to devise a strategy that plays to the strengths of the team. That is, unless the dog decides on a different strategy, hence the moniker of a dog's choice game. However, let's just consider the planned strategy with the expected execution of that strategy.
For the April 2023 courses, we played a old TDAA game called Heinz 57. The game is the creation of Bud and Marsha Houston, the founders of TDAA and the IDAL. They decided they wanted to create a silly game and came up with the name Heinz 57; maybe the name is the result of mixed breed dogs being called Heinz 57's, in reference to the famous 57 varieties slogan of the H. J. Heinz company. The story of how 57 varieties came about is more boring than one might think.
Anyway, back to Bud and Marsha... Now that they had a name, they needed to come up with rules to play the game. As with most point accumulation games, the rules involve math. Sigh! Most of us shudder to think of the math especially if our dog makes an unexpected choice, and we have to think on the fly.
The rules are pretty simple. Get 57 points as fast as you can. Obstacles can only be taken twice and not back-to-back. Jumps are 1 point, tunnels are worth 2 points, and contacts and weaves are worth 3 points. Faulted obstacles earn 0 points. Now, that seems like pretty low points to get to 57, but the tire is a special obstacle. The tire doubles all of the points collected up to that point. Now things are more interesting. Fifty-seven is an odd number, and the tire doubles your points. most folks figure out that you need to get an odd numbered obstacle on the way to stop time after your second double.
Below are two strategies used in the April competition. Liz Clements and Gus finished their run with 57 points in 23.89 seconds. Shana Goodwin and Jasper completed their run with 57 points in 22.69 seconds. Let's look at the paths.
The first strategy, red, appears to be shorter with an approximate distance of 292 feet. The second path, blue, is longer at approximately 351 feet. When you look closer, the shorter path involves a couple of tighter wraps and takes the weaves twice. The sharper turns inherently cause the dog to decelerate. The longer path allows the dog to run almost entirely in extension. The dog does the weaves once and the teeter once. It would be interesting to see both dogs run the other path for comparison. Shana ran the blue path, and Liz did the red path. Which path is the better one?
Neither. They are equally viable. The best path is the one that works for YOUR team. The only way you can know this is by trying different handling approaches to the same sequence. Don't be too nervous to try out some of those complicated moves you see others doing. Record your training and review those videos. Trying out different approaches will also increase your team's flexibility when you see an interesting sequence in a trial. Every now and then, you will come across something that doesn't quite fit your typical handling style. I highly recommend this to my own students. I hope you enjoyed the post. Look at the following links to see the handlers running the course.