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Team USA

By competitor Ellen Levy Finch

Team Gamblers courses typically consist of a normal opening period followed by a closing period during which points are doubled or which vanish completely if you fail to stop the clock in time. This year's team gamble followed this pattern.  In addition, to make higher points more of a challenge, competitors were prohibited from including any contacts or weaves in a direct sequence (like weave-dogwalk or teeter-A-frame) although back-to-back obstacles (like weave-weave) remained legal.

The course layout with the weaves worth seven points made the weave-teeter loop popular with dogs starting on the left-most jump, to the weaves, to the jump by the dogwalk, to the teeter.  Dogs often repeated all or part of that loop before heading across the field either from the teeter via jumps or from the weaves via the jump/dogwalk to the A-frame-tunnel combination, were one could pick up a quick 16 points with reliable A-frame contacts.

A 30-second opening often keeps the points down but an abundance of closely-spaced and flowing obstacles worth more than one point still allowed fast dogs to accrue plenty of opening points.  Small, fast dogs with more time could easily fit three additional higher-point obstacles, which is why it can be an advantage to have an all-small-dog team.

The closing period was only 12 seconds for big championship dogs (and progressively more for smaller and performance dogs), but some fast dogs with excellent timing and contacts able to successfully complete A-frame-A-frame-tunnel-tire-jump-and-out for 34 points.  If a dog was avoiding the A-frame because of contacts, he could easily do back-to-back tunnels under the dogwalk, chute, tire, jump, and out for 26 points.  But many dogs pushed their limits trying to get in one more obstacle and got caught by the whistle a jump or two before the end.

It was a fun couse to run because, no matter what a handler did, it flowed well.  Handlers felt as though they were accruing lots of points.

Ellen Levy Finch runs an agility blog at and can be reached at


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