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Training Exercises: Gamble O'Rama

Practice your distance work! By Deborah Davidson-Harpur

This week I set up a course with lots of mini-gambles. As a warm-up, I designated a gamble area and told them to do three different tunnels any way they wanted. I had them repeat it later doing the three tunnels in a different order.

Then we headed over to gamble one, which was jump, teeter, jump, tunnel. The goal is to stay on the outside of the dogwalk, however, for newer students, I moved the line and they were allowed to handle from between the dogwalk and weaves. If a dog needed help, we moved in as necessary and, on some, baited the teeter. 

The second mini-gamble was jump, weave, tunnel, handled from the right of the gamble line.

We then moved over and did mini-gamble three, which was jump, jump, dogwalk. For novice students, if a motivator of some kind was needed, we placed it past the second jump (tossing a ball, using a target plate, and so on). Then the handler called the dogwalk. 

Mini-gamble four was next, which used the same two jumps we just did but with the tunnel instead of the dogwalk. Body positioning was very important. For more advanced students, we added the weaves after the tunnel. 

Then it was course time. I had the courses numbered with red and green cones and simply asked "Red or green?" and we did whichever color the class chose. In my class, course one was green and course two was red. If you are observant, you'll notice it's the exact same course reversed. Handlers had the option to incorporate some of the mini-gambles they had practiced. Some did, some didn't, but all had fun!

In course one, it was smooth sailing for most teams until they got past the first weaves into the tunnel and then needed to turn the dog to the right and immediately to the left. For some dogs, a rear cross (crossing behind the dog) followed by another rear cross worked, running the line on the backside of the tunnel. With others, a front cross (crossing in front of the dog, turning into the dog in the process) between the two jumps and running the backside of the tunnel worked best. It is possible to run the front side of that tunnel, but I was erring on the side of caution in my training yard and wanted to avoid collisions and entanglement of dogs and humans so I asked them not to run that side. To the experienced handlers out there in USDAA land - go for it! After that, all students thought it was smooth sailing. After the teeter jump, when you send your dog into the tunnel and then call him back on to the dogwalk, I encouraged them to try to hang out mid-dogwalk, saving the handler a good 10' or more of running. Many chose to do so and then did a front cross at the end of the board while the dog was still mid-dogwalk. Of course, there are many options. I encourage you to try as many different ways to handle the same course as you can think of and then determine which is best for your dog. Don't just assume you know which is best. Time it. Look at the lines your dog is running, which is best for the dog, which is best for you, but most importantly, which is best for both of you overall?

I'll leave you to figure out course number two. There are many ways to number this course and if you feel like being all fancy and "Euro" go for it and put the numbers on the backsides of some jumps. Happy training!

This article is part of USDAA's Training Tuesday series that is appearing on USDAA's facebook page. We encourage you to discuss this course on our facebook and to upload videos of you and your dog trying out one of the segments or the whole course. If you have a facebook account, please join in the fun here: 

Deborah Davidson Harpur has been competing in agility since 1999 and is known as a handler of a wide variety of breeds of all shapes and sizes. She offers agility training classes in the Port of Los Angeles area for both recreational and competitive agility students. You can find her on facebook at or read about her dogs at


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