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Training Exercises: Gamblers Strategy and Practice

Learn Gamblers strategy and train distance work on this practice course. By Elizabeth Dott

This week's training exercise is all about Gamblers. Let's talk about different strategies and training ideas to help you become successful playing this fun game.

This is today's Gamblers course. 

There are multiple gambles (or distance challenges) on this practice course. The tunnel/A-frame/three jump challenge can be done two ways and is numbered accordingly. There is also a bonus gamble for an extra 7 points available. If the handler sends her dog behind the dogwalk but stays on the "course side" rather than going with the dog, that team gets an extra 7 points. 

Divide your Gamblers course in half.

Separate your opening section from your gamble while learning and training to play this game. Think about what your dog's strengths are. If your dog has a great dogwalk but slow weave poles, spend your time on what will achieve maximum points for you and your dog. For instance, if the weave poles are 7 points and the tunnels are 3 and your dog has a slow weave pole performance, sometimes it takes much less time to quickly do two back-to-back tunnels for 6 points and add in another jump that will earn you the same amount of points in far less time then slowly doing a set of weaves. Use what your dog does well to your advantage.

Know how many obstacles your dog is capable of doing in your allotted opening time.

Count up how many obstacles your dog can do in a 30-second opening, and do the same for a 25-second opening. An easy way to do this is have a friend time you to see how many obstacles you can effectively do in your given opening time. Once you understand how many you can do, try to put a plan together that will put you very close to what obstacle you wish to end on before the buzzer goes off. This makes all the difference in the world in doing the gamble effectively so you do not feel rushed or have to race from the other side of the ring to get your dog into the first gamble obstacle.

Pick something that flows.

This can be tough sometimes on a gamble course, but it can be done. The more the plan you create flows, the better time you will make in the opening sequence and you will achieve more points. Be sure to know exactly what obstacles you want to finish up your opening sequence on close to the time you think your buzzer will ring.  A big mistake people make (myself included) is they panic when they hear the buzzer and they will send their dogs into the gamble at a bad angle which makes the gamble harder to successfully complete. Be sure to line your dog up so he flows nicely into the gamble at the angle you want for maximum chance of achieving the end results you are looking for.

Know the judge's rules.

One cool thing about gamblers is judges can change up the rules a bit and get creative with the game. Be sure you listen to the briefing and know all the rules the judge has set forth. For example, does the judge allow back-to-back contacts and/or consecutive contacts, is there a special bonus send, or is the 7-point obstacle a combination of several obstacles?

Once your plan is in place, think about the gamble. 

In training, I like to focus on one section at a time. When I trial, I look at the gamble first to see what and where it is so I can build a plan around it.  

In this video, I use my young very green dog, Status. Because he is just learning gambles, I broke this down for him. I stayed close to him at first, rewarding for coming into me when I asked and for going out when I asked. Slowly, I worked my way out behind the line of tape. I worked one section at a time. There are two gambles so be sure to work each one in close to your dog and then slowly work away. 

In both gambles, I asked my dog to do a rather ugly line that actually twists away from me. With Status, I backchained this. I began at the A-frame and targeted my dog out to his toy after the first jump after the A-frame. When he understood how to do that, I put him on the end of the A-frame and targeted the next two jumps after the A-frame. When he understood that, I added my toy after the third jump and targeted my dog using all three jumps. After that, I put the whole gamble together.

Now give the whole thing a try.

Now that you have worked everything in parts, run the whole Gamblers course. Be sure to have a friend time you so you get a realistic picture on how this gamble would go at an actual trial. 

Create something new.

After you have done these two gambles, create a new one and begin again. Add new rules a new opening time, and different points for obstacles in the opening. Have a great time and be sure to share your progression with us. Happy gambling!

Need more Gamblers practice? Click here.

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: 

Elizabeth Dott owns Legendary Agility Training in Altamonte Springs, Florida. She has been competing with her dogs in agility for the past 21 years. She has put many championships on her dogs over the years and has competed at the regional and national level. She can be reached at


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