Judge’s Perspective: Championship Course Design Part 1

OneMind Dogs Coach and high level agility judge Nic Jones breaks down the courses she designed for the 2018 Derbyshire Championship Show - check out her technical analysis of the Agility course.

Derbyshire Championship Show 2018 was my 3rd Championship appointment and I was more nervous about this one than the previous two as Derbyshire Dog Agility Club is also ‘my’ club and I’ve been a member since 1999. This was also my first indoor championship class and that brought its own challenges for course design although due to excellent show planning, the club had made fantastic use of the limited space that being indoors entails.

128 entrants braved the relative cold but I hope they all felt their efforts were worthwhile and they relished the challenges I set. In course design I include obstacle skills that I believe championship dogs should have, I include handling challenges and options as I feel championship handlers should be able to make appropriate choices and be able to execute them and I set those for the entirety of the course. I have previously made too many sections that merely require running with connection. I hope to now set smooth, fast lines but the handler has to set each and every one of those lines. I do not look for any particular technique or system, it is always my aim to build a course that a well trained dog can negotiate but that a well handled dog will win.

To qualify to enter a championship class, the dog must be at Grade 7 (lots and lots of wins needed!). They must then place in the top 20 overall after the two qualifying rounds. They must then win the final, clean, to be awarded the Challenge Certificate (we call them ‘tickets’ - as it’s your ticket to Crufts the next year to compete in the Championships). To be awarded the title of Agility Champion the dog has to win three Challenge Certificates, under three different judges. I believe this is one of the toughest qualifying regimes in agility and I really like it!

The agility round tested weave entries and obstacle discrimination. I also try and set sections where connection with your dog, knowing where he is but more importantly what he is about to do, are critical.

Nic with her dogs


Technical Analysis of the Course

There were multiple options to handle #2 (Forced Front Cross, German, Backside Send to Front Cross would then create V-set #3 which would be helpful but handler would have to be very fluid in their own strides to not be the moose in the path for the Front Cross #3-#4) and nearly all handlers choose a Front Cross from 3 to 4.

The dog’s line over 4 meant they could not see the weave entry until very late and many dogs took the off course tunnel. This is where the first lack of connection and dogs committing to the handler really was expensive. If that connection is missing the dog will pick up off course obstacles. Dogs that were asked to commit to the handler were more successfully guided into the weave entrance.

Most handlers Blind Crossed weave - #6 and didn’t run too close to #6 as being ahead to cue the first lead change at #9 was more critical. My next technical challenge for dogs and handlers was the snake line after the dog walk. We used to see these a lot in the UK and the dogs became very skilled at making the necessary lead changes. I hope to see more of this as the handler cueing lead change by Running On the Dog’s Line can make it more straight forward for even novice dogs.

There were several comments about #14, the tyre. Remember in the UK we have the un-framed breakaway tyre so we do not have to worry about the dogs stepping on the support feet or any metal work as they turn. I believe my dogs should have all their jumping skills on all of their ‘jumping’ obstacles and I school them this way, collection on single bar, double bar, long jump, wall. Backside Send on all these too. He may rarely see these skills but for me it gives me confidence about his understanding of how to jump, regardless of his approach or the obstacle itself.

The next skill to be really tested was obstacle discrimination at #15, at this level most dogs understood it well. I then gave the handlers an option as to how to handle #17. If they front crossed #16 they then needed to False Turn or Reverse Spin #17 or the super athletic could maybe Front Cross #17-18.

The critical point required to achieve Running On the Dog's Line required a good send forward to #16 and early cueing as the dog will be in full extension at #17 and needs to know much sooner to change lead than if he were in collection and would be much closer to the fence before take off.


Article: Nic Jones

You can find a printable course maps here:

Stay tuned for Nic’s analysis of the Jumping round and the Final in part 2 and 3 of this Blog Series!

Our mission is to give a happy life to dogs by helping people become amazing dog owners. We are passionate about increasing the mutual understanding between the dog and the owner, making a life together more enjoyable for both.