Gamblers is a fairly common game played by the USDAA and CPE and several other organizations. The handler stands behind a line and sends the dog ‘away’ from them, and the dog has to complete obstacles without the handler alongside him in the time allotted by the judge. This is a real challenge!
According to the USDAA rules “Gamblers is a point-basis class wherein handlers develop their own strategy for running a course in order to accumulate as many points as possible during the time allotted by the judge. Typically, in planning their run, any obstacle can be performed twice for points and the handler may choose what obstacles they wish to perform and in what order. The judge may impose restrictions on the sequences permissible (e.g., two different contact obstacles may be performed in sequence without first taking a non-contact obstacle) and may specify special challenges to earn bonus points (e.g., a short obstacle sequence where the handler is limited as to their movement or distance from the dog). Additionally, a judge may designate an additional time period during which a special challenge or “joker” (a.k.a., gamble) may be performed for bonus points. At the end of the allotted time, the competitor with the most points is the winner.”
While Gamblers is fun and can look easy, don’t just throw your dog in there and expect to learn on the course (You can do that with Snooker, though, if your dog ‘gets you’.) Don’t worry though! Getting started in Gamblers is easy- send your dog ahead one jump. Then two. Then three. Then a jump and a tunnel and a jump. Then throw in some contacts! If your dog has difficulty, go back a step or two! Take away a little bit of the challenge. Another method is setting up your entire course in a semi or full circle and stand in the middle, turning with your dog as you send him on to each obstacle. Then leave the circle and get further back from the course. For a food oriented dog, throw out target toys with treats in them to teach him to go out. Remember though, this is about fun, so when your dog DOES go out, make sure he gets a reward just as great as staying at your side gives him.
Make certain your dog knows his commands! Go tunnel, go jump, go up, all of them are critical in Gamblers. Also be careful to train things the way they’d be in a trial- don’t gamble from a standstill! run along and then deadstop, then tell him to ‘go on’. Some handlers like to have a special command for this, and some don’t. Find what works best for you and your dog, working together.