Continuing with the equipment theme, and inspired by Bailey's woes, here's the next obstacle - the pause table.
The table is a raised square platform that the dog has to get up on and pause for 5 seconds.
The table surface is normally 36"x36" in size, give or take a couple of inches. Like the jumps, the height of the table is determined by the dog's height. There are only 3 table heights though: 8" for 4"/8"/12" dogs, 16" for 16"/20" dogs, and 24" for 24"/26" dogs.
To perform the obstacle correctly, the dog must jump up on the table, and either sit or lay down while the judge counts "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Go". In USDAA the dogs always lay down, and in AKC the judge will select one or the other for the whole day. I've noticed that on weekend trials, one day will be a sit and the other a down.
If the dog passes the back side of the table (determined by the direction the dog should be coming from), it will get a refusal. Interestingly, one judge explained that once the dog breaks that plane, its approach changes, and what used to be the front become the back. So if the dog does a 360 around the table, it will get 2 refusals - it's confusing!
The judge will start the count when the dog assumes the correct position. If the dog breaks position, the judge will pause, and continue the count once the dog is back in position. The count doesn't start over and no faults are given for that, other than the obvious loss of time.
However, if the dog jumps up on the table and gets off before the judge says "Go", it will count as a table fault and the dog will have to get back on and restart the count from the beginning.
The handler may not touch the dog or the table at any time. Also, if the dog is anticipating the count and leaves right as the judge says "Go", it could earn a fault as well - it should be listening to the handler's release command, not the judge!
Several things make the table a difficult obstacle:
Large breeds tend to approach the table too fast and jump right off of it before they have the time to stop. Some of the taller dogs also have trouble laying down on the table because it's simply too small for them. Small dogs often confuse it with a jump or contact obstacle and do various silly things too.
The table's surface (as well as all other contact equipment surface) is made similar to sandpaper to provide good traction. Unfortunately, this causes many dogs to not want to sit or lay on it because their precious butt and belly are too dainty to be placed on sandpaper :)
Most importantly though, many dogs are so focused on go-go-going that it's very difficult for them to pause in the middle of the run and stay in the same position for 5 seconds. This is the whole point of the table though - the dog must show the ability to calm down and pause. A good solid table performance is great to have, these dogs will let you lead out easily (from the start line, or the table), and that gives a great advantage to the handler.