Thread the Needle

Thread-the-Needle is a training game invented by Wayne Van Deusen with the collaboration of Kim Wittig, who named it. Wayne says that he invented the game after a seminar around the clock exercise with the tire. After our private lesson work yesterday in which we were doing progressive sending to the tire, I thought it would be a jolly idea to play a game like this today, just to test the mettle of my students.



The objective of Thread the Needle is to complete all tunnel entrances and then, go to the table. Before each tunnel performance the dog must be directed to perform the tire.

Time starts when dog goes through the tire. Time stops when dog has completed all tunnel entries and is directed to the table.

A penalty of 5 seconds added if dog repeats a tunnel entrance. The dog earns a 20 second fault for failing to perform a tunnel entry.


Thread the Needle is scored Time Plus Faults. The dog with the lowest score wins.


The judge will measure a simple strategy and establish an SCT based on the rates of travel for the respective jump height and level. To qualify the dog’s time plus faults must be equal to or less than the established SCT.

Today’s Feature Course


I had intended today to write about this sequence. However, on reading one of the TDAA discussion lists on Yahoo… I thought I’d apply my little sliver of time to addressing a couple of the TDAA Members’ ballot items. So… I’m going to take this nice romping sequence and squeeze it down into a little box to provide context for the discussion… which follows.

Field Size Proposal on the TDAA Members Ballot

I watch the discussion of some of the proposed rules changes on the Teacup discussion and the TDAA members’ lists on Yahoo with some bemusement. The proclamations of “that’s not safe!” especially earn my attention. Typically these are exercises of the imagination and not really based on any foundation of study or fact in the world. You’ll hear from time to time, for example, that the notorious crossover (a 2- or 3- or 4- legged contact obstacle) is not safe. But, in fact it’s been in use in the agility world for over 25 years in this country. Surely a lot of people haven’t ever seen one; but they probably haven’t ever seen a sway bridge, a water hurdle, or a wishing well jump either… that that doesn’t make any of them unsafe.

The proposal I want to address is that we bring the minimum course area in the TDAA down to 2100 ft2. Factually, we are already allowing trials in this diminutive space. I review all of the TDAA courses so I pay careful attention to making sure that it all stays safe.


Here is a course that is actually based on the “Feature Course” that I drew above. I just kept nudging it closer and closer together. Obviously, this was most challenging in the vertical dimension. Just to help with the illustration I replaced the dogwalk with 8′ ramps with a crossover with 8′ ramps. Note that it gave me enough room to get another jump in the course.

Note that in this course only one obstacle is repeated. Imagine what I could have done with the course if I had set up a couple of stereo sequences in which four or five obstacles were repeated twice or three times! It would make the space actually seem luxurious.

A space of this size and dimension really does have tactical problems both for design and for the conduct of the ring during competition. The narrow vertical dimensions of the ring tend to confine the course designer to down-and-back kind of sequences. The course designer sometimes gets trapped into a three-legged down-and-back which basically will trap the dog on the wrong side of the course after the last obstacle; [though to be sure we might have put the entry (and first obstacle) on the left… and the exit (and the last obstacle) on the right… though that might have become quite a work-out for the leash runner.

As drawn, getting the next dog into the ring while another is running the course is kind of problematic. As a judge my instruction to the gate steward would be for the next dog and handler to head over to jump #1 after the dog ahead has made the turn from jump #10 to #11.

And, a problem always worth noting is the giantish presence of the handler and judge on a course with such diminutive real estate available. The judge will have to be very thoughtful on judging position so as not to apply too much pressure to the dog or get in the way of either dog or handler. As I look at this course I imagine the handler putting the dog on the table and assuming a position looming over the dog so that it’s almost impossible for the judge to actually see the performance. That happens often enough on big wide open courses.

Note that I still managed to provide 10′ for the approach to the first jump and 10′ on the dismount of the last jump without turning them (that’s a separate discussion, I’m sure.)

Happy voting!



Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available at

One Response to “Thread the Needle”

  1. Marsha Nix Says:

    Thanks Bud. I am hoping to have more time reading your blog when I’m not up to my eyeballs in TDAA work!

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