TDAA Course Design – Trapped by Long Lines

The following is intended as a whimsical tutorial for a number of TDAA judges who need a nudge of help in course design.

It happens that in the TDAA judges are often required to design courses for halls that are long and narrow. As often as not this will beguile the designer into a trap of long lines. Here’s a typical example:

To tell you the truth, we might rightly note that this course has a proper number of obstacles for a Superior level course. And, it probably forces a couple changes of sides; though one has sapped away the challenge by forcing the changes of sides at the table.

This course is, in fact, uninteresting.

The trap of down and back lines is exacerbated in an even narrower venue when there is room only for three lines. That means that the course will have a down and back, and a down… with no easy way to get back at all… expiring the course at the wrong end of the field.

You should note in the design of this course that it is completely cluttered. It was a labor just to get 20 obstacles out on the field and still leave room for the dog, handler and judge to operate in this small space.

Crossing Patterns

Both interest and challenge are derived from crossing patterns. A crossing pattern is defined in the Glossary of Agility Terms as “a part of the agility course where the dog’s path crosses itself.

So, I’d like to play a little game with this course, just to see if we can add interest.

All I’ve done here is drawn a random scribble of a line that clearly manages to cross itself as it goes downfield. Note that the line begins on the opposite side of the ring from where it ends. Also, I made a small attempt to incorporate a couple of the contact obstacles in the lines.

The arbitrary line that I drew crosses itself three times.

So, just based on the silly lines that I drew, I moved equipment around in order to fit them to the flow of those lines. I moved the table to be pretty much in the middle of the 20 obstacles (it appears at #11 instead of #6).

Note that on two occasions, when the line crosses itself, I used a jump. And, because I’m reusing obstacles, that means I get to take two obstacles off the course. The third cross is different… the dog’s path in the transition from jump #15 to #16 crosses the dog’s path from #17 to #18. This is a box cross.

Finishing Touches

I really wasn’t happy with the course that I drew above. The first 13 obstacles are taken pretty much with the dog working on the handler’s right side. This is boring beyond measure.

I’m not really uncomfortable going back to the drawing board. The element that was holding back the opportunity for a change of sides was really the pipe tunnel under the dogwalk. But in the course I recognized that I had plenty of real estate to reverse use the tunnel to suggest maybe a couple changes of sides.

I softened the line to and through the collapsed tunnel, and changed two of the winged jumps to be wingless. I’d like to visualize someone in a wheel-chair, powered or otherwise, moving among the set of equipment.

Clearly I have more work to do on the course. I need to set my start and finish lines and put identifying information on one of the borders. And maybe, I could tweak things around a bit so that it doesn’t feel quite so crowded.


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: And Check out my latest publication the Just For Fun Agility Notebook #30 available on the Country Dream Web Store.


One Response to “TDAA Course Design – Trapped by Long Lines”

  1. Michelle Says:

    I agree with you so much about the distance skills of NADAC handlers. Here in the NW we have some amazing teams of all ages that demostrate distance and accuracy. It is beautiful to watch. And while the big dogs look great running at such distance from their handlers I am always more impressed by the smaller dogs running at the same distance; it just looks so much farther apart!
    I love the rubber contacts, especially the newer thinner ones. The dogs do not slip in rain, the sand isn’t worn off down the middle of the a frame (there is no sand!) and it just seems less strenous to the dogs.
    I know Elvis will be a wonderful NADAC dog and just got his registration last month.
    Glad you’re a NADAC judge Bud, maybe we’ll get to trial under you in NADAC in the NW

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