TDAA Course Design Notes

I’ve been reviewing TDAA courses all day… hoping to stumble upon certain review notes that I make over and over again to different TDAA judges around the country. I’m happy to report that all of my reviews have been rather good today… but bad for my blog because I didn’t have any really messy stuff to play with. So, I will confine myself to a couple miscellaneous course design notes.

Small Spaces

It is the nature of the TDAA that our judges often design for a small space. We have a certain number of obstacles that are required at each level; and we have some expectation for spacing between the obstacles and appropriate challenges.

Pictured here is an extrapolation from a course submitted to me by a TDAA judge. What should jump out at anyone looking at it is the inadequacy of the spacing between the starting hurdle and the ending hurdle, not to mention the midcourse #9 to #10 transition.

Our first impulse might be to tighten things up a bit; and maybe remove an obstacle or two. We can accomplish the same thing by using the minimum number of obstacles rather than the maximum. Right?

I’ve taken the liberty here to redesign the judge’s course and really without moving things around too much. While I did tweak some of the spacing, what makes the course fit into the available space was my willingness to repeat obstacles on the course. For every one I repeat… there’ll be one fewer getting in the way out there.

Dog’s Choice Games

We play a lot of games that provide for a “dog’s choice” strategy… that means the obstacles can be taken in the order and direction of the handler’s choice, or the dog’s, depending on who’s in charge of the team. I want to share with you a couple of observations I make frequently with the judges designing these courses.

What strikes me right off the bat on this course is the long transitional distances between the obstacles. Course designers who are very precise in the interval spacing in standard courses might open up a dog’s choice game way too much. What we really need to remember is that the TDAA is designed for the very smallest dogs. And for the little guys the long distances put them at a distinct disadvantage over long striding dogs.

The riddle becomes how do we keep transitions between obstacles square and safe when we can’t anticipate which direction the dog will be coming from?

One of the things I do when reviewing a course is plot a strategy for how I might run my own dogs. And if you’ll look at this course there just aren’t a lot of options for order and direction. I can see two or three different flow strategies. It would be fun if the design allowed ten or a dozen different flow strategies.

This might be confusing to look at… so don’t agonize over it too much. Everything I moved or got rid of entirely is now red (which means it doesn’t exist there anymore). I’ve added obstacles to the course to provide for more options. These are in green.

Note that I got rid of the collapsed tunnel altogether. Dog’s choice games shouldn’t really have a collapsed tunnel at all, especially if the rules allow them to take it multiple times. There should never be a collapsed tunnel in a game like Snooker, for example.

Also, there are key jumps that I didn’t move so much, but rotated instead. Every jump in a dog’s choice game should be studied in terms of how square and fair it is from all of the surrounding obstacles. The rotation should strike a common denominator that favors as many approaches as possible.

Okay… after I cleaned up the revisions course above, I still moved things around and tweaked a bit. I’m not sure I’m completely satisfied with it. But at the very least there are more options; and certainly the transitional distances between obstacles has been tightened up. This feels like a TDAA course.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

This is a multiple part question. Who are the two men honored by this statue? Where is the statue located? What is the name of the man missing from the podium (the Silver medal winner)?

First correct answer posted as a reply to this blog post wins a free copy of the February Jokers Notebook (or March, if you prefer).


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – Feb 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special02” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

2 Responses to “TDAA Course Design Notes”

  1. Ronni Says:

    Tommie Smith & John Carlos
    San Jose State
    Peter Norman

    March notebook please, if I win.

  2. Michelle B Says:

    that one is definitely not Google Proof…

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