TDAA Start & Finish Lines

The purpose of the TDAA course design college is to provide an open discussion for the sort of thing that I have to mention over and over again when reviewing courses. To tell you the truth things that are on the edge of obvious to me have to be taught or introduced to more novice course designers and judges.

I should share with you that part of my briefing for the time-keeper that pertains to Start and Finish lines so that you appreciate the granularity of the task. I will demonstrate the two cones that form the Start line and the two cones that form the Finish line. And I’ll show him where to sit to have a clear view of both lines.

I’ll tell the timekeeper to see the opening line as a fixed dimension in space. When the dog’s chest hits the line he’ll start the watch. In the closing when any part of the dog touches the line after the performance of the last obstacle he will stop the watch.

Rule #1: the time keeper must have a sight line for both the Start and Finish lines.

You can see in this drawing that it would be impossible for the time-keeper to get a sight line of both the start and finish lines without actually running back and forth down the floor. Frankly, we’d be most happy if the time keeper could just sit in a chair and view both lines.

Sometimes a judge will tell me in the course review process that the club has informed that they have electronic timers. Well, do tell, what would you do if the electronic equipment failed or didn’t show up for the trial? You’d be up a creek without a paddle.

Here we have the Start and Finish lines set in a nice single plane of sight. But note that the time-keeper has been positioned so that he cannot sight down either line. Sometimes a time-keeper (or heaven forbid, a judge) will exclaim “I can see them both from here!”

In a sport in which performances are measured in 100ths of a second we can’t really use a raggedy guestimation as to whether the dog has broken the plan of either line. The time-keeper must be seated to see both lines.

This is acceptable… or so would be sighting down the plane of the Start/Finish so long as there is actually room for the time-keeper to sit outside of the ring. Note too that most savvy competitors will look to the time-keeper to tell them to go; so ideally the time-keeper will be situated on the side nearer to the start jump rather than the finish jump.

I’d usually prefer that the time-keeper sit against the ring-rope and inside of the ring if the course and facility will accommodate it.

Here’s an example of the timekeeper sitting outside of the ring. The course designer should not be engaged in wishful thinking on this point and should have specs for the ring and the areas available for use outside of the ring.

Even if the club’s diagram shows this as a “seating area” the course designer will have to also know what barrier exists between the ring and that seating area. Is it low dog fencing? Is it a 5′ tall wooden wall?

A “Vee” design is desired/required when the two lines can’t be sighed as one continuous line. And you can see here that the two lines are a bit slanty to triangulate on the time-keepers position. They do not have to be square to the plane of the jump or obstacle.

A thing that drives me slightly crazy is when only one “cone” is placed out in space for reference. It is impossible for the time-keeper to accurately place the Start and Finish lines. I know you can logically rationalize that you can use your nose as the forward reference while the cone out in space is the opposite reference. But can you insure that the nose will be constant for all dogs?

It’s a better idea to set a forward cone and a back cone to draw the line.

It might seem like a simple thing simply to start and end on the same obstacle. The real difficulty with this arrangement is that you’ve severely degraded the efficient running of the ring. The next competitor cannot approach the Start line with his dog until the dog ahead has finished the jump and is leaving the ring under control. It might take more time to make that exchange than it actually does to run the course.

We should also  avoid making the Finish line a feature that requires technical handling. In this sequence the handler will likely make the approach to the final obstacle with the dog on his right side… but the course ends with an abrupt right turning departure. This necessitates some kind of technical handling on the dismount of the last obstacle or on the approach to it.

A clever redesign of the finish can actually bend the dog’s path for a square approach to the finish obstacle. And it’s okay for the course designer to occasionally be clever.

Be aware of where are your Entry and Exit gates. You should work out with the club ahead of time if the entries and exits are fixed places in the ring, if they are flexible. Badly placed start and finish obstacles can severely impact on the efficiency of the running of your ring.

* * *

Also, a judge might tell me… “I just use the first and last jumps as start and finish.” My response to this should be “Stop doing that!”

Calendar Notes

  • We have a TDAA dogs seminar and trial scheduled. We will include TDAA judges recertification training for only $25.00 (okay, that’s about $100 under the prevailing rate). The dates shall be: September 3-6, 2010. Contact Marsha Houston @ to register. Note that low cost accommodations are available for this clinic.
  • We have a distance camp up and coming. It’s nearly filled already. The dates are August 23-26, 2010. Contact Marsha Houston @ to register. Note that low cost accommodations are available for this clinic.
  • July 31, 2010 Kory made his debut in dog agility competition at Dayton Dog training (in Dayton, OH). He NQ’s in the standard class with a fly-off the teeter. He qualified (Yah!) in jumpers with one refusal (the double).
  • I’ll be doing a two-day warm-up workshop just prior to the TDAA Nationals at Argus Ranch. The dates are October 6-7, 2010. I believe there’s a registration in the Petit Prix Premium. We have a very fun suite of games. I’ll be focusing on killer strategies for these games and a keen understanding of the rules.

Bud’s Google-proof Trivia Contest

The dictionary game! The word starts with “E”. The definition is: “Devoted to sensual pleasure especially related to good food.” What is the word?

First correct answer, posted as a reply to this blog post, wins a free copy of the June Jokers Notebook.

By the way… any day now I’m going to pay off my winners of the Trivia Contest over the past couple of weeks. My bad! But I’ve been busy. I’ll makes sure to answer all the winners on-line!


Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston: Check out my latest publication the Jokers Notebook ~ Dog Agility Distance Training Plan – June 2010 available on the Country Dream Web Store: . Readers of my web log get a discount: Enter “special05” in the box for the discount code. And that will take $5.00 off the price of the order.

5 Responses to “TDAA Start & Finish Lines”

  1. Linda Says:

    Bud, the word is “epicurean”.

    Linda B.

  2. Deb Auer Says:

    Thanks for the discussion of start and finish lines in TDAA.
    How about a brief word about how the finish line is NOT an obstacle in TDAA? For example, in your drawing of the course that ends with the chute – if the dog bypasses the chute and runs across the finish line, the time does not stop – and the timer should be informed not to stop the time if this happens.

    • budhouston Says:

      Hey Deb,

      Yes, that’s true. I actually said very early in the discussion “In the closing when any part of the dog touches the line after the performance of the last obstacle he will stop the watch.”

      I probably didn’t put fine enough of a point on it. It some venues if the dog runs by the last obstacle and hits the finish line… the handler has no recourse/option to draw the dog around and retry the obstacle and will earn a failure there. In the TDAA that obstacle is treated like any other, and the handler may retry the approach. The timekeeper needs to understand this rule.


  3. Linda Says:

    Thanks, Bud. Crossword mania sometimes has its benefits. Since I have the June Notebook, may I have one from another month?
    Glad to hear that Kory did well in his first trial!

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