This is an important notation for the Course Design College. In this series I share observations that I make on a routine basis to judges and course designers during the course review process. It is prudent to share these common observations with all of our judges to further their understanding of course design for the TDAA.

This is intended as a comprehensive discussion of the TDAA’s guidelines for spacing between obstacles in course design.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. This is the mission statement from the Rules and Regulations for the TDAA:

1.1 Mission

The purpose of the Teacup Dogs Agility Association is to provide a competitive venue for dogs of small stature without regard to breed or pedigree, and to encourage course challenges that are comparable to the course challenges which face large dog handlers in other popular venues.

The clear understanding of this mission statement: We intend to give the handler of the fast little Papillion the same thrilling roller coaster ride in the TDAA as the handler of the fast Border Collie in any of the big dog agility organization. We want that handler to be keen and timely. And when the spacing between obstacles is blown out of proper proportion, we fail that mission.

A Bit of Science

The rates of travel for the TDAA require modest yards per second (YPS) at any level. Built into this calculus is the degradation of a dog’s rate of travel caused by performance of the technical obstacles … namely the contacts and the weave poles.

This degradation of rates of travel occurs in all flavors of agility. However, the significant difference between the TDAA and any other, is that we don’t have large expanses of real estate between obstacles to recoup and elevate the YPS.

And so, when a course is presented for competition that gives too much space between obstacles the rate of travel required for qualification is an ineffective measurement.

A Course Review

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At first glance this makes a perfectly reasonable design for the Beginner level. I might tell the judge/course designer to rotate the #9 jump back to the dog’s approach (everything nice and square for the Beginner class). And I might remark that not enough room has been left for the approach to jump #1. A minimum of 10′ between the front of the ring and the first hurdle is our standard requirement.

What really jumps out at me about this course, however, is the overly generous spacing between obstacles. We’ll take a measurement.

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Using the “Path” tool in Clean Run Course Designer I measured this course at 258.5′. Subtract from that the length of dimensioned obstacles… 68′ to arrive at the calculated interval distance of 198.5′. Divide by the number of obstacles (-1) and the average interval spacing between obstacles is 14.65′.

The average interval spacing should come in not much over 10′ or 11′. It should be easy to tighten up this course without losing the nice flow originally envisioned by the course designer.

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It was fairly easy to tighten up this course. Now the dog has plenty of room to approach the first hurdle. Note too that a bit of extra room is given to the dog for the turn following jump #5, and the turn following jump #9.

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Using the same calculation… I measured this course at 214′; subtract 68′ to arrive at the calculated interval distance of 146′. Divide by the number of obstacles (-1) and the average interval spacing between obstacles is 11.23′.

Spacing for Technical Challenges and Turns

On the approach to a technical challenge (for example, a wrong course option or approaching an obstacle discrimination) the dog’s path should measure a minimum of 12′. The objective of this spacing is too give the handler an extra heartbeat to do his job.

We also provide a minimum of 12′ when requiring the dog to turn. This is an acknowledgement of basic physics. The inertia of a dog’s movement may require an additional stride or two. The faster the dog, the greater the inertia.

With this in mind, if the course designer incorporates a pinwheel, the spacing between jumps must be a minimum of 12′. It is the nature of a pinwheel that the dog is faced with a series of turns while (hopefully) at a full run.

A Note Aside

Every so often we’ll hear an exhibitor complain that his dog runs more slowly in the TDAA than when playing elsewhere. After all rate of travel is measurable. You take the length of the course (yards) and divide by time (seconds) to arrive at the dog’s YPS.

In true fact the dog works at the same pace in the TDAA (maybe even faster). But the degradation on the dog’s rate of travel due to performance of technical obstacles has a substantially greater impact when the overall length of the course is reduced.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. Visit our web store: www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Book of Agility Games, a comprehensive reference to all manner of agility games played for competition and fun around the world.

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