The most recent rules change in the TDAA allows for touching the dog and giving a food treat to the dog in the ring.

You can find the newest version of the TDAA Rules and Regulations here:


These new rules on touching and food in the ring defy the conventional wisdom in the sport of dog agility. Indeed, these rules will encourage “training in the ring” rather than relegating it to the status of disqualifying fault.

The ability to tangibly reward the dog for performance with food and touching establishes a bridge between drill-and-practice training and sanctioned competition; and provides a space in competition for remediation of performance issues.

Understanding the TDAA Rules

The judging question shall be whether touching the dog or giving food reward benefits performance. We’ve prepared a short video (not a fancy production) that illustrates a bit of the judging question:

Missing from the video is any discussion of using a food treat to lure the dog into the direction of the course. This would result in a “Standard” fault.

The judge’s understanding of use of food reward in the ring is congruent with understanding how “running into the dog” might be judged. If the handler runs into the dog with no clear benefit to performance or direction, then there would be no fault. If, however, the handler runs into the dog and serendipitously punts the dog into the direction of the course, the dog would earn a fault.

Our Expectations

From our early experience with food in the ring, a judge might expect one handler out of twenty or thirty to actually take time to validate the dog with a food reward.

The judge should include, probably in a “start of day” briefing, some discussion about our rules for food in the ring. Some of the important points to me made in such a briefing might be:

  • If the handler is planning to reward the dog once or twice in the ring then one or two treats should be prepared in advance and held secure on the handler’s person during the run.
  • The food treat should be a solid and not-very-moist piece. Friable treats (like banana nut bread) are discouraged. Oily and smelly bits are also discouraged.
  • Rewarding the dog at the start line is allowed. Rewarding the dog on the table might also be allowed; but it should be very clearly rewarded after the performance.

Very novice handlers might be inept in their use of treats. The TDAA is graced by friendly, helpful and very experienced competitors who will show them how to secure treats (and not run a course with an open bait pouch bouncing kibble all over the floor).

The judge might require a handler intending to use treats to show those treats to the gate steward; and possibly signal to the judge the possibility that the handler will reward the dog.


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