– by Bud Houston
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.
Obstacles are scaled down to a size more appropriate to the little guys. Jump heights will be set in a range from 4” to 16”, with adjustments for long-backed and short-legged dogs.
Please note that participation in the TDAA is limited to small dogs, measuring no more than 17”. There is no restriction on account of breed or pedigree.
What strikes you first about a Teacup Dogs trial has to be the diminutive size of the obstacles. “Cute” is the word that most often comes to lips; Cute. The teeter is eight feet long and is painted mostly yellow. The A-frame is two feet wide with six foot ramps. The tire looks like something found in a doll-house. The bar jumps are taller than they are wide.
And when we set the jumps for the 12” dogs, we were setting them for the big dogs.
When the exhibitors walk the course they must take note of the short transitional distances between obstacles. Often it’s only ten feet or eight. Sometimes it’s no more than six. The “cute” thing doesn’t play so well when the dog’s start running. The marathon loping between obstacles a small dog handler has to do in the big dog agility organizations doesn’t apply to Teacup action. The small dog is tuned up and hitting obstacles at about the same pace a Border Collie might work obstacles set 15 to 18 feet apart. That means the handler has to be smart in his timing and keen on his feet.
The date of the first trial was: May 19, 2002 , Kansas City , Kansas . Three other trials were conducted in 2002 in Columbus , Ohio ; Manchester , New Hampshire , and Eugene , Oregon . A considerably more active has occurred since then.
The Teacup Dogs Agility Association made a debut in Ohio in a magical weekend at Camp Mary Orton. Nestled incongruously just above the busy beltway in a part of Columbus bustling with growth and business are several hundred acres of rare Ohio field and forest. At the end of a long dirt and gravel road that wends down into the hidden forest stands a turn-of-the-century lodge house, complete with a grand fireplace and ornately carved rafters.
The field outside was littered with freshly dropped walnuts. Out of this we cleared just enough room for a Teacup course, a ring measuring a spacious sixty by seventy feet.
The fall foliage was prime, the weather crisp.
Thirty-two dogs were entered in this trial, camping with their people in a friendly community of tents and picnic tables around the ring. The agility program consisted of two standard runs and two games on Saturday and the same thing on Sunday. The games played included Dare to Double, Pole Jacks, What’s My Line, and Time Warp.
The trial in Ohio was a small one. It was scheduled to compete for entry on a weekend with an AKC trial not a hundred miles away. But nobody cared. There was only one ring. Everyone cheered for everyone else. Placement and qualifying ribbons were handed out in ceremony between the classes. More than half the field of competitors went to dinner with the judge. And the host club bought everyone pizza for lunch.
This is the way agility was twelve and fifteen years ago. Frankly it’s because the trial was small. That’s what agility was like in the old days. It was undiscovered country.
Today there are over 1,900 dogs registered in TDAA representing 81 breeds including All America. TDAA has clubs in 18 states, with dogs registered in 39 states, Mexico and Canada.
And so we have now a venue intended solely for the small dog. Dogs over 17 inches are not even allowed to compete. The 16” division is the super class.
So what’s the point?
We’ve got agility in the AKC, USDAA, NADAC, CPE, UKC. Does the TDAA serve any useful purpose?
The point of TDAA is a simple matter of respect. The small dog is scarcely tolerated in the big agility organizations. Courses are scaled for the big dogs. Equipment is scaled for the big dogs. When Animal Planet “covers” an agility venue, the small dogs are typically chopped from the program in favor of the “real” dogs.
Running a 6” Yorkshire Terrier on a course designed for a 24” tall Border Collie is just about as appropriate as running that same Border Collie on an Equestrian cross country course. Phooey on anyone who thinks that agility is about big fast dogs. Agility is a recreational sport with the family animal. And in the TDAA the little dog will have his day.