Today is another "blog action day" and we are supposed to blog on our thoughts on how the various agility organizations could improve things. Please be sure to visit the main DBAD Action Day page to visit the other blogs writing on this subject. I think it will be a very interesting day of posts!
I figured I'd start off with NADAC for two reasons -- It's the organization with which I've been involved the longest and it's also the organization with which I find the most faults.
Luke and I started competing in NADAC in 2007, only a few short months after we started taking classes. This was the most obvious choice for us because the facility where we trained hosted (and still hosts) 8-10 NADAC trials per year. They also host a few AKC trials per year, but this was before AKC started to allow mixed breeds into their trials.
I attended a NADAC trial as a spectator in February of 2007 and it looked like loads of fun. The people I met at the trial were very friendly and I'm still friends with many of them to this day. This trial just so happened to be the very last in this area that had the teeter. NADAC banned the use of teeters in trials shortly after. I discovered this when we entered our first trial in April and I was surprised to see that there was no teeter. Luke liked the teeter, but whatever.
This was the first NADAC change I experienced, although history (and friends) tell me that there were numerous others prior to that. It didn't take me very long to understand the running joke of how often the rules change in NADAC, but none of it really bothered me. The next big change after I started was the removal of the distance line in Regular. Can't say that one really bothered me, although nor would it bother me to have it back again. Undoubtedly it would not do anything to help NADAC's popularity among the masses, though.
I remember when hoops were introduced. We were at a trial in Minneapolis and the club surprised everyone by offering a "bonus" class at the end of the day. It was a numbered course (like Jumpers) and the obstacles were all hula-hoops zip-tied to a PVC frame (I don't even know if those are allowed anymore). I actually bought a photo of Luke running through a sparkly hoop because I thought it was cool. :o) I've never been a hoop-hater like some I know. I know people who have left NADAC over this obstacle (likely just the straw that broke the camel's back). I do, however, take issue with just how much this obstacle has crept its way into NADAC in general. These days, despite Sharon claiming that there should be more jumps than hoops in a Regular course, it is very common to have a course comprised with a majority of hoops vs. jumps. Weavers and Touch-n-Go now have hoops outnumber the tunnels on course. Only by some small miracle have we kept them out of Tunnelers, I guess.
One change I look back at now and laugh is when Sharon decided to move to single-bar jumps. You would not believe the stink I threw about that. I was schooling with 3' wide single-bar jumps at home; I'm still not sure why that was such a big deal for me. Likely it goes back to the root of most of my problems with NADAC -- the reason given for the change. In this case I seem to recall the major justification being that "it would save time during jump height changes." I still find that one ridiculous.
Most recently we have the addition of the barrel to NADAC agility. The barrel was originally introduced in EGC -- which, shall we mention, was originally created completely separate of NADAC and it was said it would stay separate from NADAC... but we all know how long that lasted. The barrel is creeping its way into regular trials on a requested basis at the moment and will be required in 2014. Honestly, I'm kind of exhausted on this subject. You can see my last post for a few thoughts (and lots of good discussion in the comments, too!). Again, one of my biggest "issues" with the introduction of the barrel was the reasoning given behind it. We were told that they were going to be used to replace the "dangerous" U-shaped tunnels that were causing dogs to slip and fall. Really? Whatever.
Don't get me wrong, though -- I believe NADAC has been at the forefront of a lot of GOOD changes and ideas. I believe even the staunchest anti-NADAC competitors will give credit to Sharon for making rubberized contacts the norm. That said, I'll never understand those who are so against the rubber belting... I appreciate the 5' a-frame that NADAC offers as well as the multitude of jump height options available.
Unfortunately I just don't feel challenged by NADAC courses anymore. I enjoy Jumpers and Chances for the thrill these classes offer, but aside from that it's become a pattern of just going through the motions. Thankfully there are certain added incentives to keep my interest. For a period of time I started running bonus lines with Luke to add some excitement to my day. Our Q-rate plummeted, but it kept me on my toes and got my heart pumping! We did fewer bonus lines when Sharon changed the rules that bonus attempts had to be ran first in the class and stopped them altogether when she proclaimed that all attempts must be videoed and sent in for qualifying purposes. No thanks.
These days my fun is with Kaiser. He's my first dog capable of obtaining runs with a DRI over 100 (how that is calculated is beyond my ability to explain here) -- but for those not in the know it basically means he's in the top percentage of dogs running on those courses. My goal for every run is to get a 100+ DRI, which makes me push and try new things. We've had a lot of high 90's runs, but he's starting to get more consistent and pushing the edge! Our last trial netted us 3 runs with a DRI over 100! Two Regular runs (hard to come by!) and one Jumpers run. My goal for Kaiser is to get a Platinum Speed Star, but that requires TWENTY runs in Regular. We'll keep trying! Kaiser just loves NADAC, which is why we keep plugging away despite all of the changes that exasperate me to no end. Oh, and the people. I really love my NADAC friends.
One way I feel NADAC could improve is to make it customary for judges to create their own courses. I feel we'd see a lot more diversity and interesting challenges if this were the case, versus having them pick from a catalog as is the current practice. Granted, it's been stated that anyone (even myself!) can submit courses for review, but considering the incredibly small amount that this happens I'm sure we can all guess how many make the pass. So instead we continue working with the relatively limited course book and run on the same courses time and time again (in 2012 I ran duplicate courses no fewer than four times).
A recent discussion on the NADAC forum revealed that Sharon has been pulling courses from very old books (like 2005-2007) and people have apparently been complaining about the level of difficulty in these courses (believing them to be "new" challenges). One can only hope that we get a chance to see these "new/old" courses at our trial in June.
I've only been competing in USDAA since February of 2012, so I don't feel I have nearly as much to say on the subject. I really enjoy the variety of classes that are offered in a day, although classes like Snooker and Pairs scared the heck out of me when we started! I've really come to appreciate the challenges of the USDAA games, though, and I feel they've made me a better all-around handler!
There is really only one thing that comes to mind when I think of improvements for USDAA -- and that would be jump heights, jump heights, jump heights.
Luke and I actually did a USDAA fun match very early on in our agility career. Family Dog Center briefly toyed with the idea of adding USDAA trials to their calendar and hosted a fun match to gain approval. I registered Luke and we gave it a shot. The lowest he could jump at the time was 22" -- he was jumping 20" in NADAC back then so I didn't stress too much over it, but I wasn't thrilled about the height on the awful mats that FDC used to have.
The games were totally foreign to me, but we had a fun experience. Unfortunately USDAA never took off in La Crosse. They hosted one trial, and of course it just happened to be a weekend where I was traveling to a NADAC trial in MN. Little did I know that Luke's registration would come in handy several years later when he was eligible to start running as a Veteran! :o)
I'm still super bummed that Kaiser isn't able to play in USDAA. We gave it a shot, but the little guy told me loud and clear that he just isn't comfortable jumping 12" anymore. It's pretty sad when he's one of the fastest dogs in NADAC and he can barely make time on a P2 Jumpers course. The powers that be at USDAA told everyone at the beginning of the year that there would be an announcement regarding jump heights no later than July of this year. Well, we are into June and still no word... My fingers are crossed that maybe, just maybe Kaiser will get to play in USDAA again one day. Well, I suppose he'll be able to jump 8" when he turns 8 years old. lol
Finally, I have mixed feelings on the Super Q that is required to attain one's ADCH/PDCH. On one hand I'm all for it because I understand the reason behind the requirement. On the other hand, I'm starting to wonder if Secret will EVER be able to complete the requirements for her PDCH. No doubt we will be one of those teams who finishes straight up to Platinum when the third SQ finally rolls around... That stings a little.
In a way I'd rather see them up the overall Q requirements and dismiss the SQ (or change the definition somehow). I've always thought that 5 Q's per class wasn't terribly impressive. Consider the difference of getting 23 Q's in Regular, 13 Q's in Jumpers and 13 Q's in Chances for a NATCH, for example (plus 13 more each of Tunnelers, Touch-n-Go & Weavers for V-NATCH). Or the 20 QQ's in AKC. I think they could definitely broaden their requirements in USDAA to increase the overall difficulty and remove the necessity for the Super Q. Alas, it is what it is and we'll keep plugging away.
Having attended a grand total of ONE AKC trial (although entries are sent for two more!), I really don't feel I can spout off much on this subject.
I appreciate that AKC is giving me another option for Kaiser where he can jump 8" (well, hopefully -- if we can get him officially measured at 14"!). I appreciate the short chute, which Secret seems to like immensely more than the chute in USDAA. I appreciate the lowered a-frame for little dogs, although Kaiser still went sailing over it like it was the USDAA frame...
I'm not a huge fan of the American Kennel Club in general. They really chapped my hide with how they went about introducing the mixed breed program. Despite the fact of how it turned out, the fact that they even considered doing the whole "separate but equal" deal really upset me. It still bothers me that clubs have the option of not allowing mixed breeds.
It also bothers me IMMENSELY that Kaiser had to be registered as a mixed breed to participate. That's just my own weird little quirk, though, and something I'll get over. It would be nice if they had some sort of a program for breeds recognized through other Kennel Clubs. Before Kaiser was neutered AKC wasn't even an option for us.
I think the sticker policy at AKC trials is stupid. I also think the rule about not wearing your dog's name on your shirt is stupid. Do you know how many shirts I have with the names of my dogs on them?! I've wondered what would happen if I wore one of Luke's shirts to an AKC trial. I'm not running him, would that be allowed? lol Such silly rules...
It would be nice if AKC would implement a Veterans program, too.
There are plenty of other organizations out there from which to choose from, but I'll leave those suggestions to the people who actually participate in those organizations. We did briefly play in TDAA, but that just wasn't Kaiser's cup of tea. No wonder, he's never really accepted that he's a small dog.
I would love to try both ASCA and UKI Agility one day, but I'm already maxed out with three organizations at the moment. Maybe some day. When I win the lottery and/or find my sugar daddy. :o)