Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Different Strokes for Different Folks

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)


  1. Interesting about USDAA...not having it here prevents me from knowing much about it. I didn't know you needed Super Q's to get your adch. I appreciate all the good things about NADAC too..Sharon was definitely a driving force on rubberized contacts in agility overall...but still, some of the frustration and weirdness tends to outweigh the good on many days!

  2. What thoughtful comments on each venue! I tend to agree with your thoughts on NADAC, most changes didn't bother me, but I find the barrel replacing the U shaped tunnel pretty high on the ridiculous-meter. When they add a few minutes after the walkthrough so I can properly warm up my high drive dog (or cool down), in a small trial those back to back runs do not give you much time before or after walkthrough) I will believe NADAC's commitment to safety a little more than I do right now. Also agree with AKC and the Canine Partner program...the first proposal to keep CPs separate (and current discrimination in some regions to not allow them) leaves a bad taste. Lovely post, thank you for sharing.

  3. I started toying with the bonus lines when I became bored by NADAC too. And because Porter wouldn't hardly weave, so it gave me something to aspire to :)

  4. Oh NADAC.

    I love the idea of a Super Q in USDAA. Obedience has the OTCH and it is rare, elite, and highly meaningful. It is not a title that all dogs and all handlers can achieve if they just stick with it long enough.It really is a title that screams greatness and someday I hope to get one. Agility has no comparison although certain venues make it easier and harder for dogs to get their championship title and play to different strengths of dogs.

    Snooker is not a Vito game. I love the game, but not with the Toller as he currently finds it too demotivating unless it's a rare course like this past Sunday's happened to be awesome for him (and we still failed). But I still support the Super Q. My only suggestion would be think about making it so the 3 required could be either from Gamblers or Snooker as both are strategy games. I would also support making the requirements for an ADCH harder even though we will likely never get near it with Vito.

  5. Sharon NormandinThursday, June 06, 2013

    Very nice, objective critiques.

    re: "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."

    Keep plugging on those Super Qs! they do come, sometimes when you least expect it. Snooker is such a strategy game, it's not always the fastest dogs with the most skillful handlers that place high. And more and more USDAA judges are designing Snooker courses that are not just a race to get 4 7s, they're looking for strategic plans, which oftentimes benefits the less exuberant teams.

  6. Good observations. I'd write a post myself but I'm just not into it enough. They all are what they are and we just do what we can an have fun.

  7. The more years that pass and the more ridiculous changes that occur (in NADAC), I find that I get less worked up over it. I think I'm just beyond caring now and most of it is just a big joke.

    Earlier on I found most of these changes so upsetting because I was SO INVESTED in NADAC. It was the only organization with which I competed and I didn't want it to turn into something different. Branching out into other organizations kind of helped me to "let go" of all of that angst.

    Now I have USDAA (and AKC, I guess, although we're just starting) to offer me the challenges and fun courses I've been wishing for. I've cut way back on NADAC but still enjoy it for the reasons I wrote above -- namely that Kaiser gets to FLY on those courses and it's just loads of fun to go that fast, even if there aren't really that many challenges involved.

    If Secret was my only dog I probably wouldn't do NADAC at all anymore. For whatever reason she doesn't find doing ground speed obstacles in wide open lines motivating. Guess we'll have to see what happens in the future. Part of me thinks it will be out of our hands eventually, because it will get so crazy that it will just die away... I can't even tell you how many people in my area have quit NADAC already -- Despite what Sharon says about "NADAC thriving," the trials in this part of the country struggle greatly. And it's not the economy, because CPE and AKC trials fill with wait lists and USDAA trials end up with 400+ runs per day.

  8. I've never been to a full NADAC trial. But the AKC trials are pretty much always full, or close to it. I don't know if I'll do NADAC with my next dog or not. It's fun, but someone other than Sharon needs to take control and make it a more respectable organization. Better yet, there needs to me multiple people running it, not just one. Time will tell. Hopfully all those titles we've all earned in NADAC won't be obsolete some day! Hard enough to get people to respect a NATCH as it is.

    1. Back when I first started there were a few NADAC trials that would fill or come close to filling -- two-ring trials, even. The fact that they now struggle to get 200 runs per day should say something, you'd think.

      My own respect for the NATCH tanked when you could start earning half of your Q's whilst running at home. Thanks for making our Championship title a joke, Sharon.

      Getting a NATCH/V-NATCH is not easy -- I think most people in other organizations will respect that for the Chances component alone. But letting people get "video Q's" that count towards the same titles that we earn at trials is just wrong.

      I saw several people post about NADAC needing a committee and/or multiple people running it. I totally agree with that one. And those multiple people need to not all be the Kool-Aid drinkers and yes-men that currently surround Sharon.