Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Oh NADAC....

I have been so busy lately that I admittedly have not kept up with the NADAC message board at all. I popped on for a bit today and oh look. Something changed again.

I have NEVER been a fan of the VT (video tape) aspect of NADAC. Originally the VT program was separate of the traditional program. Whatever, if people want their VT titles then go for it. Then VT points were allowed to be used towards qualifying for Champs. Then you could apply 50% of your VT Qs towards titles, but the other half still had to come from actual, real trials.

Well, now you can get a plain old ordinary NATCH in your backyard without ever attending a real life trial. How convenient is that? This is based on the "integrity and professionalism" of those who have been participating in the program. Because, of course, you KNOW people are going to be like, "This was really the 8th time we tried this course, but I'm submitting it like it's my first." -- Or, "We totally just drilled our contacts using massive amounts of treats about 20 times in a row, so let's quick get this next run on tape while Spot is still fooled into thinking I have food on me."

Thanks for devaluing the NATCH even further, NADAC.

There is an entire organization (VALOR) for those who have dogs who do not do well in trial environments (and truthfully, their courses are probably more interesting than NADAC's, so...). I have never found it appropriate for an organization to apply "qualifications" from runs you do in the privacy of your backyard and submit via video to be mixed with those earned in the stressful "you really can only do it ONCE" atmosphere of a trial. They are NOT the same. They should not be rewarded the same.

You sure as hell aren't going to see anyone get a MACH or an ADCH at home. I don't even see the value in it. People will be all like, "My dog is NATCH 12!" and now we'll have to quantify that with, "Did you actually earn those Q's at a trial?" And sadly, now it's entirely possible that the answer will be "no." My dogs have 11 NATCH/V-NATCH awards between them. I would be embarrassed to have anyone believe I earned any part of those awards in my backyard.... That is not what agility is all about. We train to trial. Those who trial are rewarded with titles and awards. I don't expect someone to bake me a cake for anything I do in my backyard -- that is called training. Training happens at home. Trialing happens at trials.

NADAC -- Anything for a buck!


  1. This is an interesting perspective and I am actually in agreement with you, though I have never trialed and have never done a VT run. I don't know if you're familiar at all with nosework, my primary sport, but UKC just started their program and they allow dogs to achieve full titles by way of earning element titles, essentially splitting a full trial into four parts rather than conditioning for endurance in searching and competing over the course of an entire day. I feel much the same as you: like my full titles, earned in one day by conditioning for endurance, are devalued by those that earn them piece by piece.

    Do you think it could be made better if "NATCH-VT" were a thing? To designate those dogs that earned a NATCH using VT trials and those that hadn't ever?

    I don't compete in UKC Nosework for this and a few other reasons. It's too bad NADAC is always in such a state of flux.

    1. Originally that's how the VT program was going to work -- You could get the 'regular' titles at trials and then work to accumulate 'VT' titles separately. It didn't last long. As with anything Sharon gets her mind on, this program morphed relatively quickly. I had no interest in the VT titles, but I didn't care if others wanted to go for them. I did care when the points were combined, and now I really care that you don't even need to attend trials anymore.

      I'm not at all familiar with nosework trials or the UKC program, so thank you for offering your experience and your perspective. I think the various sports and organizations look for ways to make their sport more appealing to the masses, but doing so often means making things "easier." When 3-day eventing (horses) removed the long roads & tracks section from their cross country phase a lot of people thought it cheapened that sport and removed a huge element of athleticism. But it surely did make the sport more accessible to a larger population that was unable to properly condition their horses to that format. It also saw a rise in accidents because people were running horses that were not properly conditioned to the rigors of cross country...

  2. I totally agree with your statement, “anything for a buck.” NADAC is a business and as such its objective is to make money.
    Now I will get on my soapbox.
    Rather than being critical of NADAC, you should be complimenting them on a great marketing program. Agility organizations have devised marketing programs that cost them very little, but still create great customer loyalty. When we buy our dog food, we get a free bag after buying ten. The free bag of dog food has value, and even our credit card companies give us something of value for being loyal customers, but a NATCH, MACH, etc. have no value. With 10,000 points and $3.95 you can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks. NATCH means, “Nelson’s Appreciation of The Customer’s Hay.”
    I have this belief which is not shared by many in the agility community that a champion title should be given only to the best of the best. It should not be bestowed simply because someone has performed at the minimum required level. When someone who I just met tells me that their dog is a MACH XX or some other such title, I get very suspicious of their actual skill. This suspicion is usually confirmed after watching one of their runs when they perform at a level far below anything that could possibly be considered championship quality. In my view, the VT program has done nothing to devalue the NATCH, because the NATCH and other such titles have no value.
    I run some of the VT course and video them, but I do not have to pay $5.00 for someone to tell me if my dog missed a contact or if a bar is on the ground. NADAC has found a profit center. The only thing that surprises me is that people will actually pay $5.00 for a Q. That should not really surprise me because I have long said that agility addicts pay homage to the Evil Q-gods.

    Bill Fehn

    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Bill. There is no doubt that the VT program was a brilliant marketing move on NADAC's part, but one does need to consider the cost/benefit ratio to such things. I would be curious to compare the amount of income the program generates compared to the amount they are losing by driving people away (although hard to quantify, I'm sure). I have become less and less enchanted with NADAC over the years, to the point where I'm doing very little these days and choosing to spend my money elsewhere. Things like this new VT announcement (which, I should add, wasn't an announcement at all and was just slipped into a random post on the forum) are what push me away.

      I did chuckle at your interpretation of what the NATCH stands for. :o)

      I have always been of the opinion that practically any dog could get a MACH/PACH if they trialed enough, but at least those people are putting in the time and earning those qualifications under the stress of an actual trial -- not in their backyard or training center in sterile conditions. The same is true of those who earn the NATCH with no VT Qs. Back when I cared about bonus lines, I would practice them frequently with Luke. At home I could stand at the bottom of the yard and direct him through pretty much any course I set. Did we ever get a bonus Q at a trial? No -- because it's different. It just is.

      I agree with your last statement. I do find it sad that people are paying for Qs -- because you know nobody submits a run that isn't a Q.

  3. Lots of good thoughts here. I agree with a lot of it. I see everyone getting a MACH now- as long as you keep at it and trial a lot you can probably get there. And the VT thing-I think it's kind of dumb and I'm glad a lot of people outside of NADAC don't know about it so they don't wonder about mine! I agree with the UKC nosework thing-when there is a 90% pass rate is the title really valuable? So for now I'm sticking with NACSW. I guess in the end it's all about having fun and being proud of what your dog accomplished. I know we worked hard for our titles, regardless of how hard or easy other people think they are, it was fun and I was proud of my dog. We won't any competitions against other true national champions, so this gave us a big goal to work towards.

  4. I think if there truly is "integrity and professionalism" in this program, that NADAC would be receiving as many NQ runs on video as Qs along with the payment for those NQs. Bet they aren't. Not even close.
    It does seem to just be a way to make money, as no backyard video run is going to be the same as a trial environment. Now you can get all your chances Qs by practicing the sends over and over until you have them, then video it with lots of integrity.

  5. At its inception, the program was lauded as giving people who do not have much opportunity to play NADAC a chance to do so. People who never see Hoopers at trials anymore were now able to complete All Around titles by getting the rest of their Qs this way. So you live in an agility wasteland, okay, here's a way to play (I guess...). But then I started to see people who trial ALL THE TIME posting VT runs. I mean come on, why is that even necessary? It's not like you are lacking the ability to go to a real trial -- NADAC or otherwise. No, it's more like these people are training and figured they may as well video it, send in their $5 and get a Q for it. I just do not see the point nor the fun in this.

    I also question the ability to truly set a standard on time. This is especially so in the special skills classes where times are tighter. Those times are based on specific yardage and you are taking people at their word that a course is set to standard. So basically, if I struggle to get Elite Weavers Qs in trials because we consistently come in 0.1 - 1.5 seconds over time (as was common with Luke back in the day), it would seem that setting it up at home would be a good way to buck the system -- both because I could theoretically compress the course slightly without it being noticeable, and because some dogs run faster at home.

    It is what it is. I know my opinion surely won't change anything -- I learned that long ago, which is why I've just had to step back and do other things.