Thursday, September 27, 2007

Next Venue in Agility

I have been thinking a lot about what venue to pursue next in agility after (and if) Wyatt gets his CPE championship (C-ATCH). With a toddler and with Wyatt being 5, we need to focus our limited time on one venue. I would like to pursue another championship with Wyatt. These views apply only to us as a team. I respect other people's choices on what venue they choose for their dog. Each venue has something to offer and we are blessed to have so many choices in agility.

One choice is to go for the next level of CPE Championship, the C-ATE. He might be the first whippet to do so, which would be cool. However, you have to go to tons of trials and it would not be any harder in terms of courses. Technically, the C-ATE requires all clean runs in Level C but Wyatt either gets a clean run or a NQ so for us, it would be the same courses and times. So I thinking that I would like to pursue something more challenging that would force me to improve my handling skills.

While AKC is popular for whippets, I just don't get the appeal myself. Runs cost twice as much as other venues ($25/run compared to $10 to $14 per run for other venues). Until the FAST class was created (which still is not offered much), there were no games and only 2 runs per day compared to 4-6 for other venues. Wyatt typically needs the first run of the day for "nerves". I don't like refusals. We don't usually get them on a qualifying run in other venues but it seems like double penalizing the dog since you lose time. I don't like the table in standard and the courses tend to be very tight and twisty which is not good for a long striding dog. In my experience, the atmosphere is one of the least friendly compared to other venues (even though there are many wonderful AKC competitors). I also never liked the fact that there are weaves in jumpers. I love jumpers because it only has jumps and tunnels. Why put a obstacle that slows the dog down in a jumpers course. Only AKC puts weaves in the jumpers game. Also, it can be very formal in terms of rules and I think it is silly that the judges were ties. The only advantages I see is that the Excellent courses are challenging and other whippet people have some knowledge of AKC titles and what they mean.

DOCNA seems cool but there are very few trials in our area right now.

USDAA is a good venue but I have a problem with their jump heights. Wyatt would have to jump 26 inches to be in the Championship program. I do not believe this is a safe height for my dog. That is a full 6 inches higher than he would have to jump in any other venue. This appears to be a problem for many dogs who are close to the cutoff. Wyatt is about 21 3/4 and the cutoff is 21 inches. As soon as I express this concern, folks suggest I do performance but I don't feel that I should have to be in the second tier program to perform safely. While I am not suggested performance is easy by any means, I want to pursue the championship for the best dogs as Wyatt is an exceptional agility dog. Many USDAA people don't agree that Performance is second tier or a veterans type class but there are reasons I think that way.

From the USDAA web site:

The Championship Program jumping height classes were developed to be congruous with international standards demonstrating the highest standard in training and performance, fully revealing the dynamics of canine performance capabilities. Time has proven that these jump heights provide both a fair and safe competitive environment when a dog is trained properly.

The Performance Program was developed for recreational competition purposes, placing less emphasis on demonstrating the agility of the dog. This program offers lower jumping heights for dogs, more generous time constraints on course, and a lower A-frame for all height classes that requires less strength and muscular control to perform.

I do not believe that the championship heights are safe as they claim and the wording about Performance being "recreational" is off putting to me. Also the equivalent of a championship for a Perfomance Dog is called "Accomplished Agility Dog". The word champion is nowhere in the title.

That leaves NADAC. I like a lot of things about NADAC. The courses are open and flowing which is good for dogs, especially long striding dogs. There is no table in standard. The distance challenge in regular (standard) force the handler to be good at distance work. Chances and tunnellers also force you to be good at distance. The times are very tough in the proficient class. Any bobble and you don't make time in elite. Times in Elite are harder than USDAA. (I calculated this using a typical course length and including 5 second for the table in USDAA). There are 5 or 6 runs per day and many trials have 2 regular classes a day. Someone I know claimed NADAC was easy because you could get a regular title in a weekend. While it may be possible at Novice, it would be very difficult in Elite and just because there are 4 runs in weekend in regular, that does not make the title easier to get. You still have to get 3 qualifying runs. NADAC is the only venue (DOCNA may as well) that allows training in the ring. While you don't qualify, this allows you to correct problems in the trial setting. Wyatt has had many trial only issues (most notably contacts) so this is a huge plus for us. We still don't have reliable trial contacts so NADAC is really the ideal venue for us as we can develop reliable trial contacts. I finally figured out how to steer him really well and avoid off courses so he will be unstopable with reliable contacts. NADAC seems to be the best venue for us in many ways.


chinabound98 said...

Do you not have any ASCA trials in your area? It used to be ASCA/NADAC, but then ASCA split to offer their own trials. We have both ASCA and NADAC here in So. Cal.

John Heffernan said...

There a few ASCA trials. Have not tried it. Is it the same as NADAC basically?

JULES & IKE said...

Same as NADAC but they still include the teeter and you see more chutes. Also, they do not have a "Skilled" category. This is important to me personally because I have a MS that measures nearly 16" at the withers, but he finds 16" jumps demotivating.