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The Overview from USDAA
USDAA Message

By Kenneth Tatsch

USDAA PresidentAgility has come a long way from its beginnings in Great Britain, with a 45-degree ascent angle on the A-frame (90 degree angle at the apex or an approximately 6'3" high A-frame), a tire with an aperture of 15", weave poles with spacing of 18", and a 30" jump height for all dogs. Wanting to level the playing field for dogs, USDAA introduced a four-height system in 1989 to be more inclusive while retaining the sporting aspects of conditioning and performance. The evolution continued in that vein, with an adjustment to jump heights and the introduction of the Performance Program in 1999, offering an alternative program for handlers seeking a less strenuous avenue for enjoying competitive sport. In more recent years, the lowering of the A-frame to a 41-degree ascent angle (app. 5'11") for large dogs and a 38 degree ascent angle (app. 5'6 ½") for small dogs has taken the edge off of impact. This shows recognition that the popularity of the sport has seen events become more frequent, along with the increased physical demand that I'm sure the sport's creators never thought possible. Now, with another 15 years of growth, the introduction of two additional jump heights continues the evolution by further leveling the playing field while holding fast to what is now a proven sports framework.

Please take a moment, if you haven't already, and check out the summary of rule changes on obstacle and course performance standards recently posted on usdaa.com. For those in the Performance Program wishing to move laterally into either the 14" or 18" jump height classes in the Championship Program, please do not forget there is a deadline for filing the form necessary to exercise your option to move laterally between programs. That deadline has been deferred until January 31, 2014. After that date, a lateral move to Advanced or Masters will not be possible. To be clear, note that an election does not mean you must move, only that you are able to move laterally at a future date at the level you at which you are eligible on January 1, 2014. If you have any questions on this, please contact the USDAA office at rules@usdaa.com, or contact Heather Smith at (972) 487-2200, extension 102. Also, be sure and check out the 2014 tournament regulations recently posted. All of these amendments and documents can be found in the Rules & Regulations section at www.usdaa.com/rulesreg_eBook.cfm.

With every major change, there is a great deal of study that goes into the formulating and implementing a revised framework. Such changes are the result of a lot of hard work by office staff, board members, course reviewers, and others to help vet and/or implement the new framework and prepare for the coming year. For many, this will run on into the New Year. I extend a heartfelt thank you to all of those involved for the time and energy they have contributed to this project, and I ask competitors to join me in thanking all of the USDAA affiliated groups for their willingness to bring these changes about. For many, it is not without considerable expense to replace jumps or retool existing jumps. I'm sure they would appreciate a show of gratitude through greater volunteerism. Groups will need increased help in managing the added jump height changes during an event. No sport succeeds without the efforts of volunteers, so if you haven't pitched in to help for a while, please include among your New Year's resolutions to step forward and help those who bring agility to you in your community. The growth of the sport was only possible through the giving spirit of many volunteers. Just an hour a day can make a tremendous impact on the efficiency and enjoyment of an event for all.

With the New Year come new opportunities, and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

Supporting Starters
By Sandi Bixler

To increase the number of Starter/PI entries at future USDAA trials in the New England area, Riverside Canine Center of Nashua, New Hampshire, co-chairs Valori Duff and John and Lisa Marcus started brainstorming ideas to bring in more new people to USDAA agility. The ideas had to be things that could be easily implemented at the local level, not an organizational rule or equipment changes.

The first issue was financial: an incentive to give USDAA a try. Riverside paid the $25 registration fee for any new-to-USDAA handler who entered at least two out of the three days. This brought in four brand new handlers to USDAA. Now that we have them, how do we keep them coming back? This led to a number of ideas to help the Starters/PI handlers with their first trial and to welcome them to the New England USDAA family.

Clean Run donated agility record keeping books that were handed out to all Starter/PI handlers. In addition, a special crating area was set aside for Starters/P1 and Advanced/PII competitors in front of their ring. This alleviated the stress of entering the large indoor arena and worrying about where to set up, and it ended up much less densely occupied than the other crating areas.
 
Mini-seminars on Gamblers and Snooker were held in the morning before the first briefing. Judges Judy Reilly and Lisa Barrett, who were competing at the trial, explained the rules and answered questions on how these games were played.


Judy Reilly and Lisa Barrett taught competitors about Gamblers and Snooker. Photo courtesy of John Marcus.

"If you have the glow, you're in the know." Acting as mentors, experienced handlers wore glow sticks as bracelets, necklaces, and headbands to mark them as "in the know" and willing to answer any questions. Wondering who to turn to with questions or concerns can be stressful to a new competitor and having a fun and visible way to locate help provided a level of comfort.
 
Overall, the program was a success. Feedback was positive and the hope is that more clubs will adopt some of these ideas or come up with new ones, to help bring in more competitors. The future success of the sport of agility hinges on the ability to bring in new competitors.

Riverside Canine Center is repeating their Starters program at their next trial!

Read more of this article here.

Training Corner: Twice as Nice
By Deborah Davidson Harpur

Pick a course (marked with the circle numbers or the square ones) and run it. Then, run it in reverse without moving the cones. Do the same for the other course. If your brain won't let you reverse the course in your head without renumbering it, try running just 1/2 of a course and then reversing that. This is a great exercise for your memory, and, if you do the reverse without walking it, it's also a good way to practice "thinking on your feet!"

Use these courses to work on different types of crosses. Ask yourself what kind of cross works best at each turn. Where should you put that cross? When should you cross? Do you even need to cross at all? Then, when you do the course in reverse, you'll learn if certain crosses are easier going in one direction for you and your dog than they are on the other. If so, you'll know what you need to practice more!

See this article on the web here.

Event Report: IFCS Championship - Asia

The Organization for the Promotion of Dog Education & Socialization (OPDES) in Japan held the IFCS Asia Continental Championship and their final qualification trials for fielding a team to participate in the IFCS World Agility Championships in the Netherlands in 2014. Hisato Tanabe, agility director for OPDES, judged the event, setting out two Standard Agility courses, two Jumpers courses, and one each of Gamblers and Snooker. The Individual All-Around was the focus of attention.

Members of the new 2014 IFCS World Agility Championships Team Japan.

Here is one of Sunday's key courses, the Agility class, with comments on issues encountered by competitors. Top scores are provided for those who might want to set up and run the courses to see how they might stack up.


Top scores:
30cm - 41.74 seconds
40cm - 39.89 seconds
55cm - 35.12 seconds
65cm - 36.50 seconds


Grid is 5m x 5m, or approximately 6.5 yards square.

The primary performance issues on this course came from the tunnel at position #9, exiting back to #10, with some handlers driving the dog across #11, or getting the dog trapped behind #10, leading to other issues. Refusals and wrong courses also occurred around hurdle #18. In the opening sequence, some handlers focused on wrapping left off #2, causing them to have to handle the redirect to the right side of tunnel #4. This held some back on the race down the dogwalk. To make the correct end of the tunnel more obvious, handlers took the shorter path around the right side of #2, setting up the direct line to #4. A wrong course occurred on #4 when handlers worked close to their dogs and the dogs followed their cue to move toward the dogwalk as the handler attempted to get a head start before the dog committed to the tunnel.

To read the rest of this event report, with more courses and analyses, click here.

Masters Challenge: What's the Challenge?
By Stuart Mah

Although the Masters Challenge (MC) classes (both Jumpers and Standard, occasionally known as "fancy jumpers" or "fancy standard") have been around for almost three years now, it wasn't until the end of 2012 that there was an upsurge in the frequency of this type of class being offered at USDAA events. Originally based on the IHC (International Handling Challenge) courses, Masters Challenge provides American handlers the opportunity to experience "overseas" challenges not commonly seen here. It also provides a way to select teams to compete internationally. With the advent of the new Biathlon tournament for Cynosport 2013, it was decided to incorporate the design elements found in Masters Challenge courses for that tournament. This is the reason for the dramatic increase in the Masters Challenge courses.

So, now that we know where it came from, what is different about it? Time? Challenges? Obstacles? Handling? How about all of the above!

The times are certainly much tighter. For handlers running several seconds under course time, it is sometimes shocking for them to find that they are now running over time. The yards per second rate for 22" dogs in MC standard, for example, is 3.75-4.25 yards per second (YPS) as opposed to a regular Masters standard class, which is 3.00-3.30 yps. Masters Challenge Jumpers classes for the same height has a YPS of 4.25-4.75, an increase in a half yard per second over regular Masters Jumpers. Depending on things like yardage and number of obstacles, the dog now needs to run at least 7-10 seconds faster than before.

Although only part of the picture, handling challenges are what most handlers tend think of as what makes up MC courses and also what makes them different than regular Masters Standard or Grand Prix. To make it short, just about any challenge within reason is allowable. For example, while we might occasionally see a threadle in a Masters Standard class, it isn't uncommon to see it with a high frequency in MC class (where there is often more than one in a course). In addition, we can see challenges like widely varied spacing (anywhere from 15' to 30+' between obstacles), backside approaches, pull throughs, bypassing close obstacles, and compound challenges (two or more challenges stacked on top of each other). Now it isn't as easy to get through a course cleanly since both the dogs and handlers have to be more on top of things.

Obstacles and their performance criteria are the same as Masters Standard. But in Masters Challenge, the question is, how many times are the obstacles are performed? Maneuvers like back-to-back performance of an obstacle are seen with frequency. Likewise, wrapping a jump to take it again is common.

In addition, the judges are not limited to 20 obstacles maximum. Instead they can use up to 25 obstacles on course. So, if we are used to running 20 obstacles in Masters Standard, we now are running 25% more than we are used to. A course of more than 20 obstacles will have the obstacles arranged in combinations similar to what we might see in Snooker. Use of combinations in both Standard and Jumpers courses also requires a different way of judging combinations. This means the handler and judge need to be more aware of what is going on in the course since faults like run-outs and refusals are handled differently in combinations as compared to an individual obstacle.

Lastly, handling.... what we would do on a Masters Standard course may no longer be sufficient in MC courses. For example, if a handler had to front cross to keep a dog tight in a turn, the handler might find that as she gets behind the dog more physically, she can't necessarily get into as good a position to execute a clean front cross. The result is more off-courses and wider (time consuming) turns. Handling alone isn't good enough to get through many of the MC courses.

When comparing Masters Challenge to regular Masters Standard classes, the Masters Challenge courses are the equivalent of going onto graduate school after finishing undergraduate work. To be good at the undergraduate level, you need to study hard and put the time in to do the work. To get into and to do well in graduate school, however, not only do you have to do the work, you have to be smarter than the average undergraduate student. Being smarter means that you have to have a better understanding of the subject, be quicker at figuring things out, and also have more skills to draw from. You can't study in graduate school the same way you did as an undergraduate and expect to do well. For agility handlers, this translates into a faster dog, a faster handler (at least mentally), more intensity in handling, longer concentration, and better understanding of course designs. With all this comes more of a concern that dogs could be injured or that the courses shut down the dogs by decreasing motivation.

So where does that leave us? How can we be successful at MC courses, keep the dogs motivated, and also keep them safe? One word: Plastics? No that isn't it. It is SKILLS. Skills both on the dog AND on the handler.

It is possible to fly without motors but not without knowledge or skills.... (Wilber Wright)

For an overview of the skills needed to succeed on Masters Challenge courses, click here.

Upcoming Events Calendar

Watch out for these events with entries closing in the coming weeks:
Dates Host Group Location Closing Date
01/03-01/05/2014 Tails in Motion Ham Lake, MN 12/27
01/10-01/12/2014 Front Range Agility Club (FRAC) Longmont, CO 12/27
01/10-01/12/2014 Fast and Furryous Agility, LLC Raleigh, NC 12/30
01/17-01/19/2014 BARK-NH! Manchester, NH 01/02
01/11-01/12/2014 Lucky Dog Promotions Tyler, TX 01/02
01/18-01/19/2014 Highest Hope Dog Sports Grand Blanc, MI 01/03
01/10-01/12/2014 Magic City Canine Club Birmingham, AL 01/03
01/11-01/12/2014 Club-Doggie Queen Creek, AZ 01/03
01/18-01/19/2014 North Alabama Canine Cruisers Huntsville, AL 01/03
01/18-01/20/2014 The Bay Team Santa Rosa, CA 01/06
01/17-01/19/2014 Las Vegas Dogs in Competitive Events (LV DICE) Boulder City, NV 01/06
01/18-01/19/2014 Buckeye Region Agility Group Inc. Columbus, OH 01/06
01/18-01/19/2014 Boone County Dog Sport New Berlin, WI 01/06
01/17-01/19/2014 Dog-On-It Agility Club of Cent. Florida Winter Park, FL 01/06
01/18-01/19/2014 On Target Agility, LLC Barto, PA 01/07
01/25-01/26/2014 Happy Hounds Agility Team McKinney, TX 01/08
01/18-01/19/2014 Action Dog Sports Moorpark, CA 01/08
01/31-02/02/2014 BARK-NH! Manchester, NH 01/08
01/25-01/26/2014 ARFF Agility Club, Inc. Westborough, MA 01/10
01/25-01/26/2014 DrivenDogs Agility Camarillo, CA 01/13
01/25-01/26/2014 Redhot Rovers Auburn, WA 01/13
01/31-02/02/2014 Knight Flyer Agility Frankston, TX 01/15
02/08-02/09/2014 Pawsitive Partners Dog Training Center Indianapolis, IN 01/17
02/01-02/02/2014 Salinas-Monterey Agility Racing Team Morgan Hill, CA 01/17
01/26-01/26/2014 NOMAD Waterbury Center, VT 01/17
02/01-02/02/2014 4 PAWS Agility Holly Springs, MS 01/19
02/01-02/02/2014 Contact Sports Agility Campton Hills, IL 01/20
01/31-02/02/2014 Carolina Piedmont Agility Raleigh, NC 01/20
02/01-02/02/2014 Happy Dog Agility Moorpark, CA 01/22
02/01-02/02/2014 Contact Zonies Phoenix, AZ 01/22
01/31-02/02/2014 Minnesota Agility Club Ham Lake, MN 01/22
02/07-02/09/2014 Casa de Canine of Greater Kansas City, LLC Lawrence, KS 01/24
02/15-02/17/2014 Four Seasons K9 Athlete Center, LLC Washingtonville, OH 01/26
02/07-02/09/2014 Agile Dogs Agility Training Greenwich, NY 01/27
02/14-02/16/2014 Boone County Dog Sport New Berlin, WI 01/27
02/07-02/09/2014 Sonlight Ranch LLC Brooksville, FL 01/27
02/08-02/09/2014 Valley Agility Sports Team Turlock, CA 01/29
02/15-02/17/2014 Keystone Agility Club Barto, PA 01/29
02/08-02/09/2014 Action Dog Sports Moorpark, CA 01/29
02/15-02/16/2014 SureFire Dogs Training Center Westborough, MA 01/31
02/22-02/22/2014 Puppy to Utility Practical Solutions (PUPS) Singapore, XX 01/31


Questions? Mail - USDAA, PO Box 850955, Richardson, TX 75085; Call - (972) 487 - 2200; Email - info@usdaa.com.

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