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The Overview from USDAA
USDAA Message
By Andy Hartman

USDAA PresidentBecoming an agility judge has been a dream for me since 2003. After 10 years, I made this dream a reality last June by passing the USDAA Rules and Course Design Clinic (Judges Clinic) in Illinois. Since then, I have had two scheduled assignments and a third outing helping out a local club whose judge could not get to Raleigh in January due to the winter weather.

While I knew I would enjoy judging, I didn't know just how much. It is one of the most satisfying things I have done. It is hard to describe the sense of accomplishment you get from watching competitors enjoying themselves on the courses you put many hours in designing. And then there is the course that, after two dogs, you realize is not going to run as you intended – lesson learned.

You learn a lot at the clinic regarding the philosophy behind USDAA agility, course design and judging, as well as the rules that govern the variety of classes offered. There is a lot of information packed into the four days of the clinic as well as in the pre-clinic documents. And, as you might expect, you form a bond with your fellow classmates.

After the clinic, you continue to learn more about agility with each course you design and judge. Have you ever watched every run in a ring from beginning to end? You will if you become a judge!

If you have ever considered becoming a judge, or if you just want to learn more about USDAA agility, please join us at our next Rules and Course Design Clinic, July 31-August 3, 2014, in Norcross, Georgia (just outside Atlanta). Hope to see you there.

Training Corner: Weaves and Serpintines
By Elizabeth Dott

This is a fun exercise to work on weave pole entrances and exits as well as serpentines. The serpentine line can be straightened to make the exercise even harder as you progress. How many different ways can you run this course?

Here are a few ideas for key portions:

From #1 to #2, I set my dog on a slice so I could easily turn him to the left. This is important since the weave entry is blind from the first jump. Another way to show the entrance into the weave poles effectively is to start with your dog on your right side at an angle (half circle) so they are naturally turning left.

There are a few ways to work the end of the weave poles to show the second line from #2 to #3. You can drive ahead up the line of weaves in front of your dog and do a blind cross, picking him up on your left side, or you can front cross the end of the poles on the takeoff side of #3. Want even more of a challenge? Use lateral motion to carry you ahead on the right side of the jump for a landing front cross between #3 and #4. If you want to try your rear cross, you can pull to #3 out of the weave poles and rear cross #4.

This is a tough weave exit. You can play with this exit two ways. You can work on rotating your body to pull your dog out of the weaves and straight down the line back into the tunnel from #7 to #9. Start by waiting until the dog exits and then gradually work on turning sooner and sooner as long as your dog continues to drive through all the poles. This is a great proofing exercise. The second way to do this exit is by adding lateral motion and front crossing at the right side of the stanchion of # 7. This will allow you to keep moving forward to support your dog's forward motion through the poles, while still moving laterally away so you are in the correct place for your cross and not stuck behind the jump. If you want to add even more challenge, try moving lateral and layering #7. Now you are on the left side of jumps #7-#9, which puts you in a better place for the upcoming serpentine.

Because #13 is not straight on to #14, this is a great way to practice ugly entries. Use your body to push your dog out a bit so he sees the entry. Want more of a challenge? Let your dog find the entry without shaping it for him.

My challenge to you is to now see how many variations you can build off of this one course. Have fun with it!

Click here to read more ideas about how to handle this course.

Border Collie Understands Over 1,000 Object Names
By Claudia Bensimoun

Researchers at the Wofford College in Germany discovered that a Border Collie named Chaser understood the names of more than 1,000 objects and could differentiate between the names of the objects, as well as orders to fetch them. John Pilley and Alliston Reid wanted to find out if Chaser really understood the names when nouns and not commands were used. They also questioned how large a dog’s vocabulary could become if given extensive training. These studies are published in the Elsevier Journal Behavioral Processes.

Chaser learned the names of over 1,200 objects. Pilley and Reid's training with Chaser stopped after three years due to time constraints, although Chaser seemed capable of learning more object names. This study demonstrated Chaser’s ability to learn the names of proper nouns. They also tested her vocabulary repeatedly under carefully controlled conditions. “It’s really amazing what the dog can do,” says Reid. “Most of us think that humans are the only animals on Earth who can talk and communicate,” adds Reid. “But, of course, humans must have evolved to have these abilities from their precursors. So there must be some kind of modules in the brains of animals that are language related. So the question is, ‘What sort of cognitive processes do animals have that are similar to ours?’ Of course, ours allow us to have extensive language abilities. The research paper isn’t about seeing how many words a dog can learn. It’s actually very good science where [Pilley] is looking at the ways in which children and lower animals share certain cognitive processes for language acquisition.” (Via Wofford College.)

To more on this topic, click here.


Event Report: NOMAD's Intro Only Trial
By Monique Plinck

Sunday, February 16th, this agility old schooler accompanied a student and friend, Casey Coughlin, to her very first USDAA trial at Wildwood Farm in Waterbury Center, Vermont. I also enjoyed the experience with my 15-month-old Papillon, who is not yet eligible to compete in regular classes.

Lisa Barrett from NOMAD (Northern Magic Agility Dogs) says this this was the club's second year of offering four Intro trials during the winter. "These trials give both new and seasoned competitors a chance to trial under relaxed, supportive conditions. Handlers can choose to train in the ring with a toy, or run for a Q and a rosette. The dogs get practice at being measured, and they learn to cope with the trial atmosphere at a very small, comfortable trial," says Barrett.

Running an Intro trial is not complicated, according to Barrett. She says, "This is the second winter that NOMAD has scheduled four half-day Intro trials. Intro trials are fairly simple for the sponsoring club. NOMAD holds our Intro Trials at the indoor horse area a where the club practices during the winter. Our equipment is already there, so it's fairly easy to hold these trials. We offer all four Intro classes: Standard, Gamblers, Snooker and Jumpers. We have only 14 parking spaces, so we ask everyone to carpool and we limit our entries to 80 runs. We were delighted to have Monique Plinck drive all the way from Connecticut for our little half-day trial."

Kit Erskine has been the judge at all of NOMAD's Intro Only trials this winter. He designs great courses and creates a friendly, supportive atmosphere.

This Intro Only trial was special to me as I love the NOMAD group of agility folks for their laid back and supportive attitudes. I really enjoyed having four Intro Only classes offered with an assurance of being finished by 1:00 PM. NOMAD allowed us to enter each class as FEO (For Exhibition Only) or as a competition class. Even up to the start line you could opt to bring in a toy and run as FEO. That flexibility was great for dogs that needed more encouragement, feedback, and/or proofing. It was a perfect time to bring my young Papillon, Tush, to his first trial. It was lower key but still professional. And so so much fun!


Members of NOMAD, plus Monique and Tush. From left to right, standing: Carla Dunbar, Lynne von Trapp, Kit Erskine, Monique Plinck and Tush, Judy Kessler, Lisa Barrett, Jennifer Hammond. Kneeling: John Marcus, Kathy Trybus.

My friend Casey enjoyed the trial as well. She says, "As a person just getting into agility and feeling overwhelmed with the variety of rules, regulations, and agility nuances faced when trying to enter an event, the Intro trial held by NOMAD was an amazing way to get the feel of a trial without the pressure of an actual competition. The event staff was extremely welcoming, friendly, and easy going, which allowed me to be successfully briefed on rules of games which I had previously never played! The low pressure atmosphere also allowed me to focus completely on my dog and explore his reactions to trial stressors. I chose to run FEO for the entire day and was happy to not be worrying about earning a Q. I noticed a huge variety of skill levels in other teams competing but everyone was united by the fact that we were all working on something. What made the day for me was, after completing the jumpers course with no hiccups (finally!), everyone present took notice and supported our efforts with a great applause. That is a moment that will stick with me for years to come."

NOMAD, your encouragement to cheer on fellow competitors and your taking the time to announce FEO and qualifying placements after each class reminded me why I love this sport and what it's all about. Loved it!

Click here for more information about the event.

Upcoming Events Calendar

Watch out for these events with entries closing in the coming weeks:
Dates Host Group Location Closing Date
03/15-03/16/2014 Dog Agility Racing Team (DART) Irwindale, CA 03/03
03/14-03/16/2014 Dog-On-It Agility Club of Cent. Florida Winter Park, FL 03/03
03/15-03/16/2014 SCOR Agility, LLC Middletown, NY 03/03
03/22-03/23/2014 International Dog Events Assoc. Devonshire, XX 03/03
03/15-03/16/2014 Good Dog Agility Club Phoenix, AZ 03/03
03/14-03/16/2014 Contact Sports Agility Loves Park, IL 03/03
03/22-03/23/2014 All Dogs Gym Agility Manchester, NH 03/07
04/05-04/06/2014 On Target Agility, LLC Barto, PA 03/09
03/22-03/23/2014 On The Run Canine Center Ham Lake, MN 03/10
04/10-04/10/2014 United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. Naperville, IL 03/10
03/22-03/23/2014 Happy Hounds Agility Team Lowry Crossing, TX 03/10
03/21-03/21/2014 Tails in Motion Ham Lake, MN 03/10
03/15-03/17/2014 Club Agility Chiluca Metepec, MEX 03/10
03/28-03/30/2014 Contact Agility Club Hamden, CT 03/10
03/16-03/16/2014 Branchwater Training Center Reisterstown, MD 03/10
03/21-03/23/2014 Fast and Furryous Agility, LLC Colfax, NC 03/12
03/22-03/23/2014 Happy Dog Agility Moorpark, CA 03/12
03/21-03/23/2014 Agility Workout Society of Mid-Michigan Lapeer, MI 03/12
03/22-03/23/2014 Mid-Atlantic MADness Millersville, MD 03/12
04/05-04/06/2014 Pawsitive Partners Dog Training Center Indianapolis, IN 03/14
03/22-03/23/2014 All 4 Fun Agility Club Gray Summit, MO 03/15
03/28-03/30/2014 Fort Worth Agility Sports Team Burleson, TX 03/17
04/05-04/06/2014 Rainier Agility Team Elma, WA 03/17
03/28-03/30/2014 Paws & Ques Williston, FL 03/18
03/29-03/30/2014 Club-Doggie Queen Creek, AZ 03/19
04/11-04/13/2014 Teamworks Dog Training, LLC Youngsville, NC 03/23
04/03-04/06/2014 Haute Dawgs Dixon, CA 03/24
04/04-04/06/2014 HOT Dog Sports, LLC Kerrville, TX 03/24
04/12-04/13/2014 Splash & Dash K9 Sports Latrobe, PA 03/24
04/12-04/13/2014 Dallas Agility Working Group McKinney, TX 03/25
04/11-04/13/2014 Sirius Dog Agility Training Center Alpharetta, GA 03/26
04/05-04/06/2014 Fast and Furryous Agility, LLC Snow Camp, NC 03/28
04/11-04/13/2014 Contact Sports Agility Naperville, IL 03/28
04/12-04/13/2014 SureFire Dogs Training Center Westborough, MA 03/28
04/12-04/13/2014 Santa Barbara Flyers Santa Ynez, CA 03/29
04/12-04/13/2014 Low Country Dog Agility Charleston, SC 03/29
04/04-04/06/2014 Dog Agility Sport Handlers Costa Mesa, CA 03/31
04/12-04/13/2014 IncrediPAWS Columbus, OH 04/01
04/18-04/20/2014 Pawprints Agility Club Greenwood, LA 04/02
04/12-04/13/2014 Windsor Agility Group Ilderton, ON 04/02
04/12-04/13/2014 Artful Dodgers Agility Group Millersville, MD 04/02
04/18-04/20/2014 Tailwaggers Learning Center West Palm Beach, FL 04/03
04/19-04/20/2014 Salinas-Monterey Agility Racing Team Prunedale, CA 04/04
04/26-04/27/2014 Center for Canine Sports, Inc. Garland, TX 04/06
04/18-04/20/2014 Twister Agility & Dog Sports Purcell, OK 04/07
04/19-04/20/2014 Redhot Rovers Langley, BC 04/07
04/18-04/20/2014 Wasatch Agility Farmington, UT 04/07
04/18-04/20/2014 BARK-NH! Manchester, NH 04/07
04/26-04/27/2014 Playing Agility With Style Greenfield, MA 04/08
04/13-04/13/2014 Wasatch Agility Farmington, UT 04/09
04/25-04/27/2014 Blue Ridge Agility Club Tryon, NC 04/11
04/26-04/27/2014 Highest Hope Dog Sports Grand Blanc, MI 04/13
05/02-05/04/2014 High Octane Agility Barto, PA 04/13
05/02-05/04/2014 Run Spot Jump Canton, GA 04/14
05/03-05/04/2014 Ace Agility Club Greenfield, MA 04/14
04/26-04/27/2014 On The Run Canine Center Ham Lake, MN 04/14
04/26-04/27/2014 Think Pawsitive LLC New Berlin, WI 04/14
04/25-04/27/2014 Dog Agility Racing Team (DART) Moorpark, CA 04/14

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

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