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The Overview from USDAA
USDAA Message

By Kenneth Tatsch

USDAA President

There is much anticipation on the upcoming jump height announcement. We are on target to make the announcement by July 31, as we are currently looking at some further considerations on jump construction issues. There are a great many issues surrounding jump heights besides just the heights, from impact on tournaments to possible jump construction requirements. We want to have many of these addressed when we make the announcement to not only reduce the number of questions, but to avoid confusion. Stay tuned. Announcements will be posted on the USDAA news page, with release announcements on social media.

We have good word that team size next year for the IFCS World Agility Championships in The Netherlands will likely be increased from 12 to perhaps 16 or 20. We are also anticipating that a handler will be limited to only one dog, though a handler may be permitted to have a second dog in reserve. We will keep everyone apprised on these issues as they develop. The dates have been firmly established as May 7-11, 2014.
The summer regionals for USDAA's tournaments are heating up, and entry levels have surpassed expectations according to organizers at the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and, most recently, New England Regionals. There are still several regionals to go this season with the last one in Mexico September 14-15. With Cynosport® 2013 to be the last IFCS team selection event, we have every reason to believe it will be exciting as ever.  

Canine Connection: Study Explores How Dogs Think and Learn About Human Behavior
By Claudia Bensimoun

New research suggests that the way our canine companions respond to the level of our attentiveness is linked to a combination of specific cues, context, and previous experience. Dr. Monique Udell and her team from the University of Florida have identified a remarkable range of human-like social behaviors in the domestic dog, including their ability to respond to human body language, verbal commands, and to attentional states.

Dogs were likely the first animals to become domesticated and to have shared a close bond with humans over thousands of years. Therefore, the domesticated dog's behavior has come under much scientific scrutiny. Most of the research by Udell and her team has been inspired by research in human cognitive psychology and suggests that our canine companions are in so many ways more human-like than any other animal species, including nonhuman primates. Behavior analysts add their expertise to the study of all canine behavior. This includes adding objective analyses of all experimental data and effectively integrating all new knowledge into the applied work with dogs.

Many previous studies have been documented about the domestic dog's sensitivity to the human attentional state. This includes a tendency to preferentially beg for food from attentive individuals, and an ability to selectively perform forbidden behaviors when humans are not looking.

Some studies have hypothesized that domesticated dogs may have "theory of mind," or the ability to infer what other individuals know, because dogs have been successful on perspective-taking tasks in the past. In this study by Udell, it is evident that non-domesticated canids, grey wolves, are also sensitive to the human attentional state under some conditions. They also demonstrated that dogs do not display an undifferentiated sensitivity to all visual cues of the attentional state. Instead, our canine companions are more sensitive to stimuli encountered in their home environment. Some dogs perform poorly on perspective-taking tasks. These findings have important implications for the interpretation of research that is designed to understand complex social cognition across species.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Monique Udell.

To read more about this study, click here.

Training Corner: Is It My Turn?
By Deborah Davidson Harpur 

This month's course is all about choosing the right turn for your dog. Break the course down into smaller sections (say, from #1-#6, then #1-#10, then #6-#16, and #10-#20). Do each section with every handling choice you can come up with, as long as you have safe entries to all the obstacles and offer clear directions to your dog.

The first choice comes at #3. From #3 to #5, do you want to rear cross (cross behind the dog), front cross (cross in front of the dog while facing him), post turn (turn to the right or left, "pulling" the dog along with you), or do a fancy European move, like a Jaakko (a straight blind cross into a curved blind cross), a Ketschker (a blind cross into a wrapped jump), or something else to get to #4? Then from #4 to #5, are you going to rear cross to pull the dog in or perhaps slide in a front cross or blind cross (cross in front of the dog while turning away from him)?

Moving forward to the teeter, will you stay with the dog on your right and then rear cross from #7 to #8? Will you then rear cross again at #9 to send dog to #10? Or will you front, blind, or rear cross at the teeter to get to the dog on your left and then send to the tunnel and either serpentine (handle it all from one side), front cross, or blind cross from #9 to #10? 

From #10 to #14, there is another chance to choose a move. You could rear cross from #11 to #12, you could front cross, or you could blind cross. You might have other choices too. Can you keep your dog out of the tunnel when you are going to #15?

Your next choice is from the table to the weaves. Do you want to keep dog on the right or on the left? And how are you crossing at tunnel #18?

When you find a favorite way to run the course, challenge yourself to change up your handling in at least two places on the course, or eliminate all your first choices as an option. This will help you think creatively, build up your skills, and stretch your comfort zone.

 See a version of this article on here.

Congratulations to the 2013 New England Regional Champions!

The 2013 New England Regional Championships took place from 7/12-7/14 at the Wild World of Indoor Sports in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Judges Frank Holik, Eric Quirouet, and Scott Lovelis presided. Check out the courses here.

Congratulations to all the winners!

2013 New England Regional Grand Prix of Dog Agility Champions
12"- Linda Womer & Frenzi 22"- Linda Mecklenburg & Wonder
16"- Tracy Sklenar & Export 26"-  Soshana Dos & Glance

2013 New England Regional Performance Grand Prix Champions
8"- Patti Gagnon & Sparkle 16"- Jessica Ajoux & Psyche
12"- Laura Dolan & Race 22"- Lawrence Kelly & Chester

2013 New England Regional $10,000 Steeplechase Champions
12"- Angie Benaquisto & Elvis 22"- Janet Harris & Zing
16"- Melanie Miller & Smitten 26"- Jessica Ajoux & Fame(US)

2013 New England Regional Performance Speed Jumping Champions
8"- Angie Benaquisto & Duncan 16"- Dudley Fontaine & Maverick
12"- Eric Bobkowski & Ice 22"- Renee King & Cisco

2013 New England Regional Dog Agility Masters Team Champions

We Love Bearded Mountain Men
Lynn Pettipaw & Trekker, Melanie Miller & Smitten, Delaney Ratner & Jonesy

2013 New England Regional Performance Versatility Pairs Champions

Photo courtesy of Donna Kelliher Photography,

Champions: Pirate Stuie - Jessica Ajoux & Pirate, Rachel Sanders & Stuie

Also pictured: 2nd Place - RSVP, Dianne McCormick & Rumor, Anne Derby & Spirit

3rd Place - Geek Squad, Jeremy Gerhard & Reveille,  Kathy Wells & Austin

See more results from this regional by clicking here.

Personality Profile: Rachel Sanders
By Deborah Davidson Harpur and Brenna Fender 

Rachel Sanders is known in the agility community not only for her successes on the course, but also for her service to USDAA's IFCS World Agility Team in 2012, agility training articles and videos, her excellent seminars, and the success of her many students. Rachel, who is originally from New Zealand, lives in Atascadero, California with Michael Zuber and Trump, Fable, Better, Stuie, Gifted, Nellie, and Rummy (who are Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers, and a coated American Hairless Terrier).


Rachel and some of her pack. Photo courtesy of Rachel Sanders. 

Rachel and her pack have been very successful on the agility course. They have won four national titles, been a member of the IFCS World Team, had many other finals placements, and so on. But, when asked what accomplishments she's most proud of in the sport of agility, Rachel says, "It's not the major wins that I think about when answering this. I have two accomplishments and it is hard to choose between them. First is Whist's third place at the USDAA nationals in San Diego in 2001 (I think it was 2001) that I am most proud of. I believe that that run was just about as perfect a run as we could have had. I don't have any video of it but from the way it felt while I was running, I believe it was the best it could have been. The second is helping Stuie go from a dog who ran from the ring to my car every time someone blew a whistle or yelled to competing in the Performance Speed Jumping finals last year in Denver, and having her run so well with all the cheering and whistling. We came second!"

Rachel, who has been doing agility since about 1994, doesn't use a strict system when running her dogs. She says, "Agility needs a balance between dog training and handling. For my handling, I am influenced by Linda Mecklenburg and recently by Jaakko Suoknuuti and Janita Leinonen from Finland. I think it is really important to choose a system of communication that your dog responds to well, rather than have a theory and then spending years trying to mold your dog to that theory. I am not a purest and try to be flexible and adjust to the dog I am running and the handler/dog I am teaching. I'm not a rules kind of person, and that is what I like about Linda's system, it allows for flexibility. I have my own training foundation for puppies which balances control exercises, tricks, and games using toys and food as reinforcement. Some of the training methods I use for puppies I have been using for many, many years. I have a recipe to teach the variety of obstacles used in agility including my running A-frame method but, like all good recipes, the basic ingredients are the same but sometimes you add a little more or less of something here and there."

When asked what she thinks the biggest changes in training and the biggest developments in handling and training in the last five years are, Rachel says, "Running contacts. A new infusion of European ideas again. The last big influence was from people like Dave Blackshaw and Greg Derrett, but that was a long time ago (1998/1999). Now with Jenny Damm, Anna Eifert, Jaakko Suoknuuti, and Janita Leinonen, to name just a few, our handling is expanding again. Now we need the course design at shows to include true handling challenges, and not just challenge our dogs to hit all contacts, weaves, and not drop a bar. I believe that most of us train on harder exercises at home/class than we run at shows. We should embrace some harder handling challenges in a course, and learn to execute them well. We will get better and then these 'hard' things will become easier."

Learn more about this longtime agility competitor through an extended three part interview with Deborah Davidson Harpur on Part one starts here.

Upcoming Events Calendar

Watch out for these events with entries closing in the coming month:
Dates Host Group Location Closing Date
08/09-08/11/2013 MAD CO, LLC Charlottesville, VA 07/29
08/09-08/11/2013 Front Range Agility Club (FRAC) Laramie, WY 07/26
08/09-08/10/2013 Sirius Dog Agility Training Center Canton, GA 07/31
08/09-08/11/2013 All Dogs Can Agility Lapeer, MI 08/05
08/09-08/11/2013 Club-Doggie Mesa, AZ 07/31
08/09-08/11/2013 Over Rover Training Center Cato, NY 07/29
08/09-08/11/2013 Riverside Canine Center N. Smithfield, RI 07/23
08/10-08/11/2013 B&D Creekside Activity Center LLC Latrobe, PA 07/30
08/10-08/11/2013 Tails in Motion Little Falls, MN 07/29
08/10-08/11/2013 Willamette Agility Group Brownsville, OR 07/26
08/16-08/18/2013 PDC Barrie, ON 08/07
08/16-08/18/2013 Casa de Canine of Greater Kansas City, LLC Blue Springs, MO 08/05
08/16-08/18/2013 Canine Agility of Central Minnesota St. Cloud, MN 08/05
08/17-08/18/2013 Pawsitive Partners Dog Training Center Indianapolis, IN 07/31
08/17-08/18/2013 Santa Barbara Flyers Santa Barbara, CA 08/03
08/17-08/18/2013 Touch & Go Agility Club Frederick, MD 07/28
08/24-08/25/2013 Agility in Manitoba RM of Springfield, MB 08/12
08/24-08/25/2013 Salinas-Monterey Agility Racing Team Prunedale, CA 08/09
08/24-08/25/2013 Buckeye Region Agility Group Inc. Powell, OH 08/14
08/24-08/25/2013 Ace Agility Club Westfield, MA 08/04
08/24-08/24/2013 Wasatch Agility Draper, UT 08/13
08/30-09/02/2013 The Bay Team Prunedale, CA 08/14
08/31-09/02/2013 Minnesota Agility Club Lake Elmo, MN 08/18
08/31-09/02/2013 Southeastern Agility Gainesville, GA 08/18
08/31-09/02/2013 Puerto Rico Agility Team Bayamon, PR 08/21
08/31-08/31/2013 Boone County Dog Sport Naperville, IL 08/23
08/31-09/02/2013 Front Range Agility Team Lakewood, CO 08/19
08/31-09/01/2013 Paws In Motion Pitman, NJ 08/14
08/31-09/01/2013 ARFF Agility Club, Inc. Westford, MA 08/15
08/31-09/02/2013 First Dog Sports Lakeside, AZ 08/16
09/06-09/08/2013 Y Agility Saratoga Springs, NY 08/26
09/13-09/15/2013 Riverside Canine Center N. Smithfield, RI 08/22
09/13-09/15/2013 Two Rivers Agility Club of Sacramento Woodland, CA 08/30
09/13-09/15/2013 Teamworks Dog Training, LLC Youngsville, NC 08/25
09/13-09/15/2013 Top Notch Canines LLC Phoenix, AZ 08/30
09/14-09/15/2013 Flexible Flyers Agility Group Honey Brook, PA 08/26
09/14-09/15/2013 Pawprints Agility Club Haughton, LA 08/28
09/21-09/22/2013 Playing Agility With Style Greenfield, MA 08/27
10/04-10/06/2013 Low Country Dog Agility Charleston, SC 08/04

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

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