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The Overview from USDAA
USDAA Message
By Kenneth Tatsch

USDAA PresidentOur sport is defined in part by the obstacles and what they represent in demonstrating the agility of dogs. By its physical nature, there are inherent risks. Thankfully, the sport's innovators got it largely right with the obstacles when it comes to safety, and historically, our incident of injury has been quite low compared to other sports. Nonetheless, we must continue to monitor performance rules and equipment specifications with safety in mind as the sport evolves.

In the past year, we've seen a new type of injury involving hurdles, the most prevalent of obstacles on the course. A number of incidents have occurred where dogs have been cut while jumping a hurdle, from leg injuries and belly scrapes to eye injuries. Fortunately, we have not had any crippling injuries reported, but action is needed to assure that there are none. Why has it happened? Some have suggested the increasing use of tighter and more controlled elements in courses that encourage precision of placement and movement around hurdles, while others have blamed the metal jumps themselves. The reality is that the course elements have simply identified a condition that already existed, and the attack on metal alone as a construction material would appear to be unjustified. When it comes to hurdles and jumps, there are a great many other factors worthy of scrutiny, and a cautious eye by purchasers and manufacturers of equipment is the first line of defense.

At the USDAA Competition Rules Advisory Board meeting earlier this month, much time was spent discussing details of obstacle construction, with focus on hurdles and jumps. No one element was identified as defining safety. The issues span a wide range of attributes in construction of a hurdle, including displacement force for poles and wings, attributes of pole supports or "cups," such as size, thickness, shape, material, and depth, and pole or rail attributes, such as length, diameter, and material (including its density). Whether all of these attributes need detailed specifications remains to be determined. Taking a measure of displacement force and translating that to cup and pole attributes is a likely direction for establishing better specifications for hurdles and jumps.

In the short-term, groups, trainers and manufacturers should be alerted to more critically evaluate construction of their hurdles for sharp edges and unnecessary protrusions that when hit by a dog with (or without) speed, could cause injury. The use of single jump cups removes any protrusions above or below bars that are set, and obviously reduces the likelihood of impact with a cup. Having wings that are not coupled with ground poles, and having wings with sufficient (but not excessive) weight so that they do not need to be anchored to the ground are other measures that need to be considered. Where thin metal or plastic cups are used (which may act like knives when hit), measures should be taken to replace them, coat them with rubber, or otherwise modify them to eliminate the potential risk. This type of review should extend to other obstacles as well and should be done periodically to ensure that obstacles remain in a good state of repair.

In the longer term, the Board is drafting new regulations that should address construction concerns. See the separate article in this newsletter addressing some of the forthcoming changes. David Hanson, a long time judge with background in engineering, has agreed to work with the Board in drafting additional specifications where safety may be impacted by construction. Anyone else with an engineering background who would like to work on this project is welcome to contact the USDAA office.

This most recent series of events highlights the importance of competitors sending in Injury Reports on incidents when they occur, whether at an event or in training. A form for this purpose is available online in the Forms & Documents Library.

As the 2013 competition season gets underway, I wish everyone a safe, exciting, and successful new year.

Event Report: Christmas in Kerrville
By Caroline Hanson

Hill Country Agility (HCA), owned by David and Caroline Hanson, hosted their 24th trial on December 8-9, 2012. Many competitors call it the Christmas trial because of its reputation for festive seasonal fun. This year was better than ever.

A featured event was a raffle to raise funds for the National Canine Cancer Foundation. The competitors were extremely generous with donations of all sorts of items for the raffle. There was a Ruff Tuff Crate, baskets galore, chocolate, wine, weekend trial packages for several Texas clubs - you name it. The items filled four long tables and generated $812 dollars for NCCF.

The second event, a crate decorating contest, produced even more festivities. Competitors had trees, lights, music, coffee, wassail, cookies, and they really went all out with their creativity. Three local people (not involved in agility) were the judges. They reported it was a difficult decision. First place went to Ann Brawner's Gingerbread House. Second place were crates decorated by Irene Hurd. Chris and Mark Meyers wrapped their crates like huge presents and earned third place. The Santa Paws Express by Judy Austin got an Honorable Mention. There were so many great displays that the judges could not resist creating a Special Mention category and cited Charlie Brown by Nicholas Orlowsky, Bertram by the Hemsleys, Blue Christmas by Emily Hurt, Cathy Learoyd's Miniature Dog Agility Course, Shawn Cossart's Train Tree and the area called Winter Fun by a group of competitors.

Nicholas Christmas
Nicholas Orlowsky, a junior handler who was helping at the trial, with his Snoopy decorations.

HCA was honored to have a contingent of Mexican competitors attending the trial. Eleven were from the La Silla Club in Monterrey, and two were from the Toluca area. Several of the competitors were brand new, and HCA was pleased that they selected us for their first trial. They were such a fun group!

Lest readers think we just partied, we did run some awesome agility. Twenty-eight titles were earned, including the coveted ADCH for Flurry and Pam Meeks! Judges Leslie Bickel and Val Reiner had designed challenging and fun courses. Bickel commented on her Grand Prix/Performance Grand Prix course map which is shown below: "The GP was a fairly fluid course which was handled very well by the competitors."

For more photos from this event, click here. Photo courtesy of Carolyn Canizaro-Orlowsky, D.V.M.
Training Corner: Weave Pole Entrances
By Tania Chadwick

This month we're going work on weave pole entrances. You don't always need a set of twelve weave poles to work entrances; in fact a set of six is nice because you can have a lot of options with four entrances to approach.

Here are my rules of thumb when working weave poles:

1) Don't overrun the entrance. As you're approaching the weave poles with your dog, you may need to pause ever-so-slightly to allow your dog to gather himself to get in the weave poles. You do not want to stop your motion completely; show merely a slight hesitation to signal your dog to get ready. Your dog will also need to decelerate slightly enough to see the entrance, get his footwork set, and ready himself to make that turn from pole #2 to #3 and be able to carry on down the line. This gathering process takes only a fraction of a second, but helps your dog to ready himself to perform the weave poles successfully. You may have seen dogs in competition that make the entrance at a high rate of speed only to bust out at the second pole because they came in too fast and couldn't make the turn around the second pole.

2) For tight turns or angled approaches, aim your dog two or three imaginary poles ahead of the actual first pole. This gives your dog some space to complete the run or the turn to the pole when he's going full speed and gather himself to enter the weave poles. The larger the dog the more important this buffer is.

3) When performing a rear cross (where you cross behind your dog to change sides as the dog moves ahead of you) while approaching the weave poles, keep your arm upright and pointing to the poles so that your dog keeps driving forward to the weave poles versus pulling off thinking he's supposed to turn.

4) Be patient! Work every entrance, every weave pole, and every exit.

For more intersection exercises, click here.

2013 Championship of the Americas

International Federation of Cynological Sports (IFCS), a non-profit international cooperative of independent dog sports organizations, is bringing its first ever Continental Championships of the Americas to the United States April 24-28, 2013. The event will be hosted at the Will Rogers Equestrian facility in the heart of Fort Worth, Texas, by IFCS charter affiliate United States Dog Agility Association.

The event will feature top competitors in the sport of dog agility in a one team/one country format, offering both individual and team competitions over the days of the event.

IFCS invites all countries to participate in this event. Qualifications and entry forms for US competitors can be found in USDAA's forms and documents library here. Everything else you need to know about the event, including rules, vending information, and entry forms for non-USA competitors, can be found at

Learn more about IFCS philosophies by reviewing its statutes, principles, and successes of past events at

Stress in Performance Dogs
By Claudia Bensimoun

Studies show that dogs that have experienced stressful or traumatic events can show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In order to recognize the signs of stress in performance dogs, one must try to visualize the external stressors in a performance dog's environment. Although it is impossible to measure levels of stress, it is certainly possible to measure certain stressors in a dog's environment.

Understanding some of the signs of stress in performance dogs that may include panting, yawning, avoiding eye contact, shivering, licking, tucked tail, general restlessness, muscle tension, zooming around the ring, and avoidance of the handler is key to improving the overall performance in dogs. While many handlers are familiar with some of these very stressful behaviors, it may be interesting to note that many of these behaviors were found in the post-meltdown Fukushima dogs in Japan.

In performance dogs where speed, accuracy, and timing are so important, some of these dogs occasionally display signs of stress when in a new environment. Emotional stress can affect any performance dog at any time. When a dog is stressed before a competition, muscle glycogen stores and energy may become depleted. This in turn may cause uncontrollable panting, which then results in respiratory problems, dehydration, and a disappointing performance. This often happens to dogs during transport to dog shows and during their stay in exercise pens or crates. A small amount of stress can be beneficial; nonetheless, one must be able to control the dog's environment prior to competing and also hone in on understanding the symptoms of stress in performance dogs. Working with each dog's individual personality and seeing what the stressors are for that particular dog will help aid in future performance results.

Some veterinarians will go as far as prescribing anti-anxiety medications or anti-depressants. This combined with the work of an understanding trainer is found to help dogs desensitize from situations that they find stressful.

Nonstressed dog

This dog doesn't look stressed on the course. Does yours?

Read more about stress in dogs, including details from studies on post-traumatic stress disorder studies of post-meltdown Fukushima dogs, click here.

Photo courtesy of

Upcoming Changes

A number of regulations for tournament consideration and other decisions related to equipment specifications have either been decided or are in the works for 2013, with final regulations to be published later this year.

The 2013 IFCS Championship of the Americas eligibility requirements were modified to require four of five criteria to be met for entry. As modified, the regulations provide:

To be eligible for entry, a competitor must meet FOUR of the FIVE requirements as indicated below in events held during the period beginning October 1, 2012, and ending March 20, 2013.

Class Requirement
Grand Prix of Dog Agility®
(Local or Regional Round 1)
1 Qualification
Jumpers Titling 2 Qualifications in Masters
1 Qualification in Masters Challenge
Standard Agility Titling 2 Qualifications in Masters

1 Qualification in Masters Challenge
Snooker Titling 1 Super Q in Masters
Gamblers Titling 1 Qualification in Masters

IFCS regulations have been amended to include weave poles with 60cm spacing (approximately 24") when measured from the center of one pole to the center of the next. This spacing will also be used at the 2013 Cynosport World Games.

The Competition Rules Board has outlined a process for which specifications on equipment may be field tested, as the Board seeks to better define specifications for the obstacles. Specifications on key elements of all obstacles are to be outlined and presented in the regulations with diagrams and text, to adequately describe the characteristics of each obstacle for performance and safety. The Board's goal is to have a complete list of specifications in place by the end of 2013 so that manufacturers have more detailed guidance when designing equipment.

Approved for field testing is a bright orange color for use on contact zones, in place of yellow. In deciding to permit field testing, the Board recognizes that white is unacceptable due to the potential for glare in certain lighting conditions. The Board noted that the contact color must be a significant contrast to the color of the ramps, and consideration to color formulas is being made. The Board's field testing procedures generally require that—

  1. alternative obstacles meeting specifications be available should the judge deem the obstacle to be problematic or otherwise unacceptable,
  2. they be approved in advance,
  3. they be announced in the test schedule, and
  4. a report and video (when appropriate) shall be submitted following each event in which the test is conducted.

A field test is also under consideration for a pipe tunnel with 6" pitch, using a heavier fabric that does not sag. Also on the horizon are a complete set of jump and hurdle specifications, to address safety and to introduce some standardization into the construction of these obstacles. Under review is the displacement force to be required on poles and wings,a 36" minimum height of the pole support portion of the wing, and the weight and density of poles, as well as the design of cups using different materials. Also being tightened will be the regulations on the length of poles, which in 2011 was required that a majority of poles be a minimum of 54". This is to become the minimum standard in the near future, with 5' poles encouraged on spread hurdles, which also must be winged.

Another field test has been approved on use of a 3/16" deep jump cup with width less than the diameter of the bar. Other specifications are necessary to fully outline the characteristics of a proper hurdle, including the jump cup. The Board is anticipating a 3-5 year implementation period once final regulations have been established. Along with the specifications will be a refinement in jump heights to better balance the playing field. Announcements are expected no later than July 1 this year.

Modifications will be forthcoming in the Intro Program by mid-year as well, providing organizers of Intro Program events more flexibility in selection of the obstacles in the Intro course to suit the needs of their training programs and competitors in their areas.

A new tournament is being introduced to the Cynosport World Games in 2013—the Masters Challenge Biathlon, consisting of cumulative scoring through two rounds, one in jumping and one in standard, featuring the elements of the Masters Challenge. The events are to be seen this year at the Regional Championships leading up to the finals at the Cynosport World Games. Qualification for entry is provided on in the forms & documents library. Also, Masters Challenge titling classes are now open to competitors at all levels.

Finally, to be introduced this year will be the Lifetime Achievement Diamond Level Award, featuring 100 qualifications in each of the five core classes, with a total of 1,000 qualifications overall. The award will be first awarded at the 2013 Cynosport World Games. Those who have previously met these standards will receive the award.

Upcoming Events Calendar

Watch out for these events with entries closing in the coming month:
Dates Host Group Location Event Type
02/02-02/03 Contact Zonies Phoenix, AZ Titling w/Tournaments
02/22-02/24 Good Dog Agility Club Glendale, AZ Regional Championship
02/02-02/03 West Valley Dog Sports Irwindale, CA Titling w/Tournaments
02/09-02/10 Valley Agility Sports Team Turlock, CA Titling w/Tournaments
02/09-02/10 Happy Dog Agility Moorpark, CA Titling w/Tournaments
02/16-02/16 DrivenDogs Agility Somis, CA Titling w/Tournaments
03/01-03/03 Contact Point Agility Club Fillmore, CA Titling w/Tournaments
03/08-03/10 Front Range Agility Team Castle Rock, CO Titling w/Tournaments
02/08-02/10 Free Spirit Training Center Miami, FL Titling w/Tournaments
02/23-02/24 Pawsitively Fun Dog Training Group Fort White, FL Titling w/Tournaments
03/02-03/03 Pawsitively Fun Dog Training Group Fort White, FL Titling w/Tournaments
03/08-03/10 Pals & Paws, Inc. Jacksonville, FL Titling w/Tournaments
02/16-02/16 Run Spot Jump Canton, GA Intro Program Only
03/01-03/01 Sirius Dog Agility Training Center Gainesville, GA Titling w/Tournaments
03/02-03/03 Southeastern Agility Gainesville, GA Titling Only
02/15-02/17 Boone County Dog Sport New Berlin, WI Titling w/Tournaments
03/09-03/10 Contact Sports Agility Campton Hills, IL Titling w/Tournaments
02/09-02/10 Pawsitive Partners Dog Training Center Indianapolis, IN Titling w/Tournaments
02/08-02/10 Casa de Canine of Greater Kansas City, LLC Lawrence, KS Titling w/Tournaments
02/23-02/24 OverCome Agility Club Port Allen, LA Titling w/Tournaments
02/15-02/17 SureFire Dogs Training Center Westborough, MA Titling w/Tournaments
03/08-03/10 SureFire Dogs Training Center Westborough, MA Titling w/Tournaments
03/02-03/03 Hog Dog Productions Millersville, MD Titling w/Tournaments
02/02-02/04 Club Agility Chiluca Toluca, MEX Titling w/Tournaments
02/01-02/03 All Dogs Can Agility Lapeer, MI Titling w/Tournaments
02/16-02/17 Minnesota Agility Club Cannon Falls, MN Titling w/Tournaments
02/21-02/24 Carolina Piedmont Agility Yadkinville, NC Titling w/Tournaments
02/01-02/03 BARK-NH! Manchester, NH Titling w/Tournaments
02/23-02/24 All Dogs Gym Agility Manchester, NH Titling w/Tournaments
03/01-03/03 BARK-NH! Manchester, NH Titling w/Tournaments
02/09-02/10 Paws In Motion Logan Township, NJ Titling w/Tournaments
02/08-02/10 Agile Dogs Agility Training Greenwich, NY Titling w/Tournaments
03/02-03/03 Happy Tails Agility Club Farmington, NY Titling w/Tournaments
02/16-02/18 Four Seasons K9 Athlete Center, LLC Washingtonville, OH Titling w/Tournaments
01/26-01/26 Twister Agility & Dog Sports Edmond, OK Intro Program Only
02/01-02/03 PDC Barrie, ON Titling w/Tournaments
02/09-02/10 Bella Vista Training Center Lewisberry, PA Intro Program Only
02/16-02/18 Keystone Agility Club Barto, PA Titling w/Tournaments
02/17-02/18 Puerto Rico Agility Team Bayamon, PR Titling w/Tournaments
03/01-03/03 Low Country Dog Agility Charleston, SC Titling w/Tournaments
02/01-02/03 Knight Flyer Agility Frankston, TX Titling w/Tournaments
02/08-02/10 Bexar Regional Agility Team San Marcos, TX Titling w/Tournaments
02/16-02/17 Happy Hounds Agility Team McKinney, TX Titling w/Tournaments
02/22-02/24 Tyler Obedience Training Club Tyler, TX Titling w/Tournaments
03/02-03/03 Dallas Dog Sports McKinney, TX Titling w/Tournaments
03/08-03/10 Travis Agility Group Belton, TX Titling w/Tournaments
03/14-03/17 United States Dog Agility Association, Inc. Dallas, TX Seminar w/ Match
02/24-02/24 NOMAD Waterbury Center, VT Intro Program Only
03/02-03/03 Think Pawsitive LLC New Berlin, WI Titling w/Tournaments

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

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