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The Overview from USDAA
USDAA Message

By Kenneth Tatsch

USDAA President2002 marked the introduction of the USDAA brand of dog agility to southeast Asia, as OPDES in Japan became an active affiliate in USDAA's tournament series. Shortly thereafter, we began receiving invitations to conduct judging seminars and to make presentations throughout Southeast Asia. One never knows what will come from such engagements, but the certainty is that people in other countries care for their dogs and want to be engaged with others that share their passion. Their challenges are similar, yet different, largely due to different culture, lifestyles, economies, and geographic locality.
From 2005 to 2008, we conducted a number of judging seminars and presentations in Hong Kong, Philippines, Beijing, Taipei, Korea, and Singapore. Each has reached out to the other and groups have come and gone in some regions. Still, the scene remains very active. While only a couple countries at present actually conduct USDAA-licensed events, others have adopted our rules and regulations, and have an eye on possibly affiliating down the road. Hong Kong still serves as a base of communication, while Singapore holds an annual USDAA show, and of course, Japan holds complete series of events with USDAA tournaments and sends teams each year to CYNOSPORT®, which they have done since in 2002. Besides Japan, we have had guest competitors from the region over the years, with teams coming from Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and China, and we have received word that a team will be coming from Beijing for CYNOSPORT® 2013. We also have several active judges in the region, with John Zhao in China, who was accredited through masters level in our clinics in Hong Kong (2007) and Beijing (2008). He has judged in Singapore, China, and at CYNOSPORT® 2012 in Denver. Other judges throughout the region can be found on the Approved Judges List.

OPDES 16” Grand Prix Champions (May 2013) among those to represent Japan in CYNOSPORT® 2013. Agility director and OPDES judge Hisato Tanabe (left) and USDAA judge Tom Kula (right). 

The Philippines, which we first visited in 2006, offer a good example of the trials and tribulations associated with starting a new sport and governing organization. Isolated on a number of islands in the Pacific, dog agility has taken root despite many challenges, with which we are all too familiar. But they had the added challenge of transportation, which they accomplish through ferrying between islands to enjoy dog agility competition. Perhaps that's not unlike our treks across the U.S. in our early days, just using a different mode of transportation. By the time we arrived for our first visit, competitors had formed the Philippines Dog Agility Association and were seeking to draw training clubs from across the country to join them in a USDAA-based program.

In the Philippines, competing in dog agility means doing a lot of traveling.

After visits by myself and other USDAA representatives from 2005-2009, competitors in the Philippines were making every effort to grow dog agility. They loved what they could learn about USDAA, and we sought to help in any way we could with information and sharing experiences. Headquartered in the Negros Occidental province on a central island in the Philippines, they sought to draw people into an annual city-sponsored festival event held in Bacolod City, and offered prize money in nominal sums to help competitors defray cost of travel. (This practice will sound familiar to those involved in dog agility in our early days.) Competitors traveled from as far as General Santos City on the southern shore of their southernmost major island, but despite their efforts, they had no significant representation from Manila, the capital city to the north, and they had difficulty with getting the full support of training clubs elsewhere. The group in Bacolod struggled to keep the organization afloat, and due to a variety of reasons, they took a step back to reassess and regroup.

Judge Rowel de Guia (Philippines) providing a briefing for Gamblers in Singapore. Singapore judges Dexter Sim (red shirt on right) and Kenneth Chen (2nd from left) were competing in the class.
Over the past few years, we heard little from the region, until earlier this year I received a lengthy letter on their progress. They were genuinely apologetic about not communicating, and then followed an invitation to judge their May championship event for the recently formed Philippines Dog Athletics Association. They had reorganized and gained the support of groups in Davao in the south, and Manila in the north, along with more groups from Cebu, General Santos City, and others. Manila as the nation's capital, and Davao, one of the nation's largest cities, were key acquisitions to support their cause.
Their annual spring event last month in Cebu had some 50 competitors and was evidence of what sheer determination can accomplish. While I judged some classes, I had the even greater pleasure to observe judges whom I had trained five years prior officiate over other classes. Following the event we conducted a two-day judging clinic, which served as a refresher course for some and an opportunity to become judges for others.


Judge Sakura Tan in the Philippines judging jumpers class at IT Park in Cebu in May 2013.

While they still have much to do, it is rewarding to see their growth and the camaraderie among clubs from across the nation. I look forward to seeing them continue to grow as they tackle the challenges ahead. And perhaps, we will see them make some official ties in the not so distant future.
To follow-up on an announcement in last month's OVERview, copies of the Judges' Briefing newsletter are now published in the Forms and Documents Library under the heading of "Judges' Briefing eNewsletter." The Judges' Briefing newsletter is published on an unscheduled basis and is distributed to USDAA judges and published in the Library for others. It's editorial directive is to provide education through analysis on hot topics to serve as a resource for judges in applying regulations and policies currently in effect.
On another note, we have concluded our study on jump heights and will announce our findings along with some rule and policy changes during the first week of July. Most changes will be effective January 1, with some changes to take effect over a few years. I'm sure many will be interested in these announcements and will share our excitement for these program enhancements. I'll address some of these changes in next month's OVERview. Watch the news page for breaking news.

Social Referencing in Dog-Owner Dyads
By Claudia Bensimoun

Social referencing is the seeking of information from another individual to form one's own understanding and to guide action. In a recent study, dogs were tested in a social referencing paradigm involving their owner and an object that might be considered scary. Dogs received either a positive or negative message from their owner. The aim of this research was to evaluate the presence of referential looking to the owner and behavioral regulation based on the owner's actions towards the object (a decorated fan). Most dogs (83%) looked to the owner for reference after looking at the strange object, appearing to seek information about the environment from the human, but few differences were found between dogs in the positive and negative groups as regards to behavioral regulation. Observational conditioning was discovered, with dogs in the "positive reaction" group moving closer to the fan and dogs in the "negative reaction" group moving away, both copying their owner's behavior. These results are interesting in relation to studies on human-dog communication, social learning, and attachment.

If you are introducing your dog to a new or potentially scary object, your reaction matters! Appearing positive and happy may make a big difference in how your dog reacts immediately and in the future when approaching scary things. 

Naci Berkoz and Contact Points Will share a moment together. Photo courtesy of

To read more about this study, click here.

Training Corner: Up and Back
By Deborah Davidson Harpur and Brenna Fender 

Good weave pole entry skills are important for success in the agility ring. After practicing "round the clock" entries (sending your dog from every possible angle into the poles), your dog will need to try entering the poles with speed after completing other obstacles. The "Up and Back" sequences offer plenty of opportunities to do just that. Using several sets of 6 poles (rather than a set of 12) allows you the chance to practice entries without unnecessarily taxing your dog's body with many repetitions of a full set of weaves.

With this exercise, you will have the chance to determine what is the best way for you to handle your dog with tricky weave pole entries. You will also be able to test your training and determine how well your dog understands independent weave pole entries. Do you have to manage and shape the entries so that your dog can be successful? If you do, do you want to do that, or do you want to have an independent weaver?


In this figure, there are four opportunities to weave. The approaches to #2 and #9 are angled. Will running with your dog to the entries (especially to #2) pull your dog away from the correct entry? Will leading out perpendicular to the weaves and sending your dog into the poles straight on work better? Does a similar technique work for the #9 weaves?

For the #5 weaves, which way is better to turn your dog around jump #4? Does it matter? And what's the best way to get your dog to the #12 weaves? Do you need to manage the entry and then pull him away from the poles a bit to send him in straight? Or can you just send him and go on?

Need more practice? Check out additional exercises here.

Congratulations to the 2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Champions!

Regional season is going hot and heavy now, with 8 out of 13 of the 2013 Regional Championships already completed. One recent Regional event was the Rocky Mountain Regional Championship, hosted by Wasatch Agiliy in Farmington, Utah, June 14-16. Judges Evelyn Robertson and Tim Laubach presided over the event. Congratulations to the new regional champions!

2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Grand Prix of Dog Agility Champions
12"- Daneen Fox and Masher 22"- Dave Grubel and Boca
16"- Gosia Skowron and Riot 26"- Lori Michaels and Solei

2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Performance Grand Prix Champions
8"- Sharon Kihara and Zen 16"- Mary Shaw and Tip
12"- Alicia Nicholas and Ho 22"- Laurie Zurborg and Gumbo

2013Rocky Mountain Regional $10,000 Steeplechase Champions
12"- Daneen Fox and Masher 22"- Sonya Anderson and MaTaya
16"- Gosia Skowron and Riot 26"- Lori Michaels and Solei

2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Performance Speed Jumping Champions
8"- Katherine Elliott and Whim 16"- Alan Tay and Singa
12"- Alicia Nicholas and Ho 22"- Shar Henry and Tarn

2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Dog Agility Masters Team Champions

 Dave Grubel and Boca, Yukari Nishimura and Simba, and Erika Maurer and Cadence

2013 Rocky Mountain Regional Performance Versatility Pairs Champions

Sonya Anderson and Jaxon and Lisa Andrews and Toby

See more results from this regional by clicking here. Click here and scroll down to see results and photos from each of the Regional events completed in 2013 so far!  

Richard Dennison: the 2013 Spirit of Agility Award Winner
By Brenna Fender 

At the New England Agility Team (NEAT) trial on May 18, 2013, in Greenland, New Hampshire, competitors gathered together to present the first annual Spirit of Agility Award to beloved agility competitor Richard Dennison. Chris Frado, who made a brief speech while presenting the award, says, "Rich has been such an inspiration to us in New England/Northeast. He competes almost every weekend. USDAA is his venue of choice." Kelly Wilson, who created the award, credits Lauren Stein with helping the idea come to fruition, and Sandi Bixler for obtaining the amazing ribbon. Wilson says, "I thought of this award especially for Rich. I have never ever seen anybody with so much love for this sport, [playing] with his dogs, and hanging with all his agility friends. He always [said] 'good girl' at the end of every run, no matter what. For me, that is most important. He [adored] his dogs and his agility life. He's a great man, with an amazing spirit. He truly deserves this award that we will carry on every year to someone who exudes their love for this sport and their dogs."

Richard, who passed away on June 2, 2013, was incredibly dedicated to the sport of agility and to USDAA exceptionally. His devotion was inspiring because he'd been suffering from pancreatic cancer for the last several years. While fighting his battle, Rich was still heavily involved in agility. Frado says, "Rich had a shirt made saying: 'My dogs are helping me fight pancreatic cancer. He [had] a good attitude and [talked] openly about his cancer." In fact, Rich said (while chuckling) in an interview shortly before his death, "When I was first diagnosed with terminal cancer, my first thought was that I wouldn't be able to do agility any longer! It's strange, but it's got that big a hold on me." Rich's longtime friend Guylaine Doyon confirms that Rich indeed made exactly that comment when telling her about his cancer. "Of all the things a person could do on their bucket list, all he wanted to do was agility," she says.

Rich and Gabby on course. Photo courtesy of Donna Kelliher Photography,

What was it about USDAA that captured Rich's interest and held it over so many years? "It's not like running in the other venues. I've run almost all of them! It's a combination of the challenge, the competitiveness, and the people. You wouldn't believe all of the things [USDAA competitors] have done for me over the years, particularly the past two or three, encouraging me and everything. In New England, it's more like a family, almost. When you go to a USDAA trial here, it's like going home. We all know each other; we all root for each other, constantly encouraging each other. The other thing I really like about USDAA is having multiple levels per day. I liked having many classes a day. A lot of people underestimate the fun of Pairs. They worry about hurting their partner, but people in New England, we understand that things happen. We laugh at the faults, we laugh at our own mistakes. I really feel the friendship. I wouldn't have known half the people I know now without agility. I've always connected to the people. The biggest thing about USDAA is the people," he said.

 About a month before his death, Rich, who began agility in 2002, realized that he was not going to be able to continue competing because of his health. He still loved the sport, of course, Lifetime Achievement Award-Gold that she and Rich had almost completed. Friends stepped in to help out, running Gabby and Miranda, Rich's younger Lab, at local trials. Frado says, "There's no lack of folks eager to run the fast, fun, and responsive Gabby: me, Kelly Wilson, Seth Dunn, Lauren Stein, Sandi Bixler, Melanie Behrans, and the list probably goes on."

Stein, who has run Gabby at trials for Rich, created four styles of purple bracelets that say "faith," "hope," "strength", or "survivor" and has been selling them at trials. Some of the money goes to the Spirit of Agility Award (the award will be given annually) and the rest will go to cancer research.

Of course, receiving the Spirit of Agility Award meant a lot to a man so devoted to the sport. Richard said, "I'm very humbled. The New England agility people are just an amazing group. Really amazing. They have so much compassion; they just take my breath away."

To read the full article about Richard, who is sorely missed by agility competitors in the Northeastern US, click here.

Upcoming Events Calendar

Watch out for these events with entries closing in the coming month:
Dates Host Group Location Closing Date
07/12-07/14/2013 All 4 Fun Agility Club Gray Summit, MO 07/01
07/12-07/14/2013 Agility Workout Society of Mid-Michigan Lapeer, MI 07/03
07/13-07/14/2013 West Valley Dog Sports Camarillo, CA 07/05
07/19-07/21/2013 Salinas-Monterey Agility Racing Team Prunedale, CA 07/05
07/19-07/21/2013 BARK-NH! Manchester, NH 07/03
07/20-07/21/2013 Prospering Paws Prosper, TX 07/12
07/20-07/21/2013 Redhot Rovers Auburn, WA 07/10
07/20-07/21/2013 Contact Sports Agility Campton Hills, IL 07/08
07/26-07/28/2013 DrivenDogs Agility Somis, CA 07/18
07/26-07/26/2013 KineticDog, LLC Barto, PA 07/22
07/26-07/28/2013 Stockade Agility Glenville, NY 07/10
07/27-07/28/2013 On Target Agility, LLC Barto, PA 07/10
07/27-07/28/2013 Buckeye Region Agility Group Inc. Powell, OH 07/17
07/27-07/28/2013 Perro Feliz D.F., DIF 07/22
07/27-07/28/2013 Arrowhead Agility Club Cloquet, MN 07/17
08/02-08/04/2013 Boone County Dog Sport Poplar Grove, IL 07/08
08/02-08/02/2013 Agile Dogs Agility Training Stephentown, NY 07/15
08/03-08/04/2013 Sugar Bush Farm Stephentown, NY 07/15
08/03-08/03/2013 Top Notch Canines LLC Phoenix, AZ 07/19
08/09-08/11/2013 Front Range Agility Club (FRAC) Laramie, WY 07/26
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 MAD CO, LLC Charlottesville, VA 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
08/17-08/18/2013 Pawsitive Partners Dog Training Center Indianapolis, IN 07/31
08/17-08/18/2013 Touch & Go Agility Club Frederick, MD 07/28

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

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