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Certification Programs

USDAA offers three competitive programs for the dog agility enthusiast -

  • The "Championship Program", for those interested in competition under standards congruent with international rules for competition in dog agility.
  • The "Performance Program", for those interested in competition without the more rigorous physical demands of the sport.
  • The "Junior Handler Program", for school-age children and their pets, with emphasis on team camaraderie and learning the basics in responsible pet ownership.

Each of these programs is described in more detail below:

Championship Program

The Championship Program is designed to demonstrate a competitor's training and competitive handling skills coupled with an exhibition of a dog's natural agility pursuant to standards of competition congruous with international standards for competition.

This program includes tournament event series where they compete head-to-head, as well as title certification classes that measure performance throughout a competitor's career with a specific dog as measured against a pre-defined set of standards.

The Championship Program is divided into three basic class types that are offered at three different divisions based upon performance milestones attained in competition. These are described below.

Class Types

"Standard" classes are the classical form of dog agility, wherein a competitor must direct their dog through an obstacle course that requires performance of each of the required obstacles in the sport in a course sequence designed by a judge.

"Nonstandard" classes encourage and demonstrate more depth of training and the exercise of more competitive skills within the sport and are offered in four basic classes

  • Gamblers - to demonstrate proficiency in distance control and competitive strategy
  • Jumpers - to demonstrate a dog's jumping ability and fluid working habit
  • Relay - to demonstrate cooperative team effort and team sportsmanship
  • Snooker Agility - to demonstrate versatility in competitive strategy

Each of these classes offers different strategies that challenge the competitor, bringing together key elements of the sport, with an exhibition of a dog's natural agility and working habit, thus demonstrating a competitor's training and competitive skills.

"Tournament" classes feature competitive spirit and excellence through head-to-head competition and are open to all competitors, regardless of eligibility or prerequisites within the titling classes.

Competitive Levels

Standard and Nonstandard classes are offered at three competitive "levels" for certification ("titling") purposes, based upon the degree of training and competitive skills exhibited in competition - Starters, Advanced and Masters.

At the Starters level (the introductory level), a handler is charged with demonstrating their skill in training their dog for basic obstacle performance and employing fundamental handling techniques in competition on an abbreviated course.

On occasion, a group may offer a "Novice" class as an additional competitive division for competitors who have earned title with other dogs, in order that experienced competitors compete in a separate class from less experienced handlers. When such a class is offered, a competitor must enter the "Novice" class if they have earned a title with any other dog in USDAA's Championship, Performance or Veterans programs (Note: Veterans Program was discontinued in 1999). Competition standards for the Novice class are the same as for the Starters class.

At the Advanced level (the second level), courses are longer and contain sequences that require competitors to demonstrate a higher degree of training expertise and a wider range of competitive handling techniques under a more difficult time standard. This is the level at which competitors make the transition from the basics to the more proficient and technical aspects of training and competition as seen in the Masters level.

At the Masters level, (the third and top level), course designs offer a variety of handling challenges and tests integrated throughout the course. Time standards are further tightened, requiring competitors to demonstrate the highest degree of proficiency in training and competitive performance handling expertise consistent with that of international standards and competition. Highlighted at this level is a heightened degree of confidence in performance overall, with handler and dog working in a highly synchronized fashion, exhibiting quick and reliable responsiveness to the demands of the course.

In measuring the accomplishments of a competitor, a certificate of achievement or "title" is awarded at each level within each of the five "titling" classes. Each of these titles and rules for eligibility are included in the Rules & Regulations eBook in the Forms and Documents library.

Performance Program

The Performance Program is designed to demonstrate a competitor's training and competitive handling skills pursuant to special standards of competition that place less emphasis on the dog's physical capabilities through adjustments to the standards of performance as follows:

  • Jump heights are reduced to 8" for dogs measuring 12" or less, 12" for dogs measuring 16" or less, 16" for dogs measuring 21" or less and 20" for all dogs;
  • the A-frame is reduced to 5'6" (104 degree angle at apex) from 5'11" (98 degree angle at apex) in height for large dogs, thus diminishing the incline of the scaling ramp;
  • no spread hurdles are utilized; and,
  • additional time (3 seconds) is allotted on course at 8", 12", 16" and 20", as compared to the 12", 16", 22" and 26" height class time standards, respectively, as set forth in the Championship Program.

The Performance Program includes title certification classes that measure performance throughout a competitor's career with a specific dog as measured against a pre-defined set of standards and beginning with the 2004 tournament season (beginning in autumn 2003), its first tournament event series.

The Performance Program "mirrors" the Championship in its structure. To distinguish the classes between programs, the levels of competition in the Performance Program are called simply, Performance I, Performance II and Performance III, which correspond respectively to the Starters, Advanced and Masters levels in the Championship Program, respectively.

In measuring the accomplishments of a competitor in the Performance Program, a certificate of achievement or "title" is awarded at each level within each of the four "titling" classes. Each of these titles and rules for eligibility are included in the Rules & Regulations eBook in the Forms and Documents library.

Junior Handler Program

USDAA's Junior Handler Program is for children eighteen years of age and younger. It is a set of specialized classes designed to encourage youth involvement in the sport of dog agility as a fun, recreational family sport and to teach responsible pet ownership The program has been adopted in whole or in part in various state 4-H programs.

The Junior Handler Program offers certification in the standard agility class, though additional types of classes (e.g., jumpers or relay) may be held in conjunction with Junior Handler Program events. The class is split into four experience levels of competition designed to foster advancement in training and to provide recognition for junior handler accomplishments in dog agility - Beginners, Elementary, Intermediate and Senior.

Special standards of performance apply to the Junior Handler Program. At the Beginner level, only the A-frame at 4'6" elevation, tunnels, table and hurdles are utilized, and the dog may be on leash. The course is approximately one-half the length and number of obstacles as the Starters level (Championship Program), the obstacles are configured in a simple loop design and the time standard is set at 60 seconds. The Elementary level is a continuation of the Beginner level after the first qualification has been earned, with the A-frame raised to 5'0" and no leash is permitted. At the Intermediate level, the weave poles (limit of 6 poles) and the dog walk are added, the A-frame is raised in elevation to 5'6", the course design becomes slightly more difficult (i.e., may have a crossing pattern, or similar challenge) and the time standard is increased to 75 seconds to allow for the additional obstacles utilized. At the Senior level, the see-saw is added, the A-frame raised to 6'0" for large dogs, additional hurdles are added and the course design resembles one that may be utilized in the Starters level. Course time is set at two yards per second.

Awards in the Junior Handler Program are custom JHP gold, silver and bronze medallions that are awarded based upon their result as measured against the standard rather than as placements in head-to-head competition. Those earning five or fewer faults receive a gold medallion, fifteen or less but more than five faults receive the silver medallion, and all other competitors finishing the round with a score receive the bronze medallion. A qualifying ribbon or rosette is awarded for a zero fault round, which counts toward their titling requirement.

Each of the titles and rules for eligibility are included in the Rules & Regulations eBook in the Forms and Documents library.



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