A few more of Jake and Lil’s runs from DAPPR’s NADAC Trial last weekend

Black Forest Regional Park is a great trial site.




Gorgeous trial site!

(above) a couple of Jake and Lil’s runs from Saturday.  These are the only runs that were video-taped on my high-res camera but they present the general vibe of both dogs running in long, dense grass.  I think running a bit slower may have helped Jake keep his wits about him 🙂  but both dogs YPS were 0.5 to 1 YPS slower than typical.    Not an issue in terms of qualifying since they both typically come in well under the Standard Course Times but it certainly felt a lot different running them in such thick grass.

Watching the videos, I think my dogs looked perfectly happy running those courses but they also looked like they were working a lot harder than they usually do when running on other surfaces.   I’m not complaining at all though.  It was just weird for me to feel my dogs overall “vibe” being different from what I’ve gotten used to since switching to NADAC.  I was reminded of the years we competed primarily in USDAA.  Sure, my dogs were happy to run USDAA courses with me, but the overall vibe was “chase me around this course” vs. “run this course with me as my teammate.”  I personally prefer the vibe I feel from my dogs when running NADAC courses and I think they do too!    I also think they love running over lower A-frames, rubberized contacts without slats…… and lower jump heights!  I’m not saying USDAA is bad….although some of their obstacle specifications are arbitrary and not fair to small dogs… but rather that my dogs and I prefer NADAC.  🙂

(above) I dug up this video from fall 2011 of Lil running a USDAA Grand Prix course.  I think you can see what I am referring to re: her overall vibe looking like she is working vs. having a blast.  Gosh… I just realized Lil was 2.5 years old in this video!

Feeling Snookered by USDAA Snooker Rules?

This is just TOO FUNNY!   Here is the Merriam-Webster definition of the transitive verb:


: to trick or deceive (someone)

: to prevent (someone) from doing or achieving something

A quick note about this post.  I stopped competing in USDAA a couple of years ago and have not kept up on their ever-changing rules… so the Snooker rules I am referring to are the rules I competed under.  It appears that there are still issues of fairness when it comes to Snooker Super Qs due to small class sizes (other than the HUGE 22″ mostly BC class).

A current slew of posts on USDAA’s Sounding Board further confirms (for me at least) that USDAA is not particularly interested in fairness when it comes to the largest and smallest dogs.   This most recent example is regarding Snooker Super Qs.  To make a long story short, a team needs 3 Super Qs (I think it is 3) to earn an ADCh.  However, any class / jump height that does not have a minimum of 5 or 7 dogs, is combined with another class / jump height when it comes to earning Super Qs.  

For example if there are less than five 8 inch (jump height) Performance dogs (a common occurrence in USDAA), they are combined with 12 inch (jump height) Performance dogs.   Just to spell it out… that means a 9 inch tall dog would be competing against dogs up to 16 inches tall.  Sure, you can win a Super Q with a very small dog competing against much larger dogs… but since the combining of classes is due to USDAA’s inability to attract a reasonable number of 8 inch dogs in the first place, it does not seem fair to punish the few remaining 8 inch dogs by combining them with much larger dogs.  26 inch competitors run into the same situation when there are fewer than seven 26 inch dogs, in which case they are combined with the very large 22 inch class which consists mostly of BCs.

There have been some interesting suggestions on the Sounding Board about how to make the earning of Snooker Super Qs fair (or more fair) for the smallest and largest dogs.  However, the current rules are so convoluted that many people don’t know what it is going to take for their dogs to earn a SQ when their class is combined with another class.

Reading so many posts by competitors expressing frustration regarding the lack of fairness for bookend dogs and SQs must have been cooking on a back burner in my brain because while driving up to Woodstock from NYC this morning, a simple solution occurred to me…. USDAA could solve the Snooker SQ issue the same way they solved the A-Frame height discrepancy issue for mini Performance dogs last year.  All they need to do is to change the wording in the Rules and Regulations Book so it matches what is actually happening at trials.  The Take It or Leave It approach.

Here is specifically what happened regarding Mini Performance dogs and the A-Frame height discrepancy a year ago:  Instead of correcting the A-Frame height discrepancy for small dogs, USDAA opted to quietly change the description of the Performance Program.

Original wording: “The Performance program offers lower jumping heights for dogs, more generous time constraints on course, and a lower A-frame for all height classes.”

New wording:  “The angle of the ramps beneath the apex determines the power of ascent and skill required to scale the ramp, as well as the impact on the ramp as the dog engages it. The angle for large dogs is 98° and the angle for small dogs is 104°. All dogs in the “Performance Program” use 104° angle of ascent and descent.”

The discrepancy with the original wording was that all height classes only applied to Performance dogs jumping 16″ and 22″ and not for dogs jumping 8″ and 12″.  Small dogs had the same height A-Frame as they would have in the Championship Program.  Many competitors supported lowering the A-frame on USDAA’s Sounding Board and sent letters and emails to the President, but instead of fixing the discrepancy, he opted to quietly change the wording to match the Reality.

Here are my thoughts about the A-frame discrepancy that still exists (even though the rules now support the discrepancy):  How does one come to terms with USDAA allowing small Championship dogs to run over a lower A-frame than big Championship dogs.. yet not allowing small Performance dogs to run over a lower A-frame than big Performance dogs.  Perhaps the forces of gravity and momentum magically change at 5 feet 6 inches?  I think not.

IMO, USDAA’s changing of their Rules to match Reality made it clear to 8 inch competitors that we need to either Take It or Leave It.  I know of some fantastic 8 inch teams who opted to Leave It due the A-Frame height issue and perhaps also due to no jump height concessions for mini-dogs… but both of those topics are ancient history at this point.

Back to Super Qs… How might this same simple solution look if applied to Snooker Super Qs?

USDAA could simply (and quietly) change the Rules and Regulations wording so that two jump heights are always combined for SQs, regardless of the number of dogs in each jump height: 12 and 16 inch Championship dogs would always compete against each other, as would 22 and 26 inch Championship dogs. 

The same could be true for Performance dogs:  8 and 12 inch dogs would always compete against each other as would 16 and 22 inch dogs.

OH WAIT!!!!  In order to be totally consistent with the A-Frame height rules / wording for the Performance classes, perhaps the rules would be changed so ALL Performance dogs compete against ALL OTHER performance dogs when it comes to Super Qs.. just like A-Frame heights.. from 8 inches all the way up to the largest dogs.

Clearly, this would be a ridiculous solution for the current SQ inequality.   My purpose in writing this post is to remind people how ridiculous it was for USDAA to change their Rules to match Reality instead of fixing the discrepancy re: A-Frame heights for mini Performance dogs in 2013.  Changing the rules to match reality was not a solution… It was, however, a very strong statement to 8 inch dog competitors, many of whom responded by taking their trial dollars elsewhere.

All in all, I think USDAA is brilliant at playing the game of Snooker with its competitors, with special emphasis on Snookering their largest and smallest teams.

snooker: to trick or deceive (someone): to prevent (someone) from doing or achieving something

A short post about Snooker Super Qs in USDAA

Yesterday I had the following random string of thoughts enter my mind: The reason USDAA added Super Qs to the criteria to earn an ADCH (Championship Title) is because people were just getting the necessary 37 points and leaving the ring with Snooker Qs, which indicates to me that USDAA Snooker courses tend to be too easy.  However, instead of making courses more challenging via course design or reducing SCT (Standard Course Times), which would make qualifying more difficult, USDAA opted to invent the Super Q.

This might have been a smart business decision since competitors need to enter a lot more Snooker classes to get their three required Super Qs which means that USDAA is potentially earning more money from each loyal competitor.  Or it could have been a stupid business decision if USDAA has been losing large numbers of potential competitors who run 22″ or 26″ non-BC breeds because most people are smart enough to realize their non-BC dogs are going to have to run A LOT of Snooker courses to get three Super Qs competing against a gazillion BCs.  I think most people also realize it is within the realm of possibility that they may never get two Super Qs, even with a nice running dog, and thus could spend years and thousands of dollars competing in USDAA and never earn a Championship title.

I recall a woman standing ringside after her Snooker run in tears, as she watched a BC team earn one more point than she had earned with her dog.  She was totally distraught that her great running (and fast) Golden was not going to earn an ADCH due to not being able to get her Super Qs in the highly competitive 22″ class.  She had spent two years trying to get those Super Qs to no avail and said had she been able to do it over again, she would have stopped competing in USDAA as soon as they implemented the Super Q rule and competed elsewhere.  I felt bad for her and said something lame like “You might still get a Super Q” to which she responded that it was unlikely to happen due to her dog’s age.

The same situation applies, but to a far lesser degree, with 8″ Performance dogs because the 8″ class is usually / always combined with the 12″ class due to there being so few 8″ dogs competing in USDAA.  Incidentally P12 dogs can be as tall as 15 15/16″ so there is quite a spread of heights between dogs who measure 9-10″ to dogs who measure nearly 16″ tall.  However, one advantage mini-P dogs have is since classes are so tiny to start, everyone tends to know everyone else and lets just say, people know who needs a Super Q and who does not.

In the video above, the second run is of my 3-year-old Australian Terrier, Lil running Snooker at our last USDAA Trial (a year ago).  I had already stopped running my dogs over USDAA’s higher A-Frame prior to this trial, and since the A-Frame was obstacle #4 in the closing we had only one way to earn 38 points by getting four 7s in the opener.   It was a  fun course to run and Lil did a great job bypassing all those obstacles to get all four 7s.  Of course we didn’t earn a Super Q with 38 points but I’m glad I stuck to my guns about not running my dog over that higher A-frame just to get a Super Q (not that a Super Q was guaranteed).

Follow up on my decision to stop running my dogs over USDAA’ higher A-Frame.  Since only running Lil over 5′ A-Frames for the past year, she has developed a nice, consistent striding pattern that looks comfortable and safe. I’m so glad I made that decision!

A day of USDAA

Yesterday I went to a USDAA trial but only entered  Lil in 2 classes: Jumpers and Snooker because I have decided to stop running my dogs over different height A-Frames and the USDAA A-Frame is higher than the other venues we compete in.   I was taking a risk entering Snooker because the A-Frame can be included but I figured if I’m driving 1:30 hours anyway I might as well take my chances since the only real risk is losing my $13 entry fee for that class.

It turned out that the A-Frame was the #4 obstacle in the Snooker closing so my only option to earn enough points to qualify (and not run Lil over that higher A-Frame) was to go for four #7s in the opener and get through #3 in closing.  Lil aced it and we Q-ed.

Here is why I stopped running my dogs over the higher USDAA A-Frame:

Jake has a 2o2o and so running over different height A-Frames is not a huge issue with him, although he looks better running up and down a lower one.   Lil has a running A-Frame.  Once the A-frame got a few inches above 5′, her striding really started to change.  She has only been called twice on a 5’6″ A-Frame but the issue I have is that her descent looks off-balance to me on 5’6″ A-Frames.   I believe the structure of an Australian Terrier comes into play in a much greater way when the A-Frame is raised to 5’6″.  Lil’s striding starts to change a bit at  4′ 8″ but it still looks good and more importantly, it looks like she is in control during the descent on 5′ A-Frames.

Here is my analysis: 🙂   An AT’s short-ish legs make it difficult for them to shift their centers of gravity back far enough when running 3 strides down a steeper A-Frame to stay in control as momentum builds during the descent because their shorter legs don’t offer the same “breaking power” as longer legs (like Border Collies have) which extend further forward.  I liken a dog having longer legs when running down an A-Frame to a person having walking sticks when hiking quickly down a very steep hill.  So I now think that last leaping stride that ATs like to take off an A-Frame is not due to an eagerness to get off the A-Frame, but rather it’s a reaction to the powerful forces of gravity and momentum that have built up by the time an AT takes that third necessary stride down.

I think it takes an incredible amount of effort and strength for ATs to hold themselves back against forward momentum and gravity when they drive hard over an A-Frame (like Lil does).   I have compared photos of Border Collies and Lil descending an A-Frame and Lil’s overall body position, shoulder angle, forward reach, and tucking under of back legs looked similar.  The big difference is that Lil’s legs are significantly shorter so her nose extends beyond her front feet.   I can see why she looks off-balance when running fast down a steeper A-Frame.

Since I stopped training on both 5’6″ and 5′ A-Frames, Lil is striding comfortably up, over, and down the A-Frame and her 3rd stride lands well inside the contact zone of 5′ high A-Frame.  It looks easy and natural vs. WHOA!  This is what prompted me to stop training both heights and to stop running both heights in trials.

Changing USDAA A-Frame specifications for the 8″ class

I have competed in agility with my two Australian Terriers in AKC, CPE, NADAC, and USDAA.  I really love USDAA courses but I do not love the apparent randomness of obstacle specifications for the 8″ class.   In particular, I believe USDAA’s  5’6″ A-Frame puts my 8″ dogs at a greater risk for injury since we also compete in other venues where the A-Frame is  5′ high.

A little background information for those of you who do not compete in USDAA.  USDAA does not offer an 8″ class in their Championship Program, so the only option for dogs who jump 8″ is to enter them in Performance.  Dogs measuring under 12″ can either jump 12″ in Championship or 8″ in Performance.

Besides the fact that dogs jump 4″ lower in Performance, there are no spread jumps in Performance.  I suspect a majority of 8″ dogs competing in USDAA also compete in other venues where there are spread jumps, so removing spread jumps is inconsequential to most competitors.  The remaining obstacle specifications are the same for 8″ Performance and 12″ Championship, including a 12″ table and 5’6″ high A-Frame.

The 12″ table used in USDAA for the 8″ class does not pose a problem for my dogs since I can easily practice on both 8″ and 12″ tables because the table is not an obstacle that puts a lot of wear and tear on dogs.  But the higher A-Frame is another story and it is the reason I am writing this post.

Recently all of the local trials happened to be AKC so I’ve been only running my dogs over 5′ high A-Frames.  But this morning for the first time in months,  I ran Lil (who has a running A-frame) over a 5’6″ A-Frame in preparation for a USDAA trial next weekend.  I was shocked to see on video playback, that during Lil’s first repetition, she barely kept herself from slamming into the A-Frame on her second stride up as she anticipated the angle to be the same as the 5′ A-Frame we have been practicing on.   Until I watched the video, I didn’t realize how radically different the angle is between a 5′ and 5’6″ A-frame for a small dog, both in terms of the ascent and descent.  Lil obviously figured it out by the second repetition but it made me see how potentially dangerous it is for small dogs like mine to run over different height A-Frames.

That video made me realize that if I am going to compete in USDAA along with other venues, I will need to train my dogs on two different height A-Frames regularly.  The problem I have with this, and I think most people would agree, is that I don’t want to run my dogs over A-Frames any more than I have to,  due to the wear and tear this obstacle has on dogs.

I have wondered if USDAA specs for the A-Frame are influenced by the time it would take to lower the A-Frame twice per class (vs. once per class).  If that has been a consideration in the past, now that USDAA is offering a Veteran’s class and the A-Frame is already set at 5′ for that class, why can’t the rules be changed so the A-Frame remains at 5′ for the 8″ class and just run small to tall when Veterans run first and tall to small when Veterans run last (which is the way it is done most of the time anyway).

Where are the advocates for 8″ dogs in USDAA?  There seem to be plenty of advocates for big dogs.  One somewhat recent example is that weave pole spacing was increased from 22″ to 24″ to make it physically safer for large dogs– to reduce the wear and tear on their bodies.  But for small dogs, it is actually the width of the weave pole base, and not the spacing of the poles themselves, that puts additional physical stress on their bodies by forcing small dogs to hop dramatically from side to side to avoid stepping on and potentially slipping on wide bases.

I trained my younger dog, Lil on Versa Weaves which have 1.5″ base.  She learned to sliver through them with very efficient footwork that looked easy for her to do. The first time she ran through standard USA weave poles with a 2.5″ wide base, she struggled until she figured out that she had to change her footwork and slalom much wider to clear the base.  While she does not hop from side to side as much as most small dogs, her style is negatively affected by wide bases and I’m sure it puts more stress on her body.

Where were the advocates for small dogs when weave poles specs were being changed? Most clubs purchased new weave poles when the spacing changed, so there was a perfect opportunity to reduce the base widths so ALL dogs would benefit from the change in specs, not just big dogs.   ps–To those people would think bases need to be wide to be weighty enough to counter the force of big dogs who push hard on the poles,  narrower bases could be just as stable by making the side supports longer and/or the bases themselves a bit thicker.  But at this point, it’s too late to make any changes on weave pole base specs since most clubs have already purchased new 24″ weave poles so I fully accept the wider bases as “just the way it is” in the USA.

But it is not too late to petition USDAA to lower the A-Frame specifications to 5′ so that 8″ dogs can compete in different venues without needing to train on two different height A-Frames to minimize the risk of injury.  Whats the big deal?  As I already mentioned, the A-Frame is already set at 5′ for the Veteran’s class.

I suspect some people might wonder why I don’t just quit competing in USDAA.   The reason is that I love the courses and I love the direction the organization is heading by offering International Handling challenges and such.  Plus my dogs and I have a blast and do well running USDAA style courses…and I have already stopped competing in TDAA due to the shorter A-Frame specs so I’d like to be able to participate in as many local trials with the remaining organizations as possible.

My intention in writing this  post is to find out if there are enough 8″ handlers out there to petition USDAA to lower the A-Frame to 5′ for the 8″ class so we can continue to compete in this awesome venue without undo risk of injury to our dogs.

The big question is how can I reach 8″ handlers to find out what they think?