International Flavored Agility

Another Dog Agility Blog Action Day!
One of the great things about trialing in the U.S is all the agility organizations available.  I'm an unusual agility competitor in that I choose to do 2 organizations that are polar opposite in course styles: NADAC and USDAA.  I do NADAC because both my dogs love running full speed for the entire course, it's great in building my anxious dog's confidence, and because I love trying distance handling with the other dog.  I do USDAA because I like the course challenges and the greater opportunity for handling choices.

But compared to courses overseas, none of the organizations in the United States offer "international challenges" on a consistent basis in their courses.  USDAA and AKC are both starting to offer these options for competitors in their Masters Challenge courses and the newly demoed Excellent C class.

When I've talked to other competitors about those options, (well since I'm incredibly shy I mean eavesdropped or lurked on forums/facebook) there are such a wide range of opinions about these international options.  Many are excited to try new things, but what appears to be an even greater number of people are scared or even upset by possible changes.  Many echo that they just want to have fun with their dog, they're not striving to be national competitors let alone international.  I think that's the 99%.  Doesn't everyone want to just have fun with their dog?  Dreams of podium wins or not, I personally don't see how a change in course style takes away from the fun they are having with their dogs.

But one thing I do note about international challenges is that it requires a certain type of dog, and foundation training, to do them well.  The challenges require the dog to collect quickly, remain in collection for several obstacles, and then just as quickly accelerate out.  The Toller has the first requirement down in that he reads my collection cues well, almost too well some times.  But he has a really hard time shifting back up into gear once he has been asked to turn tight.  We've been working hard on driving back into obstacle focus and have been making progress, but at this point an international course would be too demotivating for him.  I do have hopes that some day we will both rise to the challenge!  The Corgi and I would have a blast doing the handling challenges, but unfortunately he is not a very good jumper.  Because of this he now jumps 4in and I'm ok with wider turns versus trying to get him to jump tighter and likely stutter doing it.  I have high hopes that with my next dog (who of course will be perfect!) I will train a solid foundation on collection-to acceleration-to collection and thus open up the possibilities for having fun with international courses.  But realistically I don't think international style courses are for every team.  Of course, I also think that many teams just need to give it a shot.  I've seen handlers of all ages and athletic abilities successfully complete international maneuvers with the right amount of confidence and practice.

That also brings me to what we are talking about when we say "international."  When I was looking up videos on youtube in order to write this post I didn't find courses that were threadle, after threadle, after backside jump.  While the runs that I watched weren't NADAC in style :) they weren't all that different from many USDAA courses.  I think that we have to be careful not to make courses too technical in nature in our quest to make challenging courses.  Maybe it's only because of my difficulties with the Toller, but I prefer courses that have a challenging piece but followed by stretches where the dog can open up and really Run.  I do look forward to where the courses in our U.S. organizations are headed, please challenge us!, but hope they don't become technical just for sake of trying to being international flavored.

Merinda  – ( March 6, 2013 at 2:01 PM )  

I do NADAC for the reason you posted: I like it to build speed & I love the distance challenges. I do AKC as well because there are more of those trials :) And all my friends do them :) And I guess I like the courses ok. I just wish sometimes they had classes without weaves!

Lynnda L in Mpls  – ( March 6, 2013 at 2:50 PM )  

USDAA considers itself to be part of the "International" style of agility. [See their motto/mission -- which is why they have 26" jumps.] Most Masters courses have backside of jump [watch the Refusal plane] as well as 180, thredale, etc. It is not for all dogs -- or handler that are not fleet of foot.

Leanne  – ( March 6, 2013 at 4:36 PM )  

My dog definitely isn't suited for tight turns and acceleration either; he's a big leggy BC who tends to run front-heavy and not power out from behind. But we live in the UK and we're nearly top-level, so we have to give it a shot if we want to compete!

It's made me a better trainer though. I've spent a lot of time working with my Aussie pup to make sure she knows how to use her body more effectively when jumping and turning, and ensuring she can accelerate and decelerate appropriately.

ATurtle  – ( March 6, 2013 at 5:54 PM )  

The challenges are definately part of the fun, but what each team/dog/handler considers challenging is going to be different. A front cross may be a challenge or a threadle may be a challenge. All the orginizations and their styles have a place. I look forward to "international" style challenges for Gracie and future (perfect!) dogs, but am considering changing up what I do with Gidget so that she has more fun while still being challenged. (NADAC doesn't use the teeter and Gidget loves to run, this is tempting!)

Laura, Lance, and Vito  – ( March 6, 2013 at 8:46 PM )  

Merinda, I do wish there were more NADAC trials in our area too. All the different games without weaves, and even without jumps are fun for flat out speed!

Interesting Lynnda. While USDAA might consider itself International in style, I doubt the rest of the world would think so. It certainly is the closest organization the U.S. has got though in that it does allow the moves.

Leanne, the win system vs our just Q system certainly explains the huge gap in course styles. I love practicing fun handling moves and doing "international pieces" in practice. I am greatful though that in the U.S. we can choose different organizations to play in and I can build up my toller's confidence by running him on courses built for SPEED. At this point I'm not sure how much of his collection back to acceleration issue is due to foundational training vs his anxiety issues and spillover with that.

ATurtle, you should definetly come out and do some NADAC with the girls! They're less challenging for the handlers, (minus extreme distance on chances courses!) but the dogs love it. So great for building confidence and speed in dogs.

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