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.
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.