Monday, May 17, 2010

Changes to AKC Agility Regulations

Well, the 2009 Agility Advisory committee and their proposed recommendations finally got their day with AKC's Board of Directors last week - the minutes of that meeting were just released this afternoon. Some of the advisory committee's recommendations were voted into the new regulations with a set of rolling effective dates. The full text of the board minutes are here, I've read through the entirety of the published minutes and below is my own summary - followed by my commentary. I highly suggest that anyone interested in the minutia of the details ought to take a look at the full text version as my summary and any implied emphasis are my own biases.

From the May AKC board minutes dated May 10-11, 2010:

Curt Curtis, Andy Hartman, and Tommi Powell, AKC Staff, participated in this portion of the meeting via video conference.
Recommendations from the 2009 AKC Agility Advisory Committee
There was a motion by Dr. Garvin, seconded by Ms. Scully, and it was VOTED (affirmative: Mr. Arnold, Mr. Ashby; Dr. Davies, Dr. Garvin, Mr. Goodman, Mr. Kalter, Mr. Menaker, Dr. Newman, Ms. Scully, Dr. Smith, Mrs. Strand; opposed: Dr. Haines; absent: Mr. Marden) to approve the changes to the Regulations for Agility Trials as submitted. Regulations changes can be found in Appendix B.

My summary of Appendix B:

Effective 9/1/2010:
--Specialties can hold events concurrently with all-breed trials using the same judge as long as the all-breed trial excludes the breed(s) in the specialty and both events keep separate records.
--Clubs can now submit their premiums electronically.
--Clubs may now offer a wait list that can be filled after closing.
--Clubs may now place entry limits on specific classes/judges/sets of classes (not by number of total runs/day).
--Less tolerance and more information on aggressive and menacing dogs in and out of the ring.
--A-Frame set to 5'0" for 4" and 8" jump heights.
--Dogwalk up contacts are no longer judged.
--Teeters must be calibrated prior to the start of every trial - clubs are responsible for having calibration materials.
--Table behavior is now position-less. Table count begins as soon as four paws are on the table.
--Dogs must restart weaves at pole one (can't fix pop-outs in the middle of the poles) and limited to three attempts.
--During windy weather a panel jump can now be replaced by a bar jump
--Tire heights now are 4" lower than the standard height. 24" dogs will jump a 20" tire. No word on the 4" preferred tire height.
--Changes in YPS requirement (slower pace) for the 8" and 24" dogs - in Standard and JWW.
--Handlers may now reattempt contact obstacles (and the chute) if a dog falls off. After the one reattempt the dog will be excused.

Effective July 1, 2011
--No more MACH point multipliers for 1st and 2nd placements

Effective January 1, 2012
--Chute shortened to 6'6"
--24" weave pole spacing!!!
--Mandating design on the double and triple (sides have to be transparent)
--Time to beat (T2B) class becomes a titling event (this date was later changed to effective July 1, 2011)

Effective July 1, 2012
--MXB, MXS MXG Titles - Lifetime achievement awards at the Bronze, Silver and Gold levels in STD, JWW and FAST.

Effective January 1, 2013 (this date was later changed to July 1, 2011)
--PACH - Perferred Agility Championship Title: 20 QQ's and 750 PACH points

Now for my thoughts:
I'm disappointed that the weave pole mandate doesn't take effect until 2012. I think this is a cop-out. I understand that AKC is trying to prevent clubs from having to purchase new equipment on the fly - but honestly a new set of competition weaves cost less than $400. Agility was and still is a money-maker for clubs - there's no reason any club that owns their own trial equipment can't purchase a new set of weave poles. For any club that rents their trial equipment there's even less reason for the delay - as equipment vendors will provide whatever specifications the club asks for - the clubs just need to ask for 24" poles. The good news is that the trend right now is for clubs to ask for the 24" poles - and we're seeing them more and more often.

I'm disappointed in the table behavior because it buys into the "my dog can't lay down on a wet table". From a training perspective, I think a dog that is working towards a MACH ought to be able to put his/her elbows down on a cold/wet/hot/rough surface. It's a training issue - not a performance issue. I will continue to train for a fast down on the table knowing that a down is a solid table performance and I really wouldn't ever want my dog standing on the pause table - too much room for mistakes in the excitement of a trial environment. It's a slippery slope.

I'm pleased that the a-frame is going to change for the 4" and 8" dogs - it's about time and I hope that a few more little dogs will be able to compete longer and healthier as a result. Hopefully equipment changes will be easily expedited during the 12" to 8" transition (or 8" to 12" transition).

I'm note sure how I feel about the tire - I think the lower height is going to encourage dogs to flatten through the tire. As for my own dogs they never see a tire lower than their jump heights - even if the rest of the bars are lower, I always work the tire at 24". I think the safer option (and the better decision) would have been to implement a displaceable or break-away tire obstacle.

The removal of the multipliers is a welcome change in my opinion. When national breed rankings consider points exclusively, dogs that live in areas with competitive height classes are at a greater disadvantage than dogs who compete in smaller height classes and smaller shows. In other words, on two identical runs that were Q's and 10 seconds under SCT: dogs that qualify have a greater chance of a first or second placement in a 330 run trial where there were 5 dogs in their height class than the same Q and 10 point run might be at a 990 run trial with 100 dogs in their height class. If you removed the multipliers suddenly the national rankings evaluate the dog - not the geographical location (and associated variability) in which he runs.

I like the changes in the wait-list and closing dates. As a former club officer and trial chairman its frustrating to be "full" on closing day and then only have 300 runs on trial day because of bitches coming into season (for which we refund entry fees). We can't fill with other entries and our expenses don't change so clubs end up "eating" the loss. Now if clubs can pull from the wait-list up until 3 days before the event trials will have a better chance of having a full entry on trial day. From an exhibitor's perspective it's a win too - I've been on a number of wait-lists recently and probably would have gotten into the trial if the event secretary could have pulled off the wait list after closing.

Dog aggression - throw the book on them. There's far too much "can you move your dog away from the ring when my dog runs so she won't bite your dog?" and "Please don't use the practice jump right now - it sets my dog off" that goes on at trials - not to mention all of the grumbling and warning shots off the bows of other dogs. Teller had a dog aggressively grab his tail recently while he was standing near the ring gate waiting for his run (thankfully the other dog just got a mouthful of fur). I don't care if it's prey drive or bad temperament - there's no place for it at an agility trial.

I'm not so into the Master bronze, silver and gold titles - it doesn't make sense to me. Nor (actually) does the PACH title. Why not just make the PAX a prefix title? Speed points in preferred? The whole point of the preferred classes is that dogs get a break on jump height and on time. Now we are expecting dogs in the preferred classes to go for PACH points under standard course time (SCT)? I guess I understand the appeal of a PAX title for dogs that aren't fast or athletic enough to jump at their measured heights - and I suppose it's an additional title for the semi-retired dogs who still want to be out there competing a lot - but I'm still trying to get my head around speed points from the preferred classes while adding 5 seconds to the preferred SCT...

Also in the minutes of the May board meeting was the following phrase:

Ways to Assist Clubs that Exceed Entry Limits
Staff presented ideas to assist clubs in meeting their entry capabilities for events and to assist clubs and exhibitors who cannot enter an event due to an entry limit having been met. This will be discussed further after staff has compiled additional data.

I'm not sure what AKC has in mind here - entry limits are entry limits. It's impossible for AKC to create more space for additional rings, provide for longer trial days or figure out a way for judges to work for more than eight hours a day. This statement truly leaves me scratching my head on the whole thing...Of course more entries mean more income for AKC - but we just can't squeeze a gallon of water into a quart-sized container because AKC wants it to be so...


steve said...

Thanks for taking the time to organize the changes by effective time. I just couldn't make myself slog through the changes :^) Glad there are motivated people like you to give us instant answers!

Robin said...

Thanks for the great summary! I for one am thrilled for the positionless table, but not for the reason you think. I too think dogs can be trained to put elbows down on a cold wet surface (if I can do it in the middle of winter with a 10# Min Pin I don't want to hear excuses). But the truth is that the table has always been very subjective in call AND it's a huge time-waster at trials. By subjective, I mean that coated dogs can get away with things non-coated dogs can't. And that what one judge calls a sit, another won't, ditto for the down. Or there are the judges that don't count until they've practically circled the entire dog. This will be MUCH faster.

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Cynthia said...

yeah I'm not too keen on the table change. A dog should be able to lie down, it is a training issue. And I have a short-coated breed now, who doesn't lie the cold. :)

I also agree that the weave spacing should go into effect sooner rather than later.

I don't really like the tire change either.

I do like that the panel can be replaced by a bar jump in the wind... how about a chute being replaced by a tunnel? I haven't seen that addressed anywhere, and it can get way too windy for chutes sometimes.
Nice blog. :)

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