Q&A – USDAA Agility

In an email discussion list I’m on, I’ve recently answered some questions about my favorite agility venue and would like to share this info. So here is my USDAA FAQ – which may be added to as more comes up.

Q. With what I can read on the USDAA website, it looks like the dogs run “naked”. At least the people get to wear their clothes. Also looks like USDAA runs all “Starters” together without “A” and “B” classes.I couldn’t find the definition of a Q in the rules, just info about faults and the number of obstacles at different levels. There’s a fault listed as “touching the base of the wishing well”. What is that? Dogs jump through an obstacle that looks like a wishing well? That’s kinda scary.Is there a lot of competition to get into USDAA trials like there used to be for AKC trials?

Is there any etiquette that we need to know about that’s different from AKC, UKC or NADAC? If my dog gets too wild n crazy, may I ask the judge to leave? Speaking of wild n crazy, if my dog is his “usual” self on the agility course, would we get whistled off for lack of control?

A. Do read those rules! But don’t get too crazy with them. The performance criteria change for each level. You’ll be out of starters pretty quick.

Some quick answers:

Yes, the dogs run naked. Collar = elimination. Outta there. Sometimes they whistle you off immediately, and sometimes they don’t. But if they see the collar you are out. They do appreciate it if handlers are clothed, however.

There are no A or B classes in USDAA. They do have a Novice class as well as Starters, but it’s optional – I think it was created for times when the Starters classes are expected to be huge, as a means of splitting the classes into more manageable chunks. They generally don’t offer Novice around here these days.

No A or B in Masters either. You just get up there with everyone else and run. And of course Masters is the biggest class, like Excellent in AKC. Nowhere else to go, and who’d want to go anywhere else anyway?

USDAA definition of a Q – “Run clean, run fast.”

In novice there are no faults for refusals. Dogs can run past jumps to their heart’s content and they won’t be faulted for it. Except that they’ll be wasting time. A wrong course, on the other hand, is always an NQ. Dropped bars and missed contacts are an NQ. It’s easy: Run clean, run fast.

Right, easy.

Another difference from AKC – It’s always a down on the table. No point in asking the judge. No need to teach a sit (unless, of course, you run in other venues).

Oh, and the rules are different in gamblers and snooker. But that’s another topic.

And the rules do change when you get to open, and once again in Masters. But one thing at a time, eh?

Fortunately, wishing wells don’t happen here in the US these days. At least I’ve never seen one. There’s also a “crossover,” which is like two dogwalks X’d – not used anymore. There are some interesting jumps occasionally, but nothing dogs seem to be disturbed by.

All USDAA trials have unlimited entries. So no rush to enter, no competition to beat anyone, no overnight mail (unless you’re late for deadlines). Many clubs offer an “early bird” incentive, frequently a dollar off each class for getting entries in early. This unlimited thing does lead to large trials at times. For instance, the upcoming trial in Charlottesville (this weekend) has 1400 runs.

Etiquette is no different than in AKC. Well, actually, things are slightly more relaxed, and I find the judges generally to be a bit more user friendly. There are exceptions, but everyone’s human.

Courses are generally slightly more open than in AKC, but not as wide open as in NADAC. There are technical parts of the courses but generally you don’t find the * this way – no this way – oops that way * sort of course setup that seems to prevail in AKC these days. I love the challenge of the USDAA courses – they definitely work the handler but are overall fair and always fun.

Q. Are there usually 12 poles in Starters? Judged like AKC Novice poles? How far apart are the poles — I thought it used to be 18 inches?

A. There are always 12 poles in standard, and I haven’t seen any that are 18 inches. Seems most clubs use the same ones they use or would use for AKC trials, 20-22 inches. Since refusals are not faulted at all in Starters, I guess you could say the poles are judged as in AKC – and by the same token, since wrong courses are always faulted in USDAA, a wrong course on the poles (backweaving them) would be faulted – failing in USDAA, instead of the 5-point fault assessed in AKC. I’m not certain what constitutes backweaving: one pole, three poles, or what. I guess the best idea is “don’t do it.” :)

Times are slightly tighter in USDAA. For a fast dog this is not a problem, but for a silly dog that moves with its handler (like my Frenzy), making time in Starters can be an issue. One goof (refusal) would put us over time. There were several classes where we were a hundredth of a second over time, thus failing. (We eventually got out of starters.)

Oh – For time faults, anything over the course time is failing. There is no “rounding up” as in AKC. If the course time is 66 seconds, you cannot exceed 66 seconds (even by 0.01 second) and expect to Q.

And back to the weaves. In jumpers there are no weaves, just jumps and tunnels. In gamblers, snooker and pairs, you will frequently have six poles, or two sets of six poles.

For anyone who’s never seen USDAA agility, there’s one in Charlottesville this weekend (12/9-10/06), same location as the AKC trial in the spring – the Polo Grounds. Come and watch – or better yet, volunteer to work a class or two. Aside from actually participating with your dog, this is the best way to learn how things work.

Q. I’ve seen trials that advertise that fault limits will be (or may be) imposed- is this happening more as the trials get larger? How is it usually executed? Like Snookers – where you can get whistled off pretty quick?

A. This happens rarely – when the entry is large and there’s a time limitation imposed, for instance, by rental of a facility that charges an exorbitant fee for being over time (some sportsplexes are like that) – or that have another event scheduled at, say, 7 PM and the club has to be out of there, cleaned up totally, by that time. Or if the trial is outdoors with no lights and it begins to look like everything won’t be able to be completed. The judges and trial committees do their best to avoid this and constantly encourage (push) competitors to be on the line when it’s time to run. Good gate stewards are worth their weight in gold!

Yep, it’s done sorta like Snooker – except in Snooker a whistle means you are out. No question.

Without fault limits, you may finish your run no matter how many wrong courses you get (well, within reason/some time limit), though if a run is going really badly the handler will usually excuse her/himself.

When fault limits are imposed, usually the judge gives you one whistle (for any eliminating fault – i.e., a wrong course) and then lets you run *until you get a second whistle* – and then you’re out. In extreme cases (impending dark – 30 more runs for instance) they ask you to leave with one whistle.

Note that in USDAA you do not get whistled for a dropped bar or a missed contact; you receive penalties for those transgressions but are not disqualified. No, you cannot Q, but you can still place in the ribbons if others do worse than you.

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