Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Agility Show of the Future

Right you've done some training and now you are off to a show.

On arrival you join the queue for day parking for vans, past the camping with tents and vans area, past the tents and cars area and the vans with big caravans, vans with medium caravans and vans with small caravans and to the left of the cars with big caravans, cars with medium caravans and cars with small caravans. On the right is the 4x4 vehicles and to the front the cars.

Once parked in your designated area you join the queue for handler assessment measurement. After answering questions about your sex, age and experience, your height, weight and fat ratio are measured. Your heart rate taken before and after a 30 sec jog on the treadmill. You are then sent to the "not bad fitness for middle aged woman experienced handler" queue. After having your length of leg measured and the colour of your eyes noted and details taken of your prescription you are sent on to the "not bad fitness for middle aged short legged brown eyed experienced woman handler" queue.

At last your dog now gets some attention. Breed, age, eye colour, coat, colour, marking, height at withers, length of back, length of leg, weight and resting heart beat measured. Heart beat measured after 30 seconds on treadmill. Muscle to fat ratio measured and pitch of bark.

Although this is all a bit stressful and time consuming it will be worth it you think as you are pointed forward to ring 329.

What there is no queue, straight in, BRILLIANT you think as you stand there on the start line facing the finishing line. No equipment either! 

OK lets go for it and as you cross the line a cheer goes up and you get given your 1st place trophy and your placement card - 
1st in the day parking with vans, not bad fitness for middle aged, short legged, brown eyed, woman, experienced handler with a tri coloured, hazel eyed, border collie, 20 inches at the withers, 16.5 inches leg, 22 inches back, well toned and high level of fitness class.

Amazing lets go celebrate with all my equally successful friends whilst my dog chills in the van.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Majority rules?

Contrary to some peoples beliefs The Kennel Club does encourage agility to look after itself! The rules we have in place have come about because of the work from people on the committee at the time proposals were made.

When I first started agility there were three grades:

  • Starter - people new to agility
  • Novice - people experienced either by winning from starters or by winning out of starters with a previous dog
  • Senior - people and dogs who had won through the grades.

It was very clear and understood. Classes were usually Starters, Novice (included Starters), Intermediate (included Novice and Senior), or just Senior.

Show organisers generally designed their schedule to give you two runs at your grade and one above. This meant you could also compete against dogs of a higher grade than you. 

It also meant you could be queueing with people working at a higher standard at you. In my opinion this gave all competitors a rounded view so that people of different levels met and could appreciate others perspective.

When the numerous grades were introduced it was probably envisaged that shows would continue to mix up the grades. However, due to show sizes and people's hunger to move up the grades things have worked out far differently. I think this is a great shame. As a result, people have very different and disjointed views on what many of us now consider to be a sport.

Everybody loves their dog and accordingly want it to do well. The common reflection of doing well seems to be winning rosettes and moving up the many grades. 

With class sizes as big as they are it can be hard for less able bodied dogs to see that "success". With the lower grades not mixing or watching the beauty of the physical prowess of the top level dogs and handlers then a distorted view of the intention of agility competitions appears to be a driving force behind many changes now being pushed for.

I am able to see top class agility at many shows and choose to go and watch it first hand at FCI. It is the people at the top that reflect to me that agility is a sport.

I do believe that every dog and handler can gain a lot of enjoyment from learning agility and spending time together, however I don't believe in changing rules to suit every dog at competitions.

The best handlers and more athletic dogs will always win however the rules are altered and that is how agility should be in my eyes - a display of athletism as well as skill.

My worry is that if it is correct that jumping a few inches higher is detrimental to dogs then surely jumping in itself is not good so why are we making dogs do it at all? 

I believe we have the knowledge and training techniques to ensure all our dogs learn how to jump properly and so many practioners to help us keep our dogs in tip top condition. 'Fit for purpose' is a phrase that springs to mind and although every dog can enjoy agility it does not necessarily follow that all dogs can be successful. I would look around for another hobby if my dog wasn't fit for agility.