Posted by: jility | June 4, 2013

…and the Three Bears

Much like Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ porridge, I find some agility organizations too hot,


some too cold,


but one is just right (well almost just right).


You see, unlike Ms. Goldilocks, I am more difficult to please and can find fault with most anything. Just ask Sir Cussalot.

It was in the year of 2000 when I first discovered dog agility. The first trials I saw were NADAC. Things were quite different back then. There was no training in the ring, no hoopers, the contacts were exactly the same as AKC, there was still a teeter and the jump heights were also the same. My how things have changed! Those who do NADAC love the organization for the changes, but it was those changes that drove me away. Well, that and the rule about no tugging or treating within 10 feet of the ring and the arbitrary interpretation of training in the ring.


Not that NADAC cares about my opinion, but I would do NADAC if they allowed treating and tugging next to the ring and tugging inside the ring. I am still not sure about those hoops though. They take the excitement out of it for me. You see, doing agility gives me the same rush I used to get riding show jumpers or flying over huge fences cross country. Hoops are, well, just hoops on the ground. No adrenalin rush there for me.


ASCA seems to be a good alternative to NADAC. It maintains all the good things NADAC used to offer, without the silly changes and rules that made NADAC so frustrating.

My husband, Sir Cussalot, prefers USDAA, but were it not for him, it is not an organization in which I would ever compete. I DO love the fact that my dog can be off leash at the USDAA trials. I don’t like the higher jump heights or the higher aframe (yes, when I do compete in USDAA I do so in performance to get the lower jump height and aframe) or care much for the master courses. I love to feel the wind ripping through my hair (I WISH!) and watch my dog open up on course (as long as I don’t have to run very far) and with many courses today, it is crank them down after crank them down after crank them down. I find those courses demotivating to me and to my 25 ½” Poodle who struggles with no momentum to make very tight turns. USDAA is a Border Collie and agile handler sport, not a Dogzilla Poodle and handicapped fat old woman sport.

fat woman running

When the courses are designed intelligently, which they are most of the time, I do enjoy UKI. I LOVE that you can train in the ring – WITH A TOY!!! How great is that? Unlike NADAC, you are not limited in what you train. You are given your maximum time and you get to do whatever the hell you want. It is YOUR time. YOU paid for that time in the ring and can spend it however you like (as long as you are nice to your dog that is). I do wish there were more UKI trials around. I also love that you can enter the day of the UKI trial! I wish other organizations allowed that!

I have never done a CPE or UKC agility trials so I have no opinion about those two organizations.

shutterstock_106110713So my choice organization is AKC. Sadly, however, things are changing there as well. I do understand that agility must grow, but growing is not always a pretty or healthy thing for a sport. I hate the Euro style courses. I hate all the cranking around of dogs and the fact that there are times you need to be Usain Bolt to manage: crank – sprint – crank – sprint – crank – -sprint….

I am far from Usain Bolt! I am a 63 year old, overweight, handicapped woman who had polio, now post polio, a broken (literally) knee and a bad back. I consider myself a pretty good dog trainer, but there are only so many hours in the day to train verbals and such in order to get around those International style courses. I want my dog to be able to open up and rip without me having to do the same. I have found most AKC courses fit that bill, but, unfortunately, that is slowly changing and, should that trend continue, it will drive people like me from AKC agility.

I really don’t much care what the other organizations do about their equipment and rules. I do care about AKC because that is where I choose to spend my money and my time. I do love that AKC forms a committee every few years to listen to its competitors’ wants, needs and wishes. How great is that? Every time I send in my wish list for change, sometimes I get lucky and they listen and sometimes I don’t, but at least I feel heard.

So as soon as the wish list period ends, I start a new one to submit for the next AKC Advisory Committee.

Here is my wish list for this Advisory Committee:

My AKC Wish list for the 2013 Advisory Committee

 1. Time plus faults!!!

Dog agility was modeled after show jumping. Even they have time plus faults! It is time for AKC to have the same. You can have huge time faults for each knocked bar (say a 5 or 10 point penalty added to the dog’s time for each knocked bar). It would be pretty hard to qualify with 2 knocked bars if the penalty was 10 points per bar. Another alternative would be a 10 second penalty for one bar plus 20 additional seconds for each bar after. Let dogs with a bar down still Q!

GET RID OF REFUSAL calls in all classes! They are subjective and arbitrary! Let us eat up time and still Q if we are fast enough.

5 or 10 second penalty for missing the yellow on a contact but still can Q.

2.  Start an Excellent C or equivalent division so the “wanna bees” and the “bees” quit complaining that courses are too easy for them. Many of us like the AKC courses and don’t think they need to be more challenging. PLEASE give that minority of competitors a class of their own so they leave the majority of us to go on loving agility, not dreading it!

3. LOWER THE DOG WALK for the love of DOG! Dogs will still be challenged but falling will not be so dangerous! One of our dogs had to be retired due to DW falls. I was a novice and she was my Novice A dog. I had no clue how to train her not to fall off. There are many others who don’t know how to train for that and sometimes, and even if you do train the dog to enter correctly, stuff happens. Why risk the dog’s health and wellbeing?

4. If you won’t lower the dog walk, at least make wraps up the DW out of tunnels or angled approaches illegal. They are DANGEROUS to the dogs!

5. If you are not going to lower the DW, teach judges about creating SAFE DW approaches. Falls from the DW can end a dog’s career or the dog’s life. If the DW is lowered, then the approach is not as important. Only straight approaches to the dog walk should be allowed at the height it is now. You can leave the DW full height in the EX C division with international style courses and let their dogs take the falls.

6. Remember, some of us are handicapped and/or old. Runs from one end of the ring to the other and back to a discrimination will drive the handicapped and old folks from AKC (less revenue for AKC). Remind judges of that too. It is DOG agility, NOT PEOPLE AGILITY! Leave the long runs, backside of jumps and twisty courses for the EX C classes. Then people have a choice.

 7. Explain to judges that backsides of jumps don’t belong in T2B! It is about speed and flow! Save those HORRIBLE Euro style courses for the Excellent C classes!

 8. PLEASE BAN FLEXI LEASHES!!!! Nothing is worse than having a fearful reactive dog and some idiot comes along with their goofy obnoxious dog that bounds to the end of the flexi into a fearful dog. Then they get huffy when the fearful dog reacts in terror! AKC doesn’t allow head halters, yet they allow flexi leashes. The head halter is MUCH more reasonable to allow. At least people have control over their dogs. Most of the public know it is not a muzzle. It is time for AKC to allow head halters on the grounds. Let us educate spectators who show up with pinch and chains on their dogs.

9. Allow bitches in heat to compete at the end of a class. They do it in other Countries! We are WAY behind the curve on that one.

 10. Please get rid of the four paw rule. People have maximum time on course. They should spend it however they want.

 11. Get rid of slats completely and make rubberized contacts mandatory. Slats are death on the dogs’ toes!

  12. Get rid of fixed jump cups so there are only cups where the bar rests. Fixed cups are dangerous. Our dog was injured badly by them and I have seen many others injured by fixed jump cups.

 13. 12 weave poles in novice please! 6 poles make no sense.

  14. Make Aframe 5’ for regular classes and the International height for Excellent C class.

 15. Get rid of the 3 weave attempt rule. People pay their money and deserve to spend it anyway they like until they run out of time. We are blessed with great weaving dogs so it is not an issue for us, but I really think it is a terrible rule.

 16. Allow training in the ring WITH A TOY! We pay our money and deserve to be able to use all of our allotted times in the ring. Allow a choice for people like UKI does, where we can declare training or not and take in a toy.

  17. Make dogs jump at their own jump height unless they do Excellent C, then put in the international heights so they have a choice.

 18. How about all dogs run the same course except the Excellent C dogs? Just allow for the same faults you do now in novice and open. It would make the day go so much faster and save the course builders’ backs! Dogs would come in better trained and more prepared to run.

 19. Make taking the backside of jumps or the same jump in both directions in sequence illegal in the regular classes! Save that crap for the Excellent C class.

 20. If you don’t make all dogs run the same course, then make all dogs run clean in order to qualify, even at the novice and open levels. It is culture shock for people to go from being able to have faults to having to be perfect in Excellent.

Thank you for having this committee!!! I LOVE AKC agility and appreciate that you take our wants and needs into consideration. I feel heard! I ask for many of these changes because I want to be able to continue to compete in agility for many more years to come!

fat woman on scale

Thank you!


Helen King

Our Dogs and More

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Helen’s Blog

To read lots of other Blog Action Day posts on “Improving Agility Organizations” for Blog Action Day, please visit:


  1. If one feels an approach to a dog walk is unsafe, it is up to the handler to control the dog in such a way as to make it safe (or just don’t run the dog!). It may eat up time, but shouldn’t a handler be caring about the safety and health of the dog more than the Q? There is always a way to make the dog walk approach safe. Always. Many of the people in the video shown are doing nothing to ensure it. The one guy isn’t even looking at his dog at all.

  2. Try NADAC again -favors distance and speed. No whistles for training. I stink at NADAC but there is a flavor for every palette.

    Everyone has to pull their weight. Train don’t complain, including handler fitness. Be able to sprint or train distance and verbals; or take up OB/Rally. I dislike AKC agility playing down to fat old ladies. This is a sport (that looks completely different in Europe). We expect our dogs to be athletes but not ourselves. ~Spoken by a fat disabled lady!

    • I am one of those “fat old ladies” you mentioned. I think your remarks are offensive and insensitive. I also happen to have some pretty major handicaps that have nothing to do with my weight. No matter how fit or lean I got, I would still have polio and post polio. Before you judge people like me, why don’t you find out more about them and if they are capable of getting fit or not.
      I do train. I train hard and we do pretty darn well considering.
      How lucky for you that you are able to get fit.

      • I understand my reply is a very sensitive topic. I am disabled and categorized as obese under BMI. If I could manage to lose weight, I’d still be legally disabled and physically different from everyone else.

        Agility encourages me to be as fit as my body can be; I’ll never be Tori or Ashley. I still don’t want AKC to play down to my level nor do I complain about running courses and what a day of agility does to my body. It’s my choice and I’m grateful to play!

        Maybe I misinterpreted this post as you want to not have to run fast NOR install distance or verbals. AKC already rewards slow & careful; I don’t see the sport in making it slower.

        • Evidently, you have not watched me run my dogs. I have crazy good verbals and distance. I don’t want AKC to dumb down but I don’t want them to bump up to Euro style courses. I don’t find them fun or motivating.

  3. Gotta disagree about #15. Having watched people pressure their dogs to weave over and over before the three attempt limit, this is a training issue that is not going to be resolved in a trial setting.

    Love the idea of no slats, no refusals, and being able to use a toy in the ring.

  4. I sent it two requests. First, allow handlers to have poop bags tied to leashes. My dogs seem to be prodigious poopers at trials and at least once, every trial I find myself wishing I could use my normal system of poop bag on leashes.

    I don’t compete in NADAC, but they did institute a new rule that I liked. You can bring food into the ring without penalty provided it’s in a sealed bag and the handler doesn’t use the food on course.

    I got my requests in quite early in the process. If anyone is interested in the full text I posted it to my blog.

  5. Great article Helen! I just wish you would have posted it BEFORE the deadline for AKC because there were several there that I would like to have also posted so that possibly the committee would have taken them more seriously!!! I do hope they consider many of your requests. I also asked that the broad jump be removed, the A-Frame and Dog Walk be lowered, and that International style handling be left to USDAA. Also, reminded them that International used to be (maybe still is???) a “game” that was an AKC choice where the jump heights were international heights and the courses were more Int. in style…whatever happened to that? If it wasn’t popular back then, what makes AKC think that the majority of people want those courses integrated in our nice fast, flowy AKC courses that we all used to love??? Love your article, and thanks for sending in your suggestions. I had many of my students fill out as well, and am looking forward to hearing what the committee thinks is important to the majority of the AKC agility entrants.

    • HI Cindy,
      I sent all my requests to AKC before the deadline 🙂

  6. You have a lot of great suggestions here. The refusal one is a good one! I never really thought much about it but you are right, it is subjective. Some judges are very hard nosed about it and call the slightest flinch, and others are more understanding of the fact that this is, after all, just a game!

    Thanks for the well thought out post!

  7. I love your graphics! And I’d never thought of getting rid of refusals, but you’re right–boy, are they arbitrary.

    I do disagree with running bitches in heat, for a couple of reasons–one is that the scent lingers, so there it would be, the following day (and it’s not just a problem for intact males). The other is that bitches in heat have changes to their ligament structure (it loosens), and creates a greater potential for injury; I personally wouldn’t even practice them at full jump height, never mind put them into the charged atmosphere of a trial.

    (Bitches in heat are already allowed in AKC tracking, where those things aren’t an issue.)

  8. great article,,,I saw that Terve take that terrible fall at the tire ,it was sickening

  9. AWESOME article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BRAVO!!!! BRAVO!!!! By Deb

  10. I’m thankful there are venues out there for everyone, and agree the opportunity to comment to AKC is a good one. I wholeheartedly agree with your recommendations to mandate rubber contacts and abolish multiple metal jump cups. No matter what type of courses we each prefer, having my teammate finish in the same physical state he started is my first priority.

  11. Sounds good! I would also like to see the triple disappear!

  12. great ideas Helen, love your blog!

  13. […] Read the full article […]

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