So our results are in from the most recent survey regarding 2020 and everyone’s thoughts.
Normally we do this in video form, but we did get some requests to have more written articles, so here we are 🙂
In this article we’re going to discuss some of the topics that came up the most in the survey, as well as some of the voting results and some more in depth info on those possible changes.
- Large Dog Times
This is something we have gotten some interest in and we’re looking into some alternative ways of calculating our SCT for all dogs.
We can’t say too much about this, as it requires some software updates from all the current trial secretary programs. So until we have a clearer view of whether the software changes will be able to be made, we can’t really divulge our grand plan for dog times.
What I can say is that we are actively looking into the issue of there being a disparity between large and small dog times, and we’re working on making that a more even playing field for everyone involved. More info should be released on this subject in the coming months.
2. Chances being too difficult
This is a subject that is highly subjective, which makes it a hard one to tackle. This issue is greatly determined by the geographic location, and the number of NADAC trials available. You will have some locations that really focus on distance work, and the feedback we receive is that the courses are either perfectly okay, or too easy. And then you have areas where distance work isn’t the main focus, or there aren’t as many NADAC trials which creates less practice, and then we get the issue of chances being too difficult.
I will say without a doubt, we have not made any push to make chances harder in anyway. Actually, we have been actively pursuing making the chances challenges easier over the past year. Obviously not all courses will hit that mark, but there is definitely no conscious bias towards making that class harder, just the opposite.
The other thing to remember is that we did add the Silver and Gold Achievement Cup awards. Which allows a team to earn the equivalent of a NATCH, but with the chances points coming from the Open and Novice levels. We’ve seen a lot of great success with this program. We even have a few stories of people who were giving up on ever earning a NATCH, because they couldn’t complete an Elite Chances course, so they went down and got their Novice points and earned a Silver Achievement Cup. They then went on to Open to earn their Gold Achievement Cup, and because of those successes and slowly building the confidence they needed, they now have their NATCH and a surplus of Elite Chances Q’s. So if Elite Chances is something you’re struggling with, it’s important to remember that there are alternative routes that can be taken to earn an award, and build some success and confidence along the way.
3) VT Rules
This subject is VERY split. On one hand, you have a large group of people who are very appreciative of the current VT rules, and on the other you have a large group who feels they are a bad thing for the sport. So we’re going to address few concerns here.
a. VT’s are hurting trials.
From everything we have seen with actual VT submissions and trial entry numbers, this just seems to be a completely false narrative. I believe there is a lot of opinions that VT’s are hurting trials, but when we look at the areas with the largest number of VT submissions, their trial entry numbers are either the same as they were Pre-COVID, or they’ve grown even larger. So while this seems like a valid concern, there is no evidence to actually support it. Obviously we are looking at this as a whole, we can’t say that every single trial in the US is the same or larger then it was before, because it definitely is not. But as as whole, VT does not appear to be hurting trials in anyway. And as an organization with events in the US, Canada and Australia, we have to make choices based on the overall impact, not a select few.
b. VT Q’s shouldn’t count towards a Championship.
This is something that has been around for awhile, and I think it’s time we expressed our thoughts on the matter.
NADAC has always, and will continue to be, a venue where the challenge is intended to be between the dog, handler and the course presented. This is where a lot of our core values come from. Why are the judges always on the side of the ring? Because we don’t feel handling around a judge should be a part of the course challenge. Why do we require only one dog off leash at a time? Because we want to challenge you with the challenges on the course, not the challenge of keeping track of your dog, and the person who just ran in front of you. VT’s absolutely do have a lesser amount of outside stimulation compared to a trial. But, outside stimulation is not something that is a part of the NADAC testing requirements for a Q, or a title or an award. We care about what you and your dog show us on the courses designed. VT’s are able to show those requirements for us. And that is how we feel.
There are much higher level awards than a NATCH in NADAC. And those awards do have to be earned at Trials. But the reason for that has nothing to do with outside stimulation being required. It’s because if you want to earn the highest level awards possible, we want to make sure they are earned on a course that perfectly executes the required challenges we want to see. If you want to earn a Platinum Speed Star, which is an incredible achievement, then you have to run at a trial. Same with any type of Bonus award.
b. VT rule changing back to Pre-Covid
Eventually VT rules will get pulled back. That is inevitable and absolutely will happen.
To what degree they get pulled back is still in question. Certain changes have been incredibly helpful in bringing new competitors into NADAC, and allowing current competitors to still compete through the pandemic.
One such change is the ability to use contacts that have the molded in rubber slats. These slats are a far cry away from what was originally banned in NADAC back in the 90’s. And the ability to allow people to compete on this equipment for VT runs has allowed a large number of facilities to offer VT runs, as well as competitors who couldn’t afford a set of NADAC spec equipment. A change like this will most likely become permanent, as it doesn’t harm anyone and only allows for more people to compete.
The changes that are more difficult to adjust are the number of runs allowed per month, and the submission of VT within a proximity to a trial. Prior to COVID only 10 VT’s were allowed to be submitted per month, and double run submissions were not allowed. Currently there are no limits, and double run submissions are allowed. Most likely we will be trying to find a happy medium between these two regulations. Possibly allowing double run to continue as it makes a lot of sense when you’re out building a course all by yourself, but bringing back the submission limit.
We’ve always allowed special circumstances to these rules on a case by case basis as well. Prior to COVID if you lived somewhere with no NADAC trials nearby, it was allowed for you to submit more than the limit for VT runs, since trialing wasn’t an option without driving 8+ hours. Same with some other countries that don’t have NADAC at all, those areas were allowed to submit as many as they wanted, since a trial wasn’t possible in anyway.
No changes are going to be made until trials are able to be held on a more regular basis though. The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter, with case numbers on a downward trend, and hopefully that trend continues.
Once trials are happening on a more regular basis then we’ll be able to come back to the table and adjust VT rules accordingly, while keeping the positive changes that occurred.
4. Course design
A popular complaint we hear that the course design is shifting towards (Insert other venue name here).
I can understand this complaint on the surface. But once you really investigate the issue, it becomes less and less valid. It takes a very short amount of research of another venue’s courses to see some pretty dramatic differences in course design.
NADAC does not allow threadles, back sides, multiple direction changes between two obstacles and a whole slew of other things that are not just readily seen on other venue’s courses, but required to some degree in order to even be approved.
Where I believe a large issue lies is in handlers identifying challenges on a course and understanding the difference between a dog challenge and a handler challenge. A dog challenge would be any part of the course that requires a certain trained skill in order to complete successfully. Examples would be contact performances, tunnel/contact discrimination’s done at a distance with no handler intervention, directional changes and a LOT more.
Handler challenges would be sequences that require the handler to know what path to put their dog on in order to run the sequence smoothly, and therefore cleanly. A clear example of this would be times when you need your dog to make a corner tighter then they would on their own in order to make a smooth path to the next obstacle. Most handlers use this command as a ‘tight’ but the performance is the same, stay in the direction you’re currently on but make it a lot tighter.
If the handler doesn’t give this command, and the dog takes a wider arc, then the path to the next obstacle can be choppy, and lack flow.
The same issue can arise in a sequence where the dog needs to take that wider more natural arc, but instead the handlers give a ‘tight’ command, making the path to the next obstacle choppy and lack flow.
A handler challenge is a lot harder to see for the majority of competitors, and those courses are also the ones we get the most complaints on about being choppy and having a lack of flow. Yet when ran with someone who recognizes the challenges presented, runs perfectly smooth and with the nadac flow that everyone has come to expect.
For a period of time this flow that everyone loves, was presented obviously and with no other choice given. Which can be good, but it can also create issues when the handlers are no longer putting in the work. Agility is a two part job, your dog needs to knows the skills required to do their part correctly, and you need to understand the challenges presented and how to address them so that you can give your dogs the correct commands to do their job correctly. If we start relying entirely on the dogs part of the job, it becomes a bit lazy for the handlers and a bit boring. The same could be said for going too far in the opposite direction, which is having the handlers doing all the work and requiring less skills on the dogs part. This can be fun if you enjoy running a lot, but it isn’t an equal mix of training and handler knowledge that we believe makes the best teams.
So courses will continue to have handler challenges presented, because the sport of agility is meant to be a challenge. And if you aren’t in it for the challenge that is perfectly okay too, there are alternative routes that can be taken while still enjoying the sport. Going down to Open or even Novice is an option with extended titles available at all of those levels. If you want less handler challenge then going down to Open is a great option!
And lastly, as we all know, sometimes a course just isn’t great. It happens. You can’t have thousands of courses going through each year and have every single one be a winner. There is going to be some bad ones. What’s important is to let us know about these, sometimes there are complaints that come in about specific courses and we’re able to take a deeper look into them and correct issues. But simply saying ‘all the courses are becoming like (insert venue name here)’ is a bit dramatic and doesn’t really help anyone.
Another hot topic!
This year’s survey was a bit rough as the opinions on gamblers are very evenly split. You either love it, or hate it. Unfortunately the split is so even that we really can’t make any judgements on it overall.
What we are doing is working on ways to make the class a bit more of a draw for handlers. Again like we mentioned with the course times above this sort of thing requires work on the software side for clubs. So we can’t say much until that is sorted out.
But we are planning on adjusting a few things in the class to keep handlers involved and keep the class growing. Gamblers from the beginning was well known to have some things that would need to be adjusted, but we wanted to get everyone comfortable with the basic idea first. Now that everyone sort of ‘gets it’ we’ll start making some of those adjustments to keep the class interesting 🙂
As always we appreciate each and every one of our competitors and we truly hope to see you all down the road!