Author Topic: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open  (Read 1544 times)

Merri

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This might have already been discussed but it is not coming up in a search on the forum with my search terms.  First, in NADAC, if a dog moves up, are they allowed to move back down if it is really over their head or must they remain at the new level once they have done 1 trial at that new level?

I would like to hear other people's opinions on the pros and cons of moving a dog to the next level -- especially Novice to Open.   We have asked several awesome elite handlers whom we respect and who have seen our dog run in all venues.  Basically, knowing our particular dog, they have fallen on both sides of the issue.  Even our instructor falls on both sides.  I would be interested in people's ideas not only about our type of dog but all types.  I would love to hear  a general discussion of the differences between Novice and Open.

In our specific case, the dog is young (2 1/2 yrs old).  Katie started taking agility classes in May 2011.  She has been trialing in 3 venues since May 2012.  My husband is a new handler and Katie is his first agility dog.  Her main issues have more to do with adjusting to the trial atmosphere and gaining confidence than the obstacles or the course.  She is a shy but motivated dog rather than one of the crazy high drive dogs who go everywhere and do not listen to the handler.  She is very attached to my husband so the listening part of the team is very good.  She is consistent in her performance with a high Q rate.  She was having issues with stress poops on the course in the beginning.  She has had 0 course poops for the past 3 entire trials.  At the last NADAC she made 9 Q's/14 runs.  In most classes, she is doing the YPS for Open though not in Jumpers.  The wide openness of NADAC Jumpers seems to demand more focus. Holding her back in NADAC Jumpers seems smart.  Regular is her very best NADAC class.   At the latest non-NADAC indoor trial she was pretty stressed in a very noisy arena but managed to work through the stress for 8 Qs/9 runs.  No issues with any of the obstacles unless there are kids beating each other up 5 feet directly across from the obstacle on the other side of the ring.   She does some distance and really likes it.  12 weaves is not an issue even in trial situation --  one of her best obstacles, typically with no re-entries or redoes/pop-outs.  In class and fun matches we typically do excellent level classes but our class/local drop in & fun runs are not geared to NADAC so we do a lot of that (hoops and distance especially) in practice.

Originally we were going to hold her back in NADAC for the pretty plaques and her age/lack of trial experience.  Some of the NADAC folks we respect the most are encouraging us to move up because she is consistent in addition to the demotivation issue of staying in Novice.  She is 2 Qs from O-NAC, 1 away from Touch N Go Novice title (usually the very first runs of our local trials so affected by stress).  Hoopers is mostly a matter of run availability.  Her performance in other venues is consistent with her NADAC performance.   In another venue, she has 4/5 titles to move up and one intermediate title.  In another she will be forced to move up most likely before we want to move her up (More stressful environment makes us/her instructor want to hold her back there).  We have gone over the pros and cons so many times -- even on just the confidence level alone.  Lots of Q's are nice but they are not much of a learning device for where you need work.  In terms of the dog, it feels like exposure to more trials is going to help the dog's confidence more than the difficulty of Novice versus Open.  In class and practice we are trying to deal more with distractions and roping people into being distractions.  We decided to move her up in one other venue in part to get the 12 weaves & because we can move her back down in it is a total disaster.  If we move her up there, we figured we should move her up in NADACfor the same reasons especially since NADAC is both the canine and human favorite venue --- as well as the best in terms of confidence/performance.  Her next NADAC won't be until March and she has 2 more non-NADAC trials and at least one fun match before then.

Merri (coach and co-practice trainer of)
Katie  NAC, WV-N, NCC, TN-N
Hildie, special needs dog


« Last Edit: December 04, 2012, 10:31:58 PM by Merri »
Merri Crawford

LeeAnne McAdam

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2012, 04:14:45 AM »
With my first agility dog, I moved up in everything as soon as I could because I was just excited to get on with it.  I was blessed with a very forgiving first agility dog and she stayed motivated and willing in spite of me.

My next dog, I moved up at my convenience...if my first dog was running at a higher level in a class, I moved him up.  I find it hard for me to run two dogs in the same class at the same level.  Yes, all focus still on "me" at that point. :(

We don't trial nearly as much as a lot of people, but now with my third dog, I've decided to keep him in Novice until he reaches his superior in each class because I think it will help build his confidence and our teamwork together...mostly I'm hoping it will help me learn how to be his best teammate! 

And with my newest dog, I'm still sticking to  my running her only in the classes where the other one has moved up as I'm not in any hurry and especially at smaller trials, I just don't like having to feel rushed from one dog to the next...it just doesn't "feel" right to me.

I think each dog and person is different and should do what feels best to them, but I'm curious why someone thinks staying in Novice is demotivating.  That's not something I've ever heard before.
« Last Edit: December 05, 2012, 04:17:49 AM by LeeAnne McAdam »
Lee Anne

Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2012, 04:32:51 AM »
In my case I chose to keep my high drive dog down until he had 10 Q now we had a much lower Q rate than you. Only about 50% In your case I think I would move up unless you have something specific to you want to work on. Like maybe drive or distance. If you are just doing the same thing and getting Qs then  move up.

Warning I am not an agility handler but I play one on TV
It not the dogs fault stupid!

Jean Sather (McCreight)

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2012, 05:51:27 AM »
You can always move a dog back down to a lower level in NADAC for any reason ... folks often do with older dogs who still want to have fun with shorter or less-challenging courses.

Sorry I can't help with the rest of your decision-making!  :)
Jean & Tux
Montana

dmadrid

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2012, 07:55:35 AM »
Merri,

I think this is always an interesting question, and varies from dog to dog...

In some classes - tunnelers, touch-n-go, weavers - I see no reason not to move a dog up to a higher level.  The courses stay the same, so as far as the dog is concerned, nothing changes (except for the addition of some weave poles in weavers... for some dogs that may be a factor, but it sounds like for yours it is not).  In all three of those classes, I waited to move up my dog - Anja - until she showed me a run or two that was definitely a cut above ordinary.  For example, she'd been consistently Q-ing in Novice weavers for a while before I moved her up to Open... but then one day she just blasted through and I knew she was ready. 

I think I moved her up in Jumpers and Regular at the same time.  Novice Jumpers courses are not that interesting, and both of us wanted more of a challenge (and yes, I'll admit, I like challenging courses, and figuring out how to solve different handling puzzles.  It's part of the fun of the game for me).  I moved her up in regular at the same time.. the only reason I stayed in Novice Regular as long as I did was because Anja had some trouble weaving at shows for a while (stress thing) and I wanted to wait to ask her to do 12 poles.  Once that started to come together, I moved her up to Open.  It can vary from show to show... but at the time, there was not all that much difference between Novice and Open Regular (sometimes it goes the other way, and there is not much difference between Elite and Open). 

I do think you'll know when it's time... there will come a run or two or three where things "click" and you can feel that you're ready for the next level. 

Best,
Danielle

Danielle

Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2012, 08:02:16 AM »
I was in the same boat with you with my dog Lily.  She was my first agility dog and was very consistent in the ring but also would stress at trials BIG TIME.  There were times that she would leave the course and run to her crate.  I chose to leave her in Novice to earn all of her superiors simply for the experience that I needed.  I needed to learn how to deal with mistakes on the course, how to deal with different environments and how to deal with her stress level.  The easier courses made this possible because though she was able to do the more difficult courses, we were able to be successful at the Novice level and it took some of the stress off of me.  It also took a lot of stress off of her because the course allowed her to go out and have fun without being called off of obstacles, etc.  These were courses that she could be successful at.  I worked on the more difficult sequences in class but allowed her to "find her footing" on the easier novice level courses in trials.  I did the same thing with her with Open level courses.  3 years later, she is still a high stress dog, but she is finally coming in to her own.  We are now in the elite level and while we are not always consistent, most of it is because she now has speed that she never had before and I have to learn to handle a bit differently.  She is faster because she is simply more relaxed and having fun.  Her ears are up, and she isn't looking around at everything. 

We just came off our best trial in a LONG time. I was so excited when I had several people come up to me and tell me how much fun Lily was having out there.  These are the same people who have seen her in the past simply "doing" the course because I asked her to.  That is so the point of agility, to have fun.  If you think that your dog is stressing, keep the trials as stress-free as possible.  If that means keeping her in Novice for a while, then do it.  It will pay off in the long run.

Audri, Lily, Cee Cee and Toto, Calypso

Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2012, 08:03:49 AM »
This might have already been discussed but it is not coming up in a search on the forum with my search terms.  First, in NADAC, if a dog moves up, are they allowed to move back down if it is really over their head or must they remain at the new level once they have done 1 trial at that new level?


I forgot to answer this question....  You can move up and down at any time. 
« Last Edit: December 05, 2012, 09:24:12 AM by Chris 'CJ' Nelson »
Audri, Lily, Cee Cee and Toto, Calypso

Jeff Lyons

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #7 on: December 05, 2012, 09:29:34 AM »
Merri,

You should look at the Exhibitor's Handbook in the Media section of this forum on Page 8.  As long as the dog has earned its basic title (30 points) in a class, you can move up to the next level.  You are NEVER REQUIRED to move up, but if you do so without earning the basic title, you will not be eligible for your open points you earned.  If you do decide to move up and feel that Open is too stressful or difficult, then you can move back down to novice.  That is also explained in that section of the Handbook.

It is great that you are asking around, as it shows you really care about making the right choice for your dog.  I usually just finish out my superior titles and then move up.  It give my dog the trial experience and allows me to be comfortable not only with the more complex courses, but also the faster time required.   You are smart to see how your YPS compares to the required Open YPS, but you also have to realize that  the higher YPS required in the next level also comes with a more challenging course.  The YPS comparison is valid in Tunnelers and Touch n Go where the courses are exactly the same for all levels, so if you are making Open time in those classes and you are not interested in earning your superior awards, then you may as well move up.  If you are easily making time in other classes and are not interested in earning your superior awards, then you can try Open, and the rules allow you to move back to Novice if want.  As long as you were qualified to earn those open points, they will stay on your points record. 

With the Q rate you and Katie are getting, it sounds like you will have your superior titles within a few months anyway. 

Good luck, and I hope this helps.

 
Jeff L.

Merri

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #8 on: December 05, 2012, 02:54:22 PM »
Thank you all for the ideas.  It is really helpful to hear other people's experiences.   It is good to know she could move back down if a move up was a total disaster.  Her next 2 NADAC will be another indoor arena (after a whole fall and winter of indoor trials about one per month) in March and then back to outdoor again in May.  I wonder if she will have to re-adjust to outdoor trials.  So the question also arises whether to move her up in March when she is used to indoor trials (though not her favorite) or in May when either she will need to re-adjust to outdoor scents etc.  She is a sniffer.

It makes sense to wait until Superior (or close to that) in each class especially since each class can be so different. Katie does not run out of the ring fortunately.  She would much rather be with my husband on the course even if she is stressed.   Also good point about YPS being different in classes where it is the same course versus ones where the course difficulty changes.  The experience with Lily is a lot like ours, especially in my husband also wanting more confidence (and challenges too).  Knowing we could move back down is awesome because we could see the move-up as a preview.  It could tell us what we need to work on more but it doesn't have to be so permanent that we are stuck doing something that is not good for either dog or handler.

My gut feeling tells me that she is probably most ready to move up in Regular.  It is her favorite and best.  Her times are best in Regular, often way under course time.  I think not having to redo weaves is a big factor there.  Since we do trial in other venues, it is what she does the most whereas some of the other NADAC  courses are truly more of a challenge for her (and why we love NADAC too by the way).  My husband loves Chances so I think he personally would be most excited about trying to move up in Chances even if they do not Q.   I think the satisfaction of being able to do distance work (and striving to do more of it) is a key reason why he loves NADAC so much.   I think my husband needs to figure out whether he wants Q's or whether he wants the challenge more than Q's.  Staying in Open for years is just fine.  Or Novice.  Or both depending on the class.

If I understand it correctly, the demotivation factor is that a dog loses motivation if the courses are not challenging and they are not challenged.   A dog can lose motivation and speed if all they do is easy courses that are no challenge for them because it feels like they are doing the same exercise over and over.  This was explained to me by an experienced handler with multiple dogs in Elite and NATCH and Versatility NATCH, ie a person with a whole lot more experience than us!   I can understand it in that Katie is happier after a practice where we train new things over practices where we just do the same thing as we have done at other practices.  She gets slow doing the dame thing over and over.  I have also heard that it is good for an advanced dog to do a beginner course every once in a while in practice just for a change.

Over and over again, confidence  dealing with the extraneous noise and distractions of a trial setting is truly her main issue more than the courses or obstacles.  She rarely goes off course even with my husband as a beginner handler.  Our teacher has started adding distractions to our class -- like those plastic weighted punching bags that wobble and these really lifelike dogs. I even thought it was a new dog in the class as did all the dogs!  I bought a CD of in indoor trial noise to play at future practices.  We litter the field with stuff and I even tried throwing toys around the sides of the weaves (not at her) while she did weaves.   We hope to expose her to more kids.

On confidence, the other issue is that she is a rescue dog.  We will have had her 2 yrs this Feb.  She was found as a stray wandering at 10K ft in the Colorado mountains in the dead of winter and brought to a local shelter where we got her as a companion for our special needs dog.  She loves her home, her other dog and cat but she is still probably insecure.  We started agility mainly as a way to burn off some of her energy so we could all sleep at night.  She took to it immediately.  Neither of us are athletes (my husband has severe arthritis in one knee and I have a bad ankle) so we are doing this mostly for her.  Outside of home, the place where she is probably the most confident and truly has FUN is on an agility course.  The one thing we do not want to do is decrease her confidence.  It is really good to know that if moving her up causes more stress, we can take care of her by moving her back.
Merri Crawford

Marty

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #9 on: December 05, 2012, 03:18:59 PM »
I kept my dog in Novice until I could tell she was up to Open speeds, then I moved up. It was because I wanted the titles. She didn't care. The nice thing about Open is that it is usually a small class size as people spend much more time in Novice and Elite but they fly right though Open.  Unless you think it would actually make a difference to your dog, I think it is a personal decision of what it makes you happy.

Having said that, another issue is life expectancy of your dog and how often you intend to trial. I only went to 1 day per trial and only to trials that were close to home. It took her a long time to get fast enough for elite times. Now after 10 years we are 1 Q away from a Natch.  Most dogs wouldn't have lasted this long.
Marty
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Merri

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #10 on: December 06, 2012, 01:05:54 PM »
Marty, age and trial frequency are definite considerations.  A friend of ours is moving her dog up in part due to the dog's age. 

At this point we do not travel too far from home for trials on account of our special needs dog, Hildie.  She is getting better and better sitting in her crate at trials but being able to come home to her own home at the end of each day helps her.  I do not think she is ready to deal with the strange new place of a motel room yet.

After Katie's first trial where we limited her runs, we now try our best to sign up for all three days of NADAC and as many runs as possible.  She gets more confidence and less stress the 2nd day and even less the third day.  She definitely prefers more runs than less in terms of her stress.  I think one of the many reasons she has more confidence at NADAC over other venues is that our NADAC trials are always 3 days with lots of runs.  I think some other new dogs do the opposite and can shut down more and more from the noise. For Katie,  more is better for her.  It's like she finds her rhythm.

Age is definitely a factor for "normal" dogs.  Our special needs boxer mix dog Hildie just discovered agility at age 4.  I have written elsewhere about how it has changed her life drastically.  I will be totally thrilled when we get to point when we can submit a video run.   Because of her needs, I will be happy if she stays in Novice her entire life if she continues in the absolute joy she has running and leaping.  I have a lot to learn too!  I had not really planned to be a handler at all because of my ankle but she loves it so much that I had to follow. 
Merri Crawford

Richard Wolfe

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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2012, 03:22:49 PM »


If I understand it correctly, the demotivation factor is that a dog loses motivation if the courses are not challenging and they are not challenged.   .


Merri, a dog has no idea what a level IS, let alone what level they're IN.  All kinds of dogs play all kinds of little games with their owners and many of the games or tricks are very simple and still the dog loves the play, not the complexity.

IMO, this demotivation thing, even though it's usually directed to the dog, really applies to the handler.  Just another thing we project on our partners so we don't have to take personal responsibility.  Don't take that personally. I don't know you nor am I implying that analysis fits you.

Just have fun with your dog and when you feel you have a connection, plus the title points, move up.  You'll know if it's too soon.  You can keep trying, or move back down.  Do what keeps the two of you in a certain comfort zone until you feel the connection and then go on.  Hey, it ain't rocket science and most importantly we should do what is fun for the team.

Good luck and keep us all posted!!!!
Richard Wolfe
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Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2012, 11:12:32 PM »
I agree with Richard on motivation and boredom.  I believe handlers get bored; not the dog.  It's easy to project our thoughts and emotions on the dog.  We all feel that "people" connection with dogs, but they do not think like we do.  For instance, dogs do not do things to get revenge or to "get back" at us.  They simply do not think that way.
Sheila & the Shelties

Re: Pros and Cons of moving a dog up to the next level Novice to Open
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2012, 06:57:06 AM »


After Katie's first trial where we limited her runs, we now try our best to sign up for all three days of NADAC and as many runs as possible.  She gets more confidence and less stress the 2nd day and even less the third day.  She definitely prefers more runs than less in terms of her stress.  I think one of the many reasons she has more confidence at NADAC over other venues is that our NADAC trials are always 3 days with lots of runs.  I think some other new dogs do the opposite and can shut down more and more from the noise. For Katie,  more is better for her.  It's like she finds her rhythm.

 

Thanks for mentioning this. It makes me think about what I need to do for my female. (Sorry not meant as a hijack.)
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