Author Topic: NADAC Bonus program  (Read 3746 times)

Sharon Nelson

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NADAC Bonus program
« on: June 17, 2014, 02:23:29 PM »
 The NADAC bonus program includes the Silver, Gold and Purple MOD SQUAD award, and the SILVER, GOLD, and PURPLE Achievement Awards. 

So many believe that the bonus program is all about distance handling but there are many more components to the program than just distance.

I have to begin by saying that I do feel strongly that "bonus" handlers should have NO weaknesses.  They are the top of the line handlers and top of the line dogs using distance handling.  I believe that they should be able to communicate effectively from a line at the starting part of the course or from a box in the middle of the course.  The dog should be able to do distance, display speed, directionals and discriminations at a level beyond those same challenges in the Chances class.  The handlers should have diversified skills in the ways in which they handle their dogs and the dogs should be able to interpret information from a variety of handling styles.  They should be able to work close up and tight with the handler and also work away from the handlers.

In the past few years, the bonus program had become a "display of distance" as the primary test and that was never the primary goal of the bonus program (which is now referred to as the "distance" program by many).  The bonus program is not supposed to be just a display of distance........ it is a bonus program because it shows the diversified talents of the dog/handler team.  It should show that the dog and handler can handle any type of challenge and be able to stay in close communication regardless of the handler's position on the course.  On some courses the handler must move a lot in order to maintain communication and on other courses the handler must use a higher level of verbal communication (not yelling) and less motion.  As I have said from the very beginning........ a bonus team has no weaknesses, they can handle a course from any position and overcome any challenge presented to them, and display those skills with speed, distance and accuracy.

But somewhere along the line the bonus program changed to a program purely about displays of distance handling.  We see many teams now that do not have a start line stay or they won't finish a course unless the handler is handling from the start/finish line area of the course.

A successful bonus run should reward handlers for their ability to display a wide variety of handling skills and the dog and handlers ability to stay connected and communicate in any and all situations.  Distance should only be one of the elements tested during a run, yet it has become the primary test.

I remember many courses where the handler had to be in a box where the dog would have to come within five feet of the handler several times on the course and then work away from them again willingly.  We lost those tests with the lines at the bottom of the course as the handlers would just back up and still maintain  distance from their dogs instead of allowing that dog to get "up close and personal" during the run and then willingly go right back out onto the course and work away from the

Some handlers wonder why there isn't a bonus on EVERY course.  Not every course had the tests of distance, directionals and discriminations to show that the dog/handler team has "double" the skills of any other team on that particular course.  We don't design courses for "bonus" runs.  We design courses for NADAC and once completed, we see if there is a "place" on the course where a team can show their talents on the course that makes their run worth double of any other run on that course.  Not all courses have that "place" where the multiple tests are displayed.

The bonus program should not be a "line" at the bottom of the course and distance being the primary test.  But that was the easiest way for judges to put a "test" on the ground.  I am now working hard to bring the program back to it's original format of a "bonus" program that highlights all of the skills needed to show that a team is worthy of being a "bonus" team due to their highly diversified skills on all types of courses and from a very diversified area of handling.  A team must show that they can communicate with their dog from "anywhere" on a course. Sometimes they need more motion to stay connected and other times, they must use less motion and more verbal and very exact body language skills from a smaller area.  But the bonus handler should have those skills to handle any challenge that a bonus line or bonus box presents to them.

I sometimes hear that some clubs discourage bonus handlers from entering their trials and treat them with disrespect because they get a two minute walk-through before the other handlers.  I feel very sad that a club and/or competitors would feel any resentment towards bonus handlers.  I have to say that at trials I have attended, if someone says "yes" for wanting to attempt a bonus on a course, everyone comes forward and wants to watch with admiration for the team.  Some clubs have reported that some of their local competitors are jealous of the bonus handlers and don't want them at the trials they participate in.  Or the club itself doesn't want to encourage bonus handlers because their main club trainers don't have those skills and don't want any bonus handlers "showing off" with their students around.  That is just sad and I feel sorry for those trainers and their egos.

I want to know if a judge or club doesn't allow bonus "possible" handlers to walk first for two minutes....... I have been VERY clear on the judges list that it is not an "option" to be decided by the club or judges......... it is mandatory.  Handlers may choose to not take that option after walking the course but they get the opportunity to see the course for two minutes to make that decision.

If a handler could only handle from a 'start/finish' line type of challenge, they could very well earn the goals of MOD SQUAD or even the Achievement Cup awards, but it will take them a lot longer to achieve those goals if they can't earn any of their bonuses from a boxed area on the course that is away from the start/finish line area.  If a team can handle from "anywhere" on a course then the number of opportunities are much higher.

I do know from rumors that judges do feel pressure from some clubs to only brings "start/finish" line bonuses, as I have judges select courses with no bonuses on them rather than take courses that have a box on them, as the judges rumor that the boxes will not be accepted with open minds from club members.  So rather than have disgruntled handlers, they don't want to take courses with the boxed areas on them.  I have had judges request that the courses they selected have all of the bonus boxes removed and just have no bonus opportunity rather than have handlers upset about a box on the course instead of start/finish "line".

I do really hope that we can get back to the original goals of the bonus program and highlight those teams who have a highly diversified sets of skills so that a course could be handled from the bottom of the field, or the far left of the course, or the far right of the course, or the top of the course or the middle of the course.

Distance is a very important part of the bonus program, but it is not the only focus of the bonus program.  The bonus program is one that highlights a wide variety of handling and a dog/handler team that can stay connected and in close communication regardless of the physical position of the handler on the course.  As the position of the handler changes, the cues changes also and that is part of the beauty of the bonus program...... that a handler can communicate with their dog from anywhere on a course with speed and accuracy!


Sharon Nelson

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Re: NADAC Bonus program
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2014, 01:51:33 PM »
It has become obvious that many people do not really understand the NADAC bonus program.  So many do feel that it is a "display of distance" when it is so much more!!  It is about beautiful flow, a dog and handler communicating in a manner that they seem to be as one while displaying distance skills, speed skills, effortless flow between obstacles, accurately performing all obstacles and exceptional discrimination and directional skills.  But most seem to only focus on distance and forget that a bonus run is also about the flow and beauty and grace between dog and handler.  If a dog stops or needs to be redirecting or resent to an obstacle, then they have not met the criteria for a bonus run.

For every bonus run I post, I must reject four others that do not meet the criteria for a bonus run.

If one only wants to test distance skills, we have the Chances class for that.  One can redirect, resend and as long as they can complete the difficult course before them from a distance, a team can earn a qualifying run.  And that is a tough class!

Many want to use the same criteria used in Chances and increase the distance and believe that they are showing the skills needed for a bonus run.  We do not ever want to send that email that says a run does not meet bonus criteria, but they must be sent or the value of the bonus program suffers. 

When the bonus program was started the adage of "possible, but highly unlikely" was what was used to describe the bonus challenges.

As we get more and more involved in wanting to increase their skills to include an occasional bonus run, we must keep the original criteria in place...... it is not just a distance test..... the dogs must work close to the handler, move away from the handler, perform directional skills in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction.  They must come towards the handler without hesitation and easily send away.  All obstacles must be performed flawlessly.

Speed is a major component of the bonus program.  Speed is a skill that can be taught and it is a very difficult skill to control a dog with exceptional speed so their directional come easily and always in flow.  Dogs that move with great speed have the chance to earn more bonus points because it is recognized as an exceptional skill.

Dogs must stay in flow during a bonus run.  They must stay in flow during all course challenges.  Many dogs can stay in flow on sequences that are in an "arc" but they must also stay in flow on sequences that require a "turn" and not just an arc.  Gary Visintainer, one of our original bonus handlers and one of the creators of the bonus program has a phrase that always hold true "if the dog is closer to an obstacle that they are NOT supposed to be doing than they are to the obstacle that they ARE supposed to be performing, then they are out of flow".

In Regular Agility the teams have been allowed one small bobble which would drop a run by five points from their original points, so a 30 point run could be worth 25 (that is a run over 100 run index) and a run under 100 would be worth 15 instead of 20 points.

In classes with contacts, the contact performance must be able to be easily seen.  For a bonus, we do not accept "close calls".  The dog must clearly make contact with the contact zone area.  A dog can earn a qualifying run from a run with a close contact performance, but bonuses are not awarded if the dog's performance does not clearly show a solid contact performance.

In Chances, Jumpers, Tunnelers, Touch N Go and Weavers, there cannot be any bobbles.  In theory it might be possible but this year has shown that the teams that normally be over 100 and then they have a resend or redirect, they end up with a run under 100 so it is no longer a bonus.  A run under a 100 run index is worth 15 points in those classes, so if there is another 5 point deduction, it becomes a 10 point Q.

To make it easier for everyone, we will reword the bonus options in Chances, Jumpers, Tunnelers, Touch N Go and Weavers to read that a bonus run over 100 is worth 20 points and a bonus run under 100 is worth 15 points.  No resends, redirects, stops or out of flow options are allowed.   The run must be in flow with no bobbles.  I think that people will have an easier time when submitting their runs if they keep in mind that non-Regular runs must in flow at all times with no bobbles.

In Regular, on small bobble is allowed.  For the next year we will continue to monitor that criteria and it is possible that the bobbles might be removed from Regular also, but for now we will continue to allow a small bobble in Regular.  That small bobble could be one halt above a contact, or one knocked bar, or slightly wide turn, or a single re-direct or resend while the dog is still within the flow of the course.

« Last Edit: February 07, 2016, 08:06:32 PM by Sharon Nelson »

Sharon Nelson

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Re: NADAC Bonus program
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2015, 04:34:43 PM »
Hi, group!
   Starting with the first 2016 weekend of trials offering the Regular Agility class, you will see some new and exciting opportunities for those handlers already working on bonus runs or thinking about starting to test their skills on bonus runs.  A bonus run is a class run in which the team is tested on their ability to display exceptional communication skills by working all or part of the course from a further distance than normal.  They must display directional skills, discrimination skills, and an ability to be on the correct path at all times from one obstacle to the next without any redirects or resends.

   The new opportunities will be offered in the Regular Agility class and handlers might see two different bonus "areas" marked on the course that meet the requirements for a 30 bonus or a 20 bonus.  The 30 point bonus will be the same as what we have seen in the past as far as distance and opportunities.   The 20 point bonus area will allow the handler to be closer to the dog during part of the run.   

Points to be earned for each level will be as follows:

    If handled from the 30 bonus area:
              30 points if the run is clean and the run index is 100 or more.
              25 points if the run has a five fault penalty and the run index is 100 or more
              20 points if the run is clean and the run index is less than 100
              15 points if the run has a five fault penalty and the run index is under 100

    If handled from the 20 bonus area:
              20 points if the run is clean and over 100
              15 points if the run has a five fault penalty and the run index is 100 or more
              15 points if the run is clean and under 100

We discussed having three bonus areas on the courses, as we do at the Championships each year.  But having 3 different areas works at the championships because of the huge arena size.   After a month of evaluating courses, it is obvious that the normal weekend ring size does not allow for three different bonus areas and still have the criteria for a bonus available.  So, we will be using two different bonus areas on the courses that have the necessary criteria for bonus areas.

It is very possible that a course will only have a 20 point area offered and no 30 point area offered on a Regular course, due to ring size or challenges offered on the course.  And it is possible that there are no bonus opportunities offered due to course design not having challenges in areas that meet bonus criteria.

The runs earned from the 20 point area do not count towards any MODSQUAD or Achievement Cup awards.  All runs that are 100 or more will count towards their Platinum Speed Star points.  The runs from the 20 point area will have a designation of "DC" (distance challenge) and the runs from the 30 point area will have the word bonus in the type column.

The newer, closer bonus areas will allow for handlers to challenge themselves on their distance skills!  They also have the opportunity to earn either 150% or 200% more points on a Regular run if successful. 

Nothing with the 30 point bonus areas has changed.

Good luck to everyone!!

« Last Edit: December 10, 2016, 11:11:26 AM by Chris Nelson »