Archive for March, 2016

Just For Fun Agility

March 2, 2016

I’m tempted by the mission of the Dog Agility Blogger’s Action Day topic:

Three little letters that I’m afraid some
people involved in  our sport may have lost
track of. There is so much focus on
foundation, cues, systems,training, etc. So
much pressure to do *everything* exactly

Let’s not just give lip service to the idea of having fun in agility. I’m doing something about it right now.

We have created the National Dog Agility League. It’s not a titling organization; and it’s not some big money making scheme. The NDAL is a coalition of clubs around the continent (and hopefully one day, around the world) who put up the same course, and run their dogs under the same rules, and then roll up all of the results as it were a single competition.

Central to the League is the Team Score. The Team Score is derived from the top five scores in the franchise club. So obviously a club that is running 50 dogs has some advantage over the club running only 10 dogs. Within each franchise everybody would dearly desire to earn one of those top five scores; but if you don’t, your score doesn’t hurt the team, and you can take pride in your franchise’s performance against all of the other clubs in the league.

The Rational Standard

The “rational standard” that plagues our sport that any fault is a death penalty fault.

The National Dog Agility League seeks to establish a standard for performance that allows the equitable comparison of performance in agility dogs. About the only way to earn a score of “E” in an NDAL course is for your dog to poop on the top of the A-frame [sorry if that sounded graphic… ].

In the NDAL a dog gets 5 faults for: a dropped bar; a wrong course; a missed down contact; a missed weave pole; a fly-off the teeter; on-and-off the table; and refusals (faulted on contacts only). A dog gets 20 faults for failure to perform.

And here’s the fun part: The scoring basis is Time, Plus Faults.

The Fun Stuff

We are treating all NDAL courses as open competitions. That means you can pick up a course that 100 dogs have run (maybe several years ago) and add your scores to that record. This year we will publish a suite of training courses, all of which have historic competition records.

What’s fun about this is that you might run a course in your club maybe once a year; and each year you can compare the scores of the same dogs and thereby measure progress in skill and development. Or, if you take it a step farther, you might have a young dog now and pick up a course that was run by an old family dog who is waiting for you over the bridge. So two generations of dogs, or more, can participate in the same competition.

Also be aware of the YouTube data. We collect with a dog’s score a “YouTube” link. This is a lot of fun because people in different parts of the country/world can look at how a dog and his person who might be thousands of miles away fared on that same course.

So when you compare a dog’s growth in skill over time, or compare different generations of dogs on the same course, it is just so fun to have a YouTube recording of each.

Allow me to share with you a posting of NDAL results. Follow it through to find the YouTube records: 60×90 Intermediate to Masters Games and Courses ~ 60×90 League Standings

Lifetime Performance Points

In the National Dog Agility League, individual scores (and team scores) are derived from earned LPP. We use a rational system of Time, Plus Faults on numbered courses for the purpose of providing granularity of performance. If a competition features 100 dogs and your dog comes in at 20th place… that performance might be a devastating travesty in the traditional agility organization; but under the NDAL system, your dog accrued 80 LPP from that performance. So the measurement isn’t about how poorly you did on the day, it is about how well you did.

Though the NDAL is not a titling organization, we are contemplating a system of certification that recognizes earned LPP for individual dogs.

Out Takes

The world of agility has really changed in the last 28 years. Well for sure, 28 years ago the sport was just getting a start in the United States and around the world. In those days there were no books, no videos, and no gurus of the sport. So you might say that we created the monster that agility has become.

I chuckled at the DABAD notion that there is “so much pressure to do everything exactly right.” The part that gets me is the prevailing definition of “exactly right”… and that is, you tie your dog to you like a Velcro-bunion and race around the ring scraping the dog off your side on a series of obstacles numbered by the judge.

And the rational standard has it that if you make any error your score goes zap nq nt and you can slink away to the parking lot in ignominious defeat. Oh! How fun is that?

Apparently it’s very fun as the money extraction factory goes ka-ching ka-ching every weekend across the land in this artificial measurement of skill and validation.

Clearly when you see me out in the world running my own dogs I’m a hot mess to be sure. And I am clearly playing a different game than most of the people out there. Oh don’t get me wrong, there was a time I made a living out of out-running little old ladies. But I’m an older man now with arthritic knees and I would very much like to approach the game in a more playful fashion with skills trained on my dogs that pretty much have little value under the “rational standard” that dominates our sport.

Nearly 20 years ago I started up Just for Fun Agility which is an early incarnation of the National Dog Agility League. What I liked about it … JFF wasn’t about money and completely without ambition. Foolish man! How could I so completely miss the obvious? Our sport is completely driven by profit and ambition.

We are adjusting the model to make the Franchise/Club the main recipient of “profit” while passing on the greatly reduced expense to clients & students & league players as an inexpensive approach to the game of agility. The gurus of the sport aren’t likely to be big fans of a form of the game that isn’t all about profit and ambition. But we don’t really need them, and we never did.

Jumping Into the League

Playing with the NDAL is a simple matter. We’re running three separate leagues based on the size of the working space. So, if you have a working space big enough you can participate in any or all of the three leagues.

Each of the leagues also has a flavor or level of difficulty for the courses played.

The series will run for three months (and began in January). The course maps for each are contained in the scorekeeping worksheets.

Dogs must be registered with the National Dog Agility League. For now, the franchise clubs keep the fee or pass it along as a perk to your league players. You can download the registration form HERE.

All courses in the first series will be conducted under Top Dog Agility Players rules for performance. The Top Dog Rules and Regulations can be downloaded HERE.


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