Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Improving NADAC

Today is the Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day and the topic we dog agility bloggers have been given is "Improving Agility Organizations".

I only participate in one agility venue, and that's NADAC. In Montana, there is only NADAC and AKC (and maybe 1-2 TDAA), and there are far fewer AKC agility trials than there are NADAC trials.

I guess I should give you fair warning that here begins a mini rant...

My choice to not participate in AKC has nothing to do with agility and everything to do with AKC as a whole. I don't, and won't, support the AKC. I would really enjoy participating in AKC agility...their courses look fun and I know my dogs would be thrilled to try different fun like lure coursing. But I won’t. I feel that if I participate in any AKC sport, I’m condoning other AKC practices that disgust me. The primary practices I can't stomach are 1) those related to setting breed standards with no regard to function (resulting in mutant dogs with health problems, 2) encouraging deformities that cause dogs to suffer health problems (i.e. brachycephaly, skin wrinkles, dwarfism, etc.), 3) breeding for color and allowing double merle crosses (they don’t call it a lethal color for nothing), and 4) surgically altering physical features for cosmetic reasons (tail docking, toe cutting, ear cropping) all to make a dog “prettier” in our eyes.

Those disgusting practices that have nothing to do with agility. But...until I can stomach ALL the practices of AKC, in everything they do and not just in the sports I want to play in, they’ll never get one cent from me.

End rant. Thanks...I feel better :)

Back to NADAC. I see many things that can be improved in NADAC...and some of them will cause me to start ranting again. So, I'll start with an innocuous one...we are overloaded with NADAC trials in Montana. Weird problem, right. But there are so many now that participation on any given weekend at any given NADAC trial is really poor. That's ridiculous. There are not many people in Montana...and obviously even fewer that participate in agility, much less NADAC agility...so how come we have so many trials? One of the rules NADAC has is that you can hold multiple trials in a weekend as long as those trials are no closer than 300 miles apart. Well that might be fine for places like California. But come on...this is Montana. I drive 90 miles just to do some real shopping and my closest agility trial (of either venue) is 110 miles from home. So, traveling 300 miles to attend an agility trial in Montana is nothing, and it's the norm here. When you have a NADAC trial in Missoula the same weekend you have one in Red Lodge (a mere 350 miles apart), then people are split between the two and participation at both trials is really, really, really small. Clubs are barely breaking even, much less making any money. I think NADAC needs to reconsider this rule to account for where their trials are being held and how many people in that (and surrounding) states are actually likely to attend each trial, instead of having this across the board rule.

NADAC prides itself on safety...but if they continue to make this venue any "safer" we will end up without anything but running over bars flat on the ground! NADAC seems to take the 'ridiculous' approach to safety. Hoops instead of jumps, forcing dogs over the age of 8yrs old to take one (if not two) jump height reductions (24" dogs 'jumping' 12" jumps), gates, and the latest and greatest is using barrels to do a 360' wrap instead of a jump, hoop or a tunnel. Sigh. I enjoy a good handling and distance challenge, and NADAC is a venue that requires both. But with the way things are going, you could hardly call it "agility" anymore. I enjoy using gates and barrels to fine tune my handling in practice and training...Holly enjoys figure-8 barrel races...but I don't want to PAY to play with them as part of an agility competition.

Holly wraps a NADAC Barrel

In my opinion, part of the problem...okay, maybe the entire problem...is because NADAC is run by one person. There are no committees, no discussion, no differing opinions, no asking the members of NADAC for their opinions and suggestions on rule changes, and no set dates each year that people can expect rules to be updated or changed by. One person decides what the rules are and changes them whenever she feels like it or the mood strikes her. It's frustrating. There are so many rule changes so many times each year that unless you are a NADAC junkie you can't keep up. Their rulebook/handbook is always out of date as a result.

And then there are the weird decisions (pick a topic, any topic!) that are made. They will be announced, the cronies will think it's awesome (they think everything NADAC is awesome though), other people will protest, she'll get defensive about the protests and then come up with even weirder reasons on why those decisions were made. Sometimes she'll just up and throw them out cause she got pissed off that she was being challenged...then she'll blame that it on us...saying that people hate change and that we shouldn't be a bunch of haters. Well, honestly. If you change the rules all the time without telling us what those rule changes are going to be ahead of time...and heaven forbid you ask the NADAC competitors for suggestions or opinions...what do you expect?!

I believe that NADAC could benefit from having a committee that reviews changes, prior to there being any. And there should be just one or two FIXED dates per year where those changes...of which we would be notified of those changes ahead of time...would take place. And the rule book would be up to date. And there would be a list of changes that were instituted during each year.

I don't think I'll even mention the awards they give out...because they don't give them out. I requested one of Holly's awards TWO YEARS AGO and I still haven't received it. Why offer awards if your organization can't afford to buy them and mail them to your competitors?

I will end my ranting to say this...the folks that participate in NADAC in Montana are THE reason I continue playing in the venue. I don't have a competitive bone in my body...not against others and certainly not against myself (I have goals, but that's different). The people here are some of the most supportive folks I've ever met. There is always a kind word, a fun conversation or a pat on the back to be had for every person at the trial. I go to these trials to lend a hand, socialize, catch up with people I haven't seen in awhile, cheer on other peoples successes, and have some fun playing and hanging with my girl. And for the most part, these people are there to do the same. I rarely see people visibly frustrated with themselves or their dogs, and so far I've rarely witnessed anything that even resembles unsportsmanlike conduct...much less people being a bunch of asshats in or out of the ring.  I am truly grateful to be trialing among such a great group of people.

Holly has suffered injury after injury for 3 years running. I'm just happy we can still play the agility game at any level at all, much less care about Q's or being competitive. If you've experienced a dog with multiple muscle injuries and one that has gone through surgery to the point you're pretty sure you'll never play agility again (much less any dog sport) then you know how it feels. The Q's don't matter, and when you get one it feels like a gift. Having quality memories of the fun times we've had together...enough to last my lifetime long after my girls are gone...is what matters most.

Regardless of my NADAC opinions, I really am grateful to have a fun venue (yes I believe that NADAC is fun) that Holly and I can play in...even with all it's frustrations, quirks and weirdness. No venue is perfect. But what is?


Karissa said...

Totally, totally agree with every word. Great post! :o)

Elayne said...

Yeah, I also don't do AKC for the reasons you listed and more. Thankfully I have other options.

I used to love NADAC way back in the day before hoops and whatnot. Of all the crazy things about NADAC though the thing that drove me away was that the courses got way too boring and this was before the hoops and whatnot. And you're right, the heart of the problem is only one person in charge. And I've heard that person say that it's her organization, she knows what's best and she'll make whatever changes she wants even if it drives everyone away and only a small group are left. So unless one works their way into her inner circle of yes-women there's not much hope of getting a word in.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and great suggestion that NADAC form a a way for competitors to submit suggestions and consider future changes.

Anonymous said...

Great blog post! I agree with all your comments on NADAC. - Diane

Diana said...

I agree with your comments completely, from the arbitrary nature of NADAC changes right to the question of where are the awards we were promised. I also find the courses to be more and more of the same... I am giving less and less of my agility $$ to NADAC as a result.

Merinda said...

OMG! Amen to everything you mentioned about NADAC. I had to stop myself from going on a rant when I wrote my blog post :) I am still waiting 4 or 5 years later for my awards...

Jen B said...

Well said!! Why don't the two clubs in your area work together to coordinate dates so they don't conflict? It would be more money for everyone and more weekends for people to play with their dogs instead of having to choose.

Anonymous said...

The ironic thing is that the AKC doesn't do ANY of the things that you vilify it for. It doesn't set breed standards, it doesn't encourage particular conformation traits, it doesn't breed dogs, and it doesn't crop or dock. There are certainly good reasons to take issue with some of what AKC does, but misstating their sins won't lead to any kind of change; it just makes you look silly.

Kim said...

To Anon:

AKC is a breed registry. As a registry they allow the registration of parent clubs that follow the practices that I mentioned. They could choose not to register and condone the practices of these breed parent clubs, but they do. They allow, and by allowing they encourage. And not only to they encourage, but their own AKC judges let ear cropped, crooked legged, brachycephalic dogs win. And so the cycle continues.

I think the only one that looks silly here is someone that doesn't have the guts enough to make their comments non-anonymously.

All opinions and discussions are welcome. But please, if you feel you have to remain anonymously to do so, then maybe that's a red flag that you shouldn't comment. Trolling is rude.

Kim said...

Thanks everyone. I needed to rant, but I also wanted to suggest changes. Of course, I've already suggested all the changes in my posts before and I found it just fell on deaf ears.

I agree that courses would be so much better if they didn't all look the same. I wish judges had more input on new courses.

I do wish the clubs would work together...but one is brand new and a business. She's trying to drum up new business and nabbing up every free weekend for yet another agility trial. Who can blame her? I wish her luck and want her business to succeed...but it does appear to be hurting other clubs at the same time.

KB Bear said...

I couldn't agree more about the AKC. I love your position on that. I'm so glad that Holly is well enough to participate in agility again. Your attitude about that is great.

Thanks for your insight on the 2 bobcats together. I'm very curious to see if they stay together for long.

Kim said...

Thanks KB! I'm glad Holly is healthy enough for any kind of play, be it agility or not, too :)

And I hope you'll post more if you continue to see those bobcats traveling together...what an interesting mountain you live on!

Anonymous said...

Great post on NADAC. I agree with most of what you said. And I totally understand the injury thing and it's the run that counts, and a Q is a bonus.

Perhaps it's time to cut down on the number of awards, and send those out as promised. I understand if you pay for your awards, you will be moved up to the top of the list and receive your awards in a timely matter.

And I honestly think Sharon becomes bored and that's why she constantly tinkers with the program. I don't know if she realizes or even cares that most people want to know what the rules are, run their dog on the weekend with their friends, and get their Q. An updated rulebook would be GREATLY appreciated.

I know that not everyone is that way. I appreciate changes, but the videoing of distance line runs frustrates me for so many reasons. I know there are special requirements, but when you talk about watching the dog's every "foot fall", I think it is obsessive and too demanding. No dog or person is perfect. And who is this committee that reviews the bonus runs? I think it is just one person....yep. That's not good for the reasons stated in your blog. Committees have their issues; one person may be more efficient, but I feel Sharon is less likely to listen to dissent of any kind.

I think Sharon takes too much on herself and needs to delegate to those also benefitting from NADAC. But I will continue to stay with it, as there are too many issues I see with other venues.

Kim said...

Thanks and I agree!

I don't personally want my venue constantly tinkered with and I get the feeling many others don't either. I'm just an average agility competitor and I just want to know the rules and then go play by them.

Until she decided that bonus lines have to be spot on perfect, I thought trying one would be fun. I don't think trying a bonus line sounds like fun at all anymore.

Like you, I'm sticking with it too. It's still fun and no matter what I think, Holly likes NADAC. That right there is all I need to know :)

Anonymous said...

I'm another anonymous poster but not to rant about AKC. NADAC is my venue of choice, and I agree with all or most of your comments about NADAC. I'm put off by all the hoops that appear now in practically all of the classes and soon there will be barrels too. It barely resembles agility! I will not do EGC classes for any reason and I will not do Hoopers. In some ways it feels like a bit of a cult, with a degree of reverence by the die-hards for the leader's "wisdom" that is a bit creepy. I play mostly NADAC because I like the atmosphere and the people, and it's really fun to run my fast dog at a distance. But I'm not a NADAC groupie. I'm beginning to explore other venues with my current dog, but I imagine that I will continue to mostly do NADAC. Despite its weirdness, it's still where I have the most fun in agility, in and out of the ring.

Kim said...

Welcome! And I certainly don't care about people remaining anonymous (if I did I wouldn't allow it as a choice!), just those that troll and like to be rude :)

I agree that NADAC seems very cult-like. But I'd also say that I find AKC in my area very cult-like too. So, maybe just because NADAC is so "different" it feels more 'culty' than others???

I wouldn't do hoopers either, except Holly likes hoops and hoopers as a course...she loves to flat run...so I enter it. It's more about her than me anyways ;)

Nice to hear that while you also feel NADAC is "weird", you like the people that play the game in your area! I LOVE to hear agility people being supportive and fun, no matter what the venue. If it's not fun, why play? Right?!

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

Committee!!! I think it would be awesome and would solve a whole host of issues. But alas, NADAC is going to be the flatwork agility organization. There was 1 sole jump in the regular courses I ran 2 weeks ago.

I do so love Chances though. Even if our Q rate in that class is sad.

Kim said...

Wow...ONE jump in Regular?! Sad. I hate to see my favorite venue going downhill like this. I enjoy flat running courses like Touch and Go...but that's a Games class and in my opinion, like tunnelers it's meant to be just a hoot. Regular is anything but agility anymore, is it?

AgilitySharon said...

I appreciate the comments, very good input. Thanks. Sharon

Anonymous said...

I remember a NADAC agility Regular course that was set up without any jumps; just hoops. Someone mentioned that they thought Regular was to test the performance of every obstacle. Sharon agreed at first the course set-up was an error, and that course would be pulled. Later she said that tons of clubs were begging for that course and we'd see more of it. (Apparently it must have been run elsewhere that weekend.) I had more respect for the "error" comment and wondered if I had just seen a course of the future. I have seen none like that again.

That being said, I must say I enjoy EGC. Course layouts have improved and in this case tinkering with them has been a good thing. I think EGC makes for a better handler. Try it---it's not easy. And I must admit I have an issue with EGC not being considered agility. However, that sees to be going the way of bonus runs. It must be perfect---even for Novice. No head checks, no hesitation anywhere---it's supposed to be fun, not to make it so difficult that people say why bother? I've seen two judges conferring at EGC to determine whether or not it is a fault or not. I thought AKC refusals were too much, but isn't this the same thing, only more difficult to determine?

So what IS agility? I agree with Sharon it is all about the communication with dog and handler, not how high your dog can climb and jump. There's Schutzhund for that. Some in AKC say NADAC is not agility. Others are horrified by the tight courses and jump heights in AKC and USDAA.

I'm not bashing USDAA, but those jump heights and tight turns--I can't see a dog doing that much past 4 or 5. Seeing hoops and an occasional barrel on a course is fine with me. But please--let tunnelers stay tunnelers. No hoops or barrels.

Kim said...

Thanks Sharon! I appreciate you wading through my rant and being willing to comment ;) I think many of the people that commented here had great suggestions too. I want NADAC to continue to be my venue and don't want to feel pushed out as things keep on changing.

Kim said...

Thanks Anon! I would like to try EGC at some point...it looks a lot like how I train at home, and, as I've mentioned, Holly loves to flat run things so I think she'd like it. But, I don't personally want to see EGC things drift in and out of NADAC courses. I agree that "agility" isn't about how high your dog can jump...but neither should it be only a flat running game either.

AgilitySharon said...

I agree that Tunnelers should be tunnels... that is what makes it fun! I do get a lot of people/clubs that want to use hoops or barrels so they don't have to haul as many tunnels and tunnel bags to trials if they have to load trailers to go to a trial. I have tried it both ways and understand each person's views on just tunnels or a couple fewer tunnels. I am willing to let clubs test each way, but I know that personally "I" want all tunnels on the ones that I run!

Karissa said...

Anon - "I'm not bashing USDAA, but those jump heights and tight turns--I can't see a dog doing that much past 4 or 5."

Really? That's interesting, because I see several dogs 12/13 years old still running at several of the USDAA trials I attend. And most of them are running in CH or Perf -- not Veterans.

Anonymous said...

I stopped doing NADAC two years ago because of the hoops - and now that they instituted the barrels, I'm doubly glad that I did! I also hate the fact that I couldn't tug with my dog within 10' of the ring. I have many other venues to choose from and will NEVER do NADAC again. When I want the "old" NADAC challenges, I do ASCA!

mia said...

I am new to Nadac and have also tried AKC. I prefer Nadac, because for one my older dog and veteran me can compete without having to jump high. We can run hoops and tunnels and have fun. the people are friendly and helpful. I'm enjoying the time spent at the trials.
I will not be going back to AKC, because of their jump heights and not offering a veteran class! I also don't agree with AKC encouraging breeding purebred dogs!
Just my beginners two-cents!

Helen King said...

Hi Holly,
GREAT blog! I totally agree with you about the NADAC changes. It is quite silly.
I also agree that the state of the purebred dog today is horrific! However, I don't agree with your viewpoint regarding AKC. Rather than write here why, if you are interested, I wrote a blog about it today.

Anonymous said...

First: I chose 'anonymous' because I don't have and don't wish to sign up for the other options. My name is Nancy.
NADAC, in my opinion is a wonderful venue. I enjoyed it for several years and while I grew frustrated with the 'chronic change syndrome' the organization continues to experience, I did like the less intense atmosphere I see at other venues, particularly USDAA. That's a venue I could REALLY go on about and NOT in a positive way. I am not the kind of competitor (nor would I want to be) that could enjoy success in that environment.
My canine partner and I have had our best times at NADAC and AKC and most recently, CPE. AKC because of great courses and short trial days, CPE because of the ubiquitous 'Always have fun with your dog!' attitude exhibited by both competitors and judges alike. CPE judges have been, at least in my humble option, some of THE BEST judges my dog and I have ever run under. My dog and I can no longer run NADAC courses due to chronic illness for me, the courses are just too big. We can manage AKC and can manage CPE for now, thankfully. I'm really enjoying this blog, I would love to see NADAC continue although I certainly agree the changes are too frequent and for clubs, can be quite costly (buying new equipment).

Anonymous said...

I should learn context: This was SUPPOSED to read: "..... Anonymous Anonymous said...

First: I chose 'anonymous' because I don't have and don't wish to sign up for the other options. My name is Nancy.
NADAC, in my opinion is a wonderful venue. I enjoyed it for several years and while I grew frustrated with the 'chronic change syndrome' the organization continues to experience, I did like the less intense NADAC atmosphere compared to what I see at other venues......"

Anonymous said...

I said I was not bashing USDAA. You see a few dogs 12 or 13 in USDAA; I see lots of double-digit dogs in NADAC. Why would you want to jump dogs at that height at 12 years old? Why that height at any age? Seeing dogs jumping and twisting at 26 inches is not my cup of tea. Can you imagine the stress on the body? Can you imagine a human body doing that? But dogs don't have a choice. I know you are probably going to feel attacked and respond, but I just have a different opinion. What does jumping high prove? Because it is a kind of challenge? I'll stand up for NADAC in considering the safety of the dog, and you see other organizations adopting Sharon's changes. We just disagree.

Kim said...

Thanks to everyone for reading, commenting, suggesting and discussing!

I'm glad there are so many people out there that enjoys NADAC as much as I do and are interested in finding ways to help our venue be its best.

Margaret said...

I agree with nearly every thing you say about NADAC. I don't to AKC for many reasons and NADAC has lots of trials in my area but I have cut back due to the increase use of hoops, now barrels and the heavy emphasis on distance. There are other random things that have come to annoy me including the "cool aid" drinking by so many people.

I love your suggestion for a committee.

The atmosphere at trials is great, the people friendly but I find my self frustrated.

Kim said...

Thanks Margaret...I do hope she will consider a committee and fixed dates for rule changes in the future.

doug diehl said...

Thanks to ALL for your comments. this dialogue gives a good picture of nadac to a novice...I had no idea about some of the things going on.
personally I like hoops because it generates speed which is sometimes challenging to handle. Our nadac courses in Texas seem interesting enough I also compete in AKC and like the differences of the coursesbetween the two
People are the best at trials as you say