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Impressions of the recent European agility trial

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I loved the description of the atmosphere of this trial, and like the author, hope that this attitude catches on in this country.

 

Note: I copied this from the Totofit FB page (full disclosure) and hope that I am not breaking any rules by posting here.

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WHAT MAKES EUROPEAN AGILITY 'DIFFERENT' FROM AMERICAN AGILITY?

STACY GOUDY’s experiences at the Moravian Open, July 2016, Roznov pod Radhostem, Czech Republic

"First, allow me to dispel one myth… they are not perfect, they make mistakes just like we do, and they do not run every course clean. :-) Apologies to my European friends who would appreciate that secret be kept.

I have traveled overseas to compete on many occasions and what made this competition different was that although a very well attended and Internationally respected competition, the atmosphere was far more relaxed and resembled a “local” show rather than a World Championship.

It was so amazing to see all of the competitors in what they would consider a comfortable environment. Yes, check in really did offer baked good and a shot of plum Vodka, highly recommend this become a trend in the US, BTW. The biggest surprise was the fact that as the start time drew nearer, the laid back behavior never changed.

A couple of other surprises, no course maps whatsoever! At one point I asked the organizer if I could at least see the course maps to take pictures of them for the USA, she said she would have to ask the judge as they did not have them either! So, you learned the course when you walked it, and, you had 8 minutes. They were very strict about walk through times and when the 8 minutes was up, you were done. The walk-throughs had a huge number of competitors!!

We were also surprised at the fact that the entire field was used, but there were 3 rings, 2 practice areas, and spectators, with no barriers! The dogs stayed on course, stayed with their handlers, no incidents whatsoever.

There was 1 running order posted, but they did not necessarily stick to it as posted, this was a bit tricky especially when you don’t know many of the competitors.

All handlers went to the ring with toys and left the toys at the finish so that their dogs were immediately reinforced for a job well done, regardless of the actual outcome of the run.

There has been a lot of talk in various Facebook groups recently about training in the ring, this competition came at a perfect time in regards to these discussions. Clearly, the Europeans are allowed to train in the ring and did so in a very efficient and smart manner, when a mistake happened they would immediately go into training mode in a very fluid and almost non-recognizable way, fixing the issue and moving on. The runs were barely longer than the clean runs and sometimes even shorter, as they would fix the problem and make a hasty exit to play with their dogs.

There was a very high level, well respected handler who was running a young dog that was lacking confidence, his solution… take the toy into the ring and run with it rewarding the dog in all of the appropriate places.

I think the biggest joy I got out of this competition, besides the brilliance of my own dog, of course, was watching the handlers’ reactions at the end of every run, regardless of the outcome, there were hugs, kisses, smiles, playing, and, overwhelming love and appreciation of their dogs. Keep in mind that every course at this competition had at least an 80% elimination rate.

I was told that having 2 clean runs on Saturday was HUGE! There was some super stiff competition at this event and after looking at results there were not very many that went 2 clean! Did I mention it was really cool to make the Grand Finals??!!

I thought a lot about the number of eliminations and this was a bit enlightening as well. There were clean runs, (not many), faulted runs, (not many), and, E’s (LOTS!)

Why?? Because every handler PUSHED every run! There were no runs for Q’s; there were runs for the thrill of the competition, and the pure joy of playing with their teammate. Don’t get me wrong I saw some disappointment, but, I don’t think I saw more than 1 or 2 people direct this disappointment towards their dogs.

I know that it is very important to me to always praise, play with, and reward my dogs after every run regardless of the outcome, and I spend a lot of time when I am teaching preaching this, but although I cannot speak for events other than the one I was at, the Europeans could teach us a lot about what really matters in this game that we love so very much! It did my heart good to watch so many people loving up their dogs, playing with their dogs, appreciating their dogs above all else!

And, all of the shirtless guys were an added bonus! :-)

In a nutshell, I think we already know that what would make US agility “better” is an overall enjoyment factor that sometimes seems to get lost in the hunt for the almighty Q. I understand the importance of, and satisfaction that comes from a qualifying run, as do the Europeans, but we need to remember that it is a game first and foremost. I love that fact that I make a living teaching agility, I hope to for many years to come, but the fun factor and my dogs come first, always, and in all ways."

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A friend and I have just been chatting about this, we both agree that she is comparing apples to oranges. Spain has a superb international open that has a laid back party vibe, which sounds like what she was at. At the regular trials I have gone to there is the same striving for points to move up, points to get to championship and some of the same grumpy attitude to their dogs.

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Alligande, I was hoping that you would comment. So this essay is describing an atmosphere that is more the exception, than the rule??

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Do you mean this is strange for a competition in general, or for a well known competition?

Sounds like a nice environment :)

Been to some competitions in the uk, but only some more local ones so its interesting to hear about ones abroard

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I don't know if it is the exception as I compete in Spain and have yet to travel far to compete. But what is important is that the competition she is talking about is not run under FCI, but is a true open. This means that everyone is there to have fun, and nothing counts so of course you are going to go flat out ... A clean round without speed means nothing.

As an example in Spain it takes 9qs to move between grade 2 and 3 and they all have to be obtained in one year. I can't remember the number of Qs needed but in holland you have to maintain your grade 3 position ... Other wise back down you go. In Spain I have seen people play with their dogs and have fun, and I have seen others be shits.

I don't believe you can take a toy in the ring in FCI, if the judge allows it you can get away with limited training, I saw the same thing when we went to volunteer at the WAO try outs lots of people using the opportunity to train their young dogs, but when the FCI trial started there were no more toys.

So what she is describing is a one off event - not a regular sanctioned weekend of agility.

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Another thought is that I think she is beating US agility up, what I think she is talking about is AKC agility, I competed in USDAA and NADAC and both venues have great atmospheres although very different, but in both I saw lots of people having loads of fun with their dogs. At one USDAA/NADAC location the bar was often open in the late afternoon, although I have never been offered a shot in the US. In Spain there is a lot of beer consumed, there are more men than women competing.

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Sounds like agility here in the UK at all levels from small local shows to the KC International or Crufts. The only difference is that you cannot openly train in the ring and nothing is to be carried in the hand. Rewards at the end must be delivered outside the ring.

 

Clears usually come to 10 - 20% of the entry, some faults and the rest Es. Those who settle for less than their best in search of a safe clear are unlikely to progress up the grades.

 

All that matters is getting the win when it counts. If you don't then there is always another day.

 

We've just run our club's summer show. 7 days of competition plus 2 fun days. 10 rings on 4 of the days with some of the classes being major qualifiers. Nearly 20k runs in all. One day we held as Championship only so people could relax whether competing or watching. Bar open, Champ followed by hog roast and ceilidh.

 

Some shows in the south are even bigger and size can bring stress, and some people do take it all way too seriously but on the whole most people are in it for the fun and treat their dogs accordingly.

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If people think that US competitors should have more fun with Agility, the only real game plan that is going to work is to lead by example.

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Yeah, that whole 'stress/emotion flows down the leash' thing applies to agility as well as other situations, surely? I know my dog reads and reacts to my stress level by going stressy and flat herself. Or, occasionally, stressed and wild. Granted I am no the only factor in whether she's having fun or not, but I am certainly a really big one.

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I have to say, I am blessed with Tessa in that regard. The more nervous I am, the more she rises to the occasion and puts her best forward!!

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This is a bit of an eye opener for me. I have been to a grand total of four and a half trials (got sick on the first day of one trial and could not run the second day) over 18 months. I was scheduled for another earlier this year but came down with bronchitis in the week before. I live in the country and have limited trials within reach (i.e. less than five hours travel).

All of the trials I have been to have been country trials with between 2 and 4 agility/jumping rings.

The idea of a 7 day trial with up to 10 rings blows my mind. Even our National Competition held recently was 7 rings over 5 days! How do you find the people to run that sort of a trial?

What I will say is that the first year I joined our club, they asked all members if anyone could help out with running a trial, and I volunteered. It was my first exposure to agility. I loved how supportive and positive people were to their fellow competitors. If there was a good run, everyone congratulated you. If there was one mistake, everyone commiserated and encouraged you. Everybody tried to be sure their run finished on a happy note for their dog. It was what gave me the courage to get started (that and seeing even the best people stuff up occasionally). I have also heard a stall holder (selling tugs, leads, treats etc) say how much they preferred going to agility trials than dog shows, because there was so much less back-biting and nastiness.

I think I will be happy staying at country trials, given how rarely I can get to one. Having a high stress environment for me would not be fun, and I want trialling in agility to be about fun for me and my dog. I get enough stress working as a lawyer in criminal and family law.

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How do we find the people? We rely on help to run the rings from volunteer competitors, keeping our own club members as far as possible to cover the core jobs from Show Secretary to disposing of dog poo.

 

We aren't a big club but people want to come to our show because it's a darned good one and enough of them know that it will only happen if they pitch in to help.

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I have to say, I am blessed with Tessa in that regard. The more nervous I am, the more she rises to the occasion and puts her best forward!!

You are very lucky in that regard! I have never competed in agility, but in Freestyle if I am nervous or on edge or even just bummed about something else in my life, Digs will be distracted by my demeanor and won't do a good job. Jester was the same way. I had to make sure that I was calm before we entered the ring or I practically wouldn't have a dog at all.

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