One of the big developments during this era of the pandemic has been the launch of a variety of online dog training challenges and titling options. This is not a completely new idea. The agility organization, NADAC, started a video titling program a decade ago. I suspect the other major titling organizations tittered behind their backs – look at what that weird NADAC is doing now. Now NADAC seems downright prescient.
As it became clear that this pandemic was not going to be a flash in the pan, UKI leapt first with a video agility program. I scanned the rules. They are weirdly restrictive. I think they required that you had your own equipment or something like that. What is up with that? So, no.
Next USDAA took a dive off the ten-foot platform into the world of video titling. Let it be said that USDAA is an organization that has successfully marketed itself as the toughest, the most butch of the agility sanctioning groups. While AKC trials look like a book club for senior citizens, USDAA trials are awash in testosterone.
I do not know USDAA’s motivation, but they got it right in a big way. Here is the big-ticket item:
All Qs earned in the video program (called USDAA@Home) apply to the regular titling program. If you earn a Q in Starters Jumpers, it applies to your regular Starters Jumpers title. The program is not some weird, who-cares titling program. How cool and wise is that?
I confess that our agility training group had been meeting throughout the pandemic lockdown. A cluster of old rebels with a lot of hand sanitizer. Everyone leapt on board right away. Within a week, we had rented an agility field, entered the trials, and downloaded the maps. We decided to tackle Starters Jumpers, Gamblers, and Snooker.
I want to be clear that none of us had much experience setting up courses. Despite the Starters course being only 40 x 60, we were challenged. Laurel and Hardy challenged. I wish I had a video of us setting up our first Jumpers – which only had 7 jumps. I came to love a long rope that one member brought with marks every ten feet. Is it wrong to love a rope?
That first night, we did eventually run Jumpers and Gamblers, both of which have two short courses. You have to run both successfully to earn a Q. At that point we were exhausted, and night was falling. We took our dogs and rope and headed home.
The next challenge was uploading our individual videos to YouTube and sending a link to USDAA. Each handler is on their own here. None of us knew exactly how to do this. I read directions, whimpered, hollered. Eventually I thought I had successfully shared the videos with USDAA. When I checked back the next day, it became obvious that one of my links was to an art supply store that had nothing to do with agility. USDAA has been very kind with efforts to help.
Since that first evening, our group has set up and run the Starters Snooker (is that game ever easy?), another Starters Jumpers and Starters Standard. Videos have been uploaded without tears. We have tamed the trial calendar, which is tricky for reasons I won’t try to explain. We are in the game. USDAA is working to smooth some of the rough edges of a program I think they created fairly quickly.
Interestingly, AKC announced an agility video program just last week. They already had video options for titles in novice rally and tricks. They must have seen the writing on the wall that they should add agility. But where USDAA has done it right, the AKC program is grey and pasty. The six people who still work at AKC must be exhausted or demoralized. Their agility program creates a separate category of video titles, and generally, it is devoid of excitement. I am an avid AKC competitor in normal times, so I find this sad and unfortunate.
I don’t know what will happen when on-site trials fire up again. But in the meantime, I am off to sign up for the next USDAA trial.