a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Qualifying for the Nationals

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Qualifying for the Nationals

Well, we're about to take off for a long weekend of agility.

For various arcane scheduling reasons, two clubs joined their usually-separate agility weekends into a single, long 4-day weekend of agility, which is turning out to be a very large event, stretching the limits of their site (Dixon May Fairgrounds in Dixon, west of Sacramento).

They're running three qualifying events for the USDAA nationals, which will once again be held in Phoenix in November, and Tika's doing good enough that I'm inclined to go again--there goes all my vacation for *this* year, too. BUT we have to qualify to get there!

There are three National Champion events at the USDAA nationals (really International championships--top teams come from several countries):
  • Steeplechase: Designed to have the dogs moving at a great rate of speed over a course with no dogwalk, table, or teeter but including one or two Aframes and one or two sets of 12 weaves. Dogs must be in the top 30% of those competing in at least one Steeplechase to qualify for the Nationals. Remington and Jake almost never Qed. Tika has Qed the last 2 Steeplechases we've been in, which is quite a thrill for me.

  • Grand Prix: This is what people usually mean when they talk about the "USDAA National Championship". It's a standard course--all obstacles (except no table anymore)--designed to be somewhat challenging but not overwhelmingly so. To qualify for the nationals, the dog must have 7 or fewer faults at two separate qualifying events. A knocked bar is 5. An offcourse is an elimination. Tika has one Q so far this year; at the last 2, she had an offcourse on the next-to-last obstacle (my fault) and then some other stupid thing also my fault...

  • Dog Agility Masters Team Tournament: A bit more complicated. You need only one Q to go to nationals; you must be among the top 50% of teams at a qualifying Team event. You team up with 2 other dog/handler teams. You compete over 2-3 days in four individual events and then, if you're doing well as a team, you also compete in a 3-dog relay at the end of the weekend. The teams' scores are cumulative over all 5 events to determine who qualifies. The trick to qualifying is primarily NOT earning an elimination (off-course usually). This is indeed tricky with 3 dogs over 4 individual events PLUS the relay. Tika has only ever been in one DAM team event; one of our teammates was clean all weekend but we Eed once and the other teammate Eed twice (hmm, or maybe only once--for some reason I don't have that info), and that was one too many Es to allow us to qualify.

The other thing about earning Qs in these three Tournament classes is that you now need to earn one of each (I believe) to earn your ADCH (Agility Dog Championship), and even more to earn your Tournament titles.

Which leaves me with the question: Should I go to Camarillo in May, where they're having another Grand Prix and another DAM Tournament, to try to pick up more Qs? (Even if we should be lucky enough to complete our Qs this weekend for nationals, I'll still eventually want those Qs for Tika's titles.)

The problem with southern CA is that it's a long drive--I have to take another day off work to get down there, and then coming home I usually arrive after midnight, completely wiped out to start my work week.

The problem with all of these tournament classes is that they're EXPENSIVE to enter. USDAA is making quite a profit off of us. I can see why people want to start their own agility organizations... Regular events in USDAA have now inflated to as much as $12 per run, but (for example for this weekend) Steeplechase is $15, Grand Prix is $18, and Team runs from $50 to as much as $70. I don't have that big a budget all the time...

Compare this to CPE trials, where fees are more typically $10 a run.

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