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Canadian Nationals

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They've been a long time coming...

It was two years in the planning, but they finally did it! Canada has finally put together a National Championship program. The Agility Association of Canada (AAC) held it's first ever National Championship at Spruce Meadows Equestrian Centre in Calgary Alberta on 1-2 September 2001. It included a Power & Speed course designed by our own Jo Rhodes. By all accounts, it was well worth the wait. Kim Collins explains how it worked.

The road to the Nationals started last March when the first of seven Regional Championship Qualifiers were held across Canada. Dogs from each AAC Region who had earned 300 points or more at their regional were invited to attend the National Championship.

This is how it all worked…
Because our Titling System in AAC - much like USDAA - requires dogs to excel in all aspects of the sport, we felt that in order to find the top dogs, we needed to include Gamblers and Jumpers classes as part of the overall picture. So each dog and handler team had to run two Standard rounds, two Gamblers rounds and two Jumpers rounds at both the Regionals and Nationals.

In Standard rounds the emphasis was on handling and obstacle performance with bonus points for all seconds under standard course time (SCT). The round had to be fault free to earn the bonus points. Standard rounds were based on a total 100 points so if a dog runs clean and 20 seconds under SCT, it would earn 120 points. If a dog runs 20 seconds under SCT but has five faults, it would earn a score of 95 points for that round.

In the Gamblers rounds a successful Gamble was awarded 35 bonus points which is added to your opening points. If you do not complete the gamble, you keep your opening points only. There was no doubling of opening points.

Jumpers was scored the same as the Standard with bonus points for under SCT, fault free.

Faults were based on AAC Masters rules with minor changes. Off course was 20 faults - not an immediate elimination, and all refusals were faulted. There were no maximum faults. This system worked great in that it did not eliminate a dog from the competition for a 5-fault run.

Every dog entered was guaranteed to run six rounds over the two days. The competition was not over until the last dog ran, so the suspense was great. Everyone knew at the end of Saturday where they ranked, and they knew what they had to do to move up. Clearly the pressure was on for every round to run fast and clean.

International input
We also did something slightly different for both the Regionals and the Nationals in our course design and selection. Any AAC Advanced and Masters level judge could submit courses for use at the Regional level and any Masters level judge from any organization and from any place in the world could submit courses for the Nationals. We had submissions from Canada, the US and England for our Nationals.

This approach met with a bit of controversy before the first Regional but the participating judges had no problems with it and felt they got some good ideas about different course design from judging someone else’s courses. Of the judges who were not in favor - and there were only a few - none actually participated in the events. I noticed the judges at the USDAA Nationals this year judged other people’s courses quite often and I think they still felt honored to be there, and they did a fabulous job!

The courses were also selected by random draw on the morning of the trial. They were all in sealed blank envelopes and a competitor was asked to come up and select an envelope of their choice, sort of a 'what’s behind door # 3?' thing. It was great! The competitors loved it as they got a chance to run on courses designed by judges they might never otherwise run under. It also gave clubs some insight into new judges they had never hired before. It eliminated the problem of clubs hiring judges for their Regionals because they have notoriously 'easy' courses, or because the courses they design suit a particular style of dog. It also leveled the playing field all over the country.

The decision to allow International judges to submit courses and also to judge at the Nationals was also a bit of a controversy as people said that it would not be a truly Canadian event. However, it was decided that because anyone could register their dog with AAC and compete, it should not be restricted in any other way either. It was also felt that because AAC is one of the younger Associations, it was time we started seeing and participating in a more global form of agility. Allowing courses and judges from outside our Association, would help open up opportunities for Canadians to experience different styles of courses and handling techniques required to get through those courses successfully.

The event
There were 172 dogs entered this year with all dogs (Regular, Specials and Veterans) being acknowledged and treated equally. We ran three rings, and because of the way we ran them there were no ring conflicts and things ran very quickly and smoothly. Each ring was labeled Red, Green or Blue and handlers were assigned a group either  A, B or C on their confirmation. Someone running multiple dogs, regardless of height, always ran in the same ring. So I had a 22” Regular dog and a 10” Specials dog, I was assigned to Group C. I ran Gamblers in the Blue ring, then moved to Jumpers in the Red ring and Standard in the Green ring.

The rings remained static with one course set in each ring all. The groups  A, B and C rotated from ring to ring. All course walk throughs were 'shotgun' starts so every ring had to be completely done before the next walk through started. Walk throughs were split into 22” and 26” Regular dogs walking first for their ten minutes, and then all the Mini’s, Specials and Vets next. This format worked so well that we were done by about 3:45pm on Saturday without rushing people through or eliminating dogs for minimal faults. It was very relaxed and calm.

A great venue
And last but certainly not least I need to mention the site. Spruce Meadows is ranked one of the most beautiful Equine Center’s in the world. It is blessed with beautifully groomed lawns, covered barns for crating, huge parking lots, covered grand stands, loads of room for vendor tents, ample bathrooms, all the decorations we could ever want to make the site look great for photo’s, concession, large sand ring for exercising the dogs and a formal dining room with balcony overlooking one of the many grand horse jumping rings for our banquet, all made this site special.

A great show!
All in the entire event was a huge success. It was great to show up at the USDAA Nationals and have people say they heard how well our Nationals went. Thanks to those who have supported the event either as a volunteer or a competitor. We hope to be able to continue in the footsteps of the USDAA, NADAC and AKC to promote excellence in the sport of agility in North America and encourage people to grow and learn as handlers, trainers, spectators, judges and companions of our very special furry friends!

Results were as follows:

Class Handler Dog Breed Province
10” Regular  Susan Garrett Twister JRT Ontario
16” Regular Shirley McRitchie  Caity American Eskimo Ontario
22” Regular Annette Hoegl Asti Border Collie Ontario
26” Regular Susan Garrett Buzz Border Collie Ontario
6” Specials Julia Beaton Finnigan Papillion British Columbia
10” Specials Kim Collins Piper Shetland Sheepdog British Columbia
16” Specials Pat Eckland Riley  Nova Scotia Duck Toller British Columbia
22” Specials Bev Mattson Flora Bernese Mountain Dog British Columbia
6” Veterans Mary Zacharatos Duffy West Highland White Terrier British Columbia
10” Veterans Valerie Hooper Missie Shetland Sheepdog Ontario
16” Veterans Joyce Blackburn Prunelle Shetland Sheepdog Quebec
22” Veterans Jim Mills Ranger Border Collie Alberta

About the author...
Kim Collins
is the Agility Director for Top Dog Agility, Obedience and Flyball Association in Prince George, BC, Canada. She teaches agility classes and seminars and  is an AAC Masters level judge. She is the AAC Nationals Chairperson. Kim runs three of her four dogs in competition, Ceildhe is retired.

Her Sheltie Piper was the first Mini dog to earn the AAC title Agility Trial Champion, her Border Collie Bryn also holds the AAC title of Agility Trial Champion, as well as being, to date, the dog who earned the Master Agility Dog of Canada title the fastest in AAC history ( 49 days ) and also holds the record for being the dog who earned the ATChC title the fastest (8 months) and is the youngest dog to earn that title in AAC.

Kim competes in AAC, USDAA and NADAC agility with all of her dogs. Piper won the 16” height class at the 2000 USDAA Grand Prix National Championships and won the 10” Specials class in the 2001 AAC Nationals. Bryn was a finalist in the 2000 USDAA Grand prix and placed fourth in the 22” class in the AAC Nationals in 2001.


From Dave Steinman & Blue...
I was linked to your site while visiting sites about deaf dogs. As you guessed I have a deaf dog Blue is my agility partner and my best friend. Blue and I enjoy reading about agility in other places.

The reason for my email is when I went to your international page Agility in the America's - North, South and in between. I was truly impressed you had a page about agility in Canada - the AAC and another about their 1st nationals event.

You might want to update your info though as this coming August will be AAC's 11th national event, but please do not remove the existing info as that info like this may not be archived anywhere else.

Last year was AAC Nationals 10th anniversary and it was held at  Spruce Meadows, the same venue as the first Nationals. Blue and i had a great time and she placed 14th overall out of the 55 dogs in her class. She was the only dea fdog competing.

Agility in Canada as everywhere has really grown there must be over 3000 members in AAC now. At last years Nationals there was 650 dogs that had entered. (19/07/11)