An alternative way
With the matter of new grades on the agenda for the next Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council meeting (February 2006) , we thought it might be interesting to have a look at how one of our agility neighbours handles the issue of progression. Relinde Peschier, a frequent visitor to Dogs in Need and Supa Dogs, explains how it's done in Holland.
Agility rules in The Netherlands are very different from the FCI and UK's way of progressing. For a long time the Dutch have had a system which allowed dogs to move down a level as well as up when they could not compete at a higher level because of, say age or injury. Until recently it was based on a yearly progression/regression.
In 2005 a new system combining the best of the FCI and Dutch rules was introduced to make it easier for a good dog to progress through the ranks in a short time while those no longer able to compete at that level could move down a grade so that they could run at their own level again. It works on points which are earned at special 'selection shows' and/or on podium places. Progression on podium places is dependent on clear rounds over a period of two years. Progression on points is dependent on excellents for just one agility season.
For example, if a handler/dog combination is good, they can go up to the highest level within one year by winning three podium places in each level. They would be promoted after 18 days. If a combination has declined for whatever reason, they will be re-classified and put back to the level where they belong. However, if it is just a matter of an injury or temporary problem a dog can return to the higher if it is good enough by gaining enough points.
Each size - Large, Medium and Small has its own competition. Most of the time, the Small and Medium dogs run the same course which is different from the Large one. The Large class fills one ring (maximum 320 starts) while the Small/Medium dogs fill the other ring.
In Holland about 1800 dogs are have agility licenses from KNK Cynophilia (Dutch Kennel Club). They are divided into five classes each with three grades and are organised by level and size.
Shows usually have 1, 2 or 3 rings though a two-day shows can have up to five rings altogether. Each ring is allowed a maximum of 320 starts. Most have three rounds = Jump, Agility and game. In general, one could say that the bigger the class, the bigger the difference in quality.
Points are awarded to all dogs with an excellent in Jumping and Agility as follows:-
After every selection show, handlers can see if they have climbed in the agility competition online at www.lhbsystems.nl/. If they need more points, they stay in the same class. The results go back to 2002. This makes agility more fun for everybody, not only for the best. You can compete against your fellow club handlers who run in the same grade... even if it is for place 110.
Last year was the first year the new rules were introduced. It's believed that the new system has found the right balance between pro-and regression. Most handlers seem pleased with the new rules. Good dogs can progress fast and the majority can still compete against each other. Some dogs bounce up and down each year from B2 to C and back the next year.
Admittedly the progression system does give extra work for show organisers, but in Holland they have 'professionals' who take care of the admin for the show secretaries. Specially devised computer programs ensure that everything is on the Internet the next day and that results are send to the head office.
Dogs that are promoted on the basis of podium places cannot be demoted because of lower rankings but can be promoted to a higher class. This happened with three dogs who went from B1 to B2 by three podium places and had enough points in B2 to go into C at the end of the year.
In the year 2006, there will be about 40 show of which nine will be selection shows. The best seven combined results (Jumping + Agility) count towards progression. Other agility shows have an Open Class the next day for those who want to run without the pressure of getting points. Others just have selection classes. Nearly every show has classes for A and Veterans.
She started agility in 1989 and has been happily competing at each level ever since. In 1995, she did the judging seminar in England and later the Dutch seminar, so now she is also judging around the world. Relinde does a lot of show secretary work to make life easier for show organisers and, in addition, gives seminars to judges, handlers and instructors all with the same goal: Try to get the best out of each combination.
Relinde still struggling in the B1 because of the good old days when one could go from A to B1 with 1 mistake on each round. Now you need clear rounds. She would prefer smaller classes - much more fun to watch and easier to make schedules, too!