A different view point
The debate about whether Advanced dogs should be able to compete in Intermediate classes was going on way before the Kennel Club announced the changes to the 'H' regs. In an article which was written just before the changes were announced - but remains relevant - Nancy Hudson asks whether this decision is entirely fair to Advanced dogs and their handlers, now or in the future.
I guess a lot depends on how you interpret the meaning of Intermediate classes i.e. whether you apply the term Ďintermediateí to the standard of class/course or where the class sits in relation to other standard classes, i.e. novice, senior etc. My personal interpretation has always been the latter, Iíve always thought of intermediate classes as an extra Ďin-betweenieí class for all levels of dog with the exception of starters. After all, there is no such level as an intermediate dog or handler.
It has been mooted recently that Intermediate classes are a waste of time and what is the point of them. Surely the point is that Intermediate offers all levels of dog, out of Starters, an opportunity for a challenging, enjoyable run. Whilst some Intermediate courses might be too difficult, thatís an entirely unrelated problem and needs to be addressed separately. The degree of difficulty of course design isnít limited to Intermediate classes. One often sees Novice courses which would prove challenging to a Senior partnership and so forth.
remove Advanced dogs from Intermediate?
It appears that the main concern regarding Advanced dogs competing in Intermediate classes is that itís proving too difficult for dogs to move up the ranks because itís not possible to win against Advanced dogs. Iím not sure that removing, or excluding from, a class which is available to the majority for different reasons - perhaps to challenge Novice dogs and give a more relaxed run to Advanced/Senior dogs - is the right way forward.
Of course the above isnít always easy for shows to schedule, but what is with the numbers weíre looking at today? Whichever way you slice the cake, show committees will still have to scratch their heads when scheduling classes in order to cope with numbers.
about the competition?
Personally when I have a Novice dog I donít expect to do too well in Intermediate classes until my dog and I gain some experience. I enjoy the Intermediate classes more because my expectations are lower whereas I get stressed by novice classes because I want - and at some point expect them to - do well in them.
I can sympathise with those who think itís unfair to compete against Advanced dogs but then couldnít the same be said of Novice dogs competing against Senior dogs (would remain the case in Intermediate) and Senior dogs against Advanced dogs (is the case in Senior classes) and so forth? Where do you draw the line?
Another thought is that once a dog qualifies into Advanced level by whatever means, itís going to have to compete against the existing Advanced dogs and if it wasnít competitive against those dogs in Intermediate, then it still wonít be when it reaches Advanced.
I have competed at Advanced level for over 15 years with three different dogs and, as is always the case, there is at any given time a small group of dogs and handlers who win most of the classes most of the time, but they change because staying at the top at Advanced level is transitory and affected not just by form and experience but by the dogís age (and possibly that of the handler!) I would hasten to add I am not one of the small group but one of those who normally end up unplaced in the advanced classes, tutting in the background that Iím just not quick enough!
a completely personal point of view...
Over the years I havenít often seen standard Advanced Agility or Jumping classes scheduled. They are a rarity. I donít count Advanced Power & Speed as that is a special class and one I donít participate in because I donít like the huge spreads (purely personal view.)
My point here is that whilst my dogs might have been a little quicker/luckier than some in order to win into Advanced, they arenít different from anybody elseís dogs. I donít train them by negotiating impossible patterns and I donít want to compete with them over impossible patterns. I want to enjoy and for my dogs to enjoy agility as much as anyone else. I can foresee a situation when Advanced dogs are excluded from Intermediate classes. Where a show has a Championship class scheduled, it could well be the only choice for Advanced dogs.
do we exclude?
Iím also aware that there is talk of downgrading dogs to Intermediate once they become less competitive or of a certain age, but I think that might prove difficult to administrate although it is certainly an option. Neither option would be my personal choice as I think a generic class which is available to all is a good thing for the sport and keeps the fun in for everyone.
A version of this article appeared in the agility magazines earlier this year.