Kennel Club 2016 shows...
Between July 1st and October 30th 2016, there were around 120 Open Kennel Club shows scheduled. A little less than half of them - 56 to be exact - offered classes with a Lower Height Option (LHO). The following report was compiled from data gathered by the 4th Height Supporters Group to be used along with other data gathered from a grading review and jump research findings when decisions about the future of agility are made. Now with feedback from Jo Sermon.
The 4th Height Supporters Group believes this data supports the need, desire and viability for a separate, competitive '4th' height category between Medium and Large, to include access to 'prestige' events and Championship classes.
This additional category would create a level playing field for dogs that are currently disadvantaged by the span of the Large height category. Whether this category is a 'measured' height for smaller Large dogs, or an optional height for all Large dogs, it would have at least the second highest entry numbers for any category. We also believe this separate height band would resolve any possible conflict that may exist in the current system between 'the best height for a dog' and the 'best chance of success,' thereby benefitting more dogs overall.
With the overall popularity for lower height jumping increasing and research now in place, we hope to see this instigated soon. To us, it would be the best option.
As time passed, the 4th Height Supporters Group was formed on Facebook, and the interest and concern over the difference in hurdle heights between the Medium and Large categories in particular - and hurdle heights in general - has grown immensely. This is a trend that is being mirrored throughout the Agility world, with many countries adopting different hurdle and dog height categories in their domestic competitions to those used at the two FCI Championships.
Following on from another Discussion Item in January 2013, which led to the instigation of some research into dogs jumping by the KC, a further Proposal for a 550mm hurdle height band was tabled for consideration by the Agility community on the ALC January 2015 agenda. See details on the website. The ALC decided that, although there was very strong support at all the regional meetings for this change, they wanted to be certain that there were no welfare issues that would stop this being accepted and decided to defer their decision until more research results were available.
In October 2015, Wrexham DAC wrote to the ALC and an open letter was sent to the KC Chairman, both asking for a decision on the Proposal for a 550mm hurdle height to be moved forward.
At the January 2016 ALC meeting, the Representatives were informed that the KC had decided to introduce the interim measure of the Lower Height Option from July 2016 (see KC website for details) 'while research is concluded and findings made available to inform the debate'. Such results are now available from studies conducted by Nottingham Trent University and the Royal Veterinary College, all of which underpin the Proposal for smaller dogs to jump a lower height hurdle. (See June 2016 Newsletter.) In fact, some of the same data has already been used to support the recent Proposal for the change in the regulation concerning spacing between obstacles that was approved by the KC's General Committee in the quickest possible timescale, for health and welfare reasons.
The shows analysed, in chronological order, were:- Lune, Wellingborough, RVA, Newlands, Billingshurst, The Agility Club, Empingham, Wirral, Rushden, BCC GB, Redgates, KCI Agility Festival, Adams, TAG, Westgate, Orchard, Bridgehouse, Surrey, Gleniffer, Gillingham, Prestbury Park, Blenheim, Blackdown, Tenterden, Breerock, Stonebridge, Waverunners, Train In The Ring, Suffolk Five Rivers, Southdowns, South Durham, Chippenham, Mid Downs, Shrewsbury, Weardale, Weald, BHC and Excel.
Direct comparisons are sometimes difficult at detailed level across all the shows because information is not always constant or is sometimes not known. For example, where Grades are combined in a class, it was not normally possible to determine entry numbers by Grade.
It was not possible to report the effect of combining or splitting results, as this data was not available on ring plans.
Handlers are making decisions to enter/not enter LHO using several criteria. In particular, support for LHO at Medium is noticeably less than at Large and Small heights and is not driven by Grade. It, therefore, seems likely that Medium dog handlers are mostly satisfied with the full height hurdle to dog height ratio.
Variability in uptake across shows and regions is much less at Small height than at Large. Overall numbers are considerably lower, and the range of grade combinations for classes is greater. Small dog handlers are more used to restricted choices than Large dog handlers.
LHO is most strongly supported in the Large height category. Across the timeframe and the shows analysed, there are close to twice as many Large dogs competing than Small and Medium dogs added together.
The effect of 'qualifiers' on people's choice of class entry is apparent in most shows hosting prestige classes such as Crufts and Olympia qualifiers, particularly the Kennel Club International Agility Festival (KCIAF) where the Cup competitions dominate the schedule. However, the effect doesn't carry through for other types of Special classes such as Teams or more local Cup/qualifiers.
There is also no evidence that the LOW 550 Special class on its own significantly increased Large LHO entries at the shows involved. An effect is seen, however, where there is choice within a schedule - regardless of whether the choice is a qualifier or uneven grade combinations across the LHO/non-LHO class choices or number of available runs at a show.
Main facts Ė Overall Numbers
Main facts - Differences involving Heights and Grades
Main Facts - Performance by Kennel Club Region
Main Facts Ė The effect of Qualifiers/Choice
When shows are grouped according to potential influences on handlers' entry choices, distinct effects are seen. The profiles of the four blocks on the chart indicate that entries are generally lower in shows offering prestige classes such as Crufts and Olympia qualifiers (blue on chart). Equally affected are shows that offer better options for grade combinations or numbers of runs at FHO than LHO (orange on chart). More local qualifiers/teams etc had a much less marked effect on entries (grey on chart). The yellow block indicates the overall profile for shows where every class in a height category offered LHO. There was only one show in category E = Restricted to lower grades, which has little bearing overall and is not shown on the chart.
Main Facts - Is popularity growing?
Using the gathered data, we plotted the average percentage of LHO entries across all heights and grades by show from July to mid-October.
Because of the multiple possible permutations of grade combination, overall entry numbers and class choices linked to other classes without LHO (qualifiers, teams, etc), this information is varied. A linear calculation through the individual plots shows an upward trend.
This report is an analysis of Kennel Club shows over a four month period from the date of the introduction of LHO in order to provide an overview of what was happening at shows where LHO was offered. It is a collation of information from ring plans made available by many people.
We had no preconceptions about what the data might reveal, and really there are no great surprises in the data.
There were, however, clear differences in actual entry numbers between Large and Small/Medium.
From a 4th height perspective, we believe that this supports our quest for a fully competitive and integrated height aimed at the 'smaller Large' dogs.
We hope this report will be used in the spirit in which it is offered - as another piece of the research to help when when decisions about the future of agility are made.
First published 21 January 2017
from Jo Sermon...
So far so good.
I hope that when decisions are made about the future of agility that a full study is used to base those decisions on. This data is collated and presented to support a point of view and is necessarily biased in that respect.
'The 4th Height Supporters Group believes this data supports the need, desire and viability for a separate, competitive '4th' height category between Medium and Large, to include access to 'prestige' events and Championship classes.'
This I donít understand and, despite patient questions, I am still none the wiser. Why would the success of the KC's LHO initiative be a reason for a 4th height to be introduced?
Personally, I still feel that if someone is advocating a change in our sport, they should consider the effect of that change on agility as a whole. It is, in my view, completely unacceptable to propose a change and effectively shrug your shoulders when the effects of your proposal on others are pointed out.
'This additional category would create a level playing field for dogs that are currently disadvantaged by the span of the Large height category.'
This again makes no sense to me. We have the LHO which dogs are disadvantaged?
'Whether this category is a 'measured' height for smaller Large dogs or an optional height for all Large dogs, it would have at least the second highest entry numbers for any category. We also believe this separate height band would resolve any possible conflict that may exist in the current system between 'the best height for a dog' and the 'best chance of success,' thereby benefitting more dogs overall.'
Large LHO covers this. Iím still none the wiser as to why we would want a measured height. To me, the LHO is the far better option, giving Show Secretaries the flexibility to meet demand in their particular area and allowing larger heavier dogs to compete at a lower height.
As far as the data collection is concerned, drawing sweeping conclusions like those above from data collected in the first four months of a new scheme is somewhat premature.
We're told that almost half of the shows during the period offered LHO which means that more than half did not. Everyone who entered those shows made a conscious decision to run their dog at full height, yet none of those entries have been used to calculate the actual take up of LHO. Ignoring more than 50% of the actual entries raises questions about the accuracy of the conclusions drawn.
Next, no data was collected about awards, although that data was available. There are many people who will not enter a show that combines awards across jump heights, maintaining that a win or place should be against dogs competing on the same course. To discard that data, as has been done, makes drawing conclusions ineffective as a major influence has been discarded.
Finally we have no way of knowing what proportion of the dogs that are shown as being entered in Large LHO would fit into the proposed measured 4th height.
In conclusion, I see nothing here that supports the initial premise. I'd like to take this opportunity to applaud the Kennel Club for their initiative in introducing the Lower height Option. It is a perfectly tailored solution for those who want to jump their dogs lower, for whatever reason, whilst allowing our hard pressed show secretaries to tailor the classes they offer to suit their customers. It supports not only owners of Large dogs wanting to jump lower, but also Small and Medium dogs who also want to jump lower. Many thanks to the hard working team who came up with it! (2 March 2017)