It occurred to me recently that I’ve done agility with PBGVs for 20 years now. In 1995, when I got started with my Novice A dog, Teddy, the sport was really new. Trials were few and far between and most of us just wanted to do any type of agility, so almost everyone did all of the venues available at the time, which in my area was AKC, NADAC, and USDAA. Even then, you were lucky to get to attend a few trial weekends a year and it was not a big deal at all to overnight entries and drive several hours to attend a trial for just a single standard run.
As the sport grew, things became less one size fits all. It didn’t take me too many USDAA trials to figure out that maybe my 13.75 inch tall, thirty-five pound PBGV shouldn’t jump 18 inches and do the 6’3″ A-frame that was required at the time. Knowing what I do now, I realize that he was a really good boy for even trying do this and that most of his focus problems probably stemmed from the fact that was I was asking just wasn’t fair. Around this time I started hearing grumblings about how it was wrong to do AKC because agility was a sport for “all dogs”. Maybe I’m biased because of the type of dog I run, but I didn’t find the jump heights in USDAA or the yards per second requirements in NADAC to be any more supportive of agility for “all dogs” than the pedigree requirement in AKC, so I eventually gravitated to the venue where my dogs could be challenged in a way that was reasonable for their size and shape.
Now it’s 2015 and agility is a really different sport. On almost any weekend of the year I can trial in AKC without driving more than 2 hours. Often, I have multiple trials to select from. I’m not convinced that all agility all the time is a good idea for any dog, but the increased availability of events means having to make an active choice to sometimes take weekends off. Instead of feeling obligated to enter all local trials, I can consider other factors. Outdoor trials can be great at certain times of the year, but getting rained on every weekend gets old. Running surface is a big factor- the girls tend to be much more focused when running on turf rather than than dirt and their larger weight to height ratio means that they don’t slip as easily as taller, lighter dogs can. I’ll admit I like not running my small, white, hairy dogs on dirt for other reasons too. We have tons of 3 ring trials around, but they are usually noisy stressful events with a lot of chaos. One ring trials might mean longer days, but to me its worth it if the girls are more relaxed since this usually translates to more speed (and MACH points). A new option that I will be faced with soon is the “double double”, where clubs offer 2 standard and 2 jumpers courses each day. Neither of the PBGV girls really needs QQs and I’m not sure that they will give me much speed by the 4th run of the day, so I think my choice will be to run both standard courses and skip jumpers. This would give us a chance for more than normal points, but the same number of runs.
On the whole, I think all the choice is a really good thing as long as it includes respect for other people’s choices too.
Here’s a photo of Teddy- my Novice A dog who put up with a lot in the early days of agility.