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Thanks for all the responses. Kieran is small - 20 lbs - and very quick. The struggle in training him has been if I'm behind him, which I usually am, sometimes he'll make up his own course. The trainer we'll be working with focuses more on distance control, so it should help.

 

I went to an AKC trial last weekend, and yes, it's very slow-moving. The people are okay. It's like any other place, you have your nice people and your snooty people. The trainer knows everyone, so that helped because she'd introduce me to people. I'm going to watch a CPE trial next month when my friend competes. USDAA does seem a little intense to start off in, so it'll probably be AKC or CPE for us. I'll look into some of the alternatives people mentioned. I think NADAC is also common here, but it's a little too different for my taste.

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I'm going to watch a CPE trial next month when my friend competes.

 

I have a suggestion. When you go to the CPE trial, listen to the judge's briefings and get someone to explain the games to you. I found that I could not understand the descriptions of the games in the rulebook, but when people at trials explained them, they made sense!

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Totally just curious, borasauraus, because it may be very different in your area of the country, but what about USDAA seems a little intense to start in?

 

The Starter's courses look a little more difficult than AKC Novice or CPE Level 2. I would actually feel comfortable where we are now with the latter two venues, but if we were to do USDAA I think we'd need a lot more work. It also seems a lot more competitive.

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The Starter's courses look a little more difficult than AKC Novice or CPE Level 2. I would actually feel comfortable where we are now with the latter two venues, but if we were to do USDAA I think we'd need a lot more work. It also seems a lot more competitive.

The starters courses are pretty similar to AKC novice courses. I would say the most challenging thing for me with USDAA is that Lily being afraid of people jumps off the A-Frame a lot in USDAA. Since the judges have to see both sides of the contacts they are usually right next to the A-Frame. Otherwise just as easy for me as AKC novice.
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I started in NADAC because that was the venue of choice at the first place I trained at with my first agility dog. Eventually, I tried other agility flavors, and most of my agility friends have dabbled in multiple flavors as well. Ultimately, for most people, including myself, it comes down to what venue suits you best, and, something I think needs to be emphasized more often, what venue suits your dog best.

 

However, I have never tried, nor do I ever intend to try, ACK. Too bad, there's an ACK trial pretty much every weekend.

 

I'm extremly lucky though. I live in an area ripe with all of the agility flavors - NADAC, CPE, USDAA, ASCA, some UKI and the aforementioned ACK. Go a few hours north and play AAC too. So much agility here, that this area is seeing a huge amount of cannibalization. I'm not complaining, but there are many clubs and trials that are suffering from the plethora of offerings.

 

Presently I mainly compete in NADAC and CPE, dabble in UKI and play a bit in ASCA and USDAA, although my youngest dog has great potential in the latter, so might end up doing a bit more of that. I discovered CPE after playing in NADAC for a while and my first agilty dog loved it. The far more generous course times suited her and she enjoyed playing snooker and some of the other sorta crazy games. For her, the weirder and more convoluted the course the better. CPE also utilizes all of the various equipment, so it was nice to use some of the obstacle skills we'd trained (teeter!).

 

I still enjoy CPE for the strategy games and the trial atmosphere here is just helluva fun. One of my fast, long strided border collies though can get easily frustrated at the typically shorter courses - sometimes consisting of 10 obstacles or less. It is, IMO, the most forgiving of all of the agility venues in terms of course times and Q rate. My first agility dog earned three C-ATCHs in the venue, and by no means was she the fastest. But we had a lot of fun and CPE is the venue that I feel emphasizes the feel good aspect of the sport. Here in the PNW, I see people really supporting each other at CPE trials.

 

I still enjoy playing in NADAC. Yes, there are things I don't like, many already mentioned and don't even get me started on the barrel as an obstacle. What I do like immensely is how fun it can be to run with a fast dog and how flowing the courses can be. For me personally, there is no thrill like the thrill of running a course super fast and clean. Two of my dogs regularly run tunnelers courses in under 18 seconds. For me and my dogs, this is also the venue where it's usually either a perfect run or a crash and burn hot mess. No in between with fast dogs. I like the challenges it offers in terms of discrimations on course and I enjoy the distance challenges - however, I also train for both. I think it can be a frustrating venue if you don't train for it. I also very much like the aspect of being allowed to train in the ring. NADAC course times are fast once you get to the elite level. The venue doesn't call refusals, but it's rare to make time with any kind of bobble on a course other than standard. And there is simply nothing else comparable to NADAC's chances courses, which is often not only a distance challenge, but also an obstacle discrimation challenge. I generally enjoy the atmosphere, but I also learned long ago to separate myself from the constant critics and the debbie downers. I usually hang out with people that are positive - about their own runs as well as of others. I will say though that this is the only venue where I do play some friendly competition games with friends. Not too many of us jump 20 inch dogs here in NADAC and those of us that do like to rib each other for who's dog got first place, second place or who got E'd (ha ha)

 

I like USDAA courses too and train quite a bit on USDAA style courses. I'm just not super crazy about the atmosphere here at many USDAA trials, but that's my opinion.

 

Bottom line, no matter what the venue is, whether it's a trial or a fun run, I'm out there having fun with my dog usually, no matter how the course is numbered. :P

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I love the buzz of the big event, others like more gentle and laid back.

 

I find games a waste of time, others love them.

 

I like to see my dog flying over the jumps, others prefer obstacles that are very low.

 

I like shows that are efficiently run and don't take forever to get through a small number of dogs. Where I see time wasting I have to restrain myself from stepping in.

 

All that affects my choice here and the only organisation that fits for me is KC. I'm very happy for alternatives to exist as long as diversity is maintained. There is no best, only best for me.

 

Wherever people compete here it is cheap and there are no conditions on what (non dangerous) dogs may enter. That's my idea of inclusivity.

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The Starter's courses look a little more difficult than AKC Novice or CPE Level 2. I would actually feel comfortable where we are now with the latter two venues, but if we were to do USDAA I think we'd need a lot more work. It also seems a lot more competitive.

 

Ah, ok. I do agree that USDAA is generally more challenging than AKC. At my local trials, the atmosphere is actually more laid back and friendly at USDAA, than AKC, and neither has an air of being overly competitive. But I also get that different areas of the country could be, well, different. :) Have fun whichever you choose!

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What I do like immensely is how fun it can be to run with a fast dog and how flowing the courses can be. For me personally, there is no thrill like the thrill of running a course super fast and clean. Two of my dogs regularly run tunnelers courses in under 18 seconds. For me and my dogs, this is also the venue where it's usually either a perfect run or a crash and burn hot mess. No in between with fast dogs. I like the challenges it offers in terms of discrimations on course and I enjoy the distance challenges - however, I also train for both. I think it can be a frustrating venue if you don't train for it. I also very much like the aspect of being allowed to train in the ring. NADAC course times are fast once you get to the elite level. The venue doesn't call refusals, but it's rare to make time with any kind of bobble on a course other than standard. And there is simply nothing else comparable to NADAC's chances courses, which is often not only a distance challenge, but also an obstacle discrimation challenge.

It is interesting how we all perceive things differently, I found NADAC courses especially the lower grades extremely challenging with a fast dog, as he got frustrated as I was not where I needed to be to give him timely direction, with my first dog who was very steady we had no problems with course time, and I was always where I needed to be. My Q rate went up once we made it to Elite as the courses are not straight and I had a fighting chance to get where I needed to be. And I never even attempted chances with R, I just did not train for it and did not want to frustrate him. Ironically by Spanish standards I have impressive distance skills!
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Honestly, I've found with NADAC that are only a few pivotal places you need to be on most courses, regardless of level. Sometimes, I've seen people with really fast dogs struggle to make it there on a few specific courses but usually they increase their distance and directional skills and those problems go away.

 

I don't run a crazy fast dog, but even so - distance and directionals, man. Distance and directionals. Being able to turn your dog from a distance is pretty non-optional.

 

I like NADAC because it encourages my dog to RUN and because I get a huge, huge, kick out of the distance stuff. I'm not the best at it, but I LOVE it. I also really WISH my dog would take whatever was in front of her, but that's a memo she hasn't gotten yet. I get why it can be a problem, especially in other venues, but I'm in NADAC. Ah well, we will eventually.

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Interesting discussion.

 

I trial pretty much exclusively in NADAC. I've done a few USDAA trials with my present dog, more with past dogs when there weren't many trials of any flavor around. I've gone to train at a few ASCA and UKI trials.

 

I also like NADAC because the dogs can flat out run. Lots of extension, not a lot of teeny, tiny steps between obstacles. The courses are not technical except for the discriminations, but the speed of the dog is what makes the challenge. If you can run next to your dog they won't be very difficult, but then you might need to work on speed. For some reason people seem to think speed is something your dog either has or doesn't, but I find that early on in a dogs training if you work only technical sequences you'll teach collection and lose speed. NADAC tends to build speed, confidence, and distance in dogs because the courses are more obvious to the dog.

 

I travel to run in NADAC rather than do all the local trials. I could stay home and run AKC almost every weekend, but having started with a mixed breed dog when they weren't even allowed on the site, I have no desire to trial there. We also have a lot of CPE and a fair amount of USDAA. Most of these trials are indoors on matting and that doesn't interest me either. I choose outdoor trials and horse arenas over matting over concrete. I haven't run CPE but watched a few trials. It does seem to me that the obstacle spacing is a little close for my dog. Most people who like CPE like the games, the shorter (than NADAC) courses, and the more generous standard course times.

 

After going back to USDAA with my younger dog I found all the barking and tugging to be an issue for me. That and the fact that someone's Terv ran 30 feet to try to get my dog who was on leash and just came out of her crate. The handler was unable to get their dog to come to them at the end of their run to get leashed and instead left the ring tugging with their dog. I was NOT happy.

 

Gina and Abbey

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  • 2 weeks later...

After going back to USDAA with my younger dog I found all the barking and tugging to be an issue for me. That and the fact that someone's Terv ran 30 feet to try to get my dog who was on leash and just came out of her crate. The handler was unable to get their dog to come to them at the end of their run to get leashed and instead left the ring tugging with their dog. I was NOT happy.

 

Gina and Abbey

 

Are the USDAA trials pretty noisy? I've only seen AKC, and I was shocked by how quiet they are. And I hate to say it, but I felt a little...bored? I don't know if there is a word to accurately describe how I felt. It could also have been because we weren't there to compete.

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In my experience, the atmosphere at the USDAA trials is more "charged" than AKC trials and the AKC trials have been larger than USDAA.

 

Also, in my experience, there is a higher percentage of clueless/rude competitors at AKC-people who are not aware of where their dogs are, people who are very insensitive to putting space between their dogs and others, and congregating around the rings gates when it isn't close to their turn (or they aren't even in the class).

 

AKC trials attract many breed people who are in it solely for the versatility titles, whereas the other venues attract people who are there for the sake of agility. So a different type of competitor on average

 

Although I think that AKC is MUCH easier than USDAA, USDAA is my first choice

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I have not been to AKC trials, just USDAA and NADAC, indoors in the same building USDAA is a lot noisier and has more energy. Lots of barking, lots of tugging, lots of running around. USDAA does not have strict rules about leashes so dogs come tugging out of the rings.

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I thought I would dislike flyball because of all the barking, but it actually grew on me. You can see how passionate the dogs and people are about it and feel all the excitement.

 

That's how I hope my experience at agility trials will be. I definitely got the "breed people" feeling at the AKC one. It didn't seem like a passion for them as much, although the trainer we're with definitely loves it. Also, I hate to say it, but I didn't see any particularly good runs. In the end, I suppose none of that matters, since I'll be there only for Kieran.

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Also, I hate to say it, but I didn't see any particularly good runs. In the end, I suppose none of that matters, since I'll be there only for Kieran.

The first time I went to a USDAA trial, I loved watching people's runs, certainly in the NE the standard is very high and I had never seen agility "live" at that level. There was also a lot less very slow distracted beginner dogs than NADAC which I think is a result of numerous factors, but I know people who started there and now only do USDAA and AKC even with their beginner dogs.

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There was also a lot less very slow distracted beginner dogs than NADAC which I think is a result of numerous factors, but I know people who started there and now only do USDAA and AKC even with their beginner dogs.

 

It's funny - I love watching the beginner dogs. :) They are green, they are distracted, their handler's handling is often "off". I especially love to watch those runs when the handler is patient and apparently enjoying the dog, in spite of the green-ness.

 

I will often watch most of the Level 2 dogs and not watch all that many of the dogs at the higher levels. There is just something I really enjoy about watching newer teams develop and find their way even when the runs themselves aren't the prettiest Agility (although sometimes there are teams at that level that really shine).

 

It's interesting what appeals to different people.

 

I think that is something else to consider when making venue choices.

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Every time I've watched USDAA trials, even the beginner dogs were well handled and anything but clueless. At the AKC trials in my area we have a LOT of the super slow, "here, let me point you between every weave pole" runs. I discussed some of those things a bit with our Trainer's r. She says there are so many people who just want to Q instead of really master their handling, so their runs consist of physically blocking the dog at the contacts, and really just physically manipulating the course. We also have a local training team who is by far the largest group in terms of students. They only teach front crosses. So, yeah. There are a LOT of slow, super basic runs in AKC. I should say, I'm still REALLY novice, so I'm not saying I'm any better than other people. These are just my observations.

 

One thing I'd like to mention about USDAA in my area (and I mean NO offense here whatsoever), the average age is much, much younger. It only matter a teeny bit to me personally because I'm 23 years old, it was relieving to see some people I might be able to relate to. I absolutely adore the fact that agility is an all age sport, and it makes me so happy to see people well into their seventies out there trialing. But, I'd guess the average age at our AKC trials is late sixties, and that affects the way the trials are run. These aren't people interested in (or capable of) owning the breeds that tend to excel in the sport. Lots and lots of really nice cavs, American eskimos, corgis, and other companion breeds. I don't know if it's a chicken and egg situation, but the courses are designed in a way that doesn't require a whole lot of speed and mobility. In turn, people can comfortably jog around the course with nothing but front crosses and have success. In general, AKC trials in my area just don't have the sporty vibe that USDAA trials do. And I don't mind! I think it's a very safe place to start, assuming you can get ahold of the ridiculous unwritten rules quickly.

 

That's not to say there aren't great trainers and runs in AKC, because there absolutely are. And there also are people who are SUPER serious about getting their breed titles. And lots of "dog people". The ones in the breed-themed crew-neck sweatshirts. It's kind of a weird, uptight atmosphere, but the focus isn't on really fast, great runs and great handling. What is the focus? I'm not really sure, yet. I'm kind of guessing it's being uptight for uptight's sake. Dog people, you know.

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It's funny - I love watching the beginner dogs. :) They are green, they are distracted, their handler's handling is often "off". I especially love to watch those runs when the handler is patient and apparently enjoying the dog, in spite of the green-ness.

 

Me too and this is even more true now that NADAC has 'intro' which is even easier and is designed to get even greener dogs some ring experience. It's my favorite class to volunteer with, too, for those same reasons. The dogs are happy, positive experiences lay a great foundation and volunteering means I get to help with that.

 

That said, I've never been to a trial of any venue that wasn't basically boring for anyone observing. Even if there are some stellar runs, it's a bunch of dogs on the same courses over and over, and a lot of downtime. Volunteering helps, running your own dog helps, but mostly what helps is knowing the people, kicking back and turning it into a picnic in the park with friends.

 

(I hated the AKC trials I went to. Just too tense for me)

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I must be lucky in my area AKC trials are just a fun and high energy as the NADAC or USDAA trials... There are a fair number of people just there for the breed versatility titles and only run AKC, but there are also lots of very serious competitors who run in other venues too. There is a lot of down time at AKC trials, which sucks but it's still fun.

 

I enjoy just watching all the dogs, because we have a small 'core' agility group and its like a group of friends watching eachother's dogs improve and grow at the trials. I could see if there were lots of dogs running that you didn't know how that can be boring.

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I actually do really love watching agility, even if we're not competing, but I guess only well-handled agility. I'll even look for videos on YouTube - and not just of famous handlers.

 

I get the feeling that all the AKC trials in the area are like the one I went to, though. It looks like I should go watch a USDAA trial when there's one near me.

 

Kingfisher, I get the age thing, too. I'm 26, and I think I was by far the youngest person there with a dog (and a mix, *gasp*). Even at flyball I'm often the youngest or one of the youngest, but everyone is so much friendlier. People will approach you to start a conversation, and I don't feel like I'm intruding when I initiate one. At the trial the only reason anyone would talk to me was if my trainer introduced me to them (which I'm glad she did). I get that people are focused on their runs, but the same is true of any other dog sport.

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I love watching. It drives me nuts when the crating is separate from the performance area - that's when I get bored!! I can only walk Tessa so much.

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Kingfisher, I get the age thing, too. I'm 26, and I think I was by far the youngest person there with a dog (and a mix, *gasp*). Even at flyball I'm often the youngest or one of the youngest, but everyone is so much friendlier. People will approach you to start a conversation, and I don't feel like I'm intruding when I initiate one. At the trial the only reason anyone would talk to me was if my trainer introduced me to them (which I'm glad she did). I get that people are focused on their runs, but the same is true of any other dog sport.

Try a different venue, I went to my first ever trial on my own knowing no one and met lovely people who could not have been more friendly and welcoming both the organizers and the people competing it is why I stuck with NADAC as a second venue despite disliking the courses and some of the silly rules. When I felt we were ready to try USDAA a few people I knew from NADAC were there, but busy in Masters, and I still found new people to chat to, not as openly friendly just because people are more focused on their runs, but still nice people happy to chat dogs and answer questions.

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I basically do what is available. Which is pretty much AKC now.

 

USDAA here is very few and far between. (1 trial last year, so far none this year) It's like 90% border collies it seems and handlers that know what they're doing. Me and my elderly papillon kind of stuck out a bit. Very competitive. I like the games in USDAA and the course times are fast. It's also not very small dog friendly with the jump heights (I know not a big deal for BC people but was a pain with papillons). Summer's performance height there was her normal height in other venues. To drop to 4" she would have had to run as a veteran, which she is old enough for but she was a new dog and I a new handler and we weren't ready for that level of course. I felt very limited there running an old tiny dog. I do find USDAA to have the most fun courses, often pretty challenging handling.

 

I actually really love NADAC. It's laid back but also challenging and fast. However, only 2 trials within a few hours from me a year. It's much less 'sea of super competitive people with really fast BCs'. Lots of rescued mutts here. They have some weird obstacles but Hank intuitively got the hoops. And after one brief foray into trying to jump on top of the barrels, he seems to have gotten that too.

 

AKC strikes me as vanilla agility but I am trying my first AKC show next month so we'll see. Seems to be a little more stuffy and full of 'breed people' into titling their breeding dogs. Of course a decent number of people trying for MACHs or nationals. There's about 25 AKC agility trial days a year in state which is far and away the most of any venue.

 

UKC is very... weird. Lots of weird obstacles, very slow. I have used it a bit for ring experience but wouldn't trial there beyond level one. So many weird obstacles.

 

My old papillon did TDAA, which is small dogs only. Very slow course times. It was good for her, but I wouldn't seek it out unless I had an old toy dog. lol Have gotten comments that it's not 'real agility' but I don't care, we had fun and it was better suited to her. TDAA actually has a lot of local trials. Hank is small enough to do TDAA but I think he is far too fast for it. I feel like either it would be dangerous for him or running tight courses would slow him down for AKC/USDAA/NADAC. He debuted in NADAC at 4-5 yps (TnG) and TDAA usually has a course time in the 2 yps range. There's a few really fast dogs running it but they're smaller strided. Hank has a huge stride for his 15" height. We tried it once and he basically wrecked the course and threw the tunnel bags off the tunnels. So yeah... probably not.

 

We have no CPE or I'd have started there. Looks like a laid back venue.

 

ETA: My trainer's teaching is geared towards USDAA style courses.

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