15 November 2011

On jump heights. USDAA and WAO.

Does this jump look too small for Kiba? She's definitely jumping it. It's only 16". At AKC Nationals we don't have a choice, we have to jump this height.

Jump heights are difficult to get right. In most places in Europe, they only have 3 jump heights, and because I'm american, I'm going to use inches for this post. So for FCI/EO type competitions, the only heights available are 14"/18"/26". Do you see a gap there? Let's see, maybe 22 is missing? Yeah, in FCI every dog over 16 and 7/8" tall has to jump 26". That's not right. But FCI is slow to change. For some reason they seem to like having twice as many "Large" dogs as Small and Medium dogs. I'm not sure why. Makes a lot of sense to split that class and have a 22" height for smaller "Large" dogs.

But alas, I have no say in FCI. I really wanted to talk about the USA anyway. Here in the US, we have 2 major organizations (I am ignoring all the smaller ones that don't strive to create dogs/handlers that can compete at a National/International level). AKC has a lot of jump heights. Possibly too many, but it's probably better to err on the side of "too many options" than on the side of "not enough". In AKC, each jump height includes all dogs within the range of 2" above and below the jump height, with the sole exception of the 8" class which goes up to 11" at the withers. So for the 16" class, dogs from 14" to 18" tall jump the height. For 20", that is dogs 18" to 22" tall. I'm not sure how I feel about that. I'm pretty sure dogs on the high end of the range have a really easy time with the jumps most of the time, and I think a 22" tall dog competing against a 18.25" tall dog isn't quite right. But at least I understand this system. Luckily for me, in this system, Kiba falls into the high end of the range, and so she can enjoy jumping 16" which is very easy for her, and puts her at an advantage against 14.5" dogs.

In USDAA they have chosen to create a system where every dog jumps higher than it's own height at the withers. This is a problem. Especially because their heights are 12/16/22/26" - and once again there's a large gap, not as large as the FCI gap, but 12 and 16 are 4" apart, and 22 and 26 are 4" apart. So why are 16 and 22" half again as farther apart at 6"? In USDAA, all dogs between 16" and 21" tall are assigned the 22" jump height. I don't think this is at all fair. When you're assigning jump heights, you need to look at the typical body types of dogs within a height range. And dogs at the 16-17" tall range generally do not find 22" to be a very easy jump height. Many of these dogs choose to run in Performance because they feel that jumping their small dogs over 22" jumps is too hard for them.

Another problem in USDAA is that many people feel that the small dog divisions are driving small dog competitors to compete in AKC where the heights are friendlier. Again, in these heights, the body types of the dogs involved do not make higher jumps easy for them. There are a lot corgi's, valhunds, and terriers. Jumping 3" over their shoulder is quite difficult for some of these.

I have a solution! Here is my proposed "ideal jump heights" for USDAA. Not that I pull any weight with them, but perhaps my solution will go viral and create an uproar and perhaps SOME kind of change will happen.
I would use these divisions: 10"/14"/18"/22"/26"
This division has a lot of advantages. You create a smaller Championship height for dogs who have trouble with 12", but without going so low to 8" that the jumps seem like tiny speed bumps. You create 14 and 18", drawing the crowd of competitive FCI and EO hopefuls who would really enjoy having an american organization with those heights available. You keep the 22/26 which I do think are good, competitive jump heights. but you can slice off that section of dogs under 18" or so and stop forcing them to jump 4-6" over their shoulder for the 22" height.

My cutoff's for such divisions would be as followed, and are based primarily on my anecdotal but extensive observations of body type and height of dogs I've seen over the years:
10" jump height - dogs up to 11" tall.
14" jump height - dogs up to 14.5"
18" jump height - dogs up to 18.5"
22" jump height - dogs up to 21.5"
26" jump height - dogs over 21.5"
While some of the heights include a very small slice of dogs who would be slightly taller than the jumps, no division includes dogs that are a LOT taller than the jumps, I think every division forces dogs to actually jump, not just step over speed bumps. It will raise the heights for some dogs, and lower them for others. The dogs who will have a raised height will be brought in line with international standards at FCI, and while I know USDAA likes to pretend they don't exist, just like AKC, the reality is that they DO, and that is the standard that most people look to when they look for the ultimate international competition level.

I would also go the route of AKC and force Performance participants to jump the lower jump height. But that is a personal peeve of mine and I know many disagree with me. I, personally, feel that if your dog is no longer capable of jumping spreads or doing a higher aframe, you probably should just allow the dog to jump the lower jump height too. But I am very conservative in my views on taking care of my dogs' bodies.

As far as WAO, hell, I think those heights I listed would be great for them too but they want to differentiate themselves from FCI by trying to create small and medium heights that are not "border collie heights" as they put it.

I have applied with Kiba for the USA Team for WAO. I think it would be the ultimate irony if I was denied a spot on the team because I didn't compete in 22" for the last year. Considering that WAO created the 20" jump height specifically to try to be fair to smaller border collies and lure the FCI Medium dogs into coming to compete...it would be extremely ironic if I was left off the team for refusing to jump 22" with my small border collie and compete against larger ones. Isn't that sort of exactly the point the WAO was trying to make, after all? Anyway, if we don't make that team, I'll either see  if I can afford the EO, or just skip international competition this year, aside from taking Trig to Tryouts for FCI Team. I expect she'll do fine at Tryouts but I have no urgent feeling that she'll actually make the team. She's not even my dog, after all...


Melanie said...

I was just thinking about the height issue recently and came up with the same jump heights as you, with the addition of a 6" jump height for performance 10" dogs. The reason for the extra jump height is for classes that are combined when not enough dogs are competing, such as snooker and Stp.

K-Koira said...

While I don't do agility, I do have some strong feelings about jump heights from playing Flyball. Since I run one of our team's height dogs who is a corgi body type mixed breed dog, I feel it is especially important to protect my dog's body from the repeated stress of jumping tall jumps. We jump 8" or 9" in flyball, and my dog measures 13.9 to 14.5 at the shoulder, depending on the day. Which, in your heights, would have my dog jumping a height that I would deem very unsafe for his body type.

Then again, I view most agility jump heights as too tall for my dog to safely jump on a regular basis. I don't think I would be okay with him ever jumping over ten inches on a regular basis.

cedarfield said...

I'm all in favor of your new jump height scheme. I'd love for my 14" somewhat short legged PRT to be able to play in USDAA but although I'm happy to do Performance with him, there are few other small dogs in my area doing performance so I've been having more fun doing AKC where the 12" class is much, much larger.

Btw, what do you mean when you say you would "force Performance participants to jump the lower jump height"? Do you mean you would require people to enter just one program or the other and not allow them to do both in one year?

Rosanne said...

No I mean if a dog is entered in performance it has to jump the lowest height it quaifies for. So you couldn't enter P16", for example. I don't think this usually happens with any height other than P22.

loralei913 said...

I actually emailed the folks in charge of UKI when they were first introducing it and asking for input and suggested these jump heights. Clearly I didn't make much of an impact.
I have two "longer than they are tall" JRT's, one 10.5 and the other 11.25". I think 10" is the perfect height for both, and am perfectly willing to concede that they ought to be jumping in whatever "performance" category an organization wants to come up with. 8" seems silly sometimes, but 12" is the absolute max I would ever consider, never 14".

Tails From The Herd ... said...

I LOVE your ideas regarding jump heights Rosanne! I am one who struggles all the time with my boy and jump heights. Yep, he's a big 21.5" male (actually he's a hair below 21.5") but his build makes it VERY difficult for him to maintain 26" jumping for a long period of time (he's squarer, bigger boned w/ a straighter front). Therefore, I'm forced to make a decision ... performance? Or no USDAA? That said 20" in AKC is virtually a cake-walk for him, we drop bars in that venue from him flattening due to ease and not picking up his feet. So I'm stuck ... what to do with a VERY nice boy that I just don't want to overexert on 26" jumps for his lifetime? RESULT, we play in AKC and have a blast and train the various other handling techniques at home waiting for the day the jump heights change. OR, I just may put him in USDAA performance this year. No matter where we trial or what venue we end up playing in, I WILL watch his physical capabilities as I do hope to be playing agility together for YEARS to come! Thanks for your thoughts though ... sure hope it goes viral

corbinwooten said...

I wonder if this isn't a case of "you'll never make everyone happy". For every scenario that has been used or even proposed, someone isn't happy.

I love USDAA because both of my dogs are just below 16". They jump 16". In your proposed scenario, they would jump 18". I wouldn't feel comfortable jumping my boy at that height, though I suppose we could opt for Performance.

Rosanne said...

Well yes obviously dogs just over a cutoff will always be the most unhappy. I have a dog who is almost 2" over the current 16" cutoff and I still feel that 22" is really just over the limit of her comfort zone. I think a LOT of 18"-ish tall dogs struggle with 22". And I also think a lot of 21" tall dogs struggle with 26". I have NO problem with making heights easier...

for instance we could do my proposed 10/14/18/22/26
with cutoffs of 12/16/19/22

That still makes 22" most likely the largest class, and keeps the 18" height for "small large" dogs.

cedarfield said...

You mean people who would jump 22" in Championsip elect to jump 22" in Performance? Why would someone do that? It shouldn't be allowed since the whole point of Performance is to jump the lower jumps.

Rosanne said...

Julie/Cedarfield - there are a lot of people who do that, actually. They move their C22" dogs to P22", usually they say it is because their dog has trouble with the aframe or the spread jumps. I think that's unfair to the C26" dogs who are usually larger, heavier dogs, who now have to compete against smaller lighter dogs and have no other choice of P jump height. I suspect (and have heard from some) that some people move to P22 because it's easier to do well at large events. I am very careful with my dogs, and I feel that Performance should be for people who don't want to jump their C jump height (for ANY reason!)