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Jump Heights Revealed

Modifications to the structure of jump heights and other related updates in the regulations for 2014 are announced. See separate article for updates on Masters Challenge, the Table, Gamblers and more.


Dog agility has evolved from what was once an exhibition at agricultural fairs in the 1970s to the forefront of dog-related activities.  It is a way to spend quality time with one's pet, it is a way to show off the natural agility of dogs, it is a means of demonstrating a dog's working relationship with its human counterpart, it is a recreational pastime, and it is a competitive sport.  Not unlike other sports, different programs have been developed to meet the needs of an expanding sport with its varied purposes. 

USDAA's Intro and Veterans programs, still much in their infancy, seek to address the needs of those starting out and those winding down in a career.  USDAA's Championship and Performance Programs seek to satisfy two different needs in the competitive arena.  The Championship Program, USDAA's oldest program, was designed based on a global perspective to challenge competitors to achieve the top of their game on all fronts, and it is today's proving ground for international competition.  

A signature of the Championship Agility program is that dogs must be conditioned to jump a height that is equal to or greater than their shoulder height, among other requirements.  By contrast, in the Performance Program, a dog may jump one height lower than their shoulder height, among other differences. Between the programs, there is an opportunity for everyone to rise to the top of their game, whatever their goals. 

There is also a clear distinction in purpose between the titling and tournament classes.  While the tournament classes pit competitors in head-to-head competition to determine the best of the best, the titling program is designed to measure performance against a predefined set of standards at each level and to test development of a variety of dog training disciplines.   

With more than 25 years of experience in competition, there is still room to refine each of the programs.  And of course, practicality will always be a part of the equation. Nonetheless, our primary goal is to enhance the game and make the playing field a little more even while not taking away from what has already been proven effective. 

In the Championship Program, the gap between 16" and 22" has long been a sore spot for a great many competitors whose dogs fell just over the 16" cut-off.  And for smaller dogs, a 4" gap between 12" and 16" heights has provided ample room for competitors to feel somewhat disadvantaged in the lower end of the spectrum of the 16" class, and justifiably so, as a couple of inches is a significant variance in height for smaller dogs. The graph below shows the effect of the upcoming change in jump height standards in leveling the playing field. 

Our goal presently in addressing the topic of jump heights therefore has been made in the context of our programs, which were designed to address the different needs within the sport.  In agreement or not, our conclusions are based upon interpretation of years of experience within the sport, while retaining our core values for dog agility as a competitive sport and in seeking to offer more opportunity while leveling the playing field as the sport continues to grow.   

Beginning January 1, 2014, the Section 3.2 of USDAA regulations will be amended as follows:

Championship Program

Award Group

Height
at the Withers

Minimum
Jumping Height

SMALL

12" or less

12"

MEDIUM

14" or less

14"

16" or less

16"

LARGE

17½" or less

18"

21" or less

22"

OPEN

Over 21"

26"

Heights shall be paired into award groups as shown above for ribbons in the titling classes at the discretion of an event's organizing committee.  These pairings were derived from our analysis of performance times in both the Championship and Performance programs.  Provisions have been made to split out each of these heights as numbers increase as further explained below. Performance results for the coming year in all heights will be monitored closely to watch for any variations from our model data.  With a change such as this, there will undoubtedly be questions that arise.  We will address those as they come to light.  A number of questions have already been addressed as discussed below.

  • Regardless of placement ribbons, placement qualifications or Super Qs for Snooker shall be determined on the basis of the jumping height when the numeric conditions are met as set forth in Section 6.4 of USDAA Regulations (i.e., 5 minimum in each jump height for 12", 14" and 16", and 7 minimum in 18", 22" and 26").
  • Because of the national scope for tournaments, heights shall be paired in Award Groups as shown for placement purposes in the tournament classes (including local and regional events and at Cynosport®), noting that heights may be split by jumping height within a division in any year in which the minimum number of qualifying competitors in an award group exceeds 300 competitors in each height within the division. This quantity is consistent with current practice. 
  • Time standards for the 14" jumping height shall conform to current standards for the 16" class, and time standards for the 18" jumping height shall conform to the current standards for the 22" class.

Performance Program

Award Group

Height
at the Withers

Minimum
Jumping Height

SMALL

12" or less

8"

MEDIUM

16" or less

12"

LARGE

21" or less

16"

OPEN

Over 21"

20"

In the Performance Program, the 22" height requirement shall be dropped to 20". This rectifies the disparity within the Program that previously required dogs measuring greater than 21" (and less than or equal to 22") to jump equal to or greater than their height). 

Spread hurdles shall continue to be excluded from the Performance Program.

With dog agility serving many purposes, it is certain that there will continue to be as many opinions as there are sizes and structures of dogs.  It is important to respect each program for what it represents, select a program that is best aligned with your goals and capabilities, and most of all, to have fun.

Further analysis will be ongoing as data is collected once the new heights are in effect. Further assessments and possible changes may be made based upon that new data.

Transition

Measurements:  All dogs that are to be entered in the 14" or 18" height divisions must be re-certified as to their height measurements utilizing existing standards for certification as set forth in Appendix D of USDAA Regulations for measurement of dogs.  Any dog with a permanent height card in the 16" or 22" height classification presently may be reissued a temporary measurement card for recertification purposes.  These will be automatically mailed before the end of 2013 for any dog that has shown in the past two years and that has an actual height recorded on their registration within 1" below, or ¼" above, the new cutoff mark. Competitors may log into the Competitor Services area to see their dogs recorded height at the withers to determine if they meet these criteria.  For those who do not meet this criteria and who believes that their dog may be eligible for the new heights, please have a judge measure the dog to validate that belief before requesting a new temporary card. For those requests, please send a note with owner's name and dog's name and registration number to CompetitorServices@usdaa.com, or via post to Registrations, P.O. Box 850955, Richardson, TX 75085.

Transfer Election:  Competitors with dogs eligible for the new Championship 14" or 18" jump height who have earned titles in the Performance Program before January 1, 2014, and who wish to transfer into the Championship Program for competing in these new heights above the Starters level will be permitted to make an election to establish eligibility at the comparable level in the Championship Program for a nominal service fee.  This transfer applies only to the eligibility for entry into the comparable level in the program and does not include the transfer of Performance Program qualifications towards Championship Program titles. Instead, it permits those who have earned titles in the Performance Program to enter the higher level classes in the Championship Program without having to first earn the Championship Program Starters and/or Advanced level titles, as may otherwise be required. This election will require individual administrative updates for each dog.  A special election form will be made available on or about October 1, and must be completed and submitted with fee no later than January 2, 2014.

Tournament Qualification:  For competitors with dogs eligible for the new heights in the Championship Program, all qualifications for tournaments prior to January 1, 2014, shall be valid for competing in the same Award Group in the post-2013 height structure, providing the dog is recertified and submitted for authentication by June 30, 2014.  For example, a competitor earning a qualification at 16" in the Championship Program in November 2013, shall be eligible to jump 14" in the tournament provided they are recertified as to their height for eligibility at 14" (and similarly for any competitor whose dog qualifies at 22" and is eligible to jump 18").  On or after January 1, all qualifications apply to the jumping height at which they are earned.

For Dog Agility Steeplechase®, rules for qualification based upon placements shall continue to apply by award group as stipulated in tournament rules for 2014.  

For Team tournaments, Teams will continue to be limited to two heights per team.

Tournament rules for 2014 are planned to be announced by September 1, 2013.

Other Regulations Related to Jumps

Effective January 1, 2014:

  • The Long Jump shall be set to 24" for dogs jumping 12" in the Championship Program, with dogs in the new jump heights of 14" and 18" jumping a span of 36" and 48", respectively.

Effective January 1, 2014, with earlier adoption encouraged:

  • All poles used on jumps in classes other than Intro, Junior Handler or Starters classes shall be a minimum of 54" long and a maximum of 60" long.  Poles used in other classes (i.e., Intro, Junior Handler, Starters and Level I) shall be a minimum of 48".
  • Maximum bar weight is 2.5#.
  • The inside face of a breakaway tire shall be colored in a distinctly differnet color than that of the external tire color in orde to provide a visual aid that the tire has separated.

Effective January 1, 2015; earlier adoption is encouraged:

  • The jump uprights/stanchions, whether part of a wing or separate, must be a minimum height of 36" and a maximum of 42". 
  • Wings/pole stanchions used in other than Intro, Junior Handler or Starters classes shall not be attached to each other and must be free standing, such that they may displaced if hit firmly by a dog.  (Independent wing construction is strongly encouraged for all classes.)
  • A wing shall have smooth rounded edges on any surfaces that may be exposed to the dog.
  • The top bar, pole or plank on a hurdle must be parallel to the ground. 
  • One additional bar or pole is permitted on a jump or hurdle to indicate a ground-line and when used, shall rest on the jump cup immediately below the jump height (when possible) and shall angle to the ground on the other end.  (A ground line bar is required on spread hurdles on the back element; two may be used when a parallel spread hurdle is used.)
  • Two bars on jumps in Advanced and Starters are no longer required.  

As a note to groups and others needing to make equipment modifications, please keep in mind that spread hurdles can be easily built from single hurdles.

All of these standards will be closely scrutinized throughout the coming year for further assessment.

See separate article on other regulation changes to be forthcoming.

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