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USDAA's Miscellaneous Classes for Training in the Ring

Coach Rachel Sanders discusses the benefits of the new rule amendment to allow the scheduling of training Miscellaneous Classes during regular competition events.

by Rachel Sanders

As an agility coach and competitor, I see the struggle some teams have as they transition from training to competition. I was really pleased that USDAA made a rule amendment to allow the scheduling of training Miscellaneous Classes during a regular competition event.

I've been an advocate for training in the ring for many years and believe we do a huge disservice to our dogs when we are not able to support them in a competition environment. Training in the ring is not just about correcting our dogs for a missed contact, but more of a way to motivate and build confidence in our young dogs. Using toys to motivate a dog, repeating a sequence or obstacle and rewarding a correct or faster performance is hugely beneficial and in line with current training practices.

Along with my friend Eileen Harnedy, I recently formed RACE, a USDAA affiliated group. At our second show in May, we scheduled two miscellaneous classes for the purpose of training. Rather than scheduling these classes at the end of each day, I wanted to schedule them into the body of the show where they could best achieve some real benefit for the dogs. The training class on the first day, was scheduled between the Masters/PIII Gamblers and PGP/GP classes. I used the Masters Gamblers course and replaced one jump with the table. On the second day, the Miscellaneous Class was scheduled after Biathlon Standard and again a jump was replaced by the table. The course was not numbered and each competitor was given 60 seconds.

One of the success stories of these classes was a dog in the 14-inch jump height who was having a hard time with the down on the table, (currently required in Standard) and the teeter. The dog recently had a bad experience on a teeter at a trial where the teeter had not been assembled properly. This dog and handler are students of mine, and had a great, confident teeter performance prior to this incident. They were unable to confidently perform the obstacle even in training after this incident. We worked through some of the issue in training, but he would still not complete the teeter or table in competition.

During these miscellaneous training classes, each time he completed the teeter he was immediately rewarded. The second time over the obstacle, the dog was faster than the first, rewarded again, and the third time a jump was included prior to the teeter, and again he was rewarded.

The same process was applied with the table. When the dog went into a down, he was rewarded. The table and down were repeated with another reward, and then an obstacle was added prior to the table and again he was rewarded after staying in the down for a couple of seconds.

Note: the dog was rewarded inside the ring with a toy and occasionally ran with the handler out of the ring where the dog was rewarded with a food treat. After which they returned to the ring to repeat the obstacle. All of this occurred within the 60 seconds permitted.

During the weekend, this handler and dog team qualified with a first place in both Starters Standard classes, as well as Starters Snooker and Jumpers.

At our next show in November, we will be offering Miscellaneous Classes again, with some minor adjustments. To accommodate dogs who work better for food rewards, one of our three Miscellaneous Classes will be held on the last day, at the end of the show.

This is the Miscellaneous Class description for our 2016 Thanksgiving USDAA Event.

  • RACE will be offering miscellaneous classes for the purpose of training. The course will be unnumbered and will include all equipment.

  • Audible toys and training aids will be permitted UNLESS due to high entries we must run the miscellaneous class concurrently with another class.

  • Food treats will only be allowed in the Miscellaneous Class on Sunday.

  • Maximum time permitted on the course is 60 seconds. The time will start after the dog crosses the start line OR if training a start line stay, when the handler starts to return to the dog or rewards the dog.

  • Any harsh or abusive handling is strictly prohibited and will result in immediate dismissal from the ring and shall be subject to disciplinary actions pursuant to Appendix C of the USDAA Official Rules & Regulations.

  • This class is open to all levels. The cost of the class is $10.

  • If due to entries the class must run concurrently with the other ring it will be supervised by Rachel Sanders or Kate Moureaux.

At our first RACE show, we had 25 Starters/P1 competitors, many new to agility competition. I firmly believe that scheduling these training classes at local USDAA events will benefit these dogs training and their competition experiences. In addition, they contribute to the growth of USDAA events and agility in general, something that benefits us all.

Rachel Sanders

Photos by Jerome RossĀ -

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