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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Are AKC Courses Too Easy?

Traveling throughout the country is great for keeping up with the pulse of Agility. Lately I've been hearing grumblings that some feel AKC Agility courses aren't challenging enough.

I've actually heard it a few times and it has really surprised me because: 1) the average percentage of qualifiers on any given course I've judged hasn't increased or decreased over the years (I'd have to say the skill set required & trained for has increased over the years) and 2) the average percentage of qualifiers on my courses hasn't been any higher in the regions I've heard this vs. other regions of the country.

However, after today's Excellent Standard course, I was curious...had I made a course that was too simple?

I'm always up for a bit of analyzing and a bit of feedback from the masses (okay, this is a direct hint that I'd LOVE to hear your feedback!) and with this in mind I broke down today's Excellent Standard course a bit differently.

The first picture of the course is the dog's path without any of the obstacles. When I saw this, I thought it looked like smooth, easy loops for the dog's path. Based on this, would you think the course was too easy for an AKC Excellent Standard course? I might be tempted to think so...

In the next picture, I added the obstacles to the dog's path for an enhanced view. Using this picture, the minimum 3 side switches required by AKC for Excellent are easily spotted. The first is somewhere between #3-5, the second between #11-13 and the third is between #16-18 (the exact place of the side-switch depends on the handler's choice of a front or rear-cross).

Additionally, 5 of the required minimum 9 off-course options (for AKC Excellent) can also be found in this view. These options are: 1) from #3 to the weave poles or teeter (#1 to the #4 jump does not count in Excellent since it is assumed handlers at this level have a stay at the start line), 2) #4 to the chute 3) #11 to #14 jump 4) #16 to the #9 table and 5) #17 to the #3 jump.

So, based on this second view, does your opinion of the difficulty level for this course change? Do you think it's easier, harder or about the same?

OK, the last view shows the entire course, which includes the remaining 4 off-course options which are the jumps after the chute and first tunnel as well as the off-course tunnel around the double jump.

Now that you've seen the entire course, does it change your opinion of the overall complexity? Do you think that this course is too easy, too hard or just right?

I look forward to everyone's comments.

As for my personal thoughts, well, I'm going to keep an open mind and watch the qualifying statistics before making any drastic changes to my designs. Heck, I love a good challenging course and a chance to show off and judge unique handling sequences, but I also love subtle challenges and a fast, smooth path for dogs.

In theory, as a judge I should be designing courses with the majority of handlers in mind and not gear challenges specifically toward the easy or the more challenging side. Realistically, I'm going to design courses geared toward my own personal enjoyment since I'm the one who has to stand there and watch what's happening (both good and bad!) up to 330 times! LOL

Any way, so do you think AKC Excellent courses are too easy, too hard or just enough to keep you challenged?


  1. If AKC excellent courses are so easy why do people grumble about the damn double q's every weekend? But on the other hand there are top trainers nationwide with numerous MACHs.

  2. Too easy?? I have done a lot of CPE and USDAA, and I certainly don't think AKC courses are easier. I thought the complaint about AKC was that the courses are too technical and non-flowing.

    I definitely don't think your courses are easy! I can tell you that today's course inspired a lot of discussion and analysis during the walk through. People tried all different kinds of strategies to get through it, with varying degrees of success. When a course inspires that much analysis, I don't think you can call it easy. No one used that word during the walk through, that's for sure!

  3. Being the total amateur, it looks like a doable course with enough challenges for me. It is a jumpers course and we are looking for speed so the flow factor is important and this one flows well and doesn't seem to have the "behind you" obstacles that I hate. I don't think a judges goal should be "Let's see how many people we can eliminate."

  4. Thank you for posting these.. I have not been able to find anyone with this level of detail in terms of posting courses.

  5. Here in Colorado I find that USDAA courses seem to be the most challenging, followed closely by AKC courses. Far behind those are DOCNA and then NADAC. I run in the Excellent/Masters level in USDAA and AKC. We will typically earn a 50% Q rate at an AKC trial (20" class, getting about 20 seconds under time for STD, about 12 seconds under time for JWW). I think our USDAA Q rate is probably a little less, closer to 33%. I like how AKC courses lately have stepped up the difficulty level. My dog is not ultra-fast, so a course with more handling challenges can help us place a little higher.