Friday, January 15, 2010

AKC Wises Up

SUMMARY: Almost as if someone read my earlier post.

"While each club’s participation in the AKC Canine Partners program will remain voluntary, clubs may now choose to allow mixed breed participation at any AKC Agility, Obedience or Rally event. Mixed breeds will compete in the same classes and earn the same titles as their purebred counterparts."

Here's the complete letter in PDF.

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The Importance of the World Around Us

SUMMARY: Haiti, civil rights, dog agility equality, me and the Merle Girls.

There has been some discussion among dog bloggers about whether a blog that says it's about dogs (or dog agility, or any other specific topic) is too self-centered if it ignores when the World Out There is undergoing events of great import.

Agility for all?

For example, my agility club has a policy of promoting only agility that allows all healthy adult dogs to compete. So--AKC premiums? Forget it, they're not going out on our email list. Recently, Teacup Agility has come into existence, and we've occasionally seen info on those events come around. But we've called that into question--it allows only dogs under a certain height to compete. So is that exclusionary in the same sense as AKC? Even more recently (effective this year), AKC has allowed its clubs to choose to allow non-AKC dogs to compete in their events. However, they do not compete equally against AKC dogs; they have their own events and their own titles and so on, and aren't eligible for the national competitions. So, is that still exclusionary? (Supreme Court has said "separate but equal" is not in fact equal. Does that apply to dog sports, too?)

This is a highly charged issue, and we're trying to be consistent and nonemotional about it. But does writing about that really make sense when one of the greatest civil rights battles of my adulthood has now started its hearing in the federal courts? Should I be silent when an earthquake has wreaked unimaginable destruction and death on a nearby country (or any country, for that matter).

It's not at all that I don't care about what's going on. I do, in fact, care deeply. But this blog is, after all, "surviving and thriving in dog agility."

But, OK, today. Two unrelated topics. You can skip either, but I ask that you give them a read.


As you all know by know, a 7.0 earthquake devastated the most densely populated parts of Haiti. I've watched and heard the reports come in. My heart has lurched at the sight of the national palace collapsed. (Can you imagine the white house destroyed? Or the capitol building--of your state, let alone your country?) The statistics, guessing up to 100,0000 could be dead. The population of Port au Prince is only a million--that's one out of every 10 people, dead. Ten out of your hundred facebook friends, dead.

They're a poor country and so, we like to think, their infrastructure isn't built as well to withstand earthquakes as is ours in California. And yet, well, who knows.

And not just the average Joe who's been taken down. The president is homeless--national palace destroyed. The archbishop is dead--national cathedral destroyed. The head of the UN in Haiti is missing--whole UN building destroyed. Can you imagine that in your city? Your country? It's almost unimaginable.

I have donated money for the relief effort through the Clinton Foundation. If you want to donate there, or anywhere, I suggest that you check whether the group is on the Institute of Philanthropy's list of top-rated charities. (You can see their worst-rated charities only by becoming a member to get their printed list. So if your charity isn't on the list here, doesn't mean it's not good. Just means do your research on it more carefully.)

And now, on the home front:

Civil rights

I have friends who have lived together for 20 years and love each other deeply. They are wonderful human beings. One is a retired VP of a high-tech company, the other is a skilled accountant. One loves dogs; the other loves photography. Normal people; they've bought a house together, vacation together, plan their retirement together. But, by law, they are not allowed to marry, simply because they are the same sex.

There is no logical reason why they shouldn't be allowed to; it is discrimination, pure and simple. The California Supreme Court said so. The people of California in a fit of reactionary pique approved (but very narrowly) Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that explicitly bans marriage between people of the same sex.

I have other friends who have been together going on 10 years. They love each other very much. One is an avid mountaineer who is often conflicted between love of the challenge and the desire to spend weekends at home, since they both work during the week. Normal people; they've bought a house together, live together, deal with bills and stopped-up sinks and cars that need to go to the repair shop and all that stuff, together. They are married, but only because they rushed in during the narrow window between the Supreme Court decision and the passage of Proposition 8 and hurriedly put together a simple wedding. And the Supreme Court, while it did not throw out Prop 8, also did not invalidate those marriages, which speaks volumes. So they're in an odd position where they are married but none of their friends can hope to share the joy and legal protection of marriage to their loved, long-term partners.

This week, Proposition 8 began its hearing in Federal court. I know that, no matter what happens, it will be appealed by the losing side. It is sad that it is so, as sad as when people fought *for* laws *against* the right of black Americans to vote, to attend the same schools, drink out of the same water fountains, and, yes, marry (gasp) white people. The U.S. Supreme Court stated clearly that even "separate but equal" was not equal.

I've joined a couple of casual groups of "Heterosexuals for Gay Rights." (Don't know enough about them yet to recommend them.) I'm on the mailing list of Equality California to keep abreast of what's going on. I posted NO ON PROP 8 signs on my lawn, the first time in my life I've ever posted election-related material. I donated to their campaign.

If the opportunity ever comes to you to vote for equal rights for all Americans, I encourage you to do so. It's likely to be one of the few major civil rights issues during our lifetimes that we'll be able to proudly say that we fought for.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Why Are There So Many Agility Organizations?

SUMMARY: In some parts of the U.S., you have almost a dozen sanctioning organizations, or "flavors," to choose from. So--why?

In my previous post, I listed the various organizations that provide rules under which people can compete and earn titles in dog agility. So, why so many flavors?

Let me ask you this: Why so many types of vanilla ice cream? There's regular vanilla. There's premium vanilla. There's low-fat vanilla. Sugar-free vanilla. Vanilla bean. French vanilla. Vanilla with chocolate chips. Vanilla with cookie dough. OK, which of those would you regularly stock in your freezer? Which would you never touch with a ten-foot set of weave poles? Sure, they're all vanilla, but the differences are important.

The agility organizations are just like that. Sure, they're all dog agility, but the differences are important.

Here are just a few examples (note that I'm not fluent in many of the organizations so most examples are with those I'm more fluent in):
  • How often do the rules and/or the equipment specs change? Examples: 
    • USDAA has a reputation for moving slowly and ponderously, much to many people's frustration (just ask about allowing 24"-spaced weave poles, to name one). ]
    • NADAC has a reputation for changing things frequently, seemingly at the drop of a hat. 
    • Either of those extremes can drive people nuts, especially club organizers and equipment purchasers.
  • What equipment is allowed?  Examples:
    • NADAC has disallowed the teeter-totter and spread jumps as dangerous.
    • UKC allows (even requires) the swing plank, sway bridge, and crawl tunnel, which none of the other organizations do. 
    • USDAA allows double and triple spread jumps. 
    • Some people don't want their dogs doing certain equipment--or DO want their dogs doing certain equipment.
  • What are the specifications for individual obstacles? For example, 
    • NADAC prohibits slats on the aframe and dogwalk as safety hazards (dogs stub toes, break nails, etc).
    • USDAA requires them as safety elements (prevents slipping, gives dogs better grip going up, etc.)  
    • CPE allows either one but the club is supposed to state it in its premiums. Some people feel that slatless dogwalks confuse their dogs versus the teeter. Some people feel it makes no difference.  
    • As another example, the length of the yellow zones on the contact obstacles vary. If you have a long-strided dog with a running contact, you might prefer CPE's longer contact zones over USDAA's.  USDAA's Aframe was considerably higher (therefore steeper) and NADAC's considerably lower (therefore more running than climbing) than "average" for a long time.
  • How obsessive are the rules? For example, 
    • AKC has become extremely strict (some say unreasonable) in stating exactly when you must remove the leash from your dog at the start line, what you can and can't do at the start line, and what penalties you face if you don't leash your dog immediately at the finish line. 
    • USDAA is much more relaxed, although all organizations want the dogs under reasonable control.
  • How many faults are allowed and what kind? For example,
    • in USDAA Jumpers and Standard, your run must be clean to earn a Q, even at the Starters level. 
    • In CPE Jumpers and Standard, you can earn Qs with a variety of faults, which decrease as you go up in levels. 
    • USDAA and AKC count runouts and refusals; CPE and NADAC don't. 
    • USDAA judges the up contacts as well as the down contacts; I think that most or all other organizations don't.
  • How high does your dog have to jump?  
    • All organizations base the jump height on the dog's shoulder height and then some throw in extra qualifiers (length of dog's back versus legs, age of dog, etc.). But where they divide the jump heights and how high those heights are varies considerably. 
    • For example, my dog Tika must jump 26" in USDAA unless I move her to Performance, where she can jump 22".  Boost must jump 22", unless I move her to Performance, where she can jump 16". 
    • In CPE, Tika's *regular* jump height is 20" and Boost's is 16"; CPE gives two additional tracks of competition, one 4" lower than regular, the other 8" lower than regular. So I could in theory jump Tika at 12" and Boost at 8". 
    • Some people do not want their dogs jumping the higher required jumps or their dogs simply can't jump the higher jumps, usually for structural reasons (some dogs aren't built for jumping).
  • What's the atmosphere like at trials? 
    • CPE participants generally find that it's a relaxed atmosphere.  CPE has so many levels and height groupings and low qualifying requirements that lots and lots of people earn Qs and placement ribbons. In addition, CPE trials tend to be smaller--CPE allows clubs to limit entries.  
    • USDAA events tend to be intense. USDAA has many fewer levels and fewer height groupings, so placements are harder to come by. USDAA trials can be huge; USDAA does not allow clubs to limit entries. Around here, 3- and 4-ring trials are not uncommon.
  • What are the courses like? 
    • NADAC and ASCA courses tend to be open and flowing. 
    • CPE courses tend to be small and generally fairly simple. USDAA courses are usually large (using most or all of the 100x100-foot field) and can be technically challenging. 
    • AKC has a bit of a reputation for tight, choppy courses. 
    • Teacup courses are designed exclusively for small dogs, who may have a variety of challenges on courses on which much larger dogs also run.
  • How fast does your dog have to be? 
    • CPE's course times are extremely generous. 
    • USDAA has some classes that require that your dog be in the top 15% in his class to earn a Q. 
    • NADAC times are extremely tight; your dog had better be fleet of foot, particularly in the upper levels.
  • What variety of classes are offered? 
    • AKC for the longest time offered only Standard and Jumpers; recently added the FAST (sort of gambly like). 
    • USDAA offers Standard, Jumpers, Gamblers, Snooker, Pairs Relay, and the tournaments Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and DAM Team (although the tournament classes are really just slight variants on the regular 5 classes). 
    • CPE offers 7 different classes, some of which are similar to USDAA classes and some of which are entirely their own. 
    • NADAC offers 6 or 7 classes (I've lost track), which  are mostly different from those offered anywhere else. 
    • Some people (like me) love the variety. Some people (particularly those who start in AKC) find the variety intimidating and prefer the clarity of simply  numbered courses.
  • Are mixed breeds allowed to compete? 
    • Can you say "AKC" (not)? Other organizations don't care what your dog looks like, as long as she's healthy and sound and old enough.
  • Do you want to compete at the top of the sport, possibly including internationally?  
    • AKC's program is affiliated with the FCI for their world championships. 
    • USDAA's program is affiliated with the IFCS, lesser-known and not [yet] as prestigious.
    • CPE has no international affiliation. It's not a particularly competitive venue. Only a few of those who are at the level where they could be finalists at AKC or USDAA national events will compete in CPE trials. 
    • Some people feel that competing against the best that the sport has to offer helps them to improve their own performance. Others prefer not to have to compete against those who have made agility competition their primary focus.
I could list many other chocolate chip or low-fat variations, but this should give you an idea. Now time for some nice peppermint-stick ice cream.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

nYAAO! Yet ANother Agility Organization

SUMMARY: In case the umpteen variants currently available aren't enough for you, here's another one coming your way.

Noted agility seminarists Greg Derrett and his significant other, the formerly Bay Area local person Laura Manchester [Derrett], are bringing their new agility organization to the U.S. You can read about it on the UKI (UK Agility International) web site.

That's  in case you aren't already flush with conflicting rules and equipment in these other umpteen agility organizations, almost all of which are available here in profusion although perhaps not in your neighborhood (in alphabetic order):

  • AKC (American Kennel Club's program)
  • ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club's program--rules are what NADAC used to be)
  • CPE (Canine Performance Events)
  • DOCNA (Dogs On Course North America)
  • NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council)
  • TDAA (Teacup Dog Agility Association)
  • UKC (United Kennel Club's program)
  • USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association)
And that's not to mention the Canadian org's if one happens to live in that vicinity. And if you compete internationally, there's the FCI and the IFCS agility venues as well. Eeeegads.

I'm not saying that any existing agility organization is perfect or couldn't use improvement. UKI might be the be-all and end-all of agility that solves every issue that anyone has ever had with agility and people would be willing to drop their lifetime title pursuits in other organizations to start over there. But wait, how about this: Hey, the Bay Team is a big organization with a lot of ideas and experience; maybe we should start our own flavor of agility, because WE know how to DO IT RIGHT!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

We Don't Get No Respect

SUMMARY: AKC and the public perception of agility.

My sister brought me a souvenir from her recent trip: An in-flight magazine (USA Today Open Air Magazine) containing the article "See Spot run...and jump" by Steve Dale. A full page article about dog agility! Cool! Some people get souvenir t-shirts from their relatives. I get copies of free magazines. But she knows what I like!

Even cooler: It mentioned 6 people from around the country, and I know 4 of them! (Laurie Leach, local, author of The Beginner's Guide to Dog Agility and USDAA nationals winner with her sheltie a couple of years back; Marj and Bruce Vincent, used to own Starfleet Agility--now WAG--in Elk Grove; and Sara McKinley and the local Haute Dawgs Agility Group.)

Gives contact info for AKC, USDAA, NADAC, and DOCNA (wth? no CPE? Which has been around twice as long as DOCNA?... weirder, DOCNA's not even mentioned in the wikipedia article. Guess I'd better fix that.)

But, OK. Here's the thing. The article starts with a brief intro sentence and then, WHAM UPSIDE YOUR HEAD, "Dog agility is a bona fide dog sport, sanctioned by the American Kennel Club." [italics mine] Argh! Like, it's not a bona fide dog sport if it's NOT sanctioned by the AKC? There wasn't even any AKC worth mentioning when I started; USDAA was already big and televised regularly before AKC agility got any traction. USDAA pretty much started agility in north america (short of a year or so of effort by Bud Kramer), and USDAA is huge. USDAA isn't even mentioned in the article until 3/4 of the way through. All the statistics about how many dogs are competing are AKC statistics.


When AKC associates their name with something, then they own it. In the public's view, at any rate.

Fah, I say.

Of course, USDAA added to the confusion by cleverly creating a logo by taking the AKC logo, changing "AKC" to "USDAA" and adding a little yellow tint here and there.

And, P.S., the author missed an excellent opportunity to say the sport is a bona fido sport. Or bone fide sport. What's the world of professional writers coming to?

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

AKC Confirms that Mixed-Breed Dogs Aren't Real Dogs

SUMMARY: New program for mixed-breed dogs in AKC performance events segregates them from the "real" competitors.

Details are in three posts on this site; read all 3.

And here's a PDF link to the original AKC document that this is a copy of.


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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's About Time! Saving Purebred Dogs

SUMMARY: British Kennel Club makes it unacceptable to breed dogs whose features make them unhealthy.

The RSPCA (British version of ASPCA) pulled out of Crufts (the major purebred dog show) last year over concerns about the bad effects that breeding for exaggerated appearances have done to dogs. The Kennel Club (British equivalent of AKC, but older, possibly first in the world) has since revised its standards somewhat, among other things now disallowing incestuous breedings to be registered. Mixed reviews, not surprisingly. Read the article.

North America (and AKC) is already far behind Europe, where most laws now prohibit docking of tails and cropping of ears. We'll undoubtedly be way behind in this, too.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

AKC Nationals Ongoing

SUMMARY: Partial results

I don't follow the AKC circuit except to know how friends are doing.

Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction's post today reminded me that they're going on right now and she posted course maps, too; thanks! First day's results (International Sweepstakes Class (ISC)) are posted on the AKC site.

Our instructor for several years and her super BC, Rachel Sanders and Fable, are competing in ISC; Fable when running clean usually whups Tika's butt by a mile and a half. In 26", they placed 5th of about 60 dogs:

Class Hgt: 26
26667 0 25.228 Voucher Blake 1 QUALIFIED
26638 0 25.847 Scream Braue 2 QUALIFIED
26668 0 26.015 Focus Hernandez 3 QUALIFIED
26662 0 27.087 Jive Jones 4 QUALIFIED
26685 0 27.123 Fable Sanders QUALIFIED

but wow, almost 2 seconds slower than #1? I'm curious what the difference in time came from. That's an amazing speed difference at this level of competition. But, still, 5th in this group is danged good.

Fellow Bay Teamer Jammer Strenfel came back from a torn ACL (I think it was) last year to place 6th in the really huge 20" group (200 dogs?). Fellow Bay Teamer Epic Dunn also qualified with a clean run. Fellow Bay Teamer Thyme Freilich also competed with an excellent time but one disqualifying fault, and kennel-mate Cirque also competed.

In the 18", agility blogger Team Fernandez-Lopez earned a qualifying score. Classmate Luka apparently had a bad day, racking up a few faults, bummer! Oh, well, if you're going to have a fault, you might as well have all of them.

In 16", Bay Teamer Heath had the fastest time but that one annoying DQ fault.

Lots of names I recognize but don't really know; skimming quickly through all those dogs it's easy to miss some whom I might know. Congrats to everyone who did well; here's hoping for great luck to all my friends, teammates, classmates, and fellow bloggers for the rest of the event.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Friend at Westminster

SUMMARY: Elliott makes the trip.

Elliott the Frenchie, with whom Boost played wildly as a puppy (and the two of them still play enthusiastically when given a chance), went to Westminster this year! They didn't win any awards according to their results page--although Patty Hearst's (!) Frenchie came in 2nd--but they show up pretty early in this official video; she's the third one in line at the beginning, in the pale peach suit. (There are videos for all the breed competitions, in case you know anyone there. Or in case you want to be amazed at the fat Border Collies, all of whom look like they could afford to lose 10 pounds. Can those guys actually WORK?? OK, OK, don't go there--)

Wed, Feb 13, 10:45 a.m: Wait, OK, sure, let's go there. Here are comments so far:

Blogger wishy the writer said...

How can we be sure those are border collies in the video? I didn't even see the sheep in the ring. Were the sheep hiding behind the gal in the suit and high heels? I'm confused.

9:04 AM

Blogger Elf said...

The AKC breed standard starts out saying "the Border Collie's intensity, energy and trainability ... are features so important that they are equal to physical size and appearance." To which I ask: "So why are those items then summarily ignored in the rest of the breed standard?" and "What makes anyone think that *appearance* should be anywhere near *equal* in importance?"

Boost is AKC registered. Because she was eligible and because AKC has dog agility. That's my excuse, even if I'm never likely to compete in AKC agility.


9:17 AM

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Another AKC Survey About Mixed Breeds

SUMMARY: AKC is still gathering opinions...

...about allowing mixes in performance events in this new survey.

Please pass the info along; post in your blog, etc.

It's just time for AKC to let all dogs perform in performance events--this isn't the breed ring.


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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

AKC Mixed-Breed Survey Results

SUMMARY: Results from the survey done by AKC a few months back have been released.

I couldn't find them on the AKC site, but their press release is quoted in full on this blog.


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Sunday, April 08, 2007

AKC Statement on FCI and Docking

SUMMARY: US News and World Report (or something--)

Another blogger (Team Fernandezlopez) has posted a statement from AKC: Read it here.

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More on FCI and Docked Tails

SUMMARY: Still trying to find specifics about the ruling. Meanwhile, here's a tidbit of background info.


Why do Rottweilers now have natural tails?
In 1999 the country of Germany passed a law that made it illegal to dock a dog's tail or crop a dog's ears. The basis for this law was the fact that the practice of docking and cropping was deemed to be inhumane treatment of animals.

In order to comply with the new law, the ADRK revised the Breed Standard for the Rottweiler and this new breed standard required a natural tail. The FCI translated and adopted the new breed standard and gave all FCI member countries several years to comply with the new breed standard.

A docked Rottweiler does not conform to the current FCI breed standard. As each FCI member country finalizes their adoption of the new breed standard Rottweiler breeders in those countries will no longer be allowed to dock and docked Rottweilers will be disqualified at shows and prohibited from breeding.

The AKC (American Kennel Club) is not a member of the FCI. AKC does not follow any of the rules and regulations set by the FCI for the rest of the world and they do not always follow the breed standards set by the countries of origin. The AKC Breed Standard for the Rottweiler has always deviated from the FCI standard and they are currently struggling to deal with the breed standard regarding the tail.

There are a number of Rottweiler breeders in the United States that follow the FCI Code of Ethics for breeding and strictly follow the FCI/ADRK Breed Standard for the Rottweiler and those breeders will all leave natural tails on their dogs.

(Read the rest of the article, including more position statements on tail docking in general and in Rotties in particular.)

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

AKC's Stranglehold on the World of Dogs

SUMMARY: AKC is just one player in the world of dogs. Yet they have an amazing stranglehold on the minds of Americans.

A friend commented today that if AKC decides to allow mixed breed dogs to compete in agility, it could be the death knell of USDAA. She fears that there are already a lot of newbies who start only in AKC because that's what they know about and that there aren't enough newcomers in USDAA to sustain it if even nonregisterable-in-AKC dogs are allowed to compete in AKC.

An AKC competitor said that she felt--and that others agreed with her--that AKC is considering doing it only for the money. Well, duh. That's the only reason in MY opinion that they got into agility in the first place. There was a perfectly fine agility organization (USDAA) already established in the US long before AKC got into the act. We had many discussions at the time about whether AKC entering the agility world would kill it for other organizations, such as USDAA, NADAC, and UKC agility (which was its own flavor anyway).

Back then, though, it seemed to feed rather than hinder the growth of the other organizations. AKCers who had previously entirely ignored agility discovered suddenly that the sport was fun, having tried it in AKC, and when they discovered that there was MORE agility, they started signing up for USDAA and NADAC events as well.

Those of us whose dogs were ineligible for AKC didn't much care anyway; AKC agility was obviously an afterthought and a second-rate venue, with judges who didn't know how to design courses, only a single offering per day (Standard; Jumpers With Weaves came later), and $20 per run when you could enter other trials for $8 a run.

But I wonder what effect it would have now, as AKC agility has matured quite a bit, at least at the Masters (um--Excellent?) level. Could it really unseat USDAA? USDAA is huge--at least, in California. The National Championships--oh, sorry, the Cynosports World Championships--even with more stringent requirements every couple of years, draws more and more top-quality participants from not only the States but also other countries.

The hold that the AKC has on American minds, however, is scary. Coincidentally, last night in a bookstore I picked up a book about Border Collies. Not an AKC press book, just one in a series by some (random) publisher. I flipped to the chapter on activities you can do with your dog. It described in detail AKC agility and AKC titles you could earn. (And AKC herding, and AKC obedience, and so on.) Not even the slightest hint that there is any other flavor of agility in existence. How could someone researching and writing such a book be so oblivious to one of the largest moving forces in agility, the USDAA, let alone other venues that have large followings in their own demographics?

I put the book back in disgust.

And yet I remember, as a kid, avidly reading books about dog breeds and believing, really believing, that all of the breed lists that I memorized WERE all the breeds that existed in the world. Looking back at those books, even if they mention AKC, they mention it in passing, but the breeds they list are all AKC.

And in my two years of very involved work on moving the Wikipedia Dog Breeds Project forward--and even today--every time a new person gets involved in helping to define what breeds should be listed in "list of dog breeds" (vs., say, "list of cross-bred dogs"), inevitably they make a comment to the effect of, "If it's not recognized by AKC, it's not a real breed." And this in an online encyclopedia with a very active international community, with links to non-U.S. breed specs in every article! How AKC-centric American dog lovers are, and the sad thing is that most of them don't even know that they've been brainwashed by a commercial organization into thinking that their product is the only one.

At times, I despair. AKC is more than the Microsoft of the dog world. It's closer to the Chairman Mao, methinks.


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Friday, February 23, 2007

More about the AKC

SUMMARY: Various comments, observations, and posts.

Another blogger's thoughts about the survey

"I feel so dirty".

Questions in and about the survey

Some of my observations on a few (not all) survey questions:
  • What is your relationship to the AKC? (Select all that apply.) One advantage to having registered Boost with AKC is that now I have the feeling that they'll consider my opinion to be worth something, because I am in fact now a purebred dog owner. I already know from my experience with Amber (OK, nearly 30 years ago, but still smarts) that they think that non-AKC dogs and non-purebred owners aren't worth much.

  • Should mixed breeds be restricted from qualifying for the AKC Companion Events' national championships and/or invitationals? (Yes/ No /I don't know) This is my main reason for voting for this, to allow mixed breeds to compete here. AKC gets to pick who's on the world cup team, and they do it primarily based on results of these events, and non-AKC dogs aren't eligible. Now, there's nothing in the survey about world cup specifically, and it might not be up to the AKC, it might be up to the FCI, and even if it is up to the AKC, they'll probably make it impossible for a non-AKC dog to be on the world cup team. But at least we'll have our chance to prove that we could be.

  • Please rate your agreement with the following statements (strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree).

  • Kennel clubs should serve owners of all dogs - purebreds and/or mixed breeds. Well, duh, a dog's a dog. Strongly agree. I realize that that's not AKC's charter--it is to promote purebred dogs. But you don't know how long it took me to figure out, back in my early days of agility, that when I got a premium for an "all-breed" competition, they didn't really mean anything like "all", by a long shot.

  • Expanding mixed breed dogs' participation in AKC events will lessen AKC's commitment to the purebred dog. Doubtful. You can read their stance in their presentation about why they're proposing adding mixed-breeds: To prove once and for all that they're inferior to purebreds.

  • AKC would abandon years of tradition by allowing mixed breed competition. How do you respond to that? Fact: yes. Inference: Who knows? If you agree with this fact, will they consider that to be a negative thing? Do they realize that they have a true/false question that's not soliciting an opinion?

  • Exposing mixed breed dog owners to AKC Companion Events and educating them about AKC breeds may encourage them to make their next dog a purebred. Well, duh, exposing anyone to anything may make them act differently in the future.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to people without breeding and/or exhibiting experience joining clubs and influencing policy making. The first of two trick questions. Well, another duh, of course it will. Is this a bad thing? I think not. But AKC probably thinks it is.

  • The inclusion of mixed breed dog owners will lead to animal rights activists joining clubs and influencing policy making. Second trick question. This sounds like a good thing, right? Isn't everyone for animal rights? But nooo--I know from previous AKC statments that, to them, "animal rights activists" means "PETA extremists". But the question doesn't SAY "PETA extremists," so I can't respond to that inference. I can only hope that yes, indeed, animal rights activists who feel that it's a travesty that puppy mills can churn out AKC puppies in deplorable conditions and promote them as desireable offspring will in fact influence policy making. In any event, I'm pretty sure that if they get a lot of "agrees" on this one, they'll think that's bad.

Comments from fellow Bay Teamers about the survey materials

  • (Referring to her mixed-breed agility dog:) I would have put [my dog] up against any purebred. She may not have got 200s in obedience, but the 197/8s sure beat enough other people. Many people do get a purebred, after having a mix breed so they could compete in events.

  • (Long-time rescue foster home, agility with a variety of dogs:) I suggested the playing field be level, and may the best dog(s) win! Now, WHO would be afraid of that?

  • (Mandy, long-time boxer & golden owner, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA, AKC:) This is also a group that planned to allow puppies to be sold in pet stores last year until there was a huge uproar from their base. Not sure why I would support a group whose purpose in inviting me to participate is to 1) demonstrate that my dogs are inferior to purebreds and 2) generate more income for them while not allowing full participation. Thankfully, I don't need the AKC to give me its blessing to compete with my dog.

  • (Katie, owner of Labs, all rescue dogs:) Rome wasn't built in a day, and I welcome the opportunity to tell the AKC that I would like to see all dogs participate equally. The AKC is in a position to do a lot of good on behalf of all dogs, or a lot of evil on behalf of unscrupulous breeders. The more their constituency can help to drag them kicking and screaming in the right direction, the better.

  • (Jennifer, owner of a variety of dogs including border collies, competes in NADAC, CPE, USDAA-- In response to AKC packet statement: "Purebreds consistently score better than mixed breeds in head-to-head competition. The U.S. Dog Agility Association has given 63 lifetime achievement awards for outstanding performance, and only three of those have gone to mixed breed dogs.") One thing I noticed is that their information packet is very disingenuous, not to mention wrong in places - USDAA has 150 lifetime achievement award winners listed on their website, with the number of mixed breeds in the double digits not 3 or 4 or whatever number AKC gives. Also the vast majority of the winners are Border Collies (surprise!) and most breeds have no winners at all - so that doesn't really translate to purebreds always beating mixed breeds when they compete together . . I added in the Comments section that I read the numbers to indicate that mixed breeds beat most purebreds when they compete (just to be wicked - I really don't care who beats whom). I won't switch from my present organizations no matter what AKC does.

The cheating mini-Aussie

(email from a purebred-owning friend who has competed very successfully in AKC, USDAA, and CPE at least:)
So a 12" jumping Aussie (Willow) won the top Aussie of the year awards, as well as winning the 12" class at the AKC invitational.

The Aussie parent club has complained, because Willow is an ILP, and she and her parents are registered as North American Shepherds (aka mini-Aussies) with the North American Shepherd parent club.

As a result, AKC has changed its ILP rules as follows (forwarded AKC posting):
As you all probably know, a formal complaint was filed with the American Kennel Club in November, identifying the North American Shepherd, Blue Moon Shine on Willow, as being ineligible for Indefinite Listing Privileges with the AKC because she is not a purebred Australian Shepherd, but is the offspring of two NAMASCUSA- registered North American Shepherds.

As a direct consequence of the formal complaint, the AKC Board of Directors discussed the matter at its January Board meeting. The AKC acted in record time to amend the rules for applying to receive Indefinite Listing Privileges.

Beginning immediately, persons applying for an ILP are required to attest that neither the dog on the application nor its parents has been registered, *or identified, anywhere* as a breed other than that stated on the application.

That means from now on, people who register their dogs with MASCA and/or NAMASCUSA (and/or NSDR-MA, etc. etc. etc.) or compete with their dogs as Miniature Australian Shepherds or Toy Australian Shepherds in MASCA/NAMASCUSA, ASCA or any Rare Breed events, or even identify their dogs on their own websites as Miniature or Toy Australian Shepherds, will be out of luck if they think they can cheat their way into competing in AKC performance events.

If an owner of a Miniature Australian (aka North American) Shepherd or Toy Australian Shepherd knows that it or its parents have been registered - or even just identifed *anywhere* - as a Miniature Australian Shepherd (North American Shepherd, Toy Australian Shepherd, etc. etc. etc.) that dog is explicitly *excluded* from Indefinite Listing Privilege eligibility.

Personally I think this is pretty sad. The mini-Aussies are very few generations from being Aussies, and they are awesome dogs. It is a shame that they are being removed from AKC competition because they don't satisfy the breed standard as far as the parent club is concerned. Of course, I think mixed breeds should be able to compete in AKC events too, and I keep hearing AKC is moving that way, which makes this decision strange.

You can see the complaint here.

Response 1 (Gail, purebred owner at top of both AKC and USDAA agility):
I'm ambivalent about this issue because of the special way in which dogs qualify to compete in the Invitational. If Willow won the 12" class at the regular Nationals I would have no qualms, because she'd get through to the final purely on the dog's merits relative to many other dogs. But that's not the case for the Invitational.

Qualifying for the Invitational is based on your AKC speed points in ExB Std and JWW plus 10 points for each double Q. You have to be among the top 5 in your breed to be invited (or if one them declines, #6). This system greatly favors dogs that measure into a lower-than-normal jump height because they tend to earn more speed points due to the slower SCT. In addition, if you barely measure under, you will be one of the longest-legged dogs in your class, so you'll often place, thereby getting multipliers for your speed points.

So Willow, who is barely under 14" (if she really is; a lot of the dogs at the Invitational looked like mis-measures), is at an advantage compared to regular Aussies who have to compete with BCs etc. and won't always be at the top of their height class. The two very small Aussies owned by the Carruzos were also at the Invitational for the same reason, but in the 16" class. So most of the Aussies that attended were not good examples of the breed standard, and since the whole point of the Invitational is to highlight the breeds . . .

The same thing was true for BC; at least 3 were in the 16" class.

All the pems that went to the Invitational were 8" dogs. That's because they are at the top of that height class, and it's a less competitive class than 12" where the larger corgis compete. I watched these dogs. A couple were good; [my corgi] at 11-/12 would have done much better than the others, but of course he never places anymore and racks up fewer points. Plus a lot of the little pems don't do USDAA because they'd have to jump 12", so they spend all their time at AKC trials, again racking up more points.

Beyond the way one qualifies to go to the Invitational, there is another rule that gave Willow an unfair advantage. Only one dog of each breed could go into the final in each height. So that means only 1 sheltie could go through to the final. The shelties were all in the 12" class, so one had to not only run clean all four rounds, one had to be the fastest of 5 shelties. Willow had no competitors.

Because the Invitational is explicitly not about identifying the most athletic agility dogs or the best teams, but rather is about highlighting all their approved breeds, I think that what AKC did makes senses. That's a separate issue from the Nationals, where I wish they'd let any dog compete, because that is a true skill competition.

My question (not so much in response to previous post but to original AKC): So if the dog hadn't registered elsewhere as a "Miniature Aussie", then AKC's "cheating" complaint would go away? Odd.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

AKC Considering Mixed Breeds in Competition

SUMMARY: Cross-post from Nancy Gyes

I would like to ask you to please participate in an AKC survey which is soliciting opinions on whether to allow mixed breeds to participate in AKC Events. I hope that you will agree that mixed breeds should be allowed to compete in the very same classes at all performance events with AKC purebreds.

I think that the AKC is close to making a decision in the direction of allowing them to compete in performance events. What is unclear is how they may allow them to participate. I would not like to see them create a separate class for the All American dogs instead of simply allowing them to participate in regular classes along side the rest of us. There are some very specific questions on the survey addressing that subject.

The survey will not take long, please take a few minutes and show your support to our friends and students with mixed breeds as well as all the owners of mixed breeds around the country. Speak up with your curser!

Thank you in advance,

Nancy Gyes
Owner of a mixed breed since 1976


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