Monday, July 13, 2009

Sloppy agility trials at Malaysia Dog Day 2009

Recent puppy agility trials at Chin Woo stadium were disappointing and shoddily run. I won’t even try to list down all the slip-ups made by the organisers/ officials as there were too many on the day. Let’s just go straight to areas for improvement:

1. Agility trials on slippery parquet flooring is a big no, no. When conducting trials indoors, flooring should be carpeted for the safety and well being of dogs. Making dogs look awkward and foolish with all that slipping and sliding in the ring, is in total contradiction with the dog sport of agility and not what dog lovers wish to see, especially in an event called Malaysia Dog Day.

Me mate, Amber the GR, slipped and fell badly during the trials and didn’t want to do anymore after that.

Telling the participants at the very last minute to ‘withdraw, if you think it is unsafe’ or ‘run slowly, if you think it is too slippery’ is terribly naïve and unprofessional, given that the participants had already paid RM30 upfront as entry fees. When some trialers wanted to withdraw and asked for a refund, the organizers said no. All this commotion in front of the trial judge reflects very poorly on the organisers. 2. Officials and organisers should be well versed with the trial rules as posted on the website … interpreting rules as one goes along does nothing for the credibility of the trials. Calls for all type of faults (ie. wrong weave pole entry, missed weave pole, missed/ incomplete obstacles) must be made and must be consistent and fair. Officials should not have to be reminded by the trialers on which faults to call.

Their complicated scoring system encompassing 20 faults, 10 faults and 5 faults made matters worse and at times, the judge was also confused as to what faults and how many faults to call. Based on home video recordings, clearly the judge missed many calls for wrong entry into weave poles, missed weave poles, wrong sequence and incomplete performance obstacles. The final published results did not jive with the home video evidence for certain classes.

4. Trial courses should be designed by the trial judge and not by the organisers so as independence is maintained.

At the start of Jumpers for Beginners class, organisers laid out a course which bore no semblance to a Jumpers class and included 3 stops at the pause table and a mini weave pole sequence, which caused further confusion amongst the trialers. After prompting by the trialers, the organisers realized their mistake and had to rebuild the course from scratch.

When the Standard Agility course was laid out, organizers must have got a little excited and included 3 sequences of weaving poles and 4 sequences of contact obstacles. In addition, how they managed to cram 20 obstacles in that small ring is beyond belief.

5. Trials should commence on time and not 3 hours behind schedule, which meant that competing dogs had to wait a good 4-5 hours in the cramped hall conditions. Poor time management added to the dogs’ and handlers’ frustration on the day.

6. If organisers are going to charge RM30 entry fees and call the event a Trial, then the competition should be conducted in a professional manner, in a proper arena and officiated by persons who are well versed in the sport.

Let’s try to give the right impression of dog agility sport … fast, fun, skillful and exciting to watch. Slow pace, heeling, sliding on slippery flooring, missed or incomplete performance of obstacles due to inappropriate flooring … just doesn’t quite cut it.

Despite the inappropriate surface and inconsistent judging calls, PetnYou Dog Squad defied the odds with Kimi and I winning both the Mini Jumpers and Mini Agility classes respectively. Cami took 3rd spot in Mini Jumpers and Caca managed 2nd place in Maxi Jumpers, but the inconsistent calls denied him a placing in Maxi Agility.

What a poor advert for the sport … puppy people always getting into puppy mischief.

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