Exciting new changes to Kennel Club Agility

For a while now there have been calls and campaigns for a 4th height to be added to Kennel Club (KC) agility. To briefly explain, at the moment there are three jump heights in KC agility; Small, Medium & Large. The range between the three heights is huge, with the biggest issue being dogs that are measured just too tall for medium but really struggle to clear the big jumps. For example dogs such as my friends Springer Spaniel, who barely measures over 16″ at the withers, are having to clear jumps that are over 2ft high.

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In UKA agility there is a 4th Standard height which bridges this gap, giving more comfortable jump heights per range of dogs, and in the last year or so there has been a strong campaign to introduce a 4th standard height to KC. Endless discussions have taken place, agility competitors have flocked to regional meetings to show their support and feelings and agility magazines such as The Voice have been filled with the arguments for it and updates.

Well this week the KC have made an announcement that has taken a lot of us by surprise! Instead of adding a 4th height they are in fact adding 3 more heights, giving Kennel Club agility 6 jump heights! http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/activities/agility/

From 1st July 2016 a “Lower Height Option” will be introduced to all heights, giving the option to jump the normal old height or a 10cm lower height.

Each dog will still be measured and placed into one of the three height categories as normal but then each height category has a jump height option.

new agility heights table

Not only does this give the smaller ‘large’ dogs a chance to jump and compete at a more suitable height, it also gives those dogs that only just measure into a height category the more suitable jump height.

My friends Chihuahua x Jack Russell is tiny and has to jump massive heights because that’s the set height of small. Instead dogs such as this will be given a smaller jump option!

I’m pretty impressed with the Kennel Club, it’s such a fantastic decision that helps not just the large dogs but all height categories.

So… how is it going to work?

You can check out all the details in the press release and FAQs documents, but basically it will be the show organisers decision to offer a lowered height option or not, and for how many classes, heights etc. Then if they do they can either combine the results of the lowered height with the full height, or divide the results.

The judge and course will be the same for the two height options, with the course walked for all at the start and then it shall be scheduled which height runs first then the jumps will be changed halfway through the class. Therefore it shouldn’t add any more time onto the classes at all.

It is the handlers choice to enter at the full or lowered height and although you have to enter the same height throughout the show, you can swap and change from show to show.

Wins at the lowered height count towards progression, but to compete at Championship you must have either won into G7 on full height or won 2 agility & 2 jumping at G7 over full height.

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Does this change anything for Guinness?

Well Guinness is quite a large Collie, measuring at 20″ at the withers, and therefore he’s never really had a problem jumping large. Although I’ve always supported the 4th height I’ve never had a personal vested interested in it and my dog doesn’t really need it. He does have the occasional pole down but that’s normally due to late cues or clumsiness.

My initial thoughts were that I’d probably keep jumping him at full height large, however thinking about it jumping at a lowered height could have more advantages for us;

Health

He’s 7 this year, not exactly old but no spring chicken. Pus as he had a previous cruciate strain perhaps jumping a slightly lower jump would help preserve his health and lengthen his agility career a little.

Pole knocking

It doesn’t happen very often but if jumping a lower height would reduce the number of poles knocked then why not.

Speed

Guinness isn’t slow, but as you saw at Shrewsbury last October we were 4th and 7th in Combined classes. If jumping a lower height gave him a bit more speed perhaps we’d be closer to those all important wins.

We aint ever gonna get to Champs

One of the arguments for choosing the larger jump is to train and maintain the stride pattern and consistency over one jump height in preparation for Championship classes, which must be at full height. However at the age Guinness is now it’s unlikely we will ever reach Champ or compete in it. Saying that, if we ended up in Grade 5 or Grade 6 and were still going strong then there’s no reason why we wouldn’t then focus on training at the larger height in preparation for potential Champ competitions.

I haven’t made a decision yet and it’s something I’m going to be discussing with friends and fellow trainers over the coming months leading up to this change.

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Are the new changes actually going to work or make a difference…

Of course it all depends on the shows… how many are going to offer a lowered height? And what are the classes going to be like?!

If its only Combined 1-7 with lowered heights then we’re not much better off at the end of the day. Us Grade 2 guys don’t stand a chance.  Although some would argue it’s better than nothing.

Some shows have already said that by offering the lowered height option it will decrease the amount of graded classes. Let’s say for example there is a Large  1-3 Graded class with lowered heights option available. If the show decides to divide the height results then there would be a total of 6 awards for this class rather than three. This not only gives the dogs a chance to compete at a more suitable height but also potentially gives more people the chance of winning. For the show it could mean more time sorting results, more money on prizes and rosettes. However, at the end of the day the class sizes will still be the same, with, say, 300 dogs competing in Large 1-3, but 150 dogs in one height and 150 in the other height. There’s bound to be a teething period and only time will tell.

However… do we think that it’s right that big, fit, able dogs are going to able to compete at the lower heights? Will this just make it harder for the smaller dogs, that the lowered height is aimed at, to win? A lot of people are making the assumption that a lower height actually equate to a faster run, but does it? Also let’s not forget that some large, heavier set dogs such as Akitas and Labradors are more suited to the lower height as well, it’s not just there for the smaller dogs.

I’m really interested to see what decisions people will make with their dogs, especially the big wig competitors, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you have a dog that you were only competing at shows with lowered heights that you now intend on taking to KC shows? Will you run your dog at their full height or the lowered height? Do you think these changes are good? Drop a comment below.

At the end of the day I personally think it is a fantastic decision and it should make KC agility much more available and  safer for the dogs that are at the lower end of their height spectrum.

And let’s just once again take a moment to congratulate the Kennel Club. Not only have they commissioned researched into the effect of jump heights on dogs, they have gone and made this change while that research is on going, recognising that something needs to be done sooner rather than later.

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4 thoughts on “Exciting new changes to Kennel Club Agility

  1. This is such a great post, and I hope these new regs do have a positive impact!

    However … I wish the KC had waited until the results of their commissioned research are clear. We don’t know that these heights are going to offer a safer option; we’re guessing about what we think might be better for some dogs. If we’re going to change something as fundamental as jump heights, we should be making those decisions based on the science and proper research, not just arbitrarily -10cm to the jump heights we currently have. What happens if the research data suggests something else entirely?

    • Yeah thats a really good point. I wonder how open they’ll be to future change too or whether they’ll just have the “well we recently changed it!” attitude.

  2. I have never done any KC shows with my dog as I have always thought that the large height was just too much for her, she is only 6mm into large, so have kept to the UKA standard height. I have followed the 4th height discussions for quite some time and was delighted when the KC announced the height changes. If I’m lucky enough to have some KC shows schedule the height options in my area then I will definitely be giving it a go at the lower large option. Personally I’m not bothered about the g7 rule regarding getting to champ etc as I will be starting in g1 with Tess and as she will be 9 years old in February I don’t think I need to even think about that. I’m just happy that hopefully a few more shows will open up for those people who felt that the heights were too much for their dogs to cope with.

    • Thanks Kaye what a lovely reminder about who this height change for and why. I think its far more important to be inclusive and safer for more dogs than to well on how it effects peoples time and chances of winning.

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