Chaos Crew

Chaos Crew

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

ADCH or MACH, what's tougher to get?

So Nicki at Borderblog asked a question on one of my posts, since I do both USDAA and AKC agility, what is tougher to earn - USDAA's ADCH championship, or AKC's MACH championship.

From the engineer in me, the answer is the MACH, since it requires more Q's:
ADCH = 5 Standard + 5 Jumpers + 5 Gamblers + 5 Snooker (3 superQs) + 5 Pairs + 5 Tournament (2 GP + 2 Steeplechase + 1 Team)
MACH = 20 Double Q's (20 Standard + 20 JWW on the same day) + 750 points.

However, I really don't think it's that simple.

First, an interesting tidbit about my dog Skye - he earned his MACH in July '10, and less than 2 months later, he earned his ADCH (in Performance, which is actually called PDCH). In Colorado, we have about twice as many AKC shows as we have USDAA shows, so then in theory, the MACH was tougher to get because we had many more tries at it.

Skye is a medium fast dog, which helps him be more consistent. In AKC, the Double Q requires consistency, but you can't be real slow and consistent or you will earn your Double Q's far faster than the 750 speed points. When Skye got his MACH, he had about 800 speed points, so the requirements tracked along pretty equally for us. I don't have any stats on how many agility days of competition it took us to put 20 Double Qs together, but I do know that we had about 28 total Standard Q's, so only 8 times we got a Standard Q and did not get a JWW Q to go along with it. We Q JWW more often than Standard, and as of right now, Skye has 43 total Standard Qs and 55 total JWW Qs (and 11 Double Qs toward the next MACH)
Now, a super fast dog may earn lots of speed points when they are clean, but at lightning speed, they are far more likely to end up offcourse. It can be a real challenge for a super fast dog to get a double Q!

So, where consistency pays dividends in AKC, it's not so much a requirement in USDAA. 
There is no requirement that you need to get multiple Qs in a day for USDAA. Also, in some of the events you MUST beat the competition in order to Q, especially in Snooker, so you tend to push a bit harder. 

The 5 Standard and 5 Jumper Qs that you need are stand-alone - ie earn them when you can, and on your own as long as you are under standard course time.

In Gamblers, you need a dog that is trained to work away from the handler. This can be a big challenge for small dogs, who tend not to excel at distance challenges, and for some big dogs too. Skye is a 'clingy' dog who doesnt like to work away from me, so getting 5 Gamble Qs was tough for us, and in fact, to complete our PDCH, we were waiting on that last Gamble.

In Pairs, it's required that both you and your partner get through your half of the course without going offcourse. You are allowed to be 'sloppy' and drop bars, miss contacts, re-do weaves, etc. as long as you are fast enough to overcome the penalty points that are added to your time when you are not clean. You also must have 5 different pairs partners, so its the luck of the draw!

Now Snooker is a strategy game that gives a lot of people fits. You have to make a plan that will give you at least 37 points, and for 3 of the 5 Qs you need, you must place in the top 15% of the class. This means that you will often be trying for many more than 37 points, and you are increasing your chances of failure to get those points! If you compete in an area with very skilled, fast competitors, you will definitely have your work cut out to beat them and be in the top 15%. Snooker requires you to be able to run past obstacles without taking them, and generally run around with a course that doesnt make a lot of sense to the dog. 
For Skye, since he is a 'clingy' boy, Snooker is easier for us - he is not looking to take other obstacles other than what I am indicating. We have more USDAA Q's in Snooker than in anything else, and about half of our Qs are Super Qs (the Performance classes are smaller, so its easier than the Championship classes)

Finally, you need what USDAA calls Tournament Qs. 
You need to get 2 Grand Prix Q's, which are essentially Standard without a table. You have to run clean in these and you dont need to worry about your competition.
You also need to get 2 Steeplechase Q's, which is a speed course with an AFrame and Weaves, one of which you will do twice, along with jumps, tunnels and the broad jump. In Steeplechase, you are allowed to be 'sloppy' again, and drop bars and miss contacts as long as you are fast enough with the penalty points. You must again beat your competition to Q - the top 3 dogs' times are averaged together, and then 25% more time is added to that total to come up with the cutoff time for a Q. A moderately fast dog can get a Q as long as they run clean. 
You also need 1 DAM Team Q, which is a team of 3 dogs (2 dogs for Performance) who compete individually for points. Those points are added together using some multiplier formulas. The last event of Team is the Relay race. As long as your teammates do not go offcourse, everything is scored with time+faults. An offcourse is an E, and gets you zero points for that event. Consistency does pay off in the Team events.

Ahhhh, so what is the final answer to the question? 
I think an ADCH is Tougher to get for the average dog, as it requires many more skills than just the consistency of AKC. In USDAA, you have to run faster, be able to work at a distance, be able to run past obstacles, be able to pair with other people, and be able to come up with your own strategic course in Gamblers and Snooker.

The courses in USDAA also are often more challenging than AKC, with sharper jump angles and such.

Owners of super fast dogs will probably say that a MACH is tougher, because that consistency doesn't come easy, and they can get the USDAA Q's here and there, as well as not having to be clean for many of them.

So, opinions anyone? That's my take on it!


Karissa said...

This seems to be a common "discussion" in the agility world. I used the quotation marks around the word discussion because really, it can tend to turn into quite the argument between some people. lol

Although the requirements can be tedious, I've always thought that a MACH is achievable by the majority of dogs. Course times are quite lenient in AKC, allowing dogs who are quite "average" to make it around the course (and by virtue of their slower speed, faults such as off course calls are less likely, so they typically Q often). As you noted, the speed points may be slow to come, but if they keep plugging away at it they will eventually get there. So long as they are willing put put forth the time & money, they can MACH their dog. AKC encourages this, because they like to take your money. :oP

As you have noted, the ADCH requires a more versatile dog. I believe that this alone makes it more "difficult" than the MACH, in that it requires more specialized training. It also requires strategy (for snooker) and teamwork (for pairs/DAM).

I have gotten into lively discussions with one of my friends who does both USDAA & NADAC about how I feel that the ADCH is "easier" than the NATCH because it only requires 5 Q's in each class. The (first) NATCH requires a total of 23 Q's in Elite Regular, 13 Q's in Elite Jumpers and 13 Q's in Elite Chances. That's a lot of Q's! My friend conceded that due to the "versatility component" of the ADCH, it is more comparable to the V-NATCH in NADAC, although that requires 13 more Q's in each of Weavers, Touch-n-Go & Tunnelers. That is a total of 88 Q's compared to 30 for ADCH.

Ultimately, though, it really comes down to the strengths and weaknesses of each team. I rack up Q's in Jumpers & Regular quite easily, but I have friends who can't get one to save their life because of knocked bars or contact issues. I always NATCH on Chances runs because our Q rate is lowest in that class, but I have friends who have about a 90% Q rate in Chances and have more Q's than they know what to do with.

You Super Q in Snooker with great ease, but there are people who struggle for years to get those Q's. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, so I think it's hard to give a general answer for which CH title is "easiest" or "hardest." Ultimately, do what brings you the most joy!

But really, if you want to give out an award for the easiest CH title, I do believe that goes to C-ATCH. ;o) My apologies to the CPE folks. lol

Elayne said...

Funny, someone beat me to it but I was going to put in a vote for the NATCH perhaps being the most difficult or maybe the least achievable for the majority of dogs. NADAC Standard and Jumpers courses are pretty easy from a technical point of view but course times are tight and it can be hard to handle a fast dog around those open courses unless you train some good distance skills. And the distance challenges in Chances require way more distance skills than USDAA's Gamblers. Plus you need so many Q's compared to the number of available trials, at least in Colorado. I don't do NADAC anymore but I do have an appreciation for what goes into getting a NATCH and not every dog is physically capable of it.

USDAA still requires some consistency in that there are so few trials that you have to Q with some regularity or travel a lot. It also takes longer to get to Masters because of the extra games classes, minimum judges requirements, stricter qualifying requirements at lower levels, so the dog has less time at the Masters level to complete the title.

I also agree that most dogs can get a MACH if the handler has the time and money to pursue it. I've seen MACH runs posted on You Tube and the dog is trotting around the ring for half the run. The MACH encourages mediocrity more so than the other titles and I think more AKC folks care about the MACH than USDAA folks care about the ADCH, probably because of the breeders looking to put titles on their dogs for marketing purposes. It's easy enough to slow a dog down to get consistency and I do hear people say they have instructors teaching them to do this so they can get their Q's.

I wish there were no titles at all in agility, people would maybe take chances on other venues, retire their dogs when it's right for the dog, take more chances with their training and handling, etc. But I think I'm in the minority on that one.

Greg S said...

It's interesting to throw NADAC in the mix, because we actually started with NADAC. There were quite a few NADAC trials in Colorado back when we started and since they allowed training in the ring, it was a logical choice. NADAC then started morphing into what it is today, with a greater focus on distance handling - and since this wasn't our strong suit and I play agility generally to run with my dog, it wasn't the organization we continued with. I definitely appreciate the training it takes to be successful in NADAC though! It takes a lot of training to do well at distance handling, and a lot of Tunnel/Contact discrimination training as well. My wife's dog Baby has Versatility NATCH-3 I believe, as well as MACH 2, ADCH, PDCH, and a DOCNA MEX. Baby even won the NADAC Championships at 16" a few years ago. A well trained dog will be able to have all these accomplishments. A dog trained just to do AKC is going to have a much narrower set of skills, and Karissa - I totally agree with what you said about getting a MACH - any dog can do it with enough time and money. With course times way over 60 seconds in Std., even the slowest of dogs get to Q. It's actually painful to watch some of the slowest dogs walk around the course. I have friends with slow dogs and they do on occasion earn just one or 2 MACH points per run!
I never tried CPE (we dont have it here), though I do hear that it's pretty easy in comparison to the other organizations.
Certainly its not *easy* to get the Champion title in any organization, but in some it's going to require a much better trained, more rounded dog than in others.

Nicki said...

Interesting comments. I only do AKC and NADAC. Running perfect courses in AKC is the hard part for us. No room for error. Chances is the hard part for us in NADAC-since I have a medium fast dog and I'm a pretty fast runner I have always had the luxury of running with my dog! So the distance is something we need to train. I think competing in both venues give me advantages over the dogs with no crossover. I've never done USDAA-sounds fun but we don't have much here and I'm out of money and free weekends!

And while I realize AKC times are slower than NADAC and apparently USDAA, I don't necessarily think they are "easy" slow. I think they allow any reasonabley paced dog to be able to Q whereas some of the elite NADAC times make it almost impossible for a dog with lower drive to Q and thus discourages some of the less traditional breeds from competing at that level.

The other thing I like about AKC and NADAC is is that you don't have to beat other dogs-so for those of us with medium speed dogs it does not prohibit us from getting a championship.

Good discussion