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How will a working description impact the agility program?

By Allison Bryant, originally posted to ASCA-L March 2004

I have had several people contact me with concerns about how a working description might impact the agility program.  They are worried that some sort of 'style' component will be incorporated into the agility rules, if a working description is developed for the stock program.

The agility program and the stock program are very different.  The stock program's goal is "To preserve the natural inherited working ability of the Australian Shepherd." (From Chapter 1, Section 1 of the ASCA Stock Dog Rules.)

 The agility program's purpose is "to demonstrate the ability of the dog and its handler to work as a smooth functioning team."  (Chapter 1, Section 1.2 Purpose of Agility Trials.)  The agility program's purpose has no mention of 'inherited working ability'.  It just focuses on the success of the teamwork.  That success is measured by objective standards set forth by the rest of the rule book.  Knocked bars, off courses and course times are all used as objective measures to determine if a dog was successful or not.  In addition, each class has its own goal.

For example:  Section 4.2 - Regular Agility  "The purpose of the Regular Agility Class is to demonstrate the handler and dog's ability to perform all of the Agility obstacles."  That section then explains each goal of each level.  The only style component that is mentioned in the rules covers 'unsafe manner' of execution of the obstacles.

The Stock Dog rulebook refers to 'manner in which a dog controls stock'. Chapter 4 Section 4 #4 states "The scoring for the "Dogs ability to control livestock" sections of the run will be for the manner in which a dog controls his stock so that they will go through an obstacle and the teamwork apparent between dog and handler, the dogs training, its' instinct, power, savvy and the workability of the livestock."

Chapter 5 of the Agility rule book explains how runs are scored.  The judge sets a course time.  Any dog who goes over the course time, will receive time faults.  Handling faults and obstacle faults are also defined (knocked bars, missed weave poles, off courses).  The faults are very objective in nature...either the dog performed the obstacle correctly or he didn't.  The only fault that is subjective is the 'Unsafe Performance of an Obstacle' Fault.

Since the objective of the agility program is to test dog and handler's skills in performing the obstacles and there is no mention of inherited instinct, I don't see how a working description could have any effect on the Agility Program.  As an ASCA Agility Committee member, a competitor for 8 years and someone who is very familiar with the rule book, I don't see a connection between the goals of the stock program and the agility program.

If there are people who are concerned about how a working description will impact the agility program, please let me know.


Allison Bryant



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