Thoughts on the 2016 AKC World Team Short List

Background

[spreadsheet updated 5/22/16 4:36 PM CST: changed medium dog Bolt WTT Std3 from green to yellow, medium dog Lilac WTT JWW2 from yellow to green, time faults now light green, course faults remain yellow]

 

The Short List was announced this past week, and there are some differences compared to our list of top candidates based on previous years’ selections based on a 70-20-10 formula. In an email sent to Short List candidates, Nancy Gyes notes, “If you were in the top 3 cumulative over 5 rounds you are on the list. If you were at the top of the overall points scores (different for each height) you are on this list. If your combined cumulative and points placement numbers were low enough you are on this list.”

At least for this year, it appears that the AKC generates the Short List from tryouts performance and then chooses the final dogs from the list. It’s possible that these dogs now have equal footing in that they have demonstrated superior ability at tryouts, and factors like nationals performance, international experience, and so on will be compared between all of these dogs in an attempt to determine the best dogs to add to this year’s team.

FCI Agility World Championship (AWC) Structure

There’s one more critical factor to consider when the AKC constructs the team. Jennifer Crank, a Team USA veteran and multi-time medalist at the AWC, notes that the FCI allows each country 12 team positions (four dogs in each of the three heights), and 9 additional individual positions. In theory, a country could have a 21 dog team—12 team dogs who run in the team events only (jumpers and standard) and an additional 9 completely different dogs who run in the individual events (jumpers and standard) only. These 9 individual dogs can also be distributed differently across the three heights from year to year. For example, Team USA might have 5 dogs in small individual, 2 dogs in medium individual, and 2 dogs in large individual. Thus, the AKC should strive to create a team that maximizes their chance of earning medals in both team and individual events. However, there are two costs that the AKC must balance against maximizing the potential to medal. The first cost is financial—taking additional dogs will cost the AKC money as they fund the team. It’s cheaper to take 12 dogs and let them run both team and individual rather than specialize for each event. Jennifer Crank raises the possibility of self-funding on the part of dogs selected to run in the individual events only, keeping the cost to the AKC the same while improving the chance of gaining medals in both team and individual. The second cost is psychological—some handlers may not be happy to cross an ocean for just two runs. In my view, there will probably always be several comparable handlers and dogs who would be happy to be on the world team for just two runs.

How can the AKC use this FCI rule to its advantage? By adjusting the selection criteria each year based on the anticipated courses and competition at AWC as well as the relative speed, consistency, and handling skills of the applicant pool. For example, your two win-on dogs are both fast and consistent, each running 4 times clean out of 5 runs at tryouts with multiple placement runs. However, neither dog is likely to medal in the individual event. At best, two clean runs will put them somewhere in the 10th-20th positions in the combined individual. At tryouts, you have a pair of blistering fast dogs, each of whom won a round, but ran clean only 2 out of 5 runs with spectacular off courses in the other three runs. You are comparing them to a pair of less fast but more consistent dogs that ran 3 out of 5 clean with a bar or missed contact in the other two rounds. Rather than deciding on a team of four, the AKC could take a team of six, slotting the super fast, less consistent dogs into the individual runs, while adding the less fast, more consistent dogs to the team events only. The two original win-on spot dogs could run both team and individual. The AKC has to be flexible when they bring more than 12 dogs, because in some years there may not be a super fast and less consistent dog that fits the profile in each of the three heights. One year they may carry a team of 15, and the next year 18, and back to 12 the year after that, depending on their pool of candidates.

Short List Data

You can download the spreadsheet here and sort the data yourself. In the charts below, we have the PowerScore and results from both the AKC National Agility Championship including the ISC round and World Team Tryouts. Green is a clean run, red is an elimination, light green is a time fault, and yellow indicates faulted but non-eliminated runs. The more green and yellow you have on your line, the better (the first 2 dogs in bold italics in each height are the automatic spot winners), but these are not the only factors the AKC will consider. However, the colors give you a quick visual impression of each dog, and the times let you compare their speeds easily, while the NAC challenger round and finalists can quickly be found for reference. The International Sweepstakes round from nationals also gives you more information about a dog’s relative speed, especially for large dogs that jumped 20” at nationals, as they jumped 26” for ISC. The elephant in the room is AKC Nationals: how will the AKC view the dogs who chose not to attend, or the dogs that attended but had mixed or poor results?

Small Dog Short List Data (Click to Enlarge)

Small Dog Short List Data (Click to Enlarge)

Medium Dog Short List Data (Click to Enlarge)

Medium Dog Short List Data (Click to Enlarge)

Large Dog Short List Data (Click to Enlarge)

Large Dog Short List Data (Click to Enlarge)

Conclusion

Comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of each dog on the short list is difficult, as the spreadsheets above indicate, especially between dogs very similar in skill and speed, particularly the large dogs. Transparency of the selection process will allow handlers to decide whether or not they should attend future AKC nationals, compete at the WAO, IFCS, Americas y Caribe, or European Open to improve their resume.

Congratulations to all the teams who made the Short List, and good luck on Super Tuesday, when the team will be announced!

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