Message From Our DOJ Nathaniel Roque

There will be a new version of the USCA Rulebook available in January (version 1.4) this is to add further clarification to the current rules for our members. There have not been any official changes to the “general” rules since the 2012 official change, the new IGP Rules will take effect January 1, 2019 and a new rule book will be available before then. There are and always have been differences in the implementation or interpretation of rules this happens from country to country, organizations and all the way up to the discussions at the world meetings and working committees that determine trial rules.

In the past  and even now the official FCI rulebook does not always give all of the judging criteria, it gives the description of the exercise and then in some general terms “faults and mandatory deductions”. In no possible way can any rulebook give answers and explanations to every possible situation that may occur with the performance of a given exercise. In the past there were separate “Judges Guidelines” books available for judges to help with uniformity in evaluations / judging that was not discussed in the general Rule Book, this is also what is discussed at judges meetings to help make all judges more uniform in their evaluations when it comes to the “subjective’ decisions in judging or evaluating a performance. The USCA Rule Book provides more additional information and clarification than most other available rule books from other organizations; our attempt to make more information available to our members is one of the reasons for the revisions that we have implemented.

The USCA Rule Book does have a section on approved variances from the FCI (WUSV accepted FCI Trial regulations). Each county is allowed some leeway in creating variances as needed to meet laws, liabilities, safety, members needs etc as long as they do not dilute the intention of the exercise or trial performance and in some instances our variances have later been adopted by the international rules. Past examples of this have been that USCA more than 15 years ago allowed one (1) handler to enter up to three (3) dogs in a club trial when the FCI/SV rule was only a maximum of 2 dogs per handler at club trials then in the 2012 FCI rules they changed to the same as USCA had been doing for years allowing a handler to enter up to three (3) dogs in a club trial.  USCA created the TR1-2-3 and OB1-2-3 titles to give our membership more opportunities to compete with their dogs and a few years later the FPr (TR) and UPr  (OB) titles were stated in the FCI regulations. USCA adopted a formal “Dog Aggression Policy” and now many countries have done similar policies / rules. There are many other USCA variances in the rule book. An example of a variance that came up recently in the 2017 National Championship was that USCA Rules require all dogs to remain with the handler and if they leave the handler must be recalled to the handler with three (3) or fewer commands and that they must remain on the designated trial field during their performance or it is a Disqualification (DQ). The FCI rules state that the handler has up to three (3) commands to get the dog back to them and under control and this includes if the dog leaves the trial field before being disqualified. During the writing of our rule book the USCA Judges College (all USCA Judges) discussed this rule and how far off the field or in what situations is off the field dangerous (into a crowd) and determined that we would not accept a dog leaving the field. This made the rule and decision easily uniform and clear taking away any subjectivity and minimizes safety issues if dogs are allowed off the field and encounter spectators ect. This decision was discussed with Mr Frans Jansen of the FCI Working Commission and he clearly said that it was within our rights to make variances like this   to meet the needs for each country.  Some variences can sometimes cause confusion when using a foreign judge for our USCA trials as they may or will judge to the standards of their country. Whenever possible our variances should be or will be discussed with the judge to maintain uniformity, but it may not always work out. Situations like this have happened at world championship levels to club trials but we will always do our best to maintain a fair uniform set of rules.

We have an ongoing FAQ section on the website to help keep members aware of clarifications or recurring / frequent situations that happen at trials and when possible we will update the rule book with clarifications. Remember that if in doubt ask your judge at the trial for clarification as they are the final decision at that event.

Official rule changes will be posted to the membership at least thirty (30) days prior to them being implemented and in most cases at the club level event our USCA Judges are instructed to educate and slowly integrate changes with some level of leniency to allow for training or handling to adjust to the changes. Some of but not all of the revisions / clarifications in judging performance in USCA Trials that will be added to the USCA Rule Book version 1.4 are and will be implemented starting January 2018 are:

  1. In the BH the dog must be facing the group when removing the leash between the on lead and off lead heeling
  2. The dog must sit near a person in the group, if it is not shown the judge may ask for the handler to repeat the group exercise.
  3. In any phase (“A’ tracking. “B” obedience, “C” protection) a dog that refuses to start an exercise after receiving a maximum of three (3) commands will be terminated in that phase. Examples of refusing to start would be a dog that is given three (3) commands to start tracking and does not move or start, in any obedience exercise when the command to heel to start the exercise is given and after three (3) commands the dog does not make any attempt to move forward (to start the exercise) with the handler, in the retrieves after the dumbbell is thrown the dog makes no attempt to leave the handler (stays in basic position). The phase will be terminated and the dog will be allowed to complete any other phase (tracking, obedience, protection).
  4. In the “Search for the Helper” (blind search) the dog must start to search by being directed to the first blind and making an attempt to go to the blind, a dog that leaves the handler and goes directly to the six (6)blind (hot/find blind) making no attempt to search will be terminated. As long as the dog is searching the blinds (staying in movement) regardless of the amount of commands given by the handler the search will continue and not be terminated but will be rated faulty and may lose up to all points if determined by the judge. At  blind six (6) the handler only has a maximum of 3 commands (first  and if needed 2 additional) to make the dog go to the blind and helper, if the dog goes to the helper and leaves then the handler only has one (1) additional command to resend the dog to the helper before termination. Other reasons to terminate the search are if the dog stops searching after three (3) commands (refuses to move), comes back to the handler (stops at handler in basic or front position)or leaves the field as described in variances.
  5. In the “Attack On Dog Out Of Motion” (long bite/courage test) a dog that is strongly attracted / directed to the judge and requires strong attraction from the helper to divert it away from the judge will be disqualified (DQ). This may also apply in any protection exercise if a dog attacks or makes contact with a judge it may be disqualified (DQ).
  6. Loss of control of a dog at any time on the trial field may cause disqualification (this includes during the critique after the completion of the phase) until the dog and handler has left the field.

Please be sure to update your rule book by downloading or purchasing a copy from USCA.

Happy Holidays and best of luck with your training and trialing for 2018 !