Saturday, April 30, 2011


Unless you are working on an OM2 or beyond, what follows may not be of much interest to you.

On Saturday, April 16, I arrived at a two-day obedience trial poised to finish Bravo!’s Obedience Master 2.  We needed 13 points.  He had long since gotten the required number of Open points and Utility points.  What we needed were miscellaneous points; we could get them in either ring.  And we had two days and four rings to get the job done.

My little guy wasted no time – 197 in Utility B, then an hour later another 197 in Open B.  Thirty points.  Done!

That left us with a surplus of 17 points to be carried over toward Bravo!’s OM3.

The reason I knew exactly what we needed that Saturday morning was that I keep an accurate running tally in a notebook.  At the end of the day I would post Bravo!’s latest points in my notebook.

But in what category?

If you are susceptible to Excedrin headaches – or worse, migraines! – read no further.  Otherwise, please join me as I explore the Where-In-God’s-Name-Do-I-Put-These-? dilemma that I was mired in that evening.

There seemed to be two options.

Option 1:  Bravo! had picked up 15 master points in Utility B that morning – 15 of the 13 he needed to finish his OM2.  Which he had done.  So, I reasoned, he had 2 Utility points left over to carry forward against his OM3.

An hour later he stormed through Open B and picked up 15 points toward his 60-point Open requirement.  Right?

Not so fast.

Would the Great Electronic Scorekeeper at the AKC know he had finished his OM2 at 8:20 with 2 points to spare?  And, with his OM2 under his belt and no more miscellaneous points needed, he had come out of the Open ring later that morning with a 15-point jump start on his OM3 Open requirement.  Would the computer understand the sequence involved?

In other words, at the end of the day, did Bravo! have his OM2 plus a  2-point start on his OM3 Utility requirement plus 15 points toward his next Open requirement?

Option 2:  Given that we had entered that morning seeking miscellaneous points, might  the AKC deem those 17 surplus points to be miscellaneous carryover?

I figured I’d better go right to the source for my answer.

So I called the AKC office in Raleigh, N.C.  There I encountered a sweetheart of a lady named Sydney Suwannarat.  Sydney is in charge of keeping track of this sort of stuff.  Which means she spends her days unscrewing the inscrutable – like how master points are accumulated and allocated.  Surprisingly, she seems to have a firm grip on her sanity.

I explained the reasoning I had used to calculate the two options mentioned above.  Turns out I was right the first time.  At the end of the Saturday trials our progression toward our OM3 did indeed show 2 Utility points and 15 Open points.

As we talked, Sydney shared a few words of caution about how the progression of points takes place in the computer versus how the information is displayed to you and me when we go to the AKC website.

Theoretically each of us is working toward the title Obedience Grand Master (OGM), the culmination of 10 Obedience Master titles.  An Obedience Master title requires 60 points from Open B, 60 from Utility B and an additional 80 accumulated from either Utility B or Open B (the miscellaneous points).  Consequently, the dog who attains the OGM has amassed 2000 points – 600 from Open B, 600 from Utility B, 800 miscellaneous.  A Herculean accomplishment.

Sydney’s computer looks at its job as a progression toward those 600/600/800 points.  It isn’t allocating just your master points toward your next OM, it’s accumulating Open  points toward 600, Utility points toward 600 and eventually miscellaneous points toward 800.  Then one day the computer scans the cumulative totals in those three “bins” and says, “Aha!  This dog has 60/60/80; we’ll award him another level.”  (An OM2,3, whatever)

Unfortunately, the display we encounter when we go online to check Fluffy’s OM points reflects the process I’ve just described, not exactly where Fluffy is right now on her journey to the next OM title.

“The display is not very visually representative of what you want to know.  It’s very confusing to handlers trying to keep track (of OM points),” Sydney told me. “Internally we do have the correct calculations for how levels are attained.  But visually it’s always going to look like you have these weird points.  You’ll say, ‘How is that possible?’  But internally the math is correct.”

Which indeed, in Bravo!’s case, it was.

“Not to worry,” I told her, “I keep my own running tally.”

Getting the way the points are displayed fixed is high on Sydney’s wish list.  But her wish bumps up against the AKC’s hierarchy of  programming priorities.  “Right now they consider it a cosmetic change,” she said,” so we haven’t been able to get it fixed.”

Meanwhile, she acknowledged, keeping one’s own tally might be a good idea.


1 comment:

  1. Oh, I am sooooo glad to have found your blog! I love both of your books - primarily Remembering to Breathe, as I'm training my Novice A dog. We're 2/3 of the way toward our Beginner Novice title, and hoping to enter regular Novice in the fall.

    First of all, congratulations on Bravo!'s OM2! I never gave thought to the point distribution past acknowledging how many points are needed. It's very interesting to see how the AKC computer calculates it, and it's good to know that their records are more intricate and detailed than the owner's MyAKC but I can also see how it's important to keep your own records.

    Secondly, on the topic of anonymity and collar tags in the ring, I wracked my brain trying to think of what could possibly be the reason, and like everyone else, I can't. I know in agility you're not allowed to have anything other than flat buckle collars (or none at all) to prevent an injury like a dog hanging itself on an obstacle. Maybe they worried about the tags causing an injury? It definitely sounds like one of the regs that's just there for old times sake, with no real rhyme or reason. Especially if the people at the AKC can't even come up with a reason. I don't believe it's just for anonymity, but I also have no clue as to the reason. It's just a mystery!

    I'm really looking forward to following your blog.