Announcement from Neil Flood Regarding Changes to Measuring Methodology

Emma Mak
 

NAFA has been considering various changes to the measuring methodology used to determine jump height. We appreciate your patience as we worked on this – obviously it is a very contentious issue and one that needed to be very carefully considered.

During CanAm 2018, withers and ulna measurements (using FCI measuring device) were collected from 207 volunteer dogs anonymously. Two NAFA competitors with PhDs, Curtis Smith and Katie Weihbrecht, volunteered their time to analyze the data. Dr. Smith and Dr. Weihbrecht found that the collected data, for both types of measurement, were representative samples. Through linear regression analysis, a linear relationship between the two types of measuring was found. The data was presented to the board, along with several options for a measuring system, with different starting ulna lengths, and interval sizes. The BOD and Executive Director wish to thank Dr. Smith and Dr. Weihbrecht for the excellent analysis and options provided to the board. This analysis is available here:
http://www.flyball.org/measuring/MeasuringDataCanAm2018.pdf

The NAFA Board considered the options provided on phone calls, and during the April board meeting. It was noted that, although a linear correlation was identified between ulna length and withers’ height, the dogs represented by points either side of that line were concerning. As shown in the sample, there are dogs currently jumping 7”,8”,9”,10” jumps in NAFA that have very similar ulna lengths. Because of this, each option provided a trade-off between minimizing the number of dogs that would need to jump a higher height against decreasing jump heights to the extent that smaller dogs are devalued. In conclusion, a majority of the board decided that moving to ulna measurement would impact too many dogs in an undesired manner. NAFA wants to encourage all breeds and sizes of dogs to participate in flyball, and so having dogs small in stature set the jump heights is something the board wishes to preserve in the sport. It’s an important part of the NAFA brand.

Since the decision at the board meeting, focus has shifted to looking at other means of improving the measuring system. Today we are announcing an overall plan of action as we finalize details before the September meeting. We’ve heard what competitors want, and the goals are to even the playing field for measuring, with a cost-effective plan, and an eye to making the measuring process as easy as possible for participants and height dogs. Rule changes reflecting these changes will be presented to the board at the September meeting where they will be voted on, and will be included in the October 1st, 2019 issue of the NAFA Rule Book.

NAFA is a strong proponent of fair racing, and in that vein, we will be implementing required measuring for the Regular and Multibreed classes beginning October 1, 2020 (FY 2021). NAFA’s Open Division will continue to offer handlers the opportunity to set jumps at the height of their choice, without measuring. NAFA has been unique in the dog sport world for not requiring measuring; NAFA’s policies of self-policing have been contentious for years and it’s time for something new.

Dogs running as height dogs will be required to be measured by a tournament judge (or have been measured within six months of the event date), and again periodically, until ultimately each height dog is measured by a Certified Measuring Judge (CMJ) with a set timeframe. We want to promote measuring consistency and the CMJ program provides that. Once a measurement is obtained from an assigned CMJ, it’s one and done, the measurement is good for the life of the dog, and cannot be challenged. To meet these requirements, we plan to expand and adapt the CMJ program. We are also considering: 
• Means of making the actual measuring easier, including considering devices other than the wicket for measuring withers 
• Expanding opportunities for people to practice measuring with a NAFA judge 
• Changing the criteria for Performance teams, to give the ability to switch to Performance, should a team’s height dog measure higher than what they have been accustomed to running. We believe it’s important for clubs to be able to adequately prepare for any changes mandatory measuring will bring

Finally, NAFA is lending a lot of discussion to lowering the jump heights to -6” from the withers (instead of -5”). We acknowledge that, with no requirement for measuring, many dogs may have never been under the wicket. Our intention is to make this as smooth a transition as possible. We would like people to continue to enjoy racing NAFA Flyball in a competitive and fair environment. While measuring will not be officially required until October 1st, 2020, if the Board elects to lower the measuring height to -6” from the withers, that change could occur as early as this October. As mentioned this has not been officially decided, and if you have opinions or thoughts on the matter I would encourage you to provide feedback to the Board which can be beneficial in their discussion on the matter.

I sincerely appreciate incredible amount of work the Board of Directors have put into this matter. It certainly is not a simple or easy issue to resolve, and I have observed first hand how much time and effort they have put into this issue.

Sincerely,

Neil Flood

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