Rethinking Non-compete

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Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Peter Butterfield » Sun 20 Jan 2019 3:37 pm

Among the RT rule review submissions is a proposal to altogether delete Rule 8(t) “No Score - Where a dog has been marked "No Score", the dog may continue in the Stake at the discretion of the Judge, but is to be considered as a non competing dog. In subsequent Runs they must be run after competing dogs.”

The proponent reasons that “For the judges to keep on allowing these dogs to run in All Age and Championships at the end of the field as non competing dogs, can result in a time consuming exercise especially when the Judge is running out of time. It does not matter how well the dog performs once it has been No Scored it will not be considered as one which has finished the stake/event. The Judges at their discretion, if time and suitable game permitting, may invite the handler to continue on subsequent runs. This would be good for the sport for Novice and Restricted Stakes.

It's unclear what the author hopes to achieve by removing this rule suffice to say that the sentiment appears to want to exclude participation for ‘No Score’ dogs in All Age and Championships. Championships aside, I think this practice of exclusion is more detrimental to the sport than any other. Especially so for competitors trying to transition into higher levels and similar concerns expressed in the rule review submissions [1].

Regardless, it shines a light on this particular rule that is seemingly designed to bestow discretionary powers on judges to permit or curtail entrant participation mid-stake. I feel this warrants consideration from the competitor’s perspective in terms of denial of service. I suggest that while these discretionary powers may be appropriate and legitimate for large Championship events, things are a little more complicated at Club event levels making it difficult for judges to solely regulate participation for the following reasons.

While it is true that ANKC prescribe the rules of the game, and Clubs through their affiliations pledge allegiance to the rules, Clubs are also separate registered business entities and as such are bound to comply with Australian Consumer Laws. These laws provide statutory consumer guarantees that, amongst other things, require goods and services offered must match their description [2].

By entering a club event and paying an entrance fee a competitor and the club effectively enter into a contract for supply of a service, ie participation in a retrieving trial at a specified level. Affiliated club schedules generally stipulate that the trial will be held under ANKC rules and regulations for Gundog Retrieving Trials, in which Rule 35 clearly sets the contract terms for supply defining the minimum number of runs a competitor can expect to receive:- “A Stake is a competition held at a Retrieving Trial and shall consist of not less than three (3) Runs, except for a Beginners’ Test, which shall consist of two (2) Runs.There shall not be more than 4 Runs in a Novice Stake”.

It is therefore reasonable for Novice, Restricted and All Age competitors (as consumers) to expect to participate in all respective runs set, in a competitive status or otherwise.

I feel this shifts any decision-making to curtail participation to the domain of trial management as much as it does a judge. More so, if clubs take into account that Australian Consumer Law also provides competitors (as consumers) with rights to cancel their contract part way through the delivery if service is denied, and additionally entitles them to claim a partial refund of not only the entrance fee but also compensation for any associated losses caused [3]. When costs of travel and accommodation are considered (costs that clubs know must be made in order to compete in remote locations) refund claims could be considerable.

While this may seem harsh, let us consider the drivers that motivate us (as consumers) towards trialling in the first place. Sure, it’s a competition and some of us are in it for polished cotton ribbons and titles etc, however only a minority of attendees will be satisfied in this regard on the day. For the rest of us, it’s the opportunity to take part and challenge our dogs and ourselves in authentic situations. Certainly no one is in it for the prize money, nor do we come to sit in our cars and watch. We should not lose sight that, no matter how expert we must become in order to be successful, what we are doing at club events is still simply amature recreation. Championships on the other hand could be considered the sport’s pursuit for excellence and justifiably suited to limitations.

Of course, the practicalities of total field participation needs to be taken into account as our proponent suggests. So what can we do?

To start we should definitely shift attitudes and thinking towards finding solutions that better meet with customer demand and expectations, as opposed to simply taking the easy way out. By this, I in no way discount the incredibly onerous tasks faced by judges to organise and assess fields of highly talented dogs and handlers in the sport, particularly in crowded All Age stakes. However, where there is a spread of abilities (as mentioned above) I do think it is important to enable as much participation as possible no matter what the level.

The best solutions must ultimately come from club and trial management in conjunction with judges. Levels of entries are forecastable. Run times are predictable (even hypothetically) [4]. A little extra planning beforehand to anticipate foreseeable bottlenecks could make real differences mitigating potential problems. I could list a range of possible tactics here but have probably overstepped my boundaries in these matters already. Maybe later.

Retrieving trials are expensive and time-consuming events to attend. I predict that any club that openly addresses participation in positive ways in future will fair better in attendances than those that don’t.

If these assertions are correct then total jurisdiction of Rule 8(t) becomes questionable for all circumstances. Perhaps deleting 8(t) is an option, but I would prefer to see removal of “at the discretion of the judge” instead, so that the clause encourages maximum participation for all entries.

[1] 2019 National Retrieving & Field Trial Committee Meeting Review of Rules for the Conduct of Retrieving Trials for Gundogs, Dogs NSW submission, ‘Rationale’ NSW Rules 38 & 107, pages 7-8. [Jan.2019].
[2] Australian Consumer Law: A Framework Overview, Consumer Guarantees, page 14; National consumer law remedies, pages 18-19. ... erview.pdf [Jan.2019]
[3] Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, When can you cancel a service / compensation for damages or loss. ... -a-service [Jan.2019]
[4] Stake Duration Estimator, Working Gundog Club, ... imator.xls
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Kerry Webster » Wed 23 Jan 2019 1:11 pm

Interesting thoughts there Peter, particularly the "consumer" aspect.

In regards to a dog receiving a "no score" and being allowed to attempt a subsequent run, I am in agreeance with this on the whole, as long as the weather and time permit. Certainly, it has helped here in W.A. in encouraging people to continue on with their training and even, competition. Most clubs here (and judges), are happy to allow this at all trials, whether it be Novice, Restricted or All Age. (Championships do not allow it.)

One of the factors in doing so are, the distance and cost involved in entering and attending a competition for each competitor. I must admit, that not completing a first run is very disappointing, and also can be discouraging for some people to continue with the sport.

If the weather is good and time is not an issue, and the field stewards, and judge, are agreeable, then people most times can do these runs in our trials. Sometimes they are told they will have a shortened time to complete it, or, two instead of three legs of a run may be offered, or that the second run is offered but not the third, or, sometimes an aspiring judge marking sheets may be invited to "judge" these dogs while the contracted judge goes to attend other duties. It has, over the years, encouraged more people to stay at trials, keep up their training and trialing, and created a happier atmosphere overall.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Paula Davidson » Wed 23 Jan 2019 6:47 pm

Oh thank you so very much, Peter, for your excellent articulation re this matter. I whole heartedly agree with you and have heard many other Triallers say similar things. Trials are not only for the best dogs, but for all Competitors. Otherwise there will be no Trials.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Rick Johnston » Thu 24 Jan 2019 6:50 am

G’day Peter,
Some good and interesting points you have raised.
I certainly agree that clubs and judges should whenever possible allow novice and restricted competitors (at least)to continue on after “bombing out” .But some random thoughts from myself.....
*If as a competitor,you intend to make use of this opportunity you better bloody make sure you have done some work to help the running of the trial.
*I am constantly amazed by the number of people that turn up and try everything to get out of stewarding in some form.They agree if directly asked but rarely if ever volunteer.These are often the same people that I have been sitting on a thrower in the rain throwing birds for after they have gone out.
*They are also often the ones that as soon as they have completed their third run (in competition or not)bugger off without lifting a finger to help pack up some gear.
*Others jump in their ute and bugger off home as soon as they bomb out of all age without helping to throw a few birds.And if you have 6 or 7 hours to get home that maybe fair enough but we all know the ones that do it every time.Crack the poops and head home!
*Consumer laws are one thing but please all remember we are not multi national companies,just dog clubs putting on some trials.
*Remember the people running the clubs and trials are paying their entry fees as well and quite often sacrifice the attention they should be giving their dogs to keep the trial going.

Sorry,my rant for the year out the way.
Hope you all have a great year trialling and look forward to seeing you somewhere.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Prue Winkfield » Thu 24 Jan 2019 6:52 am

Very good post Peter and agree it would be a step foward especially AA. How many people with their first dog are going to continue to AA when they go out in the first run time and time again.? In Victoria mostly people can run in all 3 runs. In restri ted and novice .
Last edited by Prue Winkfield on Thu 24 Jan 2019 6:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Prue Winkfield » Thu 24 Jan 2019 6:55 am

Whilst here also agree with Rick 100 per cent.!
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Paul Hamson » Thu 24 Jan 2019 11:37 am

Another way to view the role of dog clubs running trials is that:
• They are not “businesses” engaged in “trade and commerce” but are in fact “not-for-profit” organisations established for the purpose of encouragement of a sport,
• Entry fees are sought for the purpose of covering the costs of hosting a trial rather than as a profit making/business venture,
• Club officials, stewards & judges are unpaid “volunteers” rather than “employees”,
• People entering the trials are not “consumers” but are participants who have paid an entry fee in consideration of which they are allowed to participate in a trial and have their dog’s performance assessed against the rules for Retrieving Trials, &
• The clubs are therefore not subject to income tax or consumer laws.

Whilst I think everyone sympathises with competitors who are eliminated from competition before the last run of a stake it is also worth mentioning the sacrifices made by club officials, stewards and judges. These persons sacrifice time, money, effort, and in the case of judges the opportunity to run their own dog(s) in competition so that they can facilitate the enjoyment of competitors being provided with an opportunity to compete with their dog(s).

Where judges choose not to exercise the discretion assigned to them under Rule 8 (t) to allow non-competing dogs to continue in a stake they are not, in my opinion, subjecting competitors to a “denial of service”. The discretion is commonly exercised in Novice and Restricted Stakes but less often in All Age. This is generally due to the fact that All Age runs take more time and it may not be logistically practicable to take a significant number of dogs into the last run due to time constraints. I personally would not accept All Age judging appointments where the discretion is removed. Whilst as a judge I want every competitor to have an enjoyable day I believe my primary obligation under the rules is to the dogs still in competition.

In relation to your comments in relation to “Integrity in scoring” I hope you are referring to a lack of consistency between judges rather than a perceived lack of honesty. Whilst I don’t always agree with the decisions/runs/scoring etc. of judges I personally view judges as overwhelmingly honest.

It should be also noted that applications for sitting Retrieving Trial Judges Licences in NSW are currently being accepted.


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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Peter Butterfield » Thu 24 Jan 2019 12:48 pm

Thank you for your alternate points of view Paul. If you are suggesting that I should become a judge in order to develop a different perspective then I would suggest that my stakes would host total involvement for all participants!
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Kirsty Blair » Thu 24 Jan 2019 12:55 pm

Agree with you, Paul Hamson. Well stated.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Peter and Helen Eley » Thu 24 Jan 2019 1:11 pm

Agree with Rick 100%.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Paul Towning » Fri 25 Jan 2019 8:39 am

Well said Paul and Rick
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Diane McCann » Tue 19 Feb 2019 5:30 pm

I'm coming to this thread a little late. Well said Rick & Paul, agree entirely. No-one expects people to stay and work every time that they bomb out, but there are some that head off every single time leaving the work to the same people again and again. These people would not need to head off so quickly if they were still in competition. Just spread the load - most do.

I judged all age at Easter last year on day one and allowed dogs who bombed run one to have a go at run two if they chose, which they did. The offer did not apply to run three due to time constraints. I had day one of the trial so a later finish was more acceptable. If we always allowed all dogs to attempt all three runs in all age in Victoria (average entry low to mid 20's) then what would happen is that the time pressure would lead to judges pulling dogs out on run three that may otherwise have been given a bit more leeway.
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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Elio Colasimone » Mon 25 Feb 2019 2:26 pm

Hi all,

Thanks Peter for raising this topic.

Yes - participation and retention levels in Retrieving Trials are issues needing attention and -yes- there is logic in giving a dog and handler further exposure and experience and running them on. It would give many -especially the newbies - a sense that they're getting value for the time and money spent.
You could probably apply this to all working gundog sports.

As Paul Hamson pointed out - judges and everyone else involved are unpaid amateur volunteers who are doing their best to help enthusiasts showcase the working capabilities of their gundogs. This - overall - most probably colours how the sport functions.

From a judging point of view there are a couple of angles worth taking a closer look at..

The guidelines don't require a judge to carry dogs forward once they fail an exercise. Removing that discretion would - I suspect- cause judges to modify their overall approach to judging in challenging circumstances.. I sense time allowed on the job would tighten dramatically - knowing that you may be putting all dogs through all runs in large fields.
I also have an inkling that the bar would be raised re acceptable leeway in the slickness of the performance expected- to ensure things keep moving along.

When offered that extra run some interesting things start to happen.

Ironically, in the middling to higher levels I've watched astute handlers with skilled dogs using this extra opportunity as an out and out training exercise.
They slow things down, over handle intensely in an attempt to re-establish the level of control lost in the failed run. They force issues on angled entries etc in a much more drawn out manner, more typical of a training/drilling exercise. Obviously, they're not in contention and are working hard on re-establishing a 'business as usual' connection with their dog.

Fine in your own training paddock - but this is at the expense of the judge, steward and handlers who are waiting to move on.

As a matter of course judges have to factor in any number things. Difficult weather conditions that are impacting on stewards, dogs and handlers and whether the conditions and available time with the inflated field is causing extra duress to the competitive dogs - (and when to drop the non-competitive dogs).

As a judge - you need that discretionary decision making power.

As a handler wanting to get the best out of a dog there are some quite subtle things at play - (with a sting in the tail) -when taking up this extra opportunity.

Keeping your dog in doesn't always necessarily achieve the positive net end result we assume it will - (leaving aside the contentment that comes with longer participation).

Dogs not handling particular cover or terrain, lining poorly, or slipping control etc. etc. on a given day are fairly likely to repeat it on later runs. I'm not sure it does the psyche and confidence of handler and dog much good failing several times in a row.

From a personal point of view once I sense I've lost that connection - especially with control I don't fancy giving the dog more chances to lock down on aberrant behaviour - particularly in a trial setting where you know you can't step in to make adjustments.

Thinking that running a dog on after it has failed at a trial is a good thing does carry an element of risk.

Currently, if circumstances permit judges do have the option of carrying dogs and club management can also push this line with judges if it is all quite feasible.

I wouldn't bother modifying any part of this rule. As a judge I certainly would not want it formalised so that all handlers could run at every run.
That discretionary power should be left with the judge.

Going off on a tangent with a bit of - 'Pie in the Sky' stuff.

The sport as a whole could see us all doing a better job of developing productive and effective mentoring programs to help those who have tended to trip up along the way - who then drop out altogether or go back to square one too early. Usual stuff we see or hear about - Novice -Restricted and then back to Novice.

We see many dogs with natural talent that appear to have an inbuilt capacity to eventually be able to handle All Age.

All Age is actually a lot of fun and most handlers ought to believe it's achievable.

These day the for almost everyone the process starts at 4-5 months with well structured sequential developmental steps. Handlers not only need a vision of these steps before they even start but need to be nurtured at every critical step to fulfil that latent potential

Effective mentoring would help enormously..
It assumes of course that the genuinely interested want to go on this challenging ride.

Are there a goodly number of folk sharing this knowledge and expertise and ready to take on these mentoring roles?

We probably wouldn't be having this discussion if there was plenty of support for those looking for it.

Cheers all,

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Re: Rethinking Non-compete

Postby Ray Johnson » Thu 21 Mar 2019 10:31 am

I believe in Novice for all to run in the 3 runs. Restricted if time & condition etc.
All Age, dog that are out in the first run, should not run in the second run but all dogs can run in the third run at the end of the field.
The competing dogs have finish & paperwork can be done. The handlers of the dogs out, may have to work for each other.
Especially if those handler didn't worked in the second run that would have given the stewards a break.
That way they will get a least two runs. Due to time & condition etc.
It should always be in the hands of the judge, trial manager & trial committee.
I believe leave the rule as it is.
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