Saturday, December 25, 2010

Plan for 2011

Off and on, year after year, I rant about the terrible shape dog ownership is in.  It gets blamed on first one sort of animal rights group after another.  The rant continues as one truly awful bill becomes a law after another. Doors continue to be slammed shut on dog owners and of course this past year has seen the black death of animal hate spread to all our farm animals as well.  Things sure do look bleak, and yet, and yet...

A few days ago I sent a post to a small email group I belong to in response to the current and seemingly prevailing view that any sort of formal dog obedience is somehow useless.  Here is my response to that thread.

I freely acknowledge the fact that the commonly held belief of those who don't understand what a true golden treasure AKC obedience offers are the ones who are the loudest in their insistence the trials are not necessary, not wanted, of no use, etc.

This stance is not a new one; it's just that in the last few years it has sadly become the most prevalent one.

As an obedience instructor just what do obedience trials offer you? The answer is they offer you a way to check your skills AS AN INSTRUCTOR. Of course, you will need to understand the rules and make sure your students are properly prepared prior to entering. What you will find (IF) you do your job well, is that your top students will always have scores in the mid-190 range and your average students will have scores in the 180 range. Your poor students will take twice as long to achieve a Companion Dog title and they will do it with scores in the 170 range. All of them will be proud of what they have done and most will want to continue with more advanced training.

As a trainer just what do obedience trials offer you? The answer is they offer you a way to check your training skills. They help to keep you intellectually honest. If you are training dogs for others they serve as a way to insure you are turning out a top quality product and one that has been proven by your peers in as unbiased a manner as possible. All this will do is bring you more business.

As an owner what better way to test your skills, hone your abilities, get to show off, pick up some bragging rights and just generally improve your overall relationship with your dog.

People fear what they don't know. Lazy people never manage to make it through the door when it comes to entering that upper level of a human/dog relationship. A relationship only achieved by learning and then teaching and then finally molding yourself and your dog into a smoothly working team. Once a smooth team, the obedience ring brings so much joy and pleasure to both team members.

Truly it is a shame so many of those in the very best position to bring back well trained dogs as the norm refuse to take part in doing so. Leave the "skinner-box" mental attitude to those who don't train, but simply manage their dog through a few tricks. Take "real working dog" attitude with you and step in that ring. You will love the difference.

What I have seen happen here consistently for more than 40 years is that the good trainers train for everyday life, spend 2 weeks to 2 months learning ring skills and then step in the Novice ring and clean-up. They come back from those trials walking taller, talking softer and hooked on dog training. They are the hope of our(your) future. Continue to fail them as many of you have been and within the next 10 years it will all be gone and so will your rights to even own a dog, never mind actually train one.
My reason for reposting is with the hope of stirring up some action.  Not just a comment or two, not even a post or two elsewhere, but real, honest-to-goodness action. 

This is what I want for 2011, not just for me but for all dog owners, dog trainers, dog obedience instructors.

  1. I want to hear from dog obedience instructors who are honestly looking for ideas that will get dog ownership back on the right track.
  2. I want to hear from those of you who are already starting to be successful in some small way. 
  3. I want to hear from you with each successful step forward your students take. 
  4. I want to read about how one dog trainer in one town managed to use the success of a couple of students to gain 4 more students, and then used those 4 students to gain 8 more students and the 8 in turn became 16, etc.
  5. I want to hear about how all those students took their well mannered and well trained dogs off to some AKC trials and earned not just Companion Dog titles, but first places, and yes even a High In Trial or two along the way.
  6. I want to have the pleasure of reading about how 8 of the original 16 have now mastered the real test of a good owner and taught their dogs to retrieve.  Not just a dumbbell in a sterile environment, but real retrieve work in the real world.
  7. I want to find out that the 8 students who taught the retrieve also understood the true importance of teaching the Broad Jump as well as the other requirements of a Companion Dog Excellent title and they all earned the right to put the letters CDX after their dog's name.
  8. And being the greedy sort I am, I want to find out that of the 8 students who earned a CDX, 4 of them are now true dog training students and are working on the oh so technical skills necessary to train a real UTILITY dog.  That way, they really have a wonderful and useful dog at home and in the community and a dog that has the right to the letters UD after his name.
  9. Of course, for 2012 I sure hope to learn that of the 4 who traveled all the way to Utility 2 of them go on and earn a UDX and one of them manages an OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion).
  10. My final wish? I want all those now successful dog owners to band together and march on their "city hall" and take back the freedoms that have been lost because of the animal rights movement.
Anyway, happy holiday season to all the rest of you.  May your leashes be well used and someday soon only be needed for safety reasons rather than because of some law.


  1. Pam and Cabot12:21 PM

    Awesome post, as always! Looking forward to adding the letters CDX to Cabot's name this spring... and working hard to learn all that a UD will require!!

  2. Thanks, Pam. I was beginning to think my comments were falling on totally deaf ears. I know people have been here and stayed long enough to actually read the entry. How sad that you are the only one who appears to be taking the entry to heart.

    Again, thank you.

  3. Raegan12:45 AM

    I'll bite. What IS "the true importance of teach the Broad Jump", besides the fact that it is part of the required exercises for the CDX?

  4. I have taken advancing my training to heart for a long time now. Lot of it has been "do it yourself" with the help of your seminar, Koehler books, and the patience of my clients who have allowed me to "borrow" their dogs. This will be the first year that I go beyond the Companion Dog Titles.

    This year, my very first step with be to get Magoo to be scoring high on his Novice trials (already got his Companion Dog-Great Dane young)before we advance to Open. I am hoping a late spring or late summer open. Summer being hard as it is very busy in my business.

    Also my new dog, Boris, is an amputee and we will be attending our first UKC trials, and attempting to gain a title here with our limited opportunities in the 2-3 hour area around us...but we will try for this year.

    I am constantly searching for clients that want to take this trip, but it is hard enough to find clients who want a trained dog at all. This spring, I am going to design group classes for the first time, and try to be sneaky about it and try using some peer pressure:)

  5. I should also report that my business in my local area (not people desperate for a trainer that can help with the behaviorally challenged from afar) has increased dramatically through word on the beach from people trying to comply with our off leash laws. I do not have any candidates that would like to travel with me to trials and learn about it to, but I think I am making steady progress on the importance of training front to the locals.

  6. Pam and Cabot12:20 PM

    My thoughts on Raegan's comment (I'm not Margot):

    The Broad Jump actually teaches your dog a lot. The dog learns to sit and stay in a place that is not directly in front or next to you. The dog learns to jump in a long, flat trajectory instead of popping up and over. The dog learns that the location for a recall (straight in front of you) is still the same, although their starting point was quite different. And, the dog learns to follow this unusual pattern and take direction from you at a distance.

    Never mind that the jumping style can actually be useful for crossing muddy areas and such!

  7. I think that their new dog will need a lot of socialization since there is such a huge staff and visitors to the White House. Classes would be ideal for this.

    As far as commands and behaviors, of course a strong "sit/stay" and "down/stay" are imperative but a good recall will come in handy as well.

    I think a polite greeting behavior is a must with no jumping up allowed. Tricks would come in handy to— people find dogs irresistible when they know how to shake, roll-over, speak and be quiet on command.

  8. Hi! I know this is an older post but I cannot resist. So, I was talking to a woman at a dog park once, and she said that when she lived abroad (I think she said Germany?) the dogs were off leash, well mannered, and stayed right with their humans. She said that Europeans often find American dog owners to be...well, basically bonkers, because of the leash pulling and the total lack of understanding/education re: dogs. It's like we don't really want a dog, per say, we want a warm stuffed animal robot that spends most of its time curled up by the fireplace, unless we want to snuggle it. I will admit straight up that while I had a couple more wishes, that was my main goal - to add a comforting presence to our home. Right. I mean, don't get me wrong, they are comforting, but these dogs of mine want to work. They want to be involved. I think as a culture, Americans have a tendency to be a bit...focused on our work, so we can have nice things, and we can relax for three hours at night and enjoy them, and we don't want to spend those three hours sitting on a leash in a chair with a whiny dog. Collectively we have no clue about what dogs need. We watch Lassie and 101 Dalmations and Air Bud and we think we know all about what dogs need and think and feel. I really think the biggest issue is a lack of education re: animals in general. I'm not sure what to do about that, though.