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.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 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.
This is what I want for 2011, not just for me but for all dog owners, dog trainers, dog obedience instructors.
- I want to hear from dog obedience instructors who are honestly looking for ideas that will get dog ownership back on the right track.
- I want to hear from those of you who are already starting to be successful in some small way.
- I want to hear from you with each successful step forward your students take.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.