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During the week of November 12th through the 19th, 2018, Front & Finish presented a survey to the dog training community. The survey was opened to gain insight into current exhibitor participation and feelings about recent changes affecting the sports of obedience and rally. While information about a variety of registries was collected one primary focus of the study centered on the American Kennel Club.
A total of 1510 respondents completed the questionnaire, which was the largest response we have ever received in such a study. Since some queries in the survey were dependent on responses to prior questions, the number of respondents answering some of the questions varied. We also introduced some questions to help us integrity of the data. Although surveys are not standardized assessments, larger sample sizes tend to offer more reliable information that those receiving little participation. For a frame of reference we received 1285 completed questionnaires in 2014, 451 in 2009, 455 in 2007, and 430 in 2005. We are very pleased with the response and wish to extend our gratitude to those who participated.
To review the specific statistics of each question, please visit http://bit.ly/2018FFDTS using your web browser. My interpretation of the data follows.
A review of general demographic information shows that participation of women in the sport outnumber males by 94%. A whopping 84% make up the body of participants over 50 years of age. Sixty-seven percent are between the ages of 50 and 69. Due to the body of individuals F&F serves it’s not surprising that 98% of respondents come from the United States, and the geographic distribution within was relatively equal.
Information pertaining to dogs owned suggests that 55% of respondents owned two dogs and 71% owned three. Almost 16% of exhibitors have five or more dogs, although they may not (and likely don’t), actively compete with all of them. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents currently compete with two or more dogs and about 39% are currently competing with one. Most of the dogs in competition fall into the Sporting and Herding groups (Sporting Group 37% and Herding Group 41%). Not surprisingly, most dogs are competing in AKC events by a substantial margin.
Seventy percent of respondents estimate they spent $3000 or more on the upkeep of their dogs over the past year. Thirty-six percent estimate they spent over $5000. Considering entry fees expenditures over the past year 21% of respondents indicate they spent less than one thousand dollars. Thirty percent report they spent one to two thousand, and 27% spent three to four thousand.
A review of exhibitor experience as measured through the number of dogs trained to titles indicates that about 55% have trained four or more dogs to a CD, 34% trained four of more dogs to a CDX, and 18% trained four or more dogs to a UD or higher. Approximately 7% of handlers have achieved a UDX on four or more dogs, and only 4% report obtaining and OTCh on four or more dogs. On a positive note about 81% of exhibitors indicate they have achieved an OTCh on one dog. Some of this doesn’t appear remarkable as it would be normal for fewer and fewer individuals to achieve higher and higher accomplishments. What we find concerning is that fewer and fewer individuals appear to be earning basic obedience titles. For example when considering those earning basic AKC CD titles, 45% of competitors have trained three of fewer dogs to a CD, and only 11% have obtained a CD on one dog. We worry this supports the observations by many that Novice classes are negligible in size and there really aren’t many new exhibitors entering obedience. It does not bode well for obedience when fewer new participants are entering the sport, and the majority of current exhibitors are growing older and leaving. In short those leaving the sport are not being replaced by new competitors.
Dog Training Activities & Practices
As was suggested from demographic information, exhibitors report most of their participation is under the umbrella of American Kennel Club (AKC) events. Approximately 35% participate in United Kennel Club (UKC) events and 18% report participation with Canadian Kennel Club (CKC).
Experience in obedience (as measured by number of years in the sport) reveals that 77% have participated 10 or more years! Only four percent indicate participation of one to two years. Again, more evidence of declining newcomers to support the future of obedience.
Comparing obedience to rally, similar but not as drastic trends are seen. Here 53% of participants have been involved in rally six or more years, and about 13% report participation from one to two years. Interestingly, our study suggests that rally participation seems to be more similar to agility. In Agility, 14% have participated one to two years and approximately 40% have participated 6 or more years.
Dog trainers like to communicate about their needs and experiences. Our survey indicates that 63% do so through social media (specifically Facebook). Dog trainers don’t appear to be as receptive to Twitter with 68% not even having a Twitter account.
Geographically speaking most exhibitors have been able to find trials close to their homes. Over the past year 57% say they have found trials as close as 25 miles and 23% have found trials within a 50 to 75 mile range of their homes. As “die-hard exhibitors” are more likely to drive further distances we see that almost 22% were willing to travel 400 miles or further to show their dogs (during the past year). Twenty-eight percent stuck to distances, 100 miles or less, and 23% traveled up to 200 miles.
Taking a look at those who are willing to chair a trial we see that about 35% have done so in the past. A positive indicator for stewards is noted. We see that 84% of respondents report volunteering as stewards. It is roughly split 60% to 40% in favor of those who’ve held “non-stewarding” trial committee positions (trophy chair, judging panel committee, set-up, etc.), over those who haven’t. We find these numbers encouraging, especially for a sport that relies on volunteers. Kudos to all of you who’ve offered your services!
Regarding concerns for the sport a huge majority of exhibitors indicated that they would be interested in attending seminars to discuss obedience trends and topics.
Information from our survey suggests that only 62% of trainers belong to an obedience training club that is affiliated with the AKC. Within this group 44% consider themselves highly active members and 37% rank themselves as moderately active. Taking into account all club affiliations, 43% of respondents estimate that the number of total club members in their organizations ranges from 26 to 75 individuals. Nineteen percent report club membership from 100 to150. Within these organizations approximately 40% of respondents estimate that 10 to 25 percent of members are active obedience and rally participants. Approximately 20% of respondents suggest there are less than 10% of members actively engaged in obedience and rally activities.
Considering club training activities, about 43% of respondents indicate they have instructed basic household obedience classes and about 52% have instructed basic to advanced obedience classes. Only 24% of respondents indicate running rally training classes.
Our survey investigated participation in training with entities outside of the “club” paradigm. Respondents indicated that about 12% own some sort of private training facility, 3.5% own a boarding establishment, and about 3% operate grooming services. Responses suggest that 56% of handlers frequently participate in training lessons with private (non-club) instructors. Most of these individuals appear to stick with one establishment (57%), and 46% of these individuals consider themselves highly active participants. However, compared to club-based organizations, about half actually run private training classes ( Household Obedience 23%, Basic to Advanced Obedience 25%, and Basic to Advanced Rally 17%). We feel this makes sense since independent organizations would be expected to operate from a centralized administration compared to clubs which would operate more according to parliamentary procedures.
Training frequency is always an interesting statistic and in this survey respondents report that 12% train two or more times per day, 36% train at least once a day, 40% train train three to four times per week, 10% train about once or twice per week, and about 1% train intermittently thought a given month. We just had to ask… about 10% of respondents report they have trained their dogs at PetSmart stores.
It’s not only frequency of training that’s important. Time spent training in each session is also key. About 1% report training 90 minutes or longer per session. 4% suggest training intervals of an hour to hour and a half. The actual norm appear to be under an hour with 30% training 30 to 60 minutes and 66% training 30 minutes or less.
Handlers appear to strongly prefer trainings techniques relating to Food, Traditional, and Clicker methodologies. Food training was utilized by most handlers (71%), traditional methods involving compulsion and praise are utilized by half of trainers, and clicker training ranks favor with approximately 44%.
As it goes with all endeavors managed by a governing body, opinions thrive! Due to a number of factors affecting our sport we asked some “weighty” questions to gauge the feeling exhibitors have toward our governing body, the AKC. We were very encouraged to observe that respondents appear to express rational opinions about the relationship between our sport and the AKC. They do not seem to be pointing “blaming fingers” but are expressing sincere concern. While there are a number of significant and emotionally charged issues at hand, exhibitors are also expressing regard for the job the AKC is doing. Let’s see what exhibitors are thinking…
Without question, most exhibitors believe the number of exhibitors at AKC Obedience trials is diminishing (82%). Few see any signs of stability. In keeping, there are an equal number of respondents who believe that the AKC should be doing more to promote dog obedience “training”, AND promote dog obedience “competition” to the general public (82%).
Respondent expectations for growth in the sport over the next ten years is troubling. Less than one percent believe there is any chance for substantial growth in obedience and only 7% anticipate slight growth. Sixty-three percent of those completing our questionnaire indicate concerns of decreasing involvement, and the remaining thirty percent hold expectations for continued existence as is.
Expectations for the future of rally appears to be more positive than those for obedience. With rally, 24% believe participation in competitive events is growing smaller, 32% believe it is remaining stable, and 19% see growth. As with obedience, an overwhelming number of participants believe the AKC should be doing more to promote rally competition to the general public (62%). Predictions for future growth in rally over the next ten years suggests that 40% of respondents believe rally will continue to grow. Thirty-six percent of respondents feel it will remain stable and only 24% suggest diminishing participation.
Given that the obedience representatives are the sport’s primary liaisons to the AKC, it is appropriate to inquire how the sport is viewing their services. Seventy-seven percent of respondents to our survey indicated that they are aware of the presence of AKC Obedience Reps at obedience and rally trials. Since those unaware of reps at trials would likely have less accurate perceptions, the following results were collected ONLY from those indicating awareness of reps at trials. Furthermore, as typical interactions between reps and judges, and typical interactions between reps and exhibitors is likely different, we have broken these results down according to 1) judges who officiate over obedience and rally classes; 2) judges who only officiate over rally classes; and 3) non-judging exhibitors who participate in both.
Perceptions of AKC Reps as Viewed by Participants Judging both Obedience & Rally Classes.
Within the group of individuals who are judging both rally and obedience, 58% believe AKC Reps are very attentive to the needs of exhibitors. 25% feel they appear indifferent. Fifty-eight percent of judges in this group also believe the reps need to reach out more to welcome and interact with new exhibitors.
Among individuals in this group of respondents, 69% believe AKC Reps do contribute to more effective judging procedures in the ring. Twenty-one percent suggest that representative influence is negligible. Considering equitable scoring across all judges, 51% of respondents judging both obedience and rally believe the reps contribute positively. 37% suggest that reps have little effect and practically nobody suggested any negative effects on scoring at all.
To sum it all up, a significant number of those who are judging both obedience & rally classes do believe support from the AKC Reps has made them a better judge. Here we find 73% of these individuals responding positively with twelve percent opposed.
Beyond specific questions about the representatives, this group of individuals was also asked about the recent AKC Obedience Advisory Committee and subsequent regulations changes which occurred on May 1, 2018. Responding to whether the AKC adequately sought input from obedience & rally judges regarding these regulation changes, an overwhelming 80% felt the AKC did not. Additionally, 81% felt they should have been consulted.
Perceptions of AKC Reps as Viewed by Participants who are Only Judging Rally Classes.
Among the group of individuals who are only judging rally, 50% suggest AKC Reps are acting as advocates for exhibitors at rally and obedience trials. Interestingly 20% felt reps were acting indifferently and 20% felt the reps are having a negative effect on exhibitors. A substantial number of individuals in this group (80%) feel AKC reps should be doing more to meet and encourage new exhibitors.
Data from individuals in this group of respondents report that 70% feel the AKC Reps contribute positively to more effective judging procedures in the ring. Thirty percent suggest a reps have little to no influence on their judging practices. Forty-five percent of this group suggest that reps improve equitable scoring across judges while 55% say the effect is small, if any. Again, as with the other group of judges, no one really suggested that the reps have a negative effect on scoring.
With 10% offering no opinion, rally only judges were split about 1 to 2 on whether the AKC reps have helped to make them better judges. 60% report they did, 30% said they didn’t.
Perceptions of AKC Reps as Viewed by Participants who are Non-Judging Exhibitors.
The largest number of individuals choosing not to respond to these questions came from exhibitors who do not judge. We were impressed by these numbers because we feel it reflects the integrity exhibitors had in reporting their honest opinions. In other words, exhibitors appeared resistive to report opinions for which they felt they had no practical knowledge or understanding.
Among exhibitors who do not judge, 36% believe that AKC Reps do advocate for exhibitors. Twenty-four percent feel they appear indifferent. Only 3% see the reps influence as being detrimental. Considering that an AKC Reps position naturally puts them in situations of dispute, we considered this a complimentary result.
Like the other two groups before, exhibitors believe that AKC Reps need to extend themselves more in their hospitality toward new exhibitors. Sixty-two percent of exhibitors view this as a significant need while14% feel they are doing the best they can to interact with newcomers.
Considering improved judging procedures and equitable scoring, 42% of exhibitors believe reps have a positive influence on judging procedures in the ring, but only 25% believe they improve equitable scoring across judges. Twenty-five percent of exhibitors report they feel reps have little to no effect on judging practices in the ring and 38% feel they have no effect in promoting fairer scoring across judges.
Like those who are obedience and rally judges, we asked non-judging exhibitors about the recent AKC Obedience Advisory Committee and subsequent regulations changes that occurred on May 1, 2018. Opinion was similar to, but not as significant as that of the judges. Among exhibitors, 30% felt that the AKC appropriately obtained exhibitor opinion regarding these regulation changes. Fifty-one percent felt they did not. Also like those who are judges, 74% of non-judging exhibitors felt that more should have been done to acquire input from the fancy. Only about 6% felt the AKC did not have an obligation to obtain such opinion from exhibitors.
Obedience & Rally Judges
Reviewing exhibitor input regarding obedience and rally judges, most do feel that judges score all exhibitors impartially (60%). There is a large body of handlers who do feel that some judges are showing favoritism toward some exhibitors (29%). Similar results were obtained when considering equitable scoring across different breeds. Here 58% of respondents feel judges score different breeds equally while 30% do not.
Much is often said about the quality of judging panels and how this affects entry rates. In our survey 55% of exhibitors reveal that they consider who is judging before entering a trial. Forty percent of handlers enter trials irrespective of who’s judging. Fifty-nine percent of exhibitors report that there are one or two judges under whom they will not enter. Fifteen percent of handlers report that there are several judges under whom they will not enter. Eighteen percent report they would enter under any judge.
As substantial changes have been made to AKC Obedience Regulations in recent months, we asked a few questions about participant favorability toward these and other exercises.
A whopping 98% of competing exhibitors report that teaching dogs to stay is an important skill for dogs to know. Thirty-nine percent of exhibitors believe that recent changes, which reduce the difficulty of group exercises, will lead to more behavioral problems occurring between dogs outside the ring. Fifty percent of exhibitors do not appear to feel that the easier stay exercises will lead to these aggression problems. Overall, at this time, 64% of exhibitors are not highly concerned their dog might end up in a fight at a trial. With that said, about a third of exhibitors are concerned about dog-on-dog aggression at trials (33%).
Among those competing in Novice classes, 55% reported no concern that the Novice Group exercises were a risk to their dog’s safety. Thirty-nine percent did. Regarding recent regulation changes to the novice group exercises feelings were mixed. Thirty-three percent of handlers did not feel the AKC should have made changes to this exercise. Sixteen percent of exhibitors did feel changes were necessary, but these individuals also report being unhappy with the amendments that were made. Thirty-seven percent of handlers report satisfaction with the changes as they have been made.
Among Open class exhibitors, 55% report they felt the Open Group exercise was a risk to their dogs safety. Thirty-six percent reported no concerns. Looking at the recent regulation changes to the open group exercises 19% of handlers did not feel the AKC should have made any rule changes. Thirty-six percent did feel changes were necessary but they were not pleased with the amendments that were made. Thirty percent of open exhibitors report satisfaction with the changes that were made.
Looking at the new Command Discrimination exercise in the Open class, handlers were asked to identify the statement best representing their feelings. Here’s what we found…
22% strongly favor the Command Discrimination exercise and want it to continue "as is”.
12% like the Command Discrimination exercise but believe it needs further modification. Given the scope of this study we did not ask respondents what modifications they suggested.
33% feel neutral about the new Command Discrimination exercise and can take it or leave it.
9% do not like the new Command Discrimination exercise and feel it needs to be modified substantially. Given the scope of this study we did not ask respondents what modifications they suggested.
9% strongly dislike the new Command Discrimination exercise and believe it needs to be eliminated.
15% offered no opinion.
In some circles exhibitors are discussing concerns that the dog’s landing and turn on the Broad Jump exercise places undue stress on the its shoulders and joints. In our survey 42% of handlers do feel this is a concern and 45% do not. In respect to possible changes to this exercise 41% of exhibitors believe the exercise should not be changed, 38% believe the exercise should be changed to make it less stressful, and 5% suggest eliminating the exercise entirely.
In December 2015, the AKC altered the judging procedures and scoring of the Utility class scent discrimination exercise. Exhibitors were asked whether they felt this was an effective change. In our study only 10% of exhibitors indicated a need to make these modifications. Fifty-one percent of participants reported dissatisfaction with the policy.
While not standardized assessments, surveys are controlled studies that can provide evidence-based data about the opinions of large groups of individuals. Over they years Front & Finish has conducted a number of surveys to give exhibitors more information about opinions within our sport. Reviewing this data, participants can gauge how their feelings compare to those of the larger group. We realize this year’s survey was exceptional in scope and lengthy to complete. This makes us feel especially indebted to those who were willing to answer all of the questions. Thank you! We sincerely hope this provides you with beneficial food for thought as we progress into the coming years.
Looking at the admirable number of responses we received during this survey, gives us a positive feeling about the level of interest in our sport. It is also suggestive of an appreciable level of concern participants are feeling . Elevated concern is not always bad because it also indicates higher levels of interest in, and motivation towards our sport. We believe this survey shows that participants continue to carry a sincere love of the sport, a genuine respect for the sport, and a deep desire to see it carry on.
Training dogs today doesn’t seem to “fit” with society in a lot of ways. In our world today gratification often comes quickly and without much effort. In an instant we click buttons and tap icons to get our needs met. An infinite array of devices make us cooler in summer, warm us in winter, move us farther and faster, help us find what we need to know, and even tell us things we didn’t know we needed to know. It makes one wonder where it will all end. Just last night I installed a device in my house that will help me wake up, soothe me with music, light my mood, give me the news, comfort my air, and open my doors. All just because I say “Hey Siri, Good Morning”. Heck… I don’t even have to tap icons anymore…
Yes… sadly our sport struggles to stay in sync with the times. Dog training takes energy, effort, thought, trial-n-error, and… a lot of time and patience. As dog trainers we all know the reward at the end of the trip is worth the undertaking. Unfortunately, we worry that those who don’t know our sport and don’t know us, may never appreciate and realize what we know. Not everyone is going to like a dog and not everyone that likes dogs will want to train one. We all know it would be ludicrous to expect so. However, we all also know there are participants out there who would enjoy and benefit from the camaraderie our sport offers.
So what should we take away from this survey? The interpretations above are of my opinion, and for me, the bottom line is NOT to point fingers… Solutions take precedence over blame which offers little constructive benefit. Most participants in our sport desire transparency and structured opportunities to provide input.
Considering the way that respondents approached this study I’m convinced most others feel the same. I sincerely believe “most” participants in our sport represent the best qualities human beings have to offer. Even though we come from vastly different backgrounds, abilities, and potential; we all are willing to put individual differences aside and accept that which benefits the entire sport.. All too often we fail to see the big picture because the details get in the way. Our opinions aren’t all going to match but most are in synchrony towards the greater cause. We love our dogs with vigor and we protect them as partners at the most intimate level of our lives. It’s a wonderful avocation and all individuals deserve the utmost in respect, simply for showing an interest in what we do.
While debate prevails over particulars, most participants seem to believe the AKC is supporting the sport. In general, participants appear receptive to changes in the governing regulations. However, it’s also suggested that individuals believe such changes should be made with caution and input from the fancy. Results suggest notable concerns that the AKC should be seeking more data from the fancy before making substantial changes to the regulations. In concert with these feelings, participants indicate that the AKC should also be doing more to enlighten and encourage participation from new exhibitors. Respondents in our survey indicate significant concerns about future growth in our sport. Some indicate serious concerns that participation is dwindling.
Most judges and exhibitors appear to retain favorable impressions for the influence that AKC Reps have on the sport. However these individuals also suggest it beneficial for reps to increase their efforts in welcoming and interacting with newcomers. An AKC Representatives position can introduce them into difficult situations. Although suggestions for improvement exist, we were encouraged by the positive opinions regarding the work that the reps are doing.
Results regarding the level of volunteerism in our sport was very encouraging. About one-third of respondents indicated that they have acted as a trial chairperson. Eighty-four percent indicated that they have volunteered as stewards and 60% report holding other non-stewarding committee positions. While we realize that these groups of individuals overlap, we still contend that this indicates a healthy level of support for our sports.
Survey results overwhelmingly indicate that trainers believe teaching dogs to stay is a necessary skill for dogs to know. However, most exhibitors don’t believe the recent regulation changes adequately appraise this skill. Changes to the Utility Scent Discrimination exercise was felt unnecessary by most, but data regarding the other exercises was mixed. While some exhibitors appear steadfast, most seem willing to consider and accept regulations changes made with fidelity
For those wishing to review the data associated with each question in our survey, please visit http://bit.ly/2018FFDTS. This link will take you to our Google Results page where the results were tabulated and display with visual graphs . As this survey was extensive in scope, please allow extra time for the results to load in your web browser!
We published individual comments from respondents in the November issue of Front & Finish. These comments are also included at the end of our Google Results page, but you will need to scroll the inset window to read all of them. Please note that results from this survey will not likely print satisfactorily. Google informed us that this due to difficulties getting an HTML pages with SVG images to insert line breaks correctly.
Last month we published the 2018 Dog Trainer's Survey for exhibitors participating in Obedience & Rally competitive events. Results of this study are being published in two parts, first exhibitors comments, and second the actual response data to the questions.
There were a total of 1510 individual respondents who successfully completed this survey. One question regarding participation in rally classes was thrown out because it appeared to cause confusion with some participants. Out of those responding to survey questions the following participants also offered personal comments. Content is published anonymously and has only been edited for spelling and formatting adjustments. A few responses were omitted because they indicated "Not for publication." or included other inquiries.
As can be expected, impressions of the following remarks indicate a fair amount of opposing dimensions. And while it's difficult to quantify these comments into a definitive blend, I found them highly interesting to read. Some comments are brief and others extensive. Some convey the positive, others the negative. Concern over dog-on-dog aggression at trials still appears an issue to some, others not so much. Contentment with new AKC obedience regulations vacillates from gratification to disdain. It's quite a mix!
So... amid all of this uncertainty, one area of consistent opinion does appear to exist? Most respondents appear particularly concerned about favorable outcomes for the future of our sport. As is always the case, exhibitors retain spirited opinions. If this energy is a sign of health then we may not be as impoverished many believe. Enjoy the read!
***Is there a way that the AKC can connect with exhibitor's better by using more social media (Facebook or something)?
*** I think OTCH points needs to be revised, all placements should get some points
*** We need safer jumps!
*** I liked traditional obedience, other than group stays. The AKC plus AKC obedience clubs need to do a better job of welcoming new folks into training of all areas of obedience, rally, agility & tracking. If we don't bring new folks in, these sports will wither on the vine of impatient, time-crunched people who do not value training. The AKC needs to partner with insurance carriers to promote the CGC exercises/training as a requirement to homeowner's insurance coverage, partner with townships to promote CGC training to reduce or eliminate dog ownership fees, perhaps also as a requirement for a dog earning its conformation championship, just as European countries commonly use temperament testing to decide what dogs will be permitted to breed on. The AKC should also partner with those who regularly compete in these sports to brainstorm ways to make these sports more attractive, fun, and popular among younger folks. There are some brilliant people out there--use them to make things better!
*** I'm glad they deleted the group stays-I feel it is safer for all dogs involved.
*** I wish your survey had said AKC/CKC. I have lots of experience in CKC but was unable to answer many of your questions as they specified AKC only.
*** I would like to see Novice changed so that heeling is not a major component. Heeling is the most difficult exercise to master well in obedience. Placing it in Novice discourages new exhibitors. Years ago Diane Bauman wrote a letter to F&F suggesting how to change obedience to make it more attractive to new competitors. I would like the AKC to consider her suggestions.
*** RACH changes Nov. 2018 made it go from too hard to way too easy to earn a RACH.
*** Unless you have shown a small dog in recent years, people are clueless as to how dangerous the stays were. especially the novice ones where my 12 pound dog was in between dogs weighing over 100 pounds. same in the open classes where clubs did not use height order. things happened ALL THE TIME and judges ignored it or did not notice. I never want to go back to that crap again and I am glad the AKC finally got rid of them. the 'old' timers can pretend things did not happen all they want but the rest of us know the truth.
*** I love agility, but my current dog has difficulty judging distances to jumps which makes the sport stressful for him. He likes obedience and does very well. As a result, I have learned to enjoy the sport and take a lot of pleasure training and competing. However, I see fewer and fewer new people entering obedience and many people entering agility. Obedience has a lot of late middle-aged women participating and not many under-40s of either gender. I worry for the sport.
*** I think the novice stays have been dumbed down to the point they are easier than the beginner novice stays. Pre open should not have changed at all, it was fine the way it was.
*** CDX from Open B class requires different skills than the Open A class. No longer equivalent titles. A dog getting a CDX from Open A does not have to learn either a stand at a distance from a sit or from a down.
*** I strongly believe the stay exercises should have not been eliminated. Instead, I believe there should be consequences for untrained or unruly dogs in the ring. I would suggest AKC implement an automatic 3 month suspension for any dog that leaves its position (not for laying down on a sit). If the dog does it again after 3 months, then it is suspended for 6 months. Dog is automatically suspended and cannot show in other shows/classes it is entered in. The suspension is so the handler can train the dog to correctly perform the exercise. Perhaps handlers would actually train their dogs knowing there are consequences for dogs that get up and leave or bother other dogs. Bottom line is that all exhibitors are required to read the AKC rules and regulations and should understand all the exercises they will be required to perform in any given class. I also believe the Open stays should be 3 minutes each. Train Don't Complain...
*** Most of my reasons for stepping back from the sport are related to negative experiences with the local club and lost camaraderie I had come to enjoy as part of showing experience due to specific conflict in the local club.
*** Group exercises in open need to stay gone period! My dogs always stay, but my dogs can get killed. I have seen plenty of things happen in open group exercises in the last 10 years. Plenty! It√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢s a huge relief not to worry that my dog isn't going to get killed over an exercise that occurs nowhere else in life. I have GCH, Group placing AKC History making, National and multiple HIT dogs. If this survey would have been prior to 12 months my answers would have been very different as I had 3 of the Top 5 Obedience min pins in the country. I traveled a lot and spent a ton of money. And prior as well campaigning from 1 to 3 dogs heavily. I took a well needed break over the past year, but by years end will have been an AKC Obedience Trial Chairman for 5 shows this year.
*** Edit these verbose comments, at will. Questions on judging could be expanded. I do not judge obedience or rally but am a conformation judge. We also have members of our club who judge scent work, field trials, etc. Also, 10 years is a minimal cut off for experience in obedience. I have been participating for over 40 years, so think several choices beyond 10 years are statistically valid.
This is the first I've heard about broad jump concerns. If the broad jump is a concern for injuries, then we had better make some major changes to agility in which the dog is required to go at high speed over high jumps and do quick turns causing cruciate ligament injuries, and plenty of shoulder injuries, as well. I am sick to death of the dummying down obedience because of vague "concerns" by those who are not successful competitors.
AKC is killing the sport with regulation changes every six months with no real input from the clubs or their members. Also, the addition of continue activities that can run more entries through in a day is causing many kennel clubs to drop obedience in favor of the additional dollars. This move from obedience was noticeable when agility came in. Now activities such as scent work have already caused at least one club in my area to drop obedience in favor of this new activity.
It used to be that AKC promoted obedience as an important activity for everyone who owned a dog to have a well mannered dog. Now, at the kennel clubs that still hold obedience and rally, the general public would never find the area where these dogs are being exhibited. As an example, this past weekend I entered an all breed show in which conformation and the vendors were in the climate controlled building while the obedience and rally exhibitors were relegated to two barns in the back forty with a jury rigged set up to blow hot air into the building to heat it. The snow was not cleared for easy access to the building, there was no way to drive up close to unload (as there was for conformation), no accessibility provided for handicapped persons, and, joy of joys, in 23 degree weather the obedience and rally exhibitors were provided outdoor porta-potties.
Kennel clubs put forth the claim that obedience and rally don't make money for them because of declining entries, but this type of treatment of exhibitors who have so much time invested in their trained dogs, and who pay the same entry fee, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy to prove that entries are continuing to decline and to offer justification for dropping these activities altogether. As a suggestion for change to obedience and rally, judges in these activities have considerably more limitations put on their ability to judge in terms of distance and numbers of dogs that could be adjudicated in a day than other activities, such as scent work, in which all three legs can be earned under the same judge and as many as 125 dogs in a day can be judged. While it is not feasible for an obedience judge to run that many dogs through in a day, most obedience clubs no longer reach their entry limits and such things as same day entry could help and we know this works at UKC events.
Also, one has to consider the expense to the exhibitor. Expendable income for most is finite. Additionally, AKC listing and recording fees are simply too high. As a rally trial chair who keeps a profit and loss sheet for the events, those fees and licensing fees for the events amounted to 20% of expenses for the last events. There are only so many raffle tickets one can sell to exhibitors to make up the difference.
*** Options need to be available for the high performing teams as well as the more casual team exhibitors. I should be able to get a respectable score on a non traditional breed that is very well trained. Much of the precision requirements have made obedience unpractical and ruined the fun of showing.
*** The huge problem with obedience competitions (and therefore interest) is the lack of reinforcement allowed in the ring.
*** The biggest liability to our dog's safety currently in the obedience ring is the high jump in utility. It should be redesigned as breakaway.
*** I believe the average age of competitors is very high and we need to figure out how to involve younger competitors somehow in to our sport. Easier said then done
*** I feel the elimination of group exercises was important. I have students with small dogs and a small dog of my own that we would no longer enter in AKC obedience after witnessing numerous incidents in group stays including a serious attack, but feel the Open replacement does not address testing of a stay. Would encourage implementation of individual honor down stays similar to what UKC does on the down, with a steward with the dog in Open when handler is out of sight.
*** Changing the stays does not eliminate an individual dog in another ring, jumping the gating/leaving the ring and interacting with another dog... or outside the ring... have seen it happen more than within the stay exercise
*** Because of safety concerns, I would l like to see the current obedience high jump replaced with replaced with a displaceable jump such as a panel jump. This would reduce the risk of injury to dogs that crash the jump.
*** It is really hard for less experience competitors to get up to an OTCH when having to compete against dogs that already have an OTCH and the teams are competing for lifetime points or an invitation to the NOC.
*** I DO choose venues and judges that allow and encourage All American Dogs. If it's clear my All American Dog clearly outperformed my AKC breed dog in the same class and see a substantial score difference I will NOT enter under that judge again.
*** I want to mention my replies applied to AKC only. Most of my competition occurs in CKC and ASCA. I therefore train and compete at a higher level than that indicated in this survey.
*** It is very hard to get instruction to go to open and utility. I feel this is the reason people stop with their CD. They then go to rally, agility or barn hunt. There must be more opportunity to get affordable instruction in upper level obedience to increase participation.
*** Survey has biased answers designed to influence the results towards what the survey designer already believes
*** With the current AKC Dogs Per Hour judging formula, judges are struggling to adhere to an impossible schedule. Add to that the optional and non regular classes with different rules, etc. and the sport is losing wonderful judges who are expected to judge everything in one assignment. Other organizations offering obedience are more relaxed for both judges and exhibitors.
*** I think that competition obedience is a dying sport and that the attitude of the judges and competitors is to blame. I will continue to seek out more friendly and fun environments to spend my time and money.
*** Biggest factors negatively influencing new exhibitors are poor judges and bad attitudes of Utility B exhibitors. I have 15 plus novice a students and I see this happening every weekend!
*** I have witnessed a considerable decline in entries in the 30+ years I have been involved in obedience. I worry about the future of the sport, given that many of us are getting older. I participate in Rally as an introduction to obedience for my youngsters or as an activity for my semi retired dogs, but heart and soul, I'm an obedience person.
*** I would like to see exhibitors showing more consideration for others working inside the ring/s while standing or moving their dogs ring side. AKC Rule I would love to c is: dogs can not be any closer than 10√¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ from the ring gate at all times.
*** I have experienced many unfriendly exhibitors.
*** Over the years I have had multiple dogs at both the Novice and Open level bothered in the ring by another dog, including an OTCh dog. I am very grateful to not have to do stays the old way. I think the command discrimination exercises is great for the A people to get ready for Utility.
*** I wish AKC and other leading organizations would promote more ethical training techniques and discourage punishment based methods that lead to fear, frustration and avoidance behavior. I think this is the thing that could be most important for the sport and for drawing pet owners into competition.
*** Thank you for the survey! There are some nuances around some of the exercise changes in the survey that I would have liked to address. The answers available to us did not allow us to define how much "risk" we felt was involved out of the ring and/or within it. Ditto the question about injury and the broad jump. Also I would have liked a chance to go into a bit more detail about what we do/do not like about the command discrimination exercise regarding how it is applied in the various classes.
Again, thank you for reaching out!! I hope the survey will be a springboard for productive discussions on how we can keep competition obedience viable, now that most of the arguing seems to have settled down around elimination of the group stays.
*** I've been an agility competitor for a long time and have never had any interested in competing in obedience until recently. I find the new rules changes positive and the cue discrimination exercise very interesting and fun to train. I am now training my agility dog in obedience and plan to enter her in an obedience show.
*** I would like AKC to become more responsive to currently active competitors in obedience.
*** I love the sport of AKC Obedience ......I am afraid though it is being "watered" down to make it easier ! .....keep it tough !
*** I am pleased that the 1-minute Stay has been removed from Open in 2019.
*** I am an agility competitor who recently added Rally and Obedience to my bucket list of things I want to train my dogs to do. In my opinion, Agility is so positive and fun, it is hard for the old sport of obedience to compete for the dog competition world dollars. (Rally is perfect just the way it is.) In order to attract more people into obedience, I believe that the "preferred" levels of obedience should be the same as the standard levels, but they should allow rewards in the ring at the end of an exercise. (Maybe 3 soft treats allowed, shown to judge upon entry.) The jump from training at a facility, park, or home to formal obedience in the ring is very great. I think the "preferred" level would do a greater service to the sport by being that step that supports the dog to be more successful in the duration of it's career. I also think a veteran level could be added to the regular classes in which older dogs can compete at a lower jump height.
Many will disagree with me, but having read many people struggle with the huge leap from training to formal competition, I believe the preferred levels are not being utilized properly and there would be a huge increase in preferred entries with a very small change. If people succeed at preferred in this way, I believe they will then transition to the regular classes and the whole sport would have a brighter financial future.
*** I think change is inevitable over time, in order to improve functionality. However I don't think the changes implemented have gotten us where we need to be quite yet.
*** I personally do not like any of the Sit/Down stays. Even when dogs are on leash, some dogs will stare at other dogs. Many dogs interpret that as a threat. I don't want my dog to feel unsafe. And if a dog breaks, this may ruin the trust the dog has in the exercise and handler.
*** Hate the dumbing down of OB in general and AKC REFUSAL TO CONSIDER ALTERNATIVES!
Dog Trainer's Survey - Exhibitor Comments ~ Continued From Section I
*** I think that having the most experienced and successful handlers (referred to as "the OTCH people" at many of the trial that I attend) be more supportive and warmer to the newer people would be a HUGE help in keeping people in the sport. Right now they have their own "private" crating area etc.
I also believe that AKC should somehow set up a separate title track for the OTCH handlers. Right now, as they enter trial after trial to accumulate points, the newer people in Open B or Utility B have literally NO chance to place in these classes. The placements ALWAYS go to the same people and the new exhibitors have no chance of a placement. Many of these people are also "personal friends" and have long conversations with the judges *before* they compete. This also contributes to the feeling of hopelessness of the newer handlers. "Why should we even bother?"
*** I feel that the Command Discrimination for Open B should just be in different places not always after Figure 8 like in A-- not totally different exercises. Before the change the B class had all the same exercises just in different orders now in B we have different exercises. Not fair do not offer any more OTCh points.
*** I wish AKC would review their preferred program. I will continue to compete in preferred open (and hopefully utility), because my 9 year old dog struggles with higher jump heights now at his age. However, preferred is technically the same class now as regular open except for jump heights. The use of the Open B order of exercises (and the rotating signals discrimination) did not change, making it actually more complex and challenging than Regular Open A. With the current changes it would be more fair to either have an Open A and Open B for preferred, or have a veterans jump height option in regular open as other titling organizations offer. I would prefer to be working on our regular Open CDX, but at nine years old, my dog needs the lower jump heights. I would also support a broad jump exercises that offers the handler to stand beyond the jump as ASCA does. It is easier on the dogs' joints.
*** I think the cost for entry fees are crazy, they should be reduced if they want more participation.
*** Need to do more to make judging equitable
*** I hate the new Command Discrimination exercise! I am competing with my Novice A dog in Open A. She performs every exercise beautifully except the Command Discrimination/DOR. It's been a year and a half since we earned her CD title and after many attempts we have 1 leg toward her CDX, with mostly the CD exercise NQing us. My dog could do the OOS exercises perfectly.
I am at the point of not trialing in Obedience any longer. While, I know how much hard work is involved and it shouldn't be a cakewalk, with the cost of shows and travel/hotel costs (only one show/year is closer than 99 miles away) I am having a hard time justifying continuing to spend a great deal of money on something that we cannot be successful in, and with that I mean even a earning a Q.
Even though I love Obedience and I do receive wonderful compliments on what a great little working dog I have, I am frustrated and discouraged that I cannot earn the CDX with my "great little working dog". I know some will say that I should train harder, yet I do spend many hours training and proofing my dog. There are so many other sports and events that I can do and be successful at with my dog why should I continue something that I cannot be successful at?
*** I have been an exhibitor, off and on, since 1984. I feel that changes made in the past improved the sport (jump heights in particular) however the "dumbing down" of the stay exercises I truly believe has made shows more dangerous in general. New trainers are not training reliable, calm stays. The old rules required much more stability, now it seems dogs are less likely to really understand that part of their job in all situations, at trials or in every day life. I am a cross-over R+ positive trainer having come from the methods of the 1980's but this is one area I believe we are slowly eroding in importance by continuously making it easier.
*** The Preferred Level of classes was a great addition to our sport because with the lowered jump heights our veteran dogs still have a chance to shine without being regulated to the veterans only class. Personally, I would like to see Preferred Open and Preferred Utility combined with the regular Open B and Utility B classes, since they are absolutely identical except for the jump heights and how the championship points are calculated. This would help increase the number of entries in Open B and Utility B with exhibitors able to receive more OTCH points in the regular classes - as for Preferred, the points are based only on the scores and not on placements.
*** I am currently training my first hopeful UD dog. Although I haven't yet entered the open/utility classes, I am very excited about the new exercises in both novice/open. Challenging exercises and increased safety to my dog. I commend the AKC for these changes, thank you!
*** I believe the sport is in need of a separate class for dogs who have already attained their OTCH
*** I think AKC should not only encourage the public to train and compete in Rally and OB, I think they should actively make changes to both sports to make them more exciting and fun for handlers, dogs and spectators. I think changes could be made to make the sports more fun while still maintaining a similar level or difficulty. General things that may make the sports more fun would be more movement, less stays, more props, more variability in exercises or order of exercises. I believe the sport of OB needs to evolve to attract more competitors.
*** I see diminishing participation as frustration with the mess AKC rules changes have made. They have always been about the money, but now they are ignorant in their implementation. They have not changed to add value.
*** The Out of Sight Stays should have remained in Open . The AKC could have required that leashes remain on the dogs OR they could have changed to an honor down while the next team was heeling and a group sit stay Or for Open B could have required only one stay - 3 orders having a sit - 3 orders having a down. Novice stays are now what we used to teach in the first 8 week class. Broad jump - I have suggested to the AKC every time they ask for suggestions from the competitors that 3 orders have jumps with the handler to the right of the jump and 3 orders with the handler on the left. This would prevent the constant stress on one side. I think the cranked up head position favored by many competitors does more harm structurally to our dogs than the broad jump. You didn't ask this but I think the best thing the AKC could do to get people to stay in obedience is that once a team has earned the OTCH they should compete in a separate class . Yes this is a dumbing down of the OTCH but I think it would greatly increase the number of "B" entrants competing.
*** I am aging out of Obedience. competition, but have enjoyed my run!
*** I really enjoy the new Tracking articles now appearing in F&F. It's a sport I just started.
*** I'm concerned we are dumbing down the sport to make it easier for people who don't want to train the more difficult exercises, in order to get more people to compete.
*** I believe that AKC judges should remember that when they attend a trial as an exhibitor, they should act like an exhibitor and not attempt to use and invoke their title of an AKC judge to influence the members of the trial and event committees. I personally witnessed an occurrence of this nature and lost respect for the judges (there was more than one), as well as the trial and committee members who catered to them. I have since elected not to compete under these judges, and elected not to enter trials at the AKC-affiliated club. The experience, itself, greatly reduced my desire and ambition to continue to compete in a sport that I enjoy.
I believe that, in an effort to reduce the probability of disturbances and/or reactions of aggression at trials, that "un-entered" dogs should not be crated or permitted on the premises at AKC-related trials. In addition to creating possible disturbances, un-entered dogs take up much-needed crating space for others. I would like to see the AKC require and enforce a rule of this nature. Premiums can, however, provide the names of nearby facilities for those who elect to bring un-entered dogs with them. I also believe the "sportsmanship rules" should be prominently posted at each trial, as well as consequences for those who do not abide by them. Without consequences, the words are meaningless.
*** I believe that it is essential that all dogs learn basic skills for their own safety and the public's safety: sit, down, come, stay, off, heel, no.
*** Obedience training is hard, takes time and unfortunately most people do not want to work that hard. Thus nose work, barn hunt, dock diving etc. have infringed on obedience and trial entries. I don't want it dumbed down, but perhaps not be as strict in scoring and behavior in the ring. Allow for more talking and praise towards the dog. Perhaps people will start to return.
*** I would like the dog to jump the broad jump with handler on either the left or right side of the jump (judges choice). The dog would need to learn to turn both directions.
*** I would like for the AKC to eliminate the requirement of having earned a CDX from being able to be a Rally judge.
*** Thanks for having this survey, maybe the AKC might take some notice. Apparently I am not the only one that has opinions about the Broad Jump and Command Discrimination since they were specifically addressed.
I feel changes should be addressed by people that actually do the sport, not someone in an office that does not participate in Obedience. All Open and Utility should be put together, (forget Preferred) people can jump whatever height they want, this is not an athletic competition, it is a training competition, who cares if a dog jumps 10" or 20". Then have AKC create an OTCH "Specials" class so participates (wanting to achieve an OTCH) are not "angry at the exhibitors" that want to continue showing their OTCH dogs but keep taking OTCH points away from others. This is a real issue and leads people to other dog sports and other venues. Not every dog can be a 198 or 200, not everyone can train a dog to a 198 or 199, but still deserve to have an obedience Champion. Why is Obedience one of the only dog venues where you have to beat Champions to get points? Especially since Conformation and Obedience are always under the same event number, if they are considered the "same" judging styles, they should be the same.
*** I hope that someday dog trainers exhibitors and judges can all learn to respect each other instead of pointing fingers and blaming others. The biggest problem today is that both extremes (positive trainers and balanced) don't want to listen to each other. Everyone is trying their best to improve and there is validity on both sides.
*** I have competed in agility since the mid '90's. I have titled 2 dogs in obedience, and 5 dogs in agility, 2 of them to Masters level and also in other organizations. I stopped doing obedience trials because of the lack of control with Novice people and dogs in the stays. Since I learned of the rule changes I have started to train again in obedience and plan to compete in obedience trials. I feel my dogs will be safer because I don't have to worry about unsafe dogs in the same ring with my dog. Being on leash with the stays at least gives time to react if a situation might start. I would like it even better if there were short stays during the individual tests with no other dog to interfere.
*** Impulse control in the presence of other dogs is the hallmark of a well trained dog. Bring back traditional group stays!!! Obedience is hard. We need to start challenging owners to step up their game. A Novice Trick Title is not the same as a Novice Obedience title.
*** I feel we need more monitoring of dogs outside the ring, there is way to much unacceptable behavior on both the dogs and handlers going on and should be addressed by AKC reps.
*** The AKC May have sought input before the May 2018 rule changes, but they ignored exhibitors and judges. They used a trumped-up petition to justify that, pushed by a few high-profile folks and containing thousands of signatures of people who never have, and never will enter obedience trials. They are making the sport unwelcoming to small breeds, designed for retrievers and herding breeds. It's sad.
*** I feel that some of my answers are dependent on my present dog situation. I've only got two dogs; one who completed his titles before the changes to obedience were implemented and another, younger dog who dislikes obedience so we're currently training in agility (since we've only been training for 6 months, this doesn't show up on your survey.) Because of this, it may be some time before I get to experience the changes to novice/open and have a valid opinion on those changes. I do own a heavy-bodied breed, though, and I don't believe that the broad jump did any physical harm to either of the ones I trialed at the open level.
*** I find other venues to have more reasonable, realistic rules and exercises, are more fun and more welcoming.
I'm not a regular participant in AKC trials because I like the other venues better.
*** There are newer obedience venues that have challenging exercises but are much more friendly to mixed-breed dogs and generally have nicer people in charge and judging. AKC Obedience venues are hectic and crowded and not respectful to the dogs feelings. AKC is now considered 'old school'. The new venues are more consistent with newer, kinder, more effective training practices.
*** I am very unhappy with the new command discrimination exercise!!! Due to the fact that I have put OTCH's on two dogs, I must bring my green dogs out in the B classes! I do not mind having the exercises in a mixed up order, but then to have 5 variations of an exercise is being belief! And not the stay exercise in Open has been changed to the stand only!! WHY??? The AKC had ruined a sport I used to love. I am unsure of whether I will continue with this sport
*** I would like to see a NEW preparation kind of class that is conducted and judged like Novice but the dog is on leash for all the heeling. Also, allowing us handlers to pick a time, maybe twice where we can verbally reward our dog during the heeling. Currently there is NO class to enter to get our 'nervous' dogs used to having a strange judge follow them around the ring. Many of us train alone and may also not have a building to train in with multi-ring distractions. Beginner Novice does not meet the need as you have to concentrate on the signs and so can't focus 100% on your dog. Also the judge does not follow you around the ring during heeling and call the commands out. Preferred Novice doesn't meet the need because it's exactly like Novice. Throughout my obedience competition career the biggest complaint I hear at trials is why does my dog not work the same as he/she does in training. I firmly believe a PREP class like this would help bridge the gap between training and showing. As for the Open class, I very much dislike the Command Discrimination. It's actually harder than Signals in Utility. Super confusing for a green dog learning both. But what I dislike the most about it is how un-fun and demotivating it can be. I have a dog that likes to run, jump and chase. This exercise makes obedience even less self motivating to most breeds than it already is.
*** Rally is often disrespected as a "lesser" sport. I personally find Rally to be a more challenging sport because of the unpredictability of the course. While scoring is more stringent in obedience, teams are performing prescribed exercises and know exactly what they will be asked to do beforehand. As I compete in both, I frequently see teams who were successful in the obedience ring do poorly in rally. I would like to see Rally taken more seriously as a sport, with more consistent judging, exhibitors more thoroughly prepared for competition, more stringent RACH requirements, a higher standard to qualify for the RNC, and Invitational's like we see in other sports.
*** I do not like the changes made to the stays in obedience. The stay in Beginner Novice and Preferred Novice is harder now than the stay on leash for regular novice dogs. In Rally to get the championship there is no way I would enter 3 classes at one trial - who could afford to do that very often?
*** I love the sport of AKC Obedience ......I am afraid though it is being "watered" down to make it easier! ..... Keep it tough!
*** There should be a separate class for dogs which have earned their OTCH title. Currently, OTCH teams continue to compete endlessly, making it difficult and discouraging for upcoming teams. If OTCH teams competed against OTCH teams, the competition would be more fair, and upcoming teams would continue to trial in order to earn an OTCH. Many, many teams that I have spoken with give up on obedience after earning the CDX, because they find it demoralizing to work for a UD and then hit a dead end.
*** I would like to see Grad Open and Versatility classes offer the option of lower jump heights. This would open up these classes to more dogs including older ones.
*** The changes in the group exercises result in people not training their dog.
*** The Command Discrimination exercise is very difficult for those who are coming from Novice to Open and who do not have access to a training facility. Many newcomers are training their dogs on their own or with slight internet help.
*** I started by training my own dogs in 2002 using a book from 1975! I managed to get a CD and RA before my dog could not jump. I also subscribed to Front & Finish although many of the articles were at a higher level that I could not really understand. I now train at a facility and have learned so much and can now train to higher levels. The only reason I started training was because I felt Rally was quite approachable for the average dog person. I love the Preferred classes because I have older dogs that I would not ever ask to jump full height.
*** My dog developed Addison's Disease after completing his UKC Open title (with group and honor stays) but before entering AKC Open. As a result of his disease, he is unable to cope with group stays because he cannot regulate his own stress hormones. We skipped "regular" Open and entered Preferred Open and later Preferred Utility, earning two Qs to date. Now that group exercises are eliminated, we have returned to Open A and recently completed that title. We previously finished Versatility and now plan to enter Grad Open. I'm not convinced an out-of-sight stay has many practical applications in everyday life, but we do routinely practice stays as a self-control exercise.
*** The broad jump should be changed to handler standing in front of it & dogs does a front simple front sit. Also my biggest concern is the high jump itself. At trials it is usually made of wood or steel & if a dog hits it they can get injured. It would be like hitting a solid wall. I had a dog with jumping issues....he took off too early & he often ticked it hit it or crashed into it. The solid high jump SHOULD be changed to a PANEL JUMP for the safety of the dog (like the panel jump in agility, where a panel can easily fall off if a dog hits it.) I have shown in AKC Obedience for over 37 years and have put 3 OTCH's on my dogs. Thank you for the survey & listening to us.
*** I love this sport and have competed since I was a kid. But dumbing it down is not the way to stop the attrition. Dog training has been vilified by the AR people and the response has been inadequate. In a world where the public is told that collars are dangerous, we're fighting an uphill battle.
*** The degree of difficulty in the Utility classes is keeping people from continuing to these upper levels. The pressure on the dogs in these see classes is extreme. And many dogs just cant do it.
*** I'd like to see more training articles from a variety of trainers. There is so little support anymore for the people interested in obedience. It would be nice to have different trainers present different training methods.
*** I don't feel there is enough recourse against judges who are not effective or rude to exhibitors. And I would like to see a LOT more positive approach from everyone concerned with AKC Obedience, especially for new competitors. Westminster's new Obedience competition is a good example of showing the public how much fun the sport can be. Too many AKC judges and stewards are so concerned about the Rules and Regulations that they forget this is a fun competition with purebred dogs that the public watches!
*** I feel that the OTCH points in Open B have been unchanged for years and need to be revised as equal to Utility.
*** On the survey there was the question about the broad jump, but, why not allow for lower jump heights for veteran dogs similar to what ASCA does? That would be an easy way to encourage owners of older dogs to continue competing in regular classes.
*** Ring stewards and experienced handlers should be mindful of "Newbie A" handlers and work hard to encourage and extend hospitality. I've experienced too many rude folks at trials which is a real turn off for those trying to learn the ropes and feel accepted in an often new and confusing setting.
*** While I don't disagree that the landing and "sharp turn" over the broad jump can cause significant injury to a dog performing this exercise over and over, I DO believe that if the landing and turn are taught properly, then no "sharp turn" would happen and the risk of repetitive injury would be reduced.
*** Several years ago AKC offered a non-regular/non-titling class called Obedience Advanced Teamwork based on a lot of the European exercises . It was fun to train and compete in but it did not catch on The feeling among my training partners was because it didn't offer a title. I find myself getting bored with AKC obedience because it is dumbing down. I'm looking in to French Ring with my new puppy for something new and more interesting . I wish they would consider that class again with a title. I do tracking, herding, agility, and scent work too.
*** I have never participated in a Rally class. Had to choose one as there was no answer option for "none". Please don't tell me that the broad jump is the next victim of the obedience community's ire. A smart trainer will lessen any risk by training the dog to jump correctly and over both sides to compensate what happens in the ring.
*** The recent changes to BOTH the Novice and Open classes have strongly discouraged me from continuing to show in obedience. After 30 years of showing in obedience, I was trying to get to a point I could apply for a provisional judging license for both Rally and Obedience. I finished my last CDX in March before the Rule changes and will NO LONGER BE SHOWING IN OBEDIENCE.
I had just completed the requirements for submitting my Rally Judging Application and was about to get a new puppy to start working on a UD to qualify for my application as an obedience judge in the next 3-4 years. Due to the changes to the Novice and Open classes, I WILL NOT CONTINUE to work in Obedience. The changes have completely watered down the sport and made it exceptionally difficult to progress towards a UD or compare the past titles obtained by various dogs to the "new" titles.
I'm utterly and totally disgusted and discouraged with the AKC and the changes they made to the "historical" Standard Obedience classes. I will be moving towards HERDING and some Agility as my new focus for all trialing of my dogs and look at other events that have valve with my parent breed club for advanced titles to put Versatility and Performance ROM titles on my breeding dogs.
*** Aren't judges suppose to go through education classes/seminars to keep up to date on their judging? I've seen some older judges that don't seem to know the regulations very well.
*** I feel that the biggest detriment to the sport of obedience is the harshness of some competitors. This was evidenced during the many posts about the proposed changes to group exercises. The Polaris of "Train don't complain!" camps pitted against "Get rid of groups" mirrored our national political climate in ugliness.
When people like me voiced an opinion that did not match the Obedience Advisory Committee's leanings, we were shot down harshly. I remember an F&F article where the author sniffed disdainfully at scores less than a "6"... 196. (Thanks a lot, sweetheart, I am quite proud of my qualifying dogs that do not earn 6 or better. This is why I dropped my subscription.)
The outright snobbery of some people seems to have improved over the last 15 years but it still exists. As long as AKC gives a disproportionate voice to OTCH competitors, the pool of people continuing on in the sport is going to continue to decline. It was entirely clear that OAC was going to proceed as they did, regardless of competitor input. Top competitors even said as much online. Submitting my thoughts in writing was a waste of time.
The only thing I did that was effective (clarification of verbiage) was talk to an OTCH person who was friends with someone on OAC. And as long as we keep seeing post from top competitors dissing other sports as "not real titles" and "something for people to do who can't train their dogs", we are going to continue to drive current competitors out and turn off new competitors.
We all should be encouraging everyone who trains their dogs... this is where the next generation of competitors comes from... instead of mocking their accomplishments. This is all dismaying to me, since I enjoy training obedience and find it incredibly helpful in creating well mannered dogs that do well in all canine sports. I don't really know how to change this.
*** While I did not have a problem with OOS in Open and have a medium-large breed dog who is training for Open now and was solid on OOS in training before the changes were implemented, I do have friends with toy breed dogs who were very concerned and would not enter Open with OOS in place. I personally think OOS issues are a training problem and favored a solution of dogs passing / being "certified" to do OOS as a dog is "certified" before they can enter a tracking test. The signal exercise is easy for my dog so not a big problem with it, just preferred stays not disappear from obedience. I strongly dislike the new Novice stays and thought the addition of leaving leash on was enough. Seems like we keep lowering the bar instead of training and proofing more effectively which in turn may have the reverse effect and encourage the entry of dogs who otherwise might not have been safe to compete.
*** Some of the changes are good. However, making so many changes to both Rally and Obedience at the same time caused me to drop Rally as I could not do all of the training at once. I think making Rally harder, is causing people to drop out! Rally is supposed to be fun. Which is why I used to do both.
*** I see that most Obedience shows I go to have mostly older ladies and a few older men participating. There are virtually NO young people. This sport will die out altogether if it does not start recruiting young people. Also true for the judges. They are mostly older women and a few older men. Many of them are obviously tired and sometimes short tempered, especially at the end of the day. This sport needs some young blood!
*** While I don't mind the command discrimination exercise, it has been very difficult for some of my Open A students. I strongly disagree with the changes to the stay exercises.
*** I've been a proponent for a long time that there should be a handler's meeting. They do it for Novice but why not for the other classes? They do it in agility and herding: you can talk to the judge, ask scoring or handling questions. Some judges want at least 3 feet or more for the sit on directed jumping and some want it closer. It seems like most judges have their own personal judging rules and if your head moves and you get scored for it but another judge doesn't care how standardized is the judging in that case?
*** I worry about the future of the sport. AKC rammed through the last set of obedience changes and totally disregarded the strong feelings of many long-time exhibitors. Then they came out with a Rally Championship that was ridiculously hard. Ten months later they changed it to requirements that are ridiculously easy. I don't trust the AKC anymore, and I'm afraid there won't be any obedience shows to go to in ten or 15 years.
*** Comment #1: I am a trial secretary and do not understand why AKC still relies solely on paper and pencil for score keeping and transmission of results when it could be done so much easier, cheaper and more accurately electronically. There is really NO need to send trial results as an inch thick pile of paper by snail mail.
I have frequently sent these sentiments to AKC and nothing changes. Still another example of the dinosaur called the American Kennel Club. What AKC needs to do is to organize a working group of trial secretaries to make recommendations as to how the trial reporting systems and procedures can be modernized.
Comment #2: One of the main reasons that obedience and rally trial entries have fallen in recent years is that there are now so many more competing events, especially agility trials. I did a little research recently to see what was going on the same weekend as my club's next scheduled obedience/rally trials. I found that there were 3 agility trials alone in my state.
Their appears to be little or no coordination between the agility, rally and obedience sections of AKC Events Operations. They need to start talking to each other to minimize the conflicts. The market is only so big and everybody gets hurt when there are too many competing products. AKC has done nobody any good by favoring quantity over quality.
Comment #3: Why has agility taken off and obedience may be slowly dying? Because agility is more FUN for dogs and handlers. You allowed to interact with your dog during the completion of the course. And the same thing can be said for rally, albeit at a slower pace.
Obedience is slow, rigid and not nearly as much fun to watch. Obedience has "exercises" to complete, not obstacles to be overcome. And exercises they are; all must be done in exactly the same way. Why not turn obedience into a timed event where the handler is allowed to encourage the dog? Where the handler moves smoothly from exercise to exercise encouraging the dog along the way. This type of sequence would be a lot more fun for handlers and dogs. As in rally, the team with the highest score and fastest time would win.
*** If the AKC is worried about turns on the broad jump, they should omit agility as a sport. Dogs get injured in agility and the turns are extremely tight. Please don't let a small vocal group run the AKC. They haven't started to show in obedience since the stays were taken out. Pay attention to the people who show and train and support the AKC.
*** I began showing in obedience in the early 1960s and over the years have seen a decrease in the control handlers/owners have over the dogs they are showing and in their own homes.
*** I have enjoyed obedience competition for 60 years and still do. However what I see happening to the sport is distressing.
1. The general public wants instant gratification in training results. (yes I still teach classes)
2. There are increasing venues for dog sports which seems to be a two-edged sword . And a division of opportunities for competitive funds. We need new judges. However it is very difficult for up and coming judges to be observed with the small numbers they have now competing.
*** I and many people I know including AKC judges who gave input on the new changes. However, their comments seem to have been ignored.
*** As far as Obedience goes, CDSP currently has the best program. As far as Rally goes, WCRL currently has the best program.
*** I agree that teaching a dog to stay is good. I do not think a dog should have to stay in a group of unsecured other dogs.
*** Think the command discrimination exercise is unnecessarily confusing with Drop on recall and Signals. Not a good replacement for Groups!!
*** Command Discrimination - the various sequences are turning people away from continuing past Open A. Also messing up Utility signals. Should just use the OA sequence and move the exercise around with the others. Plus this would make OA and OB the same again.
*** I do think that dogs should be able to demonstrate proficiency with a stay exercise. I know that elimination of the open group stays was met with a lot of concern, but please hear me out.
I have been competing in AKC obedience for over 20 years (which doesn't seem like much to some exhibitors). For me it was enough time to find that no matter how well my own dog is trained, I cannot control the actions of someone else's dog. My own dog was attached TWICE during the open stays. How do I expect my dog to perform an exercise when I cannot guarantee her safety in doing so?
I was glad to see the group exercises leave. I think the upcoming stand stay will be a good bridge to the utility moving stand and cut down on the time it takes to move through the open exercises. It's great that we are trying to welcome new people but with that comes the inclusion of occasional poorly trained or reactive dogs, so I am in favor on individual open exercises for this reason.
*** The only issue I've had with the changes to the Open exercises was the length of time it took to get through the stay exercise and the get your leash exercise. Eliminating the 1 minute stay and replacing the sit or down, get your leash with the stand your dog, leave your dog to get your leash, seems like a reasonable change that will reduce the time in the ring slightly for each dog.
*** The AKC continues to dumb down the obedience exercises and continues to create ever-more confusing signs for Rally obedience. The AKC needs to stop treating Rally as if it is obedience for less-skilled dogs and remove the need for judges to obtain traditional obedience titles before approval.
The AKC also should consider creating a third type of class for "professional" handlers, who have OTCH or RACH with one or more than one dog. Slapping these "professionals" in "B" is insufficient and can be discouraging to less devoted, more amateur trainers. Alternatively, the AKC might want to permit trainers to compete in "A" classes until they have obtained an OTCH or a RACH or until they have trained three (or x>1) dogs to CDX or RA levels.
*** I believe the Command Discrimination exercise is unfair to OTCH holders who are starting a new dog. It is no longer the same as the Open A command discrimination exercise. I do not have an OTCH this is just my observation.
*** A change needs to be made in the point/number of dogs system used for OTCH points. With the current decline in entries, there have been times when a first place does not earn any points (especially in Open class). The Open and Utility classes each have their degree of difficulty. There does not need to be a difference in the scale of points. Due to the decline in entries being seen in some areas and with it being more difficult to get points from the Open classes I feel that at a minimum, the Open points system should be the same as it is for Utility.
*** The novice exercises as performed in competition are hugely boring to the dog and to observers. The skills are important but could be demonstrated via different exercises.
*** I had elected not to enter my most recent dog in regular classes past open after nearly 30 years of competition, because of an incident in the ring when he was interfered with significantly (rear end lifted off the ground) by a dog approximately 5 to 6 times his size in the novice ring.
We continued to compete in preferred classes but they were offered at less than half of our local trials. I did finally complete his CDX at a couple of local shows where I knew who would be entered and our national specialty and subsequently finished his UD. I feel the changes eliminating the out of sight stays were beneficial and a long time coming. I would still like to see the dogs a bit further apart in novice and I am not totally satisfied that the rule changes are equal in difficulty at the novice level, but it is at least an improvement. (BTW in 30 years of training I've never had a dog with a significant stay problem, including my UDX dog who broke a stay one time in his career- more than 75 times in open- until his last trial weekend when he could no longer hold a sit and was retired, so that was not my motivation in supporting change).
I do think the sport is in serious trouble overall. In my club of approx. 500 which was originally an obedience only club, about a dozen complete regular obedience titles each year and I don't think any are less than 50, almost all are 65 or older. Our novice A classes at a good trial have 2 or 3 entries, compared to 30 + when I was showing my first dog.
I personally still enjoy training obedience, but I don't enjoy showing as much as I do in other sports in part because obedience judges no longer seem to enjoy or appreciate performances that score less than the high 190s, no matter how consistent or enthusiastic the dog's performance was.
The behavior of exhibitors towards others (especially on Facebook) and sadly in the way some treat their dogs, has done a lot to kill my enthusiasm. We have lost the core of the sport, the competitors who may never have trained a dog beyond a CDX or had high scores but were there working and supporting every trial and teaching all of the classes that kept the clubs going and trained and showed many dogs over the years.
The "old guard" wants to blame non-traditional trainers for having dogs who have been "ruined" with positive methods and are not reliable around other dogs, but I will tell you that every dog I have seen who was a repeat offender as far as aggression towards other dogs whether in the ring or out was trained by old school, traditional trainers and often among the harshest.
The division between traditional and motivational trainers has been a major factor in the mass exodus to other sports, not only because of the treatment I have seen of some exhibitors at trials and on social media, but also because getting clubs to offer competition classes above novice level invariably results in the age old debate of whether or not you can teach a reliable competition retrieve without an ear pinch.
If we as obedience exhibitors and judges do not wake up and begin to cultivate our next generation quickly there will not be a next generation. Next time we want to whisper (loudly at ringside) or point fingers at that teenager in Novice A with a less than perfectly groomed, but reasonably trained and obviously well loved dog, we might do well to remember that we need that kid to support our addiction and spend some time chatting with him and offering encouragement. He's an endangered species!
*** I feel the Novice and open stays were a beautiful representation of the OB of the dogs, and a tribute to the ability to stay on task. I feel they became dangerous as trainers are in a rush to get clients out there, they are not prepared well enough. I feel that seeing dogs in Open that are in stays that have broken and attacked in classes and trials shouldn't be allowed in the ring or given an option to title in a handicapped class, for dogs and handlers that can't stay on task .
If military and farm dogs can be on task, off lead, near each other, and work near each other so can Open B dogs! There is no Open B when you see dogs break, drag handlers to and from the ring! These teams need to go home and retrain.
I'm a horse trainer and I've had numerous different breeds on my farm. All of which have worked or stayed where told, off lead all the time. If, for example I said to stay by the trailer said dog stayed for hours untied, I feel that when you go to horse shows and see dogs off lead all the time, and not getting in fights; why is that not the case in Open B? I often feel untrained dogs are allowed to compete when they are unruly, and shouldn't be in the ring! I have folks come and ask how I get my dogs to be so well mannered, and explain I train obedience. When I say it starts at home they can see why.
Sometimes when I go to other homes the dogs are unruly and rude. Many trainers training are training for the ring but not for the benefit of society and the dog. If they trained as a whole there would be no issues about stays! If military k-9 killing machines can lay in trenches and not make a peep or move while being in close proximity why are there pet breeds fighting. Because there's a rush for the short cut and fast money.
Train the whole team as a whole meaning not just in 1 area! Teach the "whole" not the "ring". I try to get them to teach the dog for every moment of every day not just in 1 context but in ALL!
I have lived by this for 45 years and my dogs behave everywhere! I see no reason to dilute performance for money, folks feelings. If a dog can't behave it escalates and the life they live becomes stressful and dangerous to all, but most of all to the dog and then we have failed!
*** ANY jumping exercise as the first exercise is dangerous. At the majority of shows there is no where to warm up my dog and going in cold and doing a jump first is just asking for injuries. The broad jump is especially hard on the dogs and does need to be changed, and there are TWO routines that have the Broad Jump as the first exercise. Very poor!
I am glad for the change in the group stays, however the command discrimination is stressful for the dog and does not help to make the sport fun and engaging. It is too similar to the signal exercise in utility, could we not come up with something different???? What about send your dog to go wrap a cone and on the way back to you turn and do catch up heeling for 10 paces.
No wonder obedience is losing handlers to agility and other sports, command discrimination is a high focus, high concentration exercise for the dog which adds pressure and stress to their routine.
*** I've participated in AKC Obedience with an Airedale, Bouvier, and Scottish Deerhounds (multiple) over the last 45 years. If hounds and terriers can compete and qualify in Utility, the sport is meeting our needs, but as long as the public attitude continues to change to favor making everyone able to qualify at anything without expending any real effort, as we oldsters age out, so too may obedience training as we know it. I don't know what the answers are. I do not want obedience to die.
*** I love this sport. I participate, I judge, I steward, I chair. But we are losing it. And the more AKC tries to "fix" it to "assist" those exhibitors who make a lot of complaints about certain exercises, the worse things seem to become.
The new Command Discrimination exercise is harder than any exercise done ever before in Open, and is intimidating to Open A exhibitors, along with affecting their Utility signal work and DOR signals adversely. I have lost at least 4 exhibitors who say they can't show in Open any more, especially with older dogs that are a bit set in their ways.
The new Open stand stay get your leash--really? At 15 feet when the Novice stay get your leash is at 30?
Before the new stand stay get your leash I warned the AKC reps that Open would take a substantially longer time than ever before--and they told me to my face that was not the case (I had timed it several times in classes and matches). Now that they have realized this is true, they have knee jerked and stuck in a ridiculous exercise to replace it.
Finally, I talked personally with AKC Board members about the new May 1 exercises and was told basically that the exhibitors' and judges' opinions on those exercises were of little to no consequence! If the AKC Obedience panel recommended changes, the Board WOULD adopt them. I find the lack of input from judges and exhibitors for the new exercises, as well as the dismissive attitude of the AKC Board to judges and exhibitors when they commented, to be offensive. I don't know what can be done, however. The wheels of organizations turn as they turn, and it's very difficult to navigate that type of ship.
*** I don't like the change to preferred Open, having to do all the permutations of the command exercise makes it WAY harder. Many dogs are in preferred Open for the lower jump heights, not sure why they had to make this class much harder for dogs who are in that class for the lower jump heights.
I also think they need to revise the difficulty of becoming an obedience judge. Obedience judges are getting old, and it takes way too many trials to climb the ranks to become a utility judge. Clubs cannot afford to hire judges just for Novice or for Novice and Open, making it up to the future judge to pay those expenses, which is not something that many can or want to do.
*** I feel that the obedience regulations should not have been dumbed down for dogs that can't do an appropriate stay. There should be some kind of a testing to show that the dog has the training to stay and not move into the space of other dogs before they are allowed to compete in group stays. Of course there is always unexpected things that can occur, but generally I think the skill level should be raised rather than the regulations dumbed down to fit those who have not put the work in.
*** I think teaching a reliable stay is the most important part of dog training next to the recall and AKC has dumbed the stays down to the point of being useless. After 30 years it has me wanting to give up on the sport.
Good dog trainers are faced with a variety of situations requiring them to utilize their insight and creativity to solve training problems. Here's a small test to see whether you have the perseverance and detective skills that good dog trainers use in resolving their training issues. Don't feel bad if you need a piece of paper. Good dog trainers write down their thoughts all the time. Good luck! Coming soon... the answer for the rest of us!
The Dog Bone Problem
Rover, Fido, and Spot were three dogs sitting in a circle on the grass. Each dog had his own treats. Rover passed three biscuits to the dog with brown hair. Which dog was which color?
Spot passed three bones to the dog who passed his treats to the dog with white hair. Which dog was which color?
Each dog passed three treats to the dog on his left. Which dog was which color?
Rover, Fido, and Spot were dogs with brown, white, and yellow hair. Which dog was which color?
The dog that was brown did not get a biscuit. Which dog was which color?
The dog that had yellow hair passed along three cookies. Which dog was which color?
Spoiler Alert! Answer Below! Spoiler Alert! Answer Below!
Rover had white hair, Fido was yellow, and Spot was brown.
How do you know this? Just follow the logic...
#1 We know that Rover passed his biscuits to the dog with brown hair so Rover couldn't be brown. You also know that Rover had biscuits.
#2 We know that Spot passed his bones to the dog that passed his treats to the dog with white hair. So Spot couldn't be white. You also know that Spot had bones.
#3 If Rover had biscuits, and Spot had bones, you know that Fido must have had the cookies. The dog with yellow hair passed away cookies so you know Fido is yellow.
#4 Now... If you know that Rover isn't brown, and also couldn't be yellow (since Fido is), he must be white.
#5 If you know that Fido is yellow, and Rover is white, then Spot must be brown (since that's the only color left).
So... what about all the other information? For example the details telling us the dogs each passed their cookies to the dog on the left, that one dog didn't get a bone, etc. That's just extra info. We didn't need it to solve the problem.
Here's a unique approach to getting the job done...
Okay... this doesn't have a dam thing to do about dogs, but it was sent to me by a judge. Thanks Tom! Here's hoping you don't mind... Just too dam funny...
Click Here To See Video!
By Bob Self
Note: This post is dedicated to my good friend Nancy Speed!
By Bob Self
Note: This post is dedicated to my good friend Nancy Speed!
If a dog barks his head off in the forest and no one's around to hear him, is he still a bad dog?
There continues to be discussion regarding the safety of group exercises. Most agree that this is a important skill for dogs to learn and good trainers who have developed voice control over their dogs can train the exercise well. However concerns continue to impart that we see an ever-increasing number of dogs breaking during the stay exercises and this causes danger to other dogs in the group. Whether there is actually a increasing number of dog-on-dog attacks is in question because few of us have access to the data tracking these situations. Nevertheless it makes sense that if there are a greater number of dogs breaking the stays, there would be a greater probability of attacks. The “face validity” that these exercises are dangerous is not good for the sport. Whether experienced or novice, a good trainer or bad, we all share the same concerns over our dogs getting involved in a fight. It is not a positive situation and I have changed my opinion.
Like most I continue to believe the stays an important skill for dogs to learn but given the sensitivities of exhibitors nowadays it appears that something must be done. If for no other reason than the perception of danger is not healthy for the sport. Suggestions have been offered to make group exercises safer while still demonstrating that dogs can perform the skill. Personally I find these remediation's less than adequate substitutes.
Keep leashes on dogs during the stays. This suggestion appears to be an inadequate solution to me. I doubt that having a leash on will deter all dogs from breaking and/or engaging in battle. Especially those dogs who are now causing the problems. Furthermore I'm not confident that trainers who can't train reliable stays now will suddenly have the ability to do so if a lead is attached. Even if handlers can grab/hold the leashes, it would still be difficult to pull fighting dogs apart. Anyone witnessing a dog attack is aware that once dogs latch on to each other, many don’t release easily. Beyond that, it is still an alarming spectacle for anyone to witness. Unless we require 8' leads with dogs spaced10' apart this appears to be a poor solution. And... one that wouldn't really demonstrate the intent of the exercise anyhow.
Taking the dog to a separate location to perform stays. Some suggest doing these exercises in separate rings independently or grouped farther apart. While this idea might improve the situation it will only take one incident to reinstate the alarming concern. As well, obedience already appears idle enough as it is and I'm not sure this idea will make it more effective.
Stay and walk. Various versions of the exercise where handlers leave their dogs on a stay and then walk around the ring have been suggested. In my eyes this doesn’t appear to be a valuable substitute for the groups. If we were going to do that, why not leave the dog on a recall exercise, have the judge pause with the handler at the opposite end of the ring, and then order the handler to call the dog. Optionally you could have the handler walk around the ring to a point where the dog could be called. Combining recalls with the stay would be a more efficient solution while performing them separately makes little sense and only duplicates the idea that the dog must stay until the handler performs the next act (calling the dog or going to the dog). This idea will make obedience appear more lethargic.
Discussions about creating a substitute exercise for the stays indicates that exhibitors feel they are an important skill for dogs to demonstrate. For what it appears to matter in today’s obedience, dogs are already demonstrating that they must stay during recalls, examinations, retrieves, go-outs, broad jumps, and signals. If we want to make stays safer I recommend that we eliminate group exercises entirely and replace them with a more-in-depth exercise performed while the dog is initially in the ring.
As mentioned, one of my thoughts would include a longer pause within one of the aforementioned exercises (retrieves, recalls, jumps, signals, exams, etc.). Perhaps this could pause could be implemented at the judges discretion? Optionally having handlers walk a longer, indirect path, on the recalls could demonstrate a dog's capability to stay. Again, this path could be implemented at a judge's discretion.
My personal preference would be to include a more complex examination exercise. This type of exercise would demonstrate what most handlers appear to believe.... "that a dog should be able to stay in place while another human approaches and touches it." According to the regulations as they are today, no dog is required to be examined or touched at all during the open exercises. Unless a judge measures a dog's jump height, no one examines them after novice until (AND unless), they get to utility. Sometimes that's a looong time! Why not create an exercise that continues to build on a skill the dog learned in novice? Why not create an exercise that continues to demonstrate a dog's ability (AND stability) to stay and be touched by another human?
Everybody appears to want a safer obedience. Everybody appears to want a friendlier sport. Society has changed and the sport must change to keep in stride. Perhaps it’s time to eliminate the groups and remove this monkey from the back of obedience.
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