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 A few responses were omitted because they indicated "Not for publication."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!