Dog Trainer's Survey - Exhibitor Comments ~ Part IV

Friday, February 01, 2019 8:10 AM | Front & Finish (Administrator)

***  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.

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