I often get requests from someone that has only shown in the breed ring to help that person get a CD on his or her dog. I have previously written on how to begin from a puppy, explaining all the different techniques to use to ensure that the dog is well versed in every venue. However, it doesn’t always happen that way!
The people that ask about getting that CD after countless hours of training and showing for that elusive CH many times want only to get the CD because it is yet another title for their dog. That is why we show, isn’t it? The performance titles following a Champion dog shows how versatile the dog is within his breed, and how, especially a working dog, can do everything he was bred to do. The passion is many times the end result, but the passion needs to be in the journey!
I have long admired the handlers in the breed ring. They move with a symmetry between dog and handler that I couldn’t even begin to dream of. The stride of the person compliments the stride of the dog. The dog feels the motion and responds with a level of training and understanding that comes from hours of training and practice. There is a special connection between handler and dog. The slightest hand movement can tell the dog what to do, and the slightest body motion can put the dog exactly where the handler wants him. To the green owners, watching the dogs move flawlessly with experienced handlers is something they may miss when they are watching. Some of them think that it is just a piece of cake to take the dog in the ring, and just “run him around”.
The addiction with what we do is our drug of choice. We get high with adrenaline, excitement, and anticipation of what the outcome will be. If we win, we are elated; lose, and we feel that let down, yet strive to get back in that ring to feel that high again and again.
Now, let’s take that dog, and try for the CD. Do you feel it? Do you feel the same exhilaration that you do for breed? Do you want that same symmetry that you feel when your dog is in the breed ring? How much do you want to work for the title? If you only want the title, you will do what it takes for the dog to learn how to walk next to you in heel position, and sit when you stop. You will teach him how to stay until you call him or return to him. As a breed dog, having the obedience judge go over him for the stand for exam is only a matter of learning the steps and rules of the exercise. If you have a well-behaved dog, teaching the rules for the CD may be as simple as opening up the rule book, and making sure your hands are where they should be, and you use your voice only at the correct times.
Where is the symmetry in obedience? Where is the fun in the journey? Watch the obedience ring. I know I hear that it is like watching cement dry. I have also heard that it is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Obedience intimidates people, but it shouldn’t. The quiet you hear (or don’t hear) is the intense connection of the handlers with their dogs. It is the symmetry that you may not notice until you have some experience in the obedience ring. It is the adrenaline and the addiction of the serious competitor communicating silently to his dog in and out of the ring. It is the dog that becomes part of the handler during that ring time.
Watch even closer. What you have seen in breed, you can also see in obedience. The slightest twitch of the handler can steer a dog in a particular motion. The turns can be felt by the dog with the slightest motion of the handler’s body. When you see those that seem to fumble through the exercises, what you see is the inexperienced person that is trying to make it through the exercises correctly. The experienced person will not have a melt down if something goes wrong, but react emotionally to his dog, whether it is a look that says “What was that?” or a look that says, “It’s ok, only an error.” The dogs read it all.
So, if you want to dive into that CD when you have only been in the breed ring, give it a fighting chance. Find an instructor that will give you all the info, not just the technical exercises. Find someone that can read the communication between you and your dog. Find someone that will take you on a journey, not a quick walk through the park.
We currently hear over and over that obedience is dying. AKC has come up with extra classes and has eliminated the group sits and downs for the Open class, and has modified them for the Novice class. This is to make everyone feel safer. Yet obedience continues to decline. Why? Think about it. The person going into the obedience ring to get the titles, stops after the title is achieved. For that person, there is nothing more. So, three qualifying times in Novice is all it takes to get the CD. Scores don’t matter. Perfection doesn’t matter. Winning doesn’t matter. The person is elated with the title. That is fine, if that is what that person wants. But three times in the ring, and the average person does not show again until ready for the Open ring. Three more times, and again, done until ready for the Utility Ring. How can competition stay alive when there are only a handful of people that focus on the winning aspect of obedience?
Let’s take it from another perspective. Obedience takes work. And it takes a touch of OCD. That sounds a bit strange, yes? If you think about it, the OCD person needs to have everything just right. Everything needs to be nice clean pages, not dog-eared pages. (That very thought of someone bending the page corner in a book annoys me.) Obedience needs structure and self-discipline.
Some of the only people that go on, and focus on scores and wins are people that have a great breed club that will support and recognize them. We know that the DPCA recognizes the Top Twenty in obedience. So many of us gear into yearly accomplishments based on scores of 195 plus. The AKC has yearly competition that focuses on how high within the breed you rank. The National Obedience Championship recognizes the best in all breeds. Also, working towards bringing more people into obedience is the creation of the Classic, where your titles will work towards qualifying for a place in the Classic. This does seem to have helped, as it pulls more competitors overall, not just focusing on the top in the breed.
The people that are new to Obedience do not know about the N.O.C. or the Classic, or even their own breed clubs. So realistically, the fate of obedience sits in the hands of the experienced people. It is up to any of us that have the experience of working for goals within our breed, and for working towards something beside just the win to try to inform novice people of what they can work for and what is out there for them if they wish to go for it.
In the hopes that you are going from that CH to a CD, I am wishing you all the luck and fun on this journey! And take the time to enjoy that journey!
If anyone has any questions, please contact me via email.
Any questions, please feel free to contact me.