I don't know what happened, I wasn't even in the same building as the regular obedience folk, but I got this letter in my email. I think the writer has some really valid points that should be considered when showing your dogs. I'm posting it here just for food for thought.
After last weekend’s trial, it was brought to my attention that one of our club members was overheard to make a remark about the unfairness of a certain handler winning all the time. This comment was made about a friend of mine and I find I just can’t let it go. Something like this shows bad sportsmanship and paints our club in a bad light.
First of all it should not matter to anyone what other exhibitors do… Yes it is a competitive sport, but the competition is against a standard of perfection – that 200 score. Handlers who excel at the sport don’t think about beating other exhibitors, they think about how they can make their dog’s run better and have a vision of the perfect run in mind. The competition should be against YOURSELF and YOUR ability to train your dog to a higher standard.
The way to excel is to work harder then everyone else. If you find yourself feeling someone is doing more then their share of winning, ask them about the work that they are putting into it and work harder then they are. How many books have your read or training videos have you watched lately? How many email lists are you on to hear how others overcome training/showing challenges and to get input on how to address yours? Do you subscribe to Front and Finish? Have you gone to a seminar lately? Do you train every day? Twice a day? No matter how hot/cold/wet it is? Have you read any motivational books on sports psychology and how to achieve a winning mindset? Did you sit ringside at our trial and watch the really good dogs (We had three competitors at our trial who competed at the NOI, representing their breeds and holding their own against the best of the best)? Did you analyze the performances of Open and Utility B to see what those coming close to and achieving perfection are doing that you aren’t? Did you talk to any of the winners of the classes to find out how they train, who they train with, or what methods they use to teach an exercise? Do you have a standard of perfection in your mind so you know what you’re working toward? Could you tell the difference between a 195 run, a 198 run, and a 200 run? Have you read the rule book? Did you have your run video taped so you can critique it Monday morning and learn what you need to do to be better at the next trial. If you want to be one of the winning handlers, that is where you start.
Have you noticed that the winning handlers seem to congregate in a group and watch each other’s runs? They are not watching to see who ‘beats’ them or who they ‘beat’. They’re going to give each other help and advice when needed, watch the progress of each other’s dogs and use that information in training their own dogs. They help each other and are inspired by each other’s good performances. They don’t complain when someone else wins, they train harder to make THEIR performances better.
My goals for my dogs are to get as high a score as I am able and to get OTCHs on them. That involves winning or at least placing high in the class. Sometimes I do that and sometimes I don’t. When I don’t it’s because I’ve gotten lax on my training and I’m not putting the work into it that I should, not communicating appropriately to my dog and I’m not staying on top of my game…. It’s not the fault of someone who has been working harder then I have; it’s not my dog’s fault that I’ve failed to train him properly; it’s not the judge’s fault, he/she can only judge the performance we gave him today. By the way, if you don’t think you got the score you deserve, ASK the judge and most are more then willing to explain to you where and why you are losing points, often it’s not the dog doing something to lose pts., it’s the handler!
AKC has set up the obedience system so that each person can achieve their goals – whether a title earned with three scores in the 170’s, a UDX to demonstrate a consistently qualifying dog no matter what the scores, an Obedience Master for a dog who consistently scores in at least the 190’s or an OTCH, for dogs/handlers that excel in the sport. Of ALL those titles the only one that requires you place in a class is the OTCH. If you want to train to earn titles and don’t want to put the extra work in it to achieve excellence, then fine - that’s your goal and it’s a worthwhile one. Please don’t make remarks about the people who have put the work into the sport to rise to the next level of competition. What they’re doing should not make one bit of difference to you or affect your goals for your dog….