Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So Proud of My Girl

Today was Lilly's first training class at the local kennel club.

You would think that classes at the local kennel club would be easy and worry-free.  Unfortunately, it's not always easy and history has shown me that it is almost always frustrating.  The kennel club and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship.  I am regularly frustrated by things involving the club and training classes, but I am also grateful for the fact that there IS a local kennel club for me to participate in.

Much of my frustration is a result of a phenomenon I have found to be common among training classes:  People who teach training classes tend to be control freaks.  I'm not being mean, or trying to ruffle feathers, it's just a observation I have made time and time again.  I can't remember a class I have taken where the trainer, with the exception of ONE, has not become irritated with me.  They often don't like the way I train, they don't like the fact that I don't always play by their rules, and they REALLY don't like the fact that I don't MAKE my dogs do everything perfectly - because, in case you weren't aware, the world might come to an end if my dog doesn't sit straight on a recall.   *smirk*

Allow me to share some examples: 
Bailey was in agility classes years ago.  We took the class for pure fun and confidence building.  I let him use the A-frame as a launch pad, the boy wouldn't know what a contact point was if it hit him upside the head, and I didn't stop him if he took the wrong obstacle (in fact I cheered if he ran through the tunnel because he had initially been terrified of it).  I tell you, I could FEEL the heat coming off the trainer as her blood boiled behind me.  I paid my money, we didn't take any more time on the course than our fair share, I felt we had just as much right to be there as anybody else.  This was before mutts could compete in AKC events and I'm not so sure people felt the same way as I did about our right to be there in the first place.  We never went back to the same place for more than one session. 

At the age of about 10, I decided it was silly that Bailey did not have his Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certificate yet.  I decided to enter him in CGC class at the kennel club to get it.  We went to 2 classes.  The first one was a total zoo with a ton of people and nobody had a clue what was going on, I laughed.  We didn't go for a week or two, then when we went to the next class the teacher went completely ballistic on me because I took Bailey's leash off of him for a down/stay.  Apparently, WE DON'T DO OFF LEASH EXERCISES FOR CGC.  Ok, lady, but my dog has been in obedience classes for about 9 years now, and he DOES do off leash exercises.  We didn't go back. 

We don't need no stinkin' CGC class!
 The other night, the trainer for Rally classes called me to confirm Lilly's reservation in the class on Friday nights.  I explained to her that Lilly has her Rally Novice title, but that I wasn't sure if we were ready for the more advanced class since we were so out of practice.  I mentioned that maybe we would stay in the Novice class to brush up for this session and work on her off leash skills.  The trainer responded with something like "Oh, no, we don't do off leash in Novice".  Seriously?  Really?  Are you kidding me?  What the hell difference does it make to anybody else in that class if my well trained dog has her leash taken off to practice off-leash heeling while everybody else is still using a leash?  *Sigh*  Here we go again...  
Lilly earned her Rally Novice title - thanks to the kennel clubs in/around Milwaukee and Waukesha.
 My most recent frustration with the kennel club comes with the recent inclusion of mixed breeds by AKC for performance sports.  See, the AKC says we can compete (and both of my dogs have been registered for the purpose of doing so), but the individual host clubs get to decide whether or not they will include "All American Dogs" (mixed breed dogs) in their shows for Obedience, Rally, and Agility.  I'll give you one guess as to whether the local kennel club decided to include mixes in their shows last year or not.

I refuse to volunteer at a show where the club does not allow me to compete with my own dog (unless it is a Specialty show where only one breed is allowed).  If you help me, I'll help you - simple as that.  Going to Kennel Club meetings in the coming months should be very interesting - I will have some very important questions to ask the board and the attending members so that I can make my decision as to whether or not I will join.  :)

Maybe we'll be able to push a little change and get the local club to give mixed breeds some pretty "New Title" ribbons like this one Lilly got in Menominee Falls near Milwaukee.

 So, back to Lilly and how proud I am of her.  Tonight was our first Novice Obedience class at the local kennel club.  I was very curious to see how this was going to go.  I really truly don't care if my dog's heel is slightly off of perfect, and I give Lilly a lot of leeway with obedience because the stuff we do in those classes is so very far from the truly important things in our lives.  I demand my dogs come when called, and wait when told to wait - these things could save their lives.  A straight sit, well, I'm not sure how that could be a life or death situation.  We're there to have fun, and that can be a tough thing for lots of trainers to accept, especially for those who show.  I talk to Lilly incessantly - they REALLY don't like that one - and even ASK her to do things once in a while rather than telling her.  *gasp* 

We walked in a minute or two late because Lilly had not been there in a long while and she had a lot of sniffing to do outside.  Once the class got going the trainer asked me who I was and what classes I had taken before, with just a twang of "are you supposed to be here" in her voice.  I shook it off and made sure to provide her with Lilly's credentials, which seemed to satisfy her.  I have no doubt there will be a few times I'll have to explain to the instructor that I am qualified to make my own decisions regarding what I expect of my dog and what I don't, but over all I think it will be ok.

How did she do?  Amazing!  We did a down/stay with all the handlers walking around the ring and I will admit, I was very afraid she was going to move.  If only people knew how terribly difficult it was for her to stay put with strangers walking up on her from behind.  She didn't budge, not an inch - she watched me carefully and waited patiently for me to return.  I had a handful of cheerios waiting for her in my hand when I did.  She also is doing wonderfully with standing still for the "Stand for Exam" exercise.  Who knows, maybe, just maybe, she's got a CD (Companion Dog) title in her future.  Only if she's up to it, though.  The regular obedience titles are just not as fun as Rally.


  1. I'm so glad that Lilly and you had a very good lesson. What a clever girl she is!
    I'm also sorry to hear about those disappointments that you have towards your kennel, I guess it happens almost everywhere and it just depends on how we deal with it. Glad you have your own principles and you stick with them.

  2. Good for you and Lilly!
    Don't those clubs realize the help and revenue they are missing by not making their events all inclusive. Smacks of elitism to me.
    I'm with you on the whole official obedience thing.
    I have never understood why a dog that is heeling is expected to keep it's head turned and totally focussed on the handler. I could understand it turning and checking in every few seconds, but to keep their head turned like that the whole time is unnatural, hard on the dog, and just doesn't make sense to me. Wouldn't it be better for them to see where they are going?

  3. I think many trainers forget that the world is not made up of Border Collies and Goldens. The more "primitive" breeds, such as Huskies, Sammies, Spitz, various hounds, etc are bred for the value of their ability to think for themselves. It's great when they're leading your sled team, but it makes for a very different style of training. Working with a dog who lives by the law of WIIFM vs a dog who has been bred to follow orders from humans (many sporting/herding breeds) are two VERY different things.
    I don't know about other places, but almost every trainer I know has labs, goldens, or borders so that's where the bulk of their experience is.


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