Welcome to Part Two of my IPO Newbie series!
In this blog post I will be covering how to find a club and how to be a good guest while visiting one!
Before we begin, though, I’m going to answer one question that I’m sure at least some of you are thinking – Yes, you need to join a club.
IPO is NOT a solo activity and, given the amount of time you’ll be spending on it, would you really want it to be?
No. You need a club. If not for the actual training, than for the support that being around like-minded people provides. I would not have gotten through Brody’s BH were it not for my “pit crew” on trial day, and the “victory” would not have been nearly as sweet without people to celebrate it with me.
Your club are your people – now here’s how to find them.
Finding A Club
Step one to finding YOUR club is going to be finding ANY club. For this, you will need the internet.
We’ll get the obvious out of the way first.
Go to the USCA Clubs Page and/or the DVG Find a Club Page and search for clubs in your area (and by area, I mean state). Keep in mind that there aren’t that many clubs out there, and that it isn’t unusual to have to travel two to three hours to find one. (You’ll soon discover that a large portion of the time spent on IPO is actually time spent driving to IPO.)
Reach out to all of the clubs within reasonable (be flexible here) driving distance – explain your interest and that you’d like to come for a visit. Also, ask if they have any recommendations for other clubs in your area – there may be clubs closer to you that aren’t listed on either the USCA or DVG websites. Try to set up dates to see ALL of them – almost as important as finding A club is finding the RIGHT club. Be patient about waiting for replies – IPO is a hobby for most of its participants, not a job, so it may take some time to hear back.
Once you have a date to visit scheduled, it’s time to move on to step two!
Being a Good Guest
So you’ve sent your e-mails, gotten your replies, and the day to visit a club is finally here! Here’s how to (hopefully) not annoy everyone at club within the first hour.
- If you have a dog and are planning to bring him/her along to be evaluated (confirm this via e-mail before your visit), be prepared to leave said dog in your vehicle. That means bringing an appropriate containment system (preferably a crate). (For other equipment recommendations for your first day, please see the list on my Recommendations page.)
- Bring an open mind. There are a million and one different ways to train for IPO, so be open to what each club has to offer.
- Keep your mouth shut. Look, we know you’re excited! We know your dog is the coolest ever! (Well, no, actually – mine is, but I’ll humor you because I’m a nice person). But please remember that as a guest, you are there to observe and to learn, not to grab center stage.
- Ask questions. Yes, I’m contradicting myself. Mostly, you should be quietly observing. But, if you see something you are curious about – a training technique, a piece of equipment, etc…, DO ask about it. Just make sure you ask someone that is not in the middle of working their dog and make sure that you actively listen to the answers.
- Be patient with club members. As I mentioned in my previous post, clubs see A LOT of guests each year, and very few of them stick around long enough to become full members. See enough newbies come and go, and you’ll find yourself a little worn out from the effort of greeting a new person every week that you’re pretty sure you’ll never see again. So, if the members of a club seem a little standoffish, don’t take it personally – they just aren’t ready to invest in you yet. If you decide to join the club and stick around, you’ll most likely find the IPO community to be extremely welcoming!
- If you’ve brought your dog along to be evaluated, wait until you are invited to bring your dog out. Keep an open mind during the evaluation, and don’t be easily discouraged. Most times, young dogs in a new environment aren’t all that impressive – this is totally normal. The training director will expect this and should be able to evaluate your dog anyway. No matter what the training director tells you, thank them for their opinion.
- Plan to stay for the entire time – this most likely means all day. Make sure you bring water for your dog, and water and snacks for yourself.
- At the end of the day, thank everyone for their time.
Congrats! If you’ve followed the above, you have successfully navigated your first day at a club!
Now, rinse and repeat at a few more clubs, and then it will be time to pick the RIGHT club.
Picking YOUR Club
So now you’ve visited clubs and have an idea of what’s available to you – it’s time to decide where you belong. Let’s sit down and think about what all you’ve observed over your visits.
- Consider the dogs you saw working. What do you want your dog to look like? Which club had dogs that most closely resemble your training goals?
- Consider the training techniques offered by each club. Which one most closely aligns with your own beliefs on dog training? Which one made the most sense to you?
- Consider how each club spoke of other clubs in the area. IPO is a community sport – be wary of clubs that aren’t able to maintain good relations with other clubs in the same region. We may be a snarky bunch, but we should all be able to find nice things to say about each other at the end of the day.
- Consider the level of training within each club. Which club has members that have already attained the goals that you’re hoping to achieve? If you have National level aspirations, a club that only participates in their own club trials may not be the right fit.
- Be honest with yourself about your own level of commitment. If you only have one day a week to dedicate to training, choosing a club that expects three days a week may not be the best plan for success.
- If you already have a dog, consider the evaluations you were given. Were they fair? Do you (for the most part) agree with what was said?
After weighing the above, you should have a pretty good idea about where you’d like to fit in. Once you’ve decided, it’s time to e-mail the director and ask about the next steps. Some clubs have a much more involved process to gaining membership than others, so be prepared for it to not be quite as simple as “I choose you!” – they have to choose you, too, after all. Assuming, however, that they are taking new members and that you haven’t done anything particularly egregious, your chosen club will likely welcome you with open arms. And so the journey begins!
Part 3 of the series will address choosing the right breed for your first working dog. This will be a guest post written by someone with far more experience than myself – so be sure to check back soon!