I spend a lot of time online. I’m a Millennial (whatever that means) – I basically live online. I socialize online. I get my news online. I even work online.
And if I’m online, chances are, I’m also on Facebook.
See where this is going, yet? Of course you do, you smart cookie, you.
Now don’t get me wrong – I get a lot of valuable information from IPO groups on Facebook. If it weren’t for IPO groups on Facebook, I would never have found Dave Kroyer’s website or the My Schutzhund Life blog, and so I would never have fixed my cornering problem in tracking. So, really, two thumbs up for the Facebook groups.
You knew this was coming.
There is an awful lot being said on those Facebook groups re: the “failure” of IPO to produce “real” dogs and the subsequent rise of something disparagingly called the “sport dog”.
This is made to sound, by some, like the greatest tragedy to ever befall the species of canine.
And y’all – I am not here for it.
First of all, it sounds, to me, like the bitter whining of the olds that haven’t been able to keep up with the newer training techniques that are turning out flashier dogs. Somehow, “flashy” = “sporty” = less than? Less than what, we may never know.
But the point is – somehow (and it seems to have arisen predominantly among the “old guard” of the sport) – the idea that a “flashy” dog is not a “real” dog seems to have taken root.
So, now that the dogs are “flashy” and are, subsequently deemed “not real”, the sport is also now being criticized for being “soft”.
At my least generous, I would say that all of this is nothing more than the sour-grape-bitching of those that can not longer hack it in the sport. And I could back this assumption up with some real life examples of those that justify their shitty breeding practices and unstable, untrained dogs by calling those dogs “too real to trial” (my eyes are rolling so hard they may be honestly stuck – please send help).
But that very unkind interpretation misses at least part of the point…
Look, I know it’s hard when your sport has changed from what it once was. I come from the hunter/jumper land of equestrian sports. I am no stranger to the changing of a sport or to the wars that such changes bring. If you’re into horses, think back to the war over fence heights at AA shows. So many (and frankly, I was one of them) insisted that by adding classes at lower fence heights, we were destroying the “prestige” of reaching the AA level. They ignored the fact that, due to the changing world around us, the sport was dying. Something HAD to be done to increase participation lest the shows cease to exist entirely, perceived levels of “prestige” be damned.
And this is the same crossroads that we find ourselves at in IPO.
As a newcomer, I came to IPO for the sport. I didn’t come because I wanted to cosplay K9 handler. I didn’t come because I wanted a protection dog. I came for the sport and the competition.
I look around me, and this is true for 99% of the newcomers that I have met.
We are here for the sport.
And really, thank god for us, because IPO is dying. I can name every legitimate person in IPO in my state off the top of my head, and my memory isn’t that good, y’all.
The sport needs newbies. And you aren’t going to get newbies into the sport by selling them “hard” dogs that have to live in the kennel and have to be kept away from the kids and that leave you bleeding after every clicker session. It just isn’t the way of the world anymore.
The sport needs newbies. And you aren’t going to get newbies by constantly berating them for “ruining” the sport with their “soft” “sport” dogs, either.
My dog is a “sport” dog. He works in prey, not defense. He sleeps in bed with me. He goes on hikes with me. He is a pet that happens to do IPO. He’ll never get his CGC because he 100% CANNOT contain his excitement at meeting new people. He is everything I ever wanted in a companion and in a sporting partner, so it makes me roll my eyes into the back of my head when I hear negative comments because he isn’t “real” enough.
The world has changed. Our expectations of our canine companions have changed – not always for the best, I’ll grant you, but there’s no turning the tide back on it, now.
And so, IPO has changed. It has changed from a breeding test for German Shepherds to an international level sport. Naturally, the type of dogs favored has changed along with it.
I meet a lot of IPO newbies and potential IPO newbies in the course of my participation, and I would say that maybe 1/50 that I meet actually stay in the sport for any length of time. The reasons why are varied – IPO is a time-suck, it costs a decent chunk of change, it requires levels of dedication that not many have, there aren’t that many clubs, there aren’t that many trainers, there aren’t that many helpers, oh, and we aren’t the friendliest to newbies, either.
Add to this the idea that only “real” dogs are worth having, and, well, you’re killing the sport you claim to love. Because most people don’t want a “real” dog (seriously, what does that mean, anyway?), and most people can’t handle a “real” dog. And, frankly, I’m pretty suspicious of what people claim a “real” dog is, anyway.
Like it or not, IPO has become a sport. And if you look around, the sport is dying. And it isn’t dying because of newbies like me that spend way too much money on their “sport” dogs. It’s dying because the newbies like me feel marginalized by those that insist that our mere sport-oriented presence is somehow diluting and degrading and “pussifying” (yeah, I’m looking at you, Jim) Schutzhund and everything that it stands for.
I’m going to wrap this tangent up, because I’m running low on both coffee and righteous indignation, but I’ll leave you with this:
I met a person that was brand new to the sport, just a few weeks ago, while I was traveling for some training. She had a promising looking young dog and was off to a solid start. I complimented her on her dog and the first thing out of her mouth was an apology because her dog isn’t “real” enough for the sport. Imagine that – this newbie, off to a decent start for a newbie, feeling like she had to apologize for the presence of her perfectly capable dog.
I wonder where she got that from?