So, this past weekend, I attended an absolutely fabulous seminar put on by my home club (I didn’t have anything to do with the planning or running of said seminar, so no kudos for me), and DVG-America.
I’ll write up a seminar report soon, but generally it was a great opportunity to get some input on my dog, learn a bunch of new things, and touch base with a bunch of my favorite IPO people.
It was also an opportunity to get annoyed by a bunch of stuff.
If you were in attendance at this seminar, and recognize your own behavior described below, sorry, not sorry.
- Allowing Your Dogs to Bark Continuously
Dude. There is absolutely no reason in the world that everyone should have to listen to your ill-mannered dog bark its head off All. Day. Long. And don’t you dare @ me with that “But he’s a WORKING DOG” BS. I’m not buying it.
Not only is permitting your dog to bark constantly disruptive to everyone on the field, stressful to the dogs in neighboring vehicles, and generally irritating to everyone in the vicinity, it’s also a great way to ruin relationships with field owners and their neighbors.
Consider the fact that appropriate space for training and trialing is already difficult to come by. The last thing we need is to get banned from using a space because your effing dog annoys the neighbors.
Be considerate. Invest in a bark collar.
2. Relatedly, if your dog goes off every time anyone walks by, maybe DON’T PARK RIGHT BY THE ENTRANCE THAT EVERYONE HAS TO WALK THROUGH
Seriously, if you like the fact that your dog barks at people near your vehicle (and some people do), please don’t park in a spot where everyone will have to walk by your effing vehicle. This has the same impact as the dog that just barks all day for no reason. It’s annoying, it’s disruptive, and we all hate you.
Also, consider not parking near other vehicles. People would like to be able to get stuff out of their vehicles, prep their dogs, and generally exist near their own property without having to listen to your dog yelling at them.
3. Being Inconsiderate When Your Bitch is in Heat
Look, I’m 100% on the side of dogs just having to deal with bitches in heat being present. And I say that as the handler of an intact male. It’s part of the sport – deal with it.
HOWEVER. If you know your bitch is in standing heat, please be considerate of those around you.
Your bitch does not need to be hanging out on the edge of the field while others are working their dogs. It’s annoying when people do this anyway, but particularly in a trial or seminar situation, you could be ruining someone’s (very expensive) day.
It isn’t funny when she’s flagging everything that walks by and you’re joking about it instead of putting her away until it’s your turn to work.
We’re all planning to slash your tires later, just so you know.
4. Not Helping Set Up or Tear Down
This wasn’t a seminar specific thing, so much as an every day training with other people thing.
Offer to help set things up and stick around until it’s time to tear down.
It isn’t fair if the same people are always doing all of the work for you.
And, “Tee hee, I don’t know how to set up the blinds!” isn’t cute and it isn’t an excuse.
If you are benefitting from the use of someone else’s equipment, the least you can do is help with some of the heavy lifting.
5. Creating an Unsafe Learning Environment
This one is a little deeper and more important than the rest, and it really isn’t aimed at any particular experience I’ve had, but it’s something we need to be thinking about, anyway.
What I mean by this one is, creating or contributing to an environment where others start to feel like it isn’t safe for them to make mistakes.
Training in a group setting can be intimidating to a lot of people, and that is made doubly true when people start to feel like they are going to be judged for their mistakes.
No dog or handler is perfect. Mistakes will happen. Behaviors that you thought for sure were proofed will suddenly fall apart. Things you thought for sure were working will need to be rethought.
This is all part of the process.
What doesn’t need to be part of the process is fear.
We shouldn’t be creating a situation where making mistakes is anymore scary and stressful than it has to be.
If you’ve spent any time reading my blog, you’ll know that I’ve really been struggling with having control in protection. My dog can blow through the e-collar on its highest setting and essentially flip me off while continuing on his merry way.
I’ve put a ton of work into turning him into some semblance of civilized, but it is, like all things, a work in progress.
It is in no way fun for me when my dog behaves this way. It’s stressful. It’s unpleasant. It’s embarrassing.
And it’s created in me a bit of an aversion to working my dog in protection. Particularly in new situations and in front of new people.
It took every bit of courage I had (and absurd amounts of encouragement from my club’s training director/helper) to get me to even register for this seminar that I attended last weekend. The day of, I even considered only working Obedience, because I know my Obedience is good and I wanted to stay in that very safe space.
In the end, I am very glad that I worked up the courage to work my dog in protection at the seminar. He was a total dick. He embarrassed me. But damn if we didn’t learn from it and get the tools we needed to fix it.
It was an important learning experience for both of us, but it was also a scary and intimidating one.
Which really made me think. Because I’m generally a pretty thick-skinned person. I’m not really prone to any sort of fear of performing in front of people or anything similar. But even I was intimidated, almost to the point where I didn’t want to play.
So I think it’s important that we all really think about being supportive of one another’s journeys. That we keep in mind that we have all been there and we’ve all made mistakes. Because we need new people coming into the sport and we want people to stay in the sport.
The flip side of this is, don’t create an unsafe learning environment for yourself, either. Keep in mind that it’s okay (even important) to make mistakes. Keep in mind that IPO is a journey, and an effing long one at that.
And keep in mind that no matter what you or your dog does, someone somewhere (probably me, let’s be honest), has messed it up worse and kept on going.