Thursday, April 26, 2012


In the wake of several blog posts regarding the decline of participation in competition obedience, I received an email from a long-time astute observer/participant in the sport.  Her comments dealt with misconceptions and lack of awareness that she felt might contribute to keeping people out of the sport.  I'd like to share a few of those comments.  The sentences in italics are my comments about her comments.

1.  Some people assume that since their dog is spayed, neutered or not AKC-registered it does not qualify to show in obedience or any other performance class.

When the AKC began allowing mixed breeds to compete, a lot of us thought we'd see an immediate increase in Novice entries.  I've seen precious few All-American dogs coming into the sport.  That may be because the message is being preached to the choir -- to those who are already tuned into the AKC, dog sports and purebred dogs.  The everyday mixed-breed dog owner may not even be aware of the channels through which the message is being sent.  Much less the message itself.

2.  Others assume that to train obedience you have to be mean or to hurt your dog.  Still others believe from wives' tales or experience that obedience training is not fun for man or beast.

And why wouldn't those notions still persist?  Our world is still filled with "old school" trainers, too weak to train, retardates who can only force a dog to comply.  They're everywhere.  Last Saturday I was in a city park, working with a student whose dog had fallen into the hands of an abusive trainer before they turned to me. (And how is that dog doing now? you ask.  Quite nicely, thank you, and very happy.)  During the lesson, we were flanked on either side by electric collar classes.  Our distractions that morning were the pitiful yelps of the dogs as they got zapped.  The ignorant suckers who had coughed up money to have their dogs abused probably loved those dogs and had no idea there was another way.

3.  Pet owners who have shown enough interest to watch a competition in person are a source of potential competitors.  But only if obedience looks like fun enough to overcome perceived obstacles and be achievable.  Spectators rarely see teams having fun in the obedience ring.  Outbursts of joy by the team in the ring are discouraged, and in some classes touching the dog is penalized.  Isn't petting your dog a basic enjoyment of having a dog?  Amen.

(Observers) judge the sport by how much fun the exhibitors and dogs appear to be having in and around the ring.  Sadly, agility does look like a lot more fun.

Yea and verily.



Thursday, April 5, 2012


Much has been said, many hands have been wrung regarding the drop-off in competition obedience entries in recent years.  Clearly the task of beefing up entries in AKC obedience is multidimensional. This post addresses one of those dimensions.

It has been suggested to me that a letter to the AKC -- coming from many all-breed and obedience clubs --might prompt the AKC to look into how to tap the vast reservoir of "prospects" that take Petco or PetSmart obedience classes.  But it will be effective only if many clubs take the initiative to send the letter.

Here is a suggested letter.



Mr. Dennis B. Sprung
President & Chief Executive Officer
American Kennel Club
260 Madison Avenue
New York, NY  10016                 

Dear Mr. Sprung:

Much has been said and written across the past decade or so about the drop-off in competition obedience entries.

Various steps have been taken to make competition obedience trials more attractive and exhibitor-friendly.  Novice A people are offered an orientation walk-through.  New entry-level classes have been introduced, as have several intermediate classes.  Some clubs offer token gifts to Novice A entrants.

Those are steps in the right direction.  However, if a tree falls in the forest and no one is listening . . .  As someone said, “It’s hard to embrace something if you don’t know it exists.”

Which is the case with the vast majority of the thousands of students who participate in the beginner dog obedience classes each year at Petco and PetSmart.  Most of the instructors have no idea that a dog sport called competition obedience exists.  Hence, neither do their students.

The purpose of this letter is to suggest that the AKC seriously explore establishing working relationships with Petco and PetSmart to introduce their students, in an attractive way, to the lifetime joys available in AKC dog sports.



It would be nice to know to what extent a letter-writing campaign takes off as a result of this suggestion.  If your club acts on this and sends a letter, perhaps you'd be kind enough to drop me a note at