Tuesday, November 16, 2010

That's CHAMPION COOPER to you!

This past weekend, Tom and I took Chica and Cooper to the Western Waukesha Dog Training Club in Ixonia, Wisconsin for a series of UKC shows. Over the two days there were four shows, under four judges; two per day.  Of course, Pre rode along, even though he wasn't entered! I think I've spoiled him, as he thinks that he must be in the van if it is going somewhere! Actually, first he looks in and steals a toy or bite pillow and runs around with it, but if the crate is open he will just jump in. I think if he could start the car himself, he would!

So, off we went.  From past experience, we know to get there very early, as soon as same-day registrations open, so that we can find a spot to park our chairs and crates for the day.  Things fill up very rapidly and early. If you have never attended such a show, it is hard to imagine how close the quarters are. You hope that sensible people will leave at least a small aisle to weave through from chairs to ringside, but this is often not the case.  On Day 2, Cooper jumped on a softsided crate trying to follow me through the maze and likely scared the crap out of the small dog inside. oops.  A dog has to be very stable and not aggressive to humans or other dogs to be in this environment.  I was very pleased with both Chica and Cooper, who settled into their soft-sided crates and went to sleep.

We camped next to the Northern Breeds, and there were quite a few Alaskan Klee Kai's there.  They are cute little dogs that look like miniature huskies.  Someone else likened their unusual noises to the sound of "an alien being run through a wood chipper!"  We weren't treated to that, but one made a noise that sound just like a baby crying!  They are a wash and wear breed and were quite cute!  The people exhibiting them were clearly experienced and so I asked them quite a few questions and they were very friendly folks.

I was surprised to see another Dutch Shepherd entered! This was a lighter colored brindle female, imported from Holland. I chatted with the owner, whom I know.  In the ring, this female beat Chica in both shows on Saturday. I so rarely compete in conformation that it is like coming out for the first time, every time! I run the wrong direction, I don't stop when I'm supposed to... I'm a complete klutz.  In the second show, I let my friend, Tammy, handle Chica, figuring she couldn't do any worse than I did! Ha! I was wrong! (sorry, Tammy!)  But still, it wasn't a big deal as Tammy had never done this, either, and everyone has to start somewhere.  Chica truly didn't show herself as well as we were all working out the kinks in our handling, and the other competitor is an experienced show handler and did a much better job. I just considered that, and that the judge perhaps felt Chica was too small or just wasn't moving well enough to judge.  There was nothing to be angry over, that's just the way show judging goes.

Next Cooper competed against the winning female.  In both shows, he beat the female.  I am prejudiced, of course, but Cooper is a good looking dog, very full of expression and correct according to standard.  The other gal left immediately after the second win. Cooper continued to Group, where he took 4th in Group in the second show. I was so surprised and thrilled!

I did hear a very nice thing as I was waiting near the registration table. An exhibitor, who is also a judge, was cautioning a woman with a small child about certain dogs there to steer clear of and I said "but not the Dutch Shepherds!"  The woman said that she loves Dutch Shepherds and that she didn't know who it was, but she had seen one years ago here that was just wonderful. I asked it that was here, and whether it was a grey dog. It was my Digit!  It just made me smile to think he had made such an impression.

On Sunday, the woman did not reappear.  The judges offered handling tips and I was very appreciative and thanked them.  Tom handled Chica and he did such a good job that she beat Cooper in the second show of the day!!  I was very impressed, watching her move around the ring. She was beautiful and moved so smoothly. At the moment, I thought the win prevented Cooper from earning his Championship and Tom apologized.  I said "what for? you did a GREAT job!"  There is no way I would diminish his effort and how well they did together, by being upset with that.  I later discovered that Cooper had enough points anyway.

An unusual thing happened, though.  In the second ring, the judge had stopped and said she wanted to say something. I thought she was going to share more handling tips and waited.  Instead, she said she had received an email complaining about the judging and alleging that the judges did not know what they were doing, and that my dog, Cooper, had a "gay tail" and was a poor representative of the breed!   I couldn't believe it!  The judge was clearly insulted and upset and referred to the many years she had been judging and that she had examined the tails and that our dogs were excellent breed specimens.  My mouth was probably hanging wide open, as I just could not imagine another exhibitor doing such a thing!  wow! Then the judge added that they were discussing the fact that the other dog in the class yesterday had been DYED!!  Tom had neglected to tell me that the day before, after the judge examined the dogs she was looking at her hands and said "I have dye on my hands!!"( For the record, that handler has since protested that she did not dye the dog.) For the life of me, I don't know why you would do that, as it had nothing to do with structure.

It was an interesting end to the weekend, for sure.  I had talked at length to the other exhibitor who smiled and chatted, only to have to pull a knife out of my back the next day!  The good part is that the other folks we encountered there were friendly and helpful,  and I really had a good time.  It's only a silly, cheap ribbon and two initials before the dog's name.  It is not the end of the world, nor the beginning, and at the end of the day, you should still love the dog you arrived with.  I fear this is not true about this other woman, and that is a very sad thing.

I was proud of my dogs because they showed stability and confidence in a very strange environment and they did something foreign to them because I asked them to.  If neither had won, I would still have been proud of them.  I might decide conformation showing just wasn't their cup of tea, but it would not have made me angry or disappointed in the dogs themselves. If you feel differently, please spare us all and just go buy your own ribbon!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Where did Schutzhund Go?

I read the new rules for IPO and it made me sad.  We have wandered so far away from the foundation of our sport that it is almost unrecognizable. The governing organizations are a reflection of our unfortunate times of political correctness and offer a similar re-write of history.  I wonder how many people involved in the sport still remember its proud heritage?  Do they know that the sport of schutzhund was formed as a breed worthiness test for the German Shepherd Dog after breeders watched the police dog training, and adopted those exercises?

There was a motion at the 2010 General Board Meeting of the United Schutzhund Clubs of America to change the name to" United Schaeferhunde Clubs of America.”  The author of the amendment wrote, "Unfortunately, to the general public, governmental officials, and activist agencies, the word “Schutzhund” is primarily associated with the protection phase of our sport. That
image can be detrimental to our organization. In today’s highly scrutinized and litigious world we must be conscientious of our image. “  I would imagine he has friends among the Swiss, who banned stick hits and as a result, the new rules now advise that we have "stick pressure." The physical action is the same, only the name has changed. Are we fooling anyone?  Might I suggest, if that works, we henceforth refer to waterboarding as "a warm shower".

Our sport began as Schutzhund. Translated, it means "protection dog". What we do has a proud heritage.  Our work produces dogs for the police and military, and makes well-behaved companions of family dogs. The breeders who adhere to these standards create dogs who have the stability and drive for Search and Rescue and scent detection work  They are the backbone of our working dog community.  Why must we run from this reality?  If we believe that we have to deny the word "protection" in our name and history, our public relations efforts are failing.  We must do better.

We have lost so much already.  When I began in the sport, in the early mid-80's, the protection routine closely resembled the behaviors required by a police service dog. The blind search simulates the search of an area or building, and requires the dog check left and right as the handler moves forward through the area, making the way safe.  The dog knows that the suspect is concealed in the last hiding place but it would be unsafe for the handler to move forward to that location without having the dog search before him.  Thus, it is also an obedience exercise. Once the dog locates the suspect, he must bark to alert the handler, who can then approach tactically.  Even as a police officer cannot strike a suspect who has surrendered and is not aggressive, so the dog cannot bite him.  He must hold the person in place with strong guarding until his handler takes control of the scene.  In the early days of the sport, we would order the suspect (decoy) from the blind and then return to search the hiding place while the dog lay in wait and guarded him.  We actually searched for "weapons" as an officer would.  As that was occurring, the suspect would attempt to flee and, without command,  the dog would pursue and bite the sleeve.  The handler would command the dog to release and approach, ordering the suspect to step back and frisking him for weapons.  In those days, the weapon was a reed stick, not a thickly padded stick.

I miss this. It has become a stylized affair that even the participants do not recognize as similar to police work.  There is no search of the hiding place, or the suspect.  It makes me wonder if people would understand what we do and support it if we were able to make this comparison. Instead, we are left with a ballet of biting dogs.  Oops! I'm sorry! We cannot say that the dogs "bite".  According to the rules, they "grip." (once again, is anyone deceived? Who looks stupid in this picture? The fool or the fooler?)  We have lost the courage test, as well.  In this, the handler would call to the suspect to stop and he would ignore the warning, at which point the dog would be released to pursue and stop him.  Yes, by biting.  Apparently courage is something that is not honorable because that was tossed aside in favor of the "long grip".  The odd part is that we no longer yell a warning for the man to stop; instead, the dog is released.  It seems to be in conflict, but perhaps the ultimate goal is to have the dog run down the field and give the decoy a hug.  Check with the Swiss. They would know.

What happened to the proud Germans, the fathers of our sport?  Why have they lost their voice?  They lead the WUSV and SV meetings.  They, more than anyone, are familiar with the famous statement attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group.
[wikipedia]    The quotation begins, " They came first for the Communists
 and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist."  Piece by piece, our sport has been picked apart until only the bones remain.

The Germans waved the white flag of defeat in 2004 when they caved to political forces and the Verein für Deutsche Schäferhunde (SV) and the Deutscher Hundesportverein (DHV) made substantial changes to Schutzhund, and adopted the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) rules that govern IPO titles.  By doing so, they gave up control of the sport to the FCI. The DHV changed the name of the titles from "SchH" (Schutzhund) to "VPG" (Vielseitigkeitsprüfung für Gebrauchshunde) which roughly translates "Versatility Examination for Working Dogs".  Our parent organization, the United Schutzhund Clubs of America, had retained the word schutzhund in their name, though we had lovely "versatile working dogs" under the terms of surrender.  And now, in 2010, there were people who wanted to complete our emasculation by removing the protection work as we now compete for IPO titles.  Where did Schutzhund go?   When I read the 2010 rule changes, I saw how far we have moved from our past. I am fearful to read new revisions for fear there will be reference to tunnels and pause boxes.  In the future the dogs will only guard, never bite.

 Where will we find our working dogs?  While I remain hopeful that our leadership will recognize the path we are on and make an abrupt halt, it seems unlikely.  Clearly, we cannot look to Germany for a solution. With the protection sport organizations under the same umbrella of the FCI, and competing under the same rules, it ensures that we will drink the koolaid together.  The dogs that pass under the embarrassingly weak rules and low score requirements of the new rules will be the same from USA to DVG to WDA. Sea to Shining Sea.  I am optimistic that the AWDF will provide a haven for those who still value a working dog, with titles that rank courage and hardness and bring back the attack out of the blind.  We are Americans and we should not run and hide.  Our sport is nothing to be ashamed of.  Stand up for it.

If not, will the last one out of Schutzhund please turn out the lights?