Sunday, September 11, 2011

For Fun, Competing and Weekend Warriors

I know I have nagged on this subject on numerous occasions, but once again, I just CANNOT get over it.

I HATE it when people say '..., but I just do agility for fun'.  Please note the but before hand, since that is normally pre-faced by, 'you may be competitive' or 'you have a fast dog' or something else utterly useless.  Yes, I am competitive, but TRUST me, I do agility because it is fun.  Hell, what other motivation would I have?  The thousands in prize money?  The fame?  The attention of paparazzi?  The scores of super hot male models that haunt my doorstep because of my achievements in the sport?   My sole motivation for doing agility is because I enjoy it and more importantly my dogs enjoy it, hence FOR FUN.  A more correct phrase would be '..., but I do agility casually' and often the more accurate '..., but I do agility socially' and the less polite '..., but I am a weekend warrior'.

With the terminology out of the way, I want to pose a question.  What is so terribly wrong with being competitive?  I like being competitive, my dogs have no clue, but I train them and give them all the skills to be competitive, I don't just expect them to jump from the womb straight onto the podium.  Actually, my first motivation for training my dogs in every aspect of agility (and doing it properly as well), is NOT winning.  It is because I feel that it is very unfair to compete in agility, if you have not ACTUALLY given your dog the skills to do so.  Ja, it is a hard game, trust me I know, I have been training dogs for about 19 years now.  But if you didn't actually teach your dog to properly negotiate a jump/poles/contact obstacles/tunnels and now you go off and try to string all those obstacles into a course, you are bound to cause physical and/or mental harm (yeah this part is probably you screaming, because the dog isn't doing something right because he doesn't KNOW what is right).  My main concern when training religiously and relatively often is to make sure the sport is actually fun for my dogs too.  And for those of you that know my dogs, you can SEE they love it.  Now the fact that I LIKE doing things well and winning and doing the best round I possibly can, is up to me.  As long as I keep my dogs happy and healthy, what is wrong with that?

Now with ongoing arguments in South Africa (since 1997... when the friggin sport started here), the following scenario has developed.  You, who trains... maybe once a week, don't bother with proper contact methods or taking the time to train decent poles.... You, who's dog is unfamiliar to handling manoeuvres, causing you to scream seven times, leading to a freaked out dog, wide turns, spins and bubbles. You now want to be able to achieve exactly the same as me, who trains and cares and researches and reads and asks and tries and works so damn hard.  Somehow that doesn't feel fair.

Perhaps I should explain... lol, again.  We have a small agility community.  Previously our rules stated that a minimum of 5 dogs had to compete in the class in order for the winner (provided they had a clear round) to receive a Qualifying Certificate (the kind-of equivalent of a Champ Ticket in the UK).  This DID leave certain provinces and especially small and medium dogs at a disadvantage.  A brilliant small dog, could go clear on a tough course in a spectacular way and get... well a handshake, a sample packet of dog food and nothing else. I suppose this is a very hard concept for the USA and UK blog readers to understand... you have stiff competition at every single show/trial/event.  In South Africa we have probably a TOTAL of 30 medium dogs and 40 small dogs in the entire country, spread over 5 different provinces.  I will use TvN and her stunning mini Aussie as an example.  To my knowledge, he is the only grade 3 medium dog in her province, yet he is a brilliant little dog, a very deserving National Champ and more importantly a dog with Championship Status.  Now most probably (sorry T, I know you read this and you KNOW I don't mean offence in any way), her awesome dog might not have achieved championship status if the rules had not been changed.  Because according to our new rules, the class size does not matter.  If you achieve a clear round, you win the QC, however the judges have to abide my a minimum speed.  Seems simple enough right?  Apparently not.

Once again there is a campaign to drop our standards even more.  Correct me if I am wrong, but if a status or title was achievable by everyone, we would all be walking around with a Sir/Mr. President/Ph. D/The Honourable/Majesty in front of our names.

Of course I recognise the problem of course measuring.  I am a judge and I know how measure my courses.  I have watched other judges and know how they measure their courses.  You know what?  So be it, judges decision is final, learn to accept that and recognise that tomorrow is another day.  THAT subject is for another post.

Returning to the original problem.  Let's use me as an example.  I am currently competing with two dogs.  Chaos and Quake.  Chaos is a very good dog (yeah, yeah I am biased, but right now that is not the point), he most probably does not have the capability of winning the AWC (then such a small percentage of dogs do), in fact he is not the best dog in this country, but he definitely deserves to be considered on a smaller scale.  Quake... well he is just not as good as Chaos, I love that dog to bits and I would fight you to the death if you tried to take him from me.  But honestly, as far as sport is concerned, it is kind of like comparing Usain Bolt to... well ME, since I also used to do the 100m sprint at school.  That doesn't mean I am going to stop competing with Quake, since he enjoys it, same as I enjoyed doing athletics at school.  Quake has plenty to achieve, BUT if he is able to achieve the exact same titles as Chaos, there is something wrong with the system. Why should I have even bothered to perfect my handling and training and technique and performance with BOTH dogs, if Chaos could have achieved the same if I had been completely mediocre with him and gone full out with Quake?

I work hard with all my dogs, I try and keep balance in their lives.  Their lives DO NOT (contrary to popular belief) revolve around agility.  Their lives revolve around me, and mine around theirs.  It is a fair balance. Any balance after all requires more than one weight.

I have been blessed with every single one of my dogs (this coming from a completely non-religious person means a lot).  And I love them regardless of ANYTHING else in the world and if you're reading this and you cannot say the same about every single one of your dogs, then I suggest you re-examine your life.

I am, however, asking all you weekend warriors and social handlers and mediocrity seekers to NOT try and take away the very little I have achieved and work so damn hard to do.

So after that rant and rave I will just make a short mention of today's show.  First of all, I withdrew Quake after a few jumps... there is something not right, so will have x-rays and bloods done this week, my little special needs man is not feeling okay :(  It makes me sad in a big way, but such is life with our animals.

Chaos however is looking good, good, good... man that dog is spectacular, I f$%(* it up OFTEN as per my below video, but he just tries his heart out and tries to fix my sordid, ineligible handling.  What a special quality for a dog to have.  So here are our rounds from today, I owe Chaos a ton of apologies, sorry bud, yes we know I suck!

Volt is learning the poles, apparently he is aiming at learning them in record speed, but i am holding back a bit,  since I feel that he is such a golden boy already I am NOT going to push it.  I will post vids of that later this week... they deserve their own special post though...

Have a good one!

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