Keeping Obedience Afloat

People say ‘leave it alone’, ‘keep it the same’, ‘don’t touch our obedience’, but actually, nothing ever stays the same – it can’t because life changes.

Things that don’t evolve, become extinct. That’s life.

Obedience hasn’t stayed the same over time – exercises have come and gone, classes have come, gone and come back again, shows have come and gone too – and occasionally some of those have also come back again, the way in which we train has changed, the style of work too and the degree of accuracy that we expect from our competing teams. The competitive spirit is very different than it used to be – often you hear people say that competitors take it too seriously these days – those who talk fondly of the good old days where there was banter and heckling and playing tricks and sometimes a bit too much alcohol at lunchtime. Dog training was a hobby, to enjoy with friends with competing teams coming from voluntarily run clubs – there was no business involved, no professional dog trainers and risk assessment and risk management didn’t exist. There was also little/no competition from other dog related sports, to attract the dog enthusiasts to do more that just own a dog.

We are in a position now though where we are an ageing obedience population, and we are losing people from the older end of that cohort, and not replacing them as quickly at the younger end – competitors and judges alike. Long running shows are folding. Secretaries report increasing difficulty in recruiting judges, in order to schedule the full spectrum of classes. Pre Beginner and Beginner entries, are generally low – with the occasional celebration of larger classes. Increasingly shows are merging Dog and B••••h classes as it logistically makes sense. Ticket classes are small, admittedly not helped by Covid, but well before that, the days of 60 entries and a reserve list were long gone.

This does not mirror what is happening in newer dog related sports such as Scentwork, Mantrailing and Hoopers – all of which are growing quickly.

If we don’t continue to evolve in some way, Obedience will become extinct. Unfortunately. Sadly. That’s life.

The world changing is the biggest threat to Obedience – not the KC, not the OLC, not BCOS and not those that are brave enough to make suggestions as to how we can ensure Obedience swims instead of sinks.

I get that people don’t want Obedience to change – those of us in it are hooked, we love it as it is ….but we have got to be realistic about what’s happening and do something about it. If we always do, what we’ve always done, we will always get, what we always got – ie a declining sport, however passionate those of us that are in it, are. Instead of defensively fighting off the suggestions of others, come up with solutions – and not just ‘why don’t the kC…’, but really positive, practical, small steps that we could take together that would keep Obedience afloat, without compromising what we all love.

Dawn Cox

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