I have been in the sport for 30+ years and I honestly think that the major issue that is affecting Obedience today is not the actual exercises but the fact that the “grassroots” of our sport has been trimmed so close to the earth that it is struggling to grow. By this I mean IF people really want Obedience to survive then there is only one cure, TEACH.
I don’t mean teach people that are already in Obedience I mean teach people that have no idea what Obedience is, bring new people into the sport. I also don’t mean teaching the KC good citizens, I mean teach the obedience exercises. I don’t just mean the best trainers in the country either, I mean EVERYONE, even people in Beginners and Novice, If you have trained a dog to that standard then you can teach someone else to do it.
I believe that the area I live in is representative of the whole country and in my area, I could throw a stone and hit multiple people teaching Agility, I can find huge numbers of people offering “pet dog” training, but Obedience? Not anything like the number, it should be. Quite simply we have lost the routes into the sport and the number of clubs or private groups that can take new people and inspire them to train Obedience have shrunk dramatically.
I do not buy the “they are not interested” and I don’t buy the other sports are more entertaining. Football exists but it does not kill cricket or Rugby. The difference is people still advertise and teach Cricket and Rugby at grass roots. People are always interested in doing something if they enjoy it, make it fun make it a laugh socially, so the people enjoy their training sessions as well as the dog does. Then people stay and dog’s progress.
There are thousands of Dog owners in this country and there are more than enough to go round, if people TEACH obedience. Promote Obedience, capture people’s imagination and concentrate on teaching Obedience. There are some amazingly talented people in the sport that could produce handouts and flyers for people around the country to use advertising obedience.
Get together in a small group, hire a hall or meet up outside to train and the hour before, advertise that you offer Free obedience training. If everyone that attends a show brought in 1 new person a year this sport would grow exponentially. Look at the last show you went to then times the people there by 2, then by 3, before you know it the classes will be bulging, and you will have a growing sport.
So Just my view, but if people really want Obedience to survive and grow you need to start TEACHING OBEDIENCE! get together with a group of friends or on your own and TEACH new people!