On the inevitable self-comparisons of dog training

So I’m having a lot of guilty feelings surrounding Sid lately, mostly because I have a lot of really fantastic dogblogs in my feed reader, like Katie at Save the Pit Bull, Save the World and the Food Lady over at Wootube.

Why does this cause me guilty feelings about Sid? These people are fantastic trainers, and have worked their dogs in agility, obedience, flyball — they have dogs with TITLES. Like Katie’s eeevil red dog, who is ARCHX Siren’s Eleusinian Mystery CD CD-H RA RL3 RLV RL2X RL1X CGC TT.

Meanwhile, Siddy, despite being brilliant and brave and willing, is just Blackthorn’s Obsidian.

This is, I realize, totally irrational. Siddy doesn’t care if he never gets the entire alphabet after his name, what he cares about is whether he gets to go places with his person and take care of her. But I keep feeling that I am letting him down, because if I was a more systematic and dedicated trainer, he definitely could have a pile of titles. He is smart, willing, and has heart and courage in spades (along with a large helping of goofy sense of humor and general good nature). In the hands of a trainer who would, say, work through the Levels with him in an organized fashion, he could be out there in the rally obedience ring no problem. Well, small problem in that his handler would have to use her cane and some speed changes would be impossible for us — does rally require anything faster than a quick-step gimp? I have no idea but if so, it’s a no-go — but no problem in the dog’s ability or capacity.

The problem is that I have this deep and weird aversion to competing in things like obedience, and that systematically working behaviors in the backyard here at home is also not the most thrilling thing ever for me. I put Sid’s public access foundations on him here at home, but as soon as he was cleared to work and I was 95% certain of his ability to not be a total dork in public, we took our show on the road. It was more interesting for both of us, that way.

And I don’t know why I feel like we ought to be doing structured competition obedience and the like. I mean, both competition trainers and I put hundreds of hours of work into teaching our dogs, but for, say, a rally obedience dog all that work culminates in an event in the rally ring that takes, what, 10 minutes? 15? Whereas the pinnacle of Sid’s achievements thus far was working for four hours straight at the state fair, in crowds of people, amid fascinating smells, new noises, with occasional livestock. He worked for two hours at the National Museum of the Marine Corps on Veteran’s Day, where he handled immersive videos featuring machine gun fire and screaming, several new floors that were cold and metal and wobbled and made noise under foot, drastic temperature changes between rooms (the Chosin Valley room is heavily air conditioned, the Viet Nam room is heated), people using wheelchairs, people using canes, and a taxidermy German Shepherd (that one really weirded him out but he didn’t make a fuss).

It makes me sad that he will never get official recognition for these things, that because of my aversion to the competition field, no one will ever give Sid a big bright ribbon or a shiny trophy. There are no organizations that officially sanction the titling of service dogs in the work they do, although if there were he’d surely have his PA (Public Access) and SDN (Service Dog Novice) and be well on his way to SDA (Service Dog Advanced) with an eye to his SDE (Service Dog Excellent) before the end of 2012. Or maybe, given the wide variety of tasks that service dogs do, we’d have to break up the titles to specify the work he does, and so take the “S” off and replace it with an “M” for Mobility. Which would then give us the opportunity to, say, work on him getting his Wheel Dog titles if I decide to use a wheelchair.

I don’t actually know where I’m going with this, except to say that I recognize that it’s irrational to simultaneously want applause for Sid’s good work and also people to ignore him when we’re out in public. But it sure would be nice to get a big bright ribbon to recognize all our hard work, you know?

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Comments (4) | Dog Training — Tags: , — Andrea @ 0858 on 26 November, 2011

4 Responses to “On the inevitable self-comparisons of dog training”

  1. Katie
    1228 on November 26th, 2011

    Pish. What Sid does on any odd day of the week is a hundred times more valuable than any of the games I play with my dogs. We do it because it’s fun and keeps bad dogs out of trouble. When Sid works, he’s Being of Use. I really can’t see any comparison at all.

    And yes, if you were so inclined, you could do rally, cane and quick-step gimp and all :)

  2. EmilyS
    1610 on November 26th, 2011

    comparisons are odorous.
    You know Sid doesn’t care about titles. and if you don’t either, it would be wacky to subject yourself to the torment, expense and stress of acquiring them.

    You could always buy yourself a nice shiny ribbon to celebrate the achievements you and Sid have accomplished together. ;-)

  3. Flo
    1800 on November 26th, 2011

    See, the “fast” and “slow” are RELATIVE. How else do you think *MY* gimpy ass got a CD and RL1 on Duncan? Slow can be “look, we’re being passed by a snail” and “normal” can be moderate gimp, with “fast” being gimping as fast as you can.

    Most judges are *GREAT* about accommodations for handlers if you ask before the class starts, and APDT allows for accommodations for the dogs, too. There was a lady doing tapping to cue her deaf boxer, and the lady with the Wolfhound got extra time because of slooooow sits. In AKC, I explained my issues, and I went out and gimped around. AKC Rally, where you can chat your head off and read the signs, most closely approximates how I work with Duncan in real life. APDT is less talking, but food is allowed.

    But- I went for titles AFTER Duncan learned his SD skills and was still bored. It’s supposed to be fun. If it’s not fun, don’t sweat it. If it runs counter to your need of him, don’t do it. (The Setters are working dogs, and since the late 90s, NONE! NOT ONE! has earned a title. We may get back into Shoot to Retrieve or AKC Hunter, but the exact skills needed for competition were counter to what we needed for real hunting, so we stopped confusing them.)

    And if you want aplphabet soup after your dog’s name, then make your own titles, or get the trick dog titles from Kyra Sundance. (http://domorewithyourdog.com/pages/trickdogtitle.html and http://domorewithyourdog.com/downloads/trickdogtitle.pdf quite honestly, many tasks also count as tricks)

    I’d be more interested in SD titles like SD-M(b,cb,mp,tr) for Service Dog- Mobility (brace, counter balance, momentum pull, trained retrieve) so that it’s exactly what he does, not what people *think* the job should entail. SD-G (guide), SD-Wc (wheelchair), SD-H (hearing), SD-A (alert) or SD-AR (alert/response). That’s more in line with the law- one task and a dog under control is a SD under the ADA, so Sid is already a SD, it’s just a matter of adding tasks. But I ~really~ don’t want to be responsible for setting up a governing body or rules to give out SD titles.

  4. Wordwitch
    1859 on November 26th, 2011

    I think what you’ve done with him is already amazing enough, but I made this for you anyways. :)

    http://pics.livejournal.com/tyches_echo/pic/001e00r6

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