Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

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Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Tue Feb 27, 2018 6:03 am

Here's the thing: I *train* my dogs. Rowley goes to two agility classes a week; Alex goes to Nosework classes and I supplement with my own practice for NW at least two times per week in addition. I have spent a small fortune, I'm sure, on training classes over the years; and I love going to classes, they're a social life for me and a necessary part of my dogs' lives.

When it comes to actually trialing and titling my dogs, I find all kinds of reasons to not do it. I even surprise myself! Rowley, who turns 9 soon, could EASILY have his C-ATCH (CPE agility championship title), but he's got only L3 titles and some L4 points. (There are 5 levels in CPE.) And I flatly refuse to even register him in AKC, even though many of the courses we run in our classes are AKC Masters level and he's brilliant -- he's a natural agility dog.

Alex is the first ever Finnish Lapphund to have NACSW (National Association of Canine Scent Work, the original and still the best of NW venues) titles; he has his NW1 and NW2 and we were just accepted into a NW3 trial in April. I'm super-excited about NACSW, but here's the thing: to get a NACSW title, you have to pass ALL the searches in that trial that day. Nothing carries over (I don't are about Element titles) and you don't 'build' a title. You get it or you don't. This will be our third attempt at NW3 and I'm fine with that.

Meanwhile, AKC has started Nosework, and Alex is AKC-registered from his birth. I did an AKC trial with him last fall, and he was perfect. But here's the thing: to get an AKC Novice Nosework title, you have to title in all five searches (interior, exterior, buried, container, and handler discrimination) and to get THOSE titles, you need 3 Qualifying searches in each one. So that's 15 Q searches, right? Let's say your dog never blows one, which is pretty unrealistic: 15 searches at $25/search is $375. Let's say he needs four searches in each one to get his 3 Qs; that's $500. FOR A NOVICE TITLE. Then you go to Advanced, then Masters, then Elite -- there are like 5 levels. $2,000 or $2,500 to certify that your dog is a boffo nosework dog.

I'm sorry -- WHO FREAKIN' CARES? I know Alex's breeder would love to see AKC titles on him, but come on, he's not going to be bred; it's just for bragging. Geez, I can get the dog room painted this summer for the cost of a Novice title. I'm living on a smaller income than I once did; I don't want to shell out hundreds of dollars and go to trial after trial to build a title. I'd rather be out in the nature preserve with all my dogs.

For people who trial: what am I missing? For people who don't trial: do you train up to trial levels?

Just wondering.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby emmas_mom » Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:42 pm

I neither trial nor train for trialing, though Mags and I do some hit-and-miss nosework stuff around home just for fun and to keep her mind busy on rainy days. Like you, I'd rather be out in the nature preserve (or our equivalent) than attending trials or even classes (though if a class were nearby AND within my budget, I would likely try one with her if I could get her far enough passed her fear of people to let her mind engage in a class environment). I think if I were trialing and/or competing at any level, my competitive nature would make it stressful for both myself and my dog - at least, this dog.
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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Amanda » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:49 pm

I have not really trialed except for one field trial. I thoroughly enjoyed it. There were elements of it that I knew Zeke could do easily. But there were parts of it that I wasn’t sure how he would hold up or even if the small amount of training we did was enough to help him pass. That was what interested me. Could he and I maintain our teamwork in the midst of a “test”? I also like the idea of going to a trial because *I* work harder and take the time to train more when there is an end goal. The same is true for my own physical fitness. I exercise better and more consistently when I have a race or event to train for. I can’t and won’t spend thousands of dollars chasing a title though. That’s ridiculous. Especially when an equivalent title is available from and arguably better organization. I do intend to try an agility trial with Jovie at some point.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Wed Feb 28, 2018 11:49 am

Yes, the reasons you mentioned, Amanda, are the reasons I want to keep going in NACSW with Alex.
To get a title in NACSW, you must pass -- with no faults -- all of the searches in the trial for your level. At NW3, where we are now, that means:
1 Exterior search with an unspecified number of hides from 1 to 3
1 Container search with an unspecified number of hides from 1 to 3
3 Interior searches (separate rooms/areas, separate times) with an unspecified number of hides (from 1 to 3) in each AND one may (but won't necessarily) have NO HIDES AT ALL, in which case you have to call it 'clear'
1 Vehicle search with an unspecified number of hides from 1 to 3

The searches may include food and toy distractions. You think you're proud of your dog? When I learned that Alex had passed up a blueberry muffin in NW2 Containers and only alerted on the hide odor, I literally kissed him. LOL!

NACSW is, to me, THE title I want. AKC and UKC and CWAGS all came later, and all allow you to 'leg' into titles by passing searches one at a time. Not NACSW -- the only way to get the title is to pass all the searches in a single trial. It's not easy.

But for the rest of it, continually paying $20 or $25 for a single search and amassing 15 Q searches in AKC to finish a Novice title, does not appeal to me.

I love the training. I love training to the proficiency level of competition. I just don't want to bother with the actual competition. :crazy:

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby SherriA » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:33 pm

Henry and I have never gone to a trial, and likely never will. But we will continue to go to class for as long as he's enjoying it because, as you said, it's a social activity and he loves it. The trainers at our facility tailor the classes to the dogs who are attending, so when we took competition agility the assumption was that you would be expected to perform well enough to go to a trial, so that if you want to do that you would be able to. And for those of us who don't intend to, well, that doesn't mean we can't work on that level of excellence anyway. :)

We're currently doing what our facility calls Crazy Canine - fun agility and tricks, and we'll likely stick with that even after they restart competition agility. They offer DMWYD testing each quarter, so we may test for a novice title this spring just for fun, and then work toward the intermediate requirements. I wouldn't consider that the same as going to a trial, but we train as if we plan to test. I just think it would be fun to be able to put letters after my retired lab beagle's name! Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? (Well, I guess I could put CGC, since he passed that a couple of years ago) I'm goal oriented but not competitive, so testing is more my jam than trials where you're ranked against other participants.
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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Sat Mar 03, 2018 6:31 am

Yes, a good training center makes all the difference! Like you, Sherri, I am in classes that are for training at the competition level, but I don't have to trial to stay in those classes.

I started doing agility in 1993, when the venues were USDAA (with ridiculous jump heights, no thanks) and NCDA, which soon became NADAC. Everything else followed, so I have watched the lemming-like rush to AKC whenever that organization started offering agility, nosework, etc. Usually AKC made THEIR offerings a bit more tricky than the going standard, so they can charge more and/or layer on more requirements for a title. I see what you're doing there, AKC! LOL!

Alex's breeder would love to have AKC performance titles next to his name, but at about $400 per level title in Nosework, and 5 levels, I think we're not going to bother.

We do the work always, and will do it for as long as we can, but we know how good we are and that's independent of $$$$$$. Yesterday I took Alex out for a Nosework session with a friend who is a cadaver dog handler, and she set up three searches for him, one was so hard he was REALLY challenged and I had to direct him away from a dead end and help him work through his frustration. It was a great experience and cost me $0. Don't tell the AKC! :blah:

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Kathleen » Mon Apr 09, 2018 6:56 am

You know I don’t enjoy competing anymore. So I rarely do it.
Think about if you are just working outside your comfort zone and will eventually enjoy it more or maybe it just isn’t for you.
I tell my students, and you know this, the dog doesn’t care. Those ribbons are just for you so the person needs to own that.
I currently work in a pet supply store and teach 4 classes a week. I love what I do but honestly the last thing I want to do on the weekend is hang out with dog people all day.
I also think it is a component of who you are, many of my friends who still trial a lot played sports or showed horses or 4H they miss competing on some level and this give that back to them.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Mon Apr 09, 2018 9:53 am

I currently work in a pet supply store and teach 4 classes a week. I love what I do but honestly the last thing I want to do on the weekend is hang out with dog people all day.
I understand this 100%.

I spend my days with my dogs -- working from home really is great for that -- and I go to three, often four, classes every week: two agility classes, a manners class, and every other week a nosework class. And every other week I do AAT visits with Dee. I love doing all that and I count those classes as not only time with one of my dogs, but social time for me.

That said, I'm NOT particularly competitive, and I don't want to be around a bunch of people who are, because it doesn't resonate with me. I am proud that my dogs are as good as they are; I hope Alex gets his NW3 title in two weeks. I love it when my Sunday morning agility class, which is people who are just finishing agility foundation training, oooh and aaah at Rowley on the course. And then I'm good, I go home and pile all the dogs into the car and go to the nature preserve!

I am MORE proud of my dogs for their good behavior in situations like the nature preserve, off-leash, not being obnoxious to people and other dogs, than anything else they can do. I'd rather have a dog who is reliable and mature, off-leash, than a MACH dog who has to be crated all the time because he or she is batsh!t crazy and can't dial it down. And yeah, I see a fair number of those dogs in the trial community. :frown:

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Trademarkbark » Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:06 am

I compete and title because it’s my hobby. I love titles and certificates from various registries and venues. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting it, but for some it’s entertainment and living vicariously through my dogs’ achievements. Lol
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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Kathleen » Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:08 am

Exactly, I would never discourage someone from going down that road. I had sooo much fun for the years that that I did it. Just not my cup of tea these days.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Mon Apr 09, 2018 2:08 pm

I compete and title because it’s my hobby. I love titles and certificates from various registries and venues. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting it, but for some it’s entertainment and living vicariously through my dogs’ achievements. Lol
Oh, I think it's much more than that, it's showing off the partnership that the owner and dog have developed, and that's very cool.

Both my agility trainers trial their dogs, and for them it's also a kind of 'ranking' in their field -- I trained once with a woman who would not trial her own dogs, and that was kind of weird, actually. I expect people who are 'in the business' to trial. But not every dog who gets to competition level will compete, and I don't think that diminishes it for the dog.

I also expect people who breed dogs to trial, in something: conformation, sports, whatever. Dogs who are going to be bred should be able to perform on a stage, that says a lot about temperament, to me. :thumbup:

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Jen » Mon Apr 09, 2018 3:04 pm

The main reason I stopped competing is that I don't want to have to compete for the option of competing. I guess it's different now but I HATED having to be at my computer to enter instantly as soon as the trial opened and hope you were fast enough. I also didn't like the idea of taking time off to trial, especially when at some schools I got NO personal days and only sick leave, and too many NW trials were held on Fridays or Mondays. So that limits me to summer and I still have to do the competing to possibly compete thing.

And now B is older and not energetic enough to spend a day at a low level of stress (having to be confined to the car or having to see other dogs in the distance) just for a minute or two of fun every couple of hours.

Maybe someday, but probably not.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Mon Apr 09, 2018 4:38 pm

It's not much different, Jen. I am #95 on the wait list for a NW3 trial near me that takes place in May; with only 35 entries allowed in the trial, it's safe to say Alex and I will not be competing in that one.

I enter 4 or 5 NW3 trials every year and I get into one, maybe two. On April 21, we are going for our NW3, third attempt. If we don't get it this time, I don't know that I'll bother to enter more trials.

The AKC came into Nosework last year and now people are flocking to those trials, and there are two trials per day, five searches per trial -- I'm NEVER going to have Alex do 10 searches in a day. Never. WTF. Much less 20 searches in two days. It's absurd, and at $20 or $25 PER SEARCH, it's also a money-making scam by the AKC.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby SherriA » Mon Apr 09, 2018 8:03 pm

it's also a money-making scam by the AKC.
That's almost an oxymoron. Pretty much everything the AKC does is a moneymaking scheme. They're registering puppy mill dogs to fill their coffers; I think that pretty much says it all.

Henry could pass the AKC trick dog test but we'll wait for the DMWYD one so I'm not supporting AKC with my hard earned money
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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Trademarkbark » Tue Apr 10, 2018 6:29 am

it's also a money-making scam by the AKC.
It’s not a scam. People petitioned to get these events added because they like the accessibility. I understand if you have negative feelings against AKC for personal reasons, but in this case, they are just giving the consumer what they want.
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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:29 am

it's also a money-making scam by the AKC.
It’s not a scam. People petitioned to get these events added because they like the accessibility. I understand if you have negative feelings against AKC for personal reasons, but in this case, they are just giving the consumer what they want.
I don't think a dog should do 10 searches in a day. I know that if it's on offer, may dog owners will go for it. In an agility trial, it's not possible to enter your dog in 10 runs a day, or even 6. Yes, I get the physical differences between agility and nosework; but the effect on the dog is something I think the AKC isn't bothering to understand.

I really dislike the 'more is better' ethos of many venues, the AKC among them. And I think that giving the consumer what they want is an excuse for shirking responsibility to the dogs.

JMO. :grin:

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Trademarkbark » Tue Apr 10, 2018 9:56 am

I understand where you’re coming from. I don’t do nosework, so don’t understand the rigors involved. But experts in the field, whether respected or not, created the rules that they’re following. That’s all I was getting at. AKC just takes money and sends certificates, they don’t write the rules.
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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Aubergine » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:52 pm

I wouldn't say I hate trialing, but I've come to find it so draining on my time... and I'm just not a competitive person. Nutmeg has retired from agility, but Spratty and I still do a weekly class, which we both really enjoy. Once in a while I'll enter a fun match or trial, but I just find it eats up so much time (not to mention money). I live in the city, and the trials are always held out in the "sticks" - at least 45 minutes' drive away. So, I can't really stay up late or enjoy a couple of beers on a weekend night because I have to wake up so early, pack the car, etc. I have to be there by 7:30 at the latest to find parking and a place to crate. And then it's just so much waiting around. He usually craps out after about three runs, so I feel like I've spent $60 to drive my dog 45 minutes out of town, just for him to goof off in some dirt. I'm friendly with my classmates, but I'm not part of the local "agility gang," so it's not really a social experience for me. Then I get home in the late afternoon, and I still have errands and chores to do, non-dog social activities, etc. I dunno. I'm not gung-ho on putting titles on Spratley at this point and I just don't want my weekends to get eaten up with trials. A lot of people are trialing or doing fun matches literally all weekend, every weekend, and clearly that's their passion and a big social event for them, which is wonderful. I have a lot of other stuff going on in my life and dedicating a whole day to a trial where we may or may not get Qs just isn't a priority for me anymore.

I did a couple of nose work trials, which I thought would be fun, but I found them very stressful! Oh my gosh. I actually really didn't enjoy the experience - and the people are lovely; I love nosework classes; it's an awesome sport! I kept second guessing the dog, calling false alerts, missing whole swathes of search area... I was a mess :lol: And those were even worse for waiting around, because they were held at random warehouses without seating areas, so I just had to sit in my car.

Anyway, not my thing!

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Fri Apr 20, 2018 4:58 am

Yep! I was nodding as I read your post, Elizabeth!

That's another really big aspect for me: I have many dogs. I take one dog to a trial. My other dogs are at home, and even with my petsitter coming in during the day, it's always 7 hours or so that I'm gone, and neither the dogs nor I like the disruption to our routine. Now that I work from home, it's really a disruption, too. And of course, I have to make sure my petsitter's available! I sometimes feel overwhelmed, being one person with no in-house backup looking after a bunch of dogs, and trials add to that. Way back when, I had two Shelties (Briar and Sander) and they both ran agility, to a trial was a road trip for us, and it was fun! But that was also before agility got overrun with winched-to-the-eyebrows competitors.

Yep, I like the agility crowd just fine, but they're not my simpatico friends. At trials, they sit in their camp chairs watching and videoing runs, and I sit over by my dog's crate, reading a murder mystery. :rofl: It's like grade school all over again: Connie's reading a book, not socializing.

The distance of the trials is a big factor for me, too. The only venue where I would trial Rowley in agility just moved, and now the agility trials I would do are an hour or more away from me. This at a time when traffic and road conditions in the Chicago area are exponentially worse than they were even five years ago -- I'd rather stick a fork in my eye than drive the Northwest Tollway or even the Addams Tollway.

The trial WORK itself is fun; I love running Rowley in agility and I did get past the apprehension and anxiety stage in nosework trialing with Alex. If I could walk out my front door, drive a mile, be at a trial, do my runs, and come home, I'd have titles on top of titles on my dogs. :crazy:

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby Kathleen » Fri Apr 20, 2018 7:31 am

That is another really good point. Location. When I was trialing all the time, the trials are 2 to 3 hours away for me, so there is travel time and hotel expenses. If you are doing it every weekend that is a huge expense. I can remember many Saturday afternoons sitting in a motel 6 in Silmar.
Many of my friends who lived in LA could do a trial in the morning and be home in time to go to dinner with their husband or clean house. That would make a big difference.

Also let’s not forget the shleping. Sometimes in the rain or 100 degree weather.

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Re: Why do I hate trialing my dogs so much?

Postby connie » Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:52 am


Also let’s not forget the shleping. Sometimes in the rain or 100 degree weather.
If I never feel another foldable crate banging against my shins as my dog pulls on his leash and my carrier bag slips off my shoulder, it will be too soon, that's all I can say. :tongue: :thumbdown:


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