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Sweeping Changes to AKC Obedience?

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If you’re vested in the sport of obedience, then you may already know that MAJOR changes are being proposed for AKC obedience.  

I’m not thrilled with all of the proposed changes, but I would say that the vast majority are designed to make the sport friendlier, safer, and more attractive to a range of competitors with a variety of personal goals.  

The proposed revisions were offered after soliciting input from the public, and apparently a sizable number of people did take the opportunity to offer their thoughts, so kudos to each of you who gave your opinions!  Clearly the committee listened, and these suggested revisions go well beyond what I had expected.  Once again the exhibitors are being asked to provide input – this time on the proposed changes.  

This is your chance!  Read through the PDF and then speak up and let them know how you feel.

Before you do so, you might wish to keep the following points in mind:

1) Thinking, feeling, human beings worked on this committee. I’d guess that these people gave hundreds of hours of their own time to try and improve the troubled sport that they love.   Their suggestions came from public input and may or may not reflect their personal opinions.  When you make your comments, remember that this was a labor of love. These people did their best; now treat them with respect.  You can be honest in a manner that expresses yourself clearly without mistreating the recommending committee.

2) Before you resist any changes to what you know and love, take a good look at our sport.  Look at the numbers, in particular Novice A.  Look at the average age of the competitors.   Are we really in a position to to freak out over the possibility of change, if those changes might bring new people in to our sport?  If you’re saying  that you’d rather quit than see the sport “dumbed down”, then you may well get your way – when the sport disappears from underneath you.  

As I said earlier, I do not agree with all of the proposed changes, and I expressed that to the committee.  But I’m also aware that it’s not all about me and my personal situation; it’s about the sport as a whole.  

Let’s make sure the committee hears from us.  And if change comes around, support the sport! Train your dog!  Enter trials!  Volunteer to help others who are just now learning the ropes!

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

19 responses »

  1. News travels fast–I had submitted feedback before your post appeared in my in-box.

  2. OMG thank you for posting this…. I am doing a happy dance! I want to give every member of the 2014 AKC advisory committee a huge hug (and I am a very advanced competitor). These changes could finally happen, I can’t even believe what I am reading. Great proposal, from big things to little things in their suggested changes. 🙂 Happy!!!!!!

  3. The obedience corgis facebook group has been talking a lot about this. I love the proposed changes to the group exercises (and said so on their feedback site). Think of all the fun things we could do if we didn’t have to do the group exercises at all. There is a reason that agility is completely taking over.

  4. I have waited for a long time to see these changes happen in the group exercises, I agree Ellen, it’s thrilling to see this on their list of recommendations. Also, deaf dogs would be able to compete (I am totally in favor of that) and a lot of other changes designed not to make obedience seem so picky and stodgy. I think the changes will help contribute to our sport NOT dying out…. thankfully!

    • Terry, why not in favour of ‘deaf dogs’?

      Here, (NSW, Australia) deaf dogs have been competing for yonks. And they do very well.

      I can see good reasons for not allowing genetically deaf dogs to compete in “Conformation Classes” (as they should not be bred from) but I see not reason to exclude them from anything else.

  5. Hmmm. Looks good to me, as a ‘foreigner”.

    But what mystifies me is the very last point.

    “Allow excused dog to count” ?

  6. Yep, I always wondered why deaf dogs were not allowed to compete. ANOTHER wonderful proposed change! I almost can’t believe how much good stuff is in this proposal.

    • Not allowing deaf dogs is completely lame. Deaf and other disabled dogs have been doing APDT Rally for years.

  7. Seems like if someone has taken a dog that they love that is deaf and capable of training and working they should be allowed to exhibit it. So glad the AKC is realizing this! Again, I am so thrilled with the proposed changes, I know they won’t make everyone happy and there will be a few things in the changes that will make some of us unhappy but I can see that AKC is really making the effort to make obedience more welcoming and not so stodgy and restrictive and officious. Thank you, again, Denise for posting about this.

  8. So very excited for so many of these possible changes. I can’t say that each and every one of them makes me jump for joy, but I think that overwhelmingly the proposed changes say positive things about the future of AKC obedience.

  9. Very thoughtful post. I sincerely hope enough people will heed your advice when voting and look at the future and longevity of the sport as a whole!

  10. Musings – I compete in the UK so have no stake in how your shows are arranged – I was just interested cos it is doggy training stuff. The proposed changes all seem reasonable (not that I have any great understanding of the finer points) but I don’t really get how any of them could encourage new people into the sport? Surely if people enjoy training, like the competition element and if the rules are reasonable then most people train for the exercises. If agility suddenly banned the tire, for instance, would you have thousands more flocking to compete? I doubt it. People do it cos it is generally fun for dog and handler. Surely the question must be, for obedience, how do you make the sport more fun to learn, rather than how you can tweak the exercises? Love the website & love the philosophy BTW

    • Rosemary Elwell

      Actually, AKC now requires a breakaway tire. And yes, a lot of people were saying that they didn’t compete in classes that included a tire before the change. I’ve seen videos of “wrecks” involving a fixed tire jump, and I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to risk their dog’s safety by having them take it at speed.

      Some people just don’t like to see any changes to “their” sport, period. When the AKC opened most companion events to mixed breeds a few years ago, there was much wailing an gnashing of teeth by competitors. My girl was usually the only mixed breed competing in obedience and rally around here, unless it was a really big trial.

      Now that mixed breeds are more common, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has turned on the Optional Titling classes. Since they are “easier”, they have the effect of “dumbing down” the sport, and as a result, some rude people refer to them throwaway or trash titles, never considering that, to someone who has never trained a dog before, or has a “non-traditional” obedience breed, Optional Titles can be a major accomplishment.

  11. i would really encourage those of you who like the proposed changes to go ‘vote’ on the site because believe me, there are plenty of people who are appalled by the changes are are voicing their feelings loud and clear.

  12. It’s really, really important that we give feedback to the AKC. I’ve been training and showing deaf Bull Terriers in agility since 2001. The girl I have now is only 8 legs away from her CPE C-ATCH title which would make her the first Standard Bull Terrier to have ever earned it and she is bi-laterally deaf. She also competes in NADAC and ASCA. She is registered with AKC, the same as my other BT’s have been, but we are not allowed to play. They claim it’s a safety issue, but I’ve seen a lot of hearing dogs that are unsafe that should not be in the ring. I would not put my dog in an unsafe situation, it’s common sense. I really hope this gets approved so that I can support our local AKC trials.

    • I agree Deb, we have to take the time to go onto the website and give feedback. More on this…. there is no way that every person is going to love every suggested change and I am not going to nickel and dime the committee on the changes I don’t care for, because there are SO MANY wonderful proposed changes this time. I am going to let them know loud and clear what I LIKE. I am not on a lot of the talk boards and I think I am probably behind everyone else in reading this proposal to the AKC regs, and it’s being talked about a lot, would imagine. I was just so delighted when I did read them.

      As Deb said, everyone don’t forget to take a few minutes to give your support and feedback to all these great proposed changes which make our sport safer and so much more welcoming. Even tho I would not mind getting rid of stays, I never in a million years thought the AKC would get rid of them completely, but these changes make the stays better (leaving the leads on, not having dogs that NQ come back for groups, and only requiring one stay in the classes (both Open and Novice).


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