I heard it again today.

A team entered the Open obedience Ring and the dog was clearly disengaged so the handler pulled the dog for the weekend.  Probably a good choice!

Another trainer’s response?

If the dog knew she “had to” work then that wouldn’t have happened; a not so subtle reference to the competitor’s decision to train with force-free training methods – no “have to”.

The handler’s feelings were hurt, which should come as no surprise.  Her enthusiasm for a day at the dog shows? Trashed that too.

So, would adding “have to” in training correlate with success in competition? Let’s look at it logically.

In the Open ring, other dogs were also competing. Many of them did not pass. Indeed, in Open A, the pass rate is about 25%, so that means that 75% of the dogs decided they didn’t “have to” on that day.

Does anyone actually believe that all 75% of those dogs were trained without force? That we could raise our pass rate to 100% simply by adding compulsion in training? Considering that force free training is still rather uncommon, you’ll have a heck of a time making that argument.

Honestly, that argument is downright ridiculous because for years and years, “have to” was the ONLY training method around and yet failure is certainly not new. Heck, it’s not even more common!

Dogs fail. The best dogs in the nation sometimes fail when they enter the ring. Attend the national obedience championship and you will see dogs fail.   Apparently, they didn’t get the memo about “have to.”

Dogs qualify.  Trained with no “have to” at all, dogs get through on a pretty regular basis.

So who cares? Another one of those illogical traditional sayings that makes no sense yet is cherished by trainers everywhere?

I care! Because a person entered the ring today who might’ve become a regular competitor if she had received proper support. Instead, she went home feeling badly about the whole thing and frankly, the sport of obedience has enough problems attracting new competitors without discouraging the rather rare newcomers who decide to give it a shot.

Qualifying in competition is not correlated with “have to.” Qualifying in competition is correlated with good training, a physically and emotionally healthy dog, and a bit of luck.  That’s about it.

It’s a sport with good days and bad days.  If you want to qualify more often then train better.