For the past few years I have been silent, just trained and jumped my dogs. I haven't spoken up when things have happened - to avoid being targeted and to avoid being in arguments... but today I am sommer just disappointed! Disappointed in people, disappointed in authority and disappointed in myself for actually querying something... I should have just shut up and taken the usual in my stride.. but, I don't know, I just wanted to believe that people could be better and correct mistakes, so I spoke up.
There is always talk of handlers badmouthing judges, arguing, talking behind their backs - basically showing total lack of respect. Well this is the exact opposite. Where is the respect for handlers? Surely by training up their dogs & paying money to enter a show, they deserve a certain amount of respect and fairness as well? After today I am a little despondent when it comes to actually entering my dogs in events.... we never know how we will be treated.
We had a show today in Port Elizabeth - Contact, Non-Contact and Dog Jumping (all the same judge). Of course I have my own opinions on the courses and judging etc which I won't go into, but I do want to have a little moan about how I was treated.
The last event, at lunchtime, was Dog Jumping. I had a Grade 3 dog (Small) and 2x Grade 1 dogs (Large), and we walked the Grade 3 course (so the jumps were on small height).
When I was called to the line for my first large dog (after running the small dog), I was hurried along more than twice to get there and begin. I left my dog and led out and proceeded to handle her around the course. When we got to a tight section followed by a spread, I carefully negotiated the jumps in order to keep my dog tight and under control. I turned towards the spread (which required a 180 degree turn straight after it) and cued the spread and turn. I actually shouted out loud "oh sh1t" as I looked up at the jump as my dog crashed through it. I could not believe what I was seeing! What I thought was a maximum spread actually looked totally out of place and took me by surprise. We managed to finish the (otherwise brilliant) round and I immediately queried the way in which the spread was built. Of course I was ignored. So I waited for 1 more dog to run and then approached the judge as I felt it was dangerous. I was immediately dismissed.
The jump consisted of 2 sets of uprights (a double spread hurdle). The width of the jump was 65cm. The height of the back bar was 65cm. The height of the front bar was 25cm.....
I fetched my second dog and before running I again queried the legality of the obstacle. The judge added another bar to the front element as I had asked, but it was promptly removed by the scribe who's opinion it was that all dogs should run the same course (legal or not).
Needless to say, and in order to avoid an argument, I ran my second dog who also crashed through the obstacle. My issue was that dogs approaching the spread could not size up the jump accurately, and in fact more than half of the competing dogs crashed through it.
I then returned to my car, and decided to look up the wording in the rules and was shocked to see that numerous regulations regarding spread hurdles were being ignored:
Firstly, the maximum width for a spread (double) is 60cm. Should the spread be 65cm, it required another set of uprights, therefore making it a triple spread.
Secondly there were supposed to be 2 bars on the front of the spread.
All vertical hurdles in excess of 60cm shall have at least two (2) crossbars on the front element,
spaced not less than 30cm apart.
The parallels of all spread hurdles shall be in ascending order. When the depth of a spread hurdle
exceeds 60cm then the hurdle shall consist of three (3) pairs of uprights and bars.
By sticking to the rules and building the spread correctly, the visual depth of the jump is clearer (and safer) for the dog.
After presenting these regulations to the judge, and offering a solution to rectify things for those dogs that had a problem with the jump - I was sent on my merry way. I did not get the opportunity to run my dog in the jump-off as a result, and my league points for that round were slashed in half.
Only one other competitor stood up and spoke with me, but still we were spoken to in a sarcastic manner then dismissed. There was no one to complain to, as the judge ran the club that offered the show. There was no show manager as the show was a non-championship show..... what to do?? grrr
When I actually queried the fact that the extra bar in the spread hurdle was removed, and asked for it to be replaced, I was bombarded with arguments from the stewards table. WHAT SENSE is there for the entire grade to run the same course if it was illegal? Surely half the grade running legally is better than the entire grade running illegally and dangerously?
Since WHEN should any handler be tested on ANYTHING that is not to the rules? Ludicrous. Handlers trust that judges know their regulations and they trust that they will be presented with a fair test for them and their dogs. As a judge myself I would NEVER treat a handler the way in which I was treated today. If I make a mistake, I will admit it and rectify it immediately. If its too late for someone, I will give them the benefit of the doubt as it was my error.
I happened to notice the in the jump offs as well that the large dogs of all grades ran the same course, with the jump heights all being the same (also in contravention to the rules), where the lower grade is required to run at a lower height. Never mind... I suppose nothing to do with me as I didn't get to run it and no one else speaks up for themselves......
Oh yes, and another thing..... STOP INTERFERING with other competitors and dogs, people! Each time I set foot on the line someone deliberately interfered with me/ my dog.
1. I was on line and the scribe across the ring had a dog loose at the car and it made its way onto the course and was about to sprint through my line as I started running. I had left my dog and had led out already, and the timekeeper sprinted across to the dog almost stepping onto my dogs tail in the process.
2. Once again I had a dog on line, and had led out, when the scribe's dogs were being unruly across the ring so she proceeded to storm at them, stopping in the ring directly behind my dog and screaming at them to shut up..!
3. Then... I was putting my young border collie in a down stay at the start and took the lead and ball to toss them behind us, when a competitor took control and reprimanded me loudly telling me to get rid of that ball immediately. Since when do competitors order other handlers around?
On one occasion a timekeeper actually ran in front of my dog, between the dog and the first jump and I had to wait and hope that all was ok.
Overall it wasn't a very inspiring day, and I can only think that if this is an indication of dogsports (in my city) to come, it is going to be a very small number of die-hards left, all deciding amongst themselves what rules to follow. A sure-fire way to get left behind in the grand scheme of Agility/ Jumping things in South Africa! Why? Because these are all people that think they are knowledgeable in the sport and training/ handling/ judging etc.... but in actual fact............