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PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #125

  • Wendy
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I love PD but sadly it is broken, and it has taken down people and dogs in its demise, so it is time to do something about it. Working Trials is a very small sport, and the PD fraternity much smaller than the whole, and unfortunately this small number is now fragmented into sides and factions, with a chasm between them of such proportions that it looks impossible to bridge.
However, let us not be defeated before we start, and let’s do that very rare thing of looking at the problem from both sides with understanding and sympathy, rather than blinkered animosity. We must of course start with the incident at the KCCs, on which I hope the dust has settled over the past 8 months, and feelings are perhaps not quite so raw. However, we must also acknowledge that the problems we are facing now started way before this incident brought them to a head. The divide has opened up slowly but surely over the past few years, and the KCC incident was just the catalyst that was always going to happen.
Firstly we must put aside personalities, likes and dislikes and past differences in the interests of saving a sport that we all love. Much has been made of fault finding over the KCC incident blaming everyone from the Judge to the criminals, and even fining the handler, although what for is a mystery to me, as it would seem that she sent her dog and recalled her dog as directed, so not quite sure what she did wrong. Scout made a mistake, and for whatever reason or reasons it happened the whole thing has been blown out of all proportion, and he is neither demon nor saint. However, that is irrelevant as sooner or later something like this was almost bound to happen, and sadly this has resulted in injury, devastated judge and helpers and a banned dog with a traumatised handler. We must put this right, make compromises forget differences and work together if PD is to survive, and perhaps if we can do that some good can come out of a very bad situation.
The first major stumbling block appears to be the breeds involved and people’s perceptions of them. With one half declaring that the Malinois is unsafe and should be banned from competing, and the other referring to good working collies as unsuitable for the stake, we are a long way away from unison, but nevertheless that is what we must strive to achieve. Firstly let us look at the Malinois, and while I don’t pretend to know anything about the breed I fear they are getting the same bad press as the GSDs and Rotts of the past, and far from being dangerous they are victims of their own power and speed, which are at odds with the tests they are being asked to perform. Chasing a running man where the dog is expected to take the chase bite with the helper in full flight has never been a great idea, and now with the speed height and weight of the Malinois it is positively dangerous. In the long chase in other sports the helper turns and takes the dog as it approaches, and this can be spectacular to watch, it is all about dealing with the dog’s momentum with most experienced helpers managing to stay on their feet. Send these same dogs after a running man who continues to run without looking back and I would be surprised to see any stay on their feet. The fact is that Malinois are fast, athletic dogs and, without any malice or vicious tendencies, are almost certain to take a running man down, so we need to look at this and ways to minimise the risk. In addition to this their mouths are much bigger than the average collie and their grip many times harder so we need to recognise that they need more robust protection for the helpers. We cannot keep living in the past and quoting the sleeves that were used then as still suitable today, as with Malinois competing they certainly are not. So while I do appreciate that protection must be paramount and fit for purpose, but it also must still be suitable for every breed taking part, and just as I don’t have any wish to ban Malinois, nor do I wish to see big hearted, committed collies and similar breeds defeated by the equipment. I would prefer to think that this isn’t an anti-collie ploy, but rather a lack of thought, but surely the one thing that should be considered when setting up a Patrol round, is to ask whether it is suitable for all the dogs taking part, and if the answer is no then it is not sufficient to just say if they can’t manage the equipment they should not be in the stake. Most of us that have been training dogs for PD for a number of years have taught them to target the forearm of an obvious right arm sleeve. If this then becomes an indistinguishable part of a bite jacket it puts doubt in the mind of the thinking dog as to whether it should be biting at all, and when it does commit a smaller dog finds the material unyielding and almost impossible to grip. So as everyone knows I am not a fan of this form of protection and cannot understand the need for it for properly trained dogs, but that is just my personal opinion, and if those in favour truly believe it necessary perhaps a compromise would be to put a jute target area (sleeve) on the right arm to remove any element of doubt and make it a biteable surface for those dogs with smaller mouths and lesser grip. This would and could be a good solution all round, as sleeves with a jute target area give most dogs a better chance of a good bite whereas the makers of the modern close weave linen/nylon European sleeves did not consider the smaller bite in their design. In IPO there is a ruling on the type of sleeves to be used and only three are acceptable, so handlers and dogs know what to expect, whereas in PD helpers can turn up and use whatever they like, leaving handlers to hope that the protection is compatible with their breed.
So if we agree to compromise on protective equipment with jute type of sleeves or at the very least jute covers over what is considered sufficient protection, we must inevitably come to the tests themselves and consider if there is any way of retaining the variety, fun and challenge that is PD, while keeping it safe and suitable for all breeds taking part. Firstly we must look at the chase which, together with a failed recall presents the same problem, and is arguably the most dangerous part of the patrol round, so let us see if there is any sort of modification to minimise this risk. Paul has suggested and I agree that we could do this by changing the chase/recall for a stand-off, and in the case of the chase followed by an attempted escape thus giving the dog a safer bite.
The helper could start some distance away and after whatever preamble the judge required would start to run and the dog would be sent in pursuit as in a chase. At a given point still some way from the dog the helper would stop, turn and become passive and the dog would be required to take up a guarding position to prevent escape. After a pre-arranged time the helper would attempt to either escape or attack the dog and the dog would prevent this by biting and holding the helper until joined by their handler. The recall would follow the same format but the dog would be recalled before the stand-off, while the helper was still running. The helper would be required to ensure the dog had recalled and, in the case of a failure, take up the passive stand-off, without the follow up bite. This simple change could carry the same marks and although it would require more training it would encourage us to produce a thinking, safe dog, and if this was adopted and thoroughly trained I see no reason why it wouldn’t work, and it might even allow the previously banned dog to return after re-training.
The other exercise which needs looking at is the test of courage which should be a test of courage, not initiative or something that needs to be specifically trained. The very nature of the test is to face the dog with unusual, unfamiliar and even threatening situations to test the dog’s reactions. These tests can be as many and varied as the judge’s imagination, but should not take away the dog’s ability to bite the sleeve. It should be a test of courage not tenacity, and the protected arm should always be available. A constantly moving target turns the test into one of luck as to whether an opening presents itself to the dog, and this is down to position of dog and helper which cannot be consistent for all dogs. We should all agree that a Test of Courage should be “come through this and you will get a bite,” and not “I will stop you getting a bite at all costs.” Let us not muddle our tests of courage with another sport where the aim is to prevent the dog from biting, as this has the potential to frustrate the dog into random untargeted biting. Let us challenge our dogs with scary and even bizarre tests of courage, which are as unexpected and variable as the judge wants to make them, but still offering the bite for coming through.
So in conclusion, there are many and varied opinions about how we should move on from this unfortunate state of affairs, but while we all refuse to see any other side but our own there will be no progress made. I concede I must try to teach my collie to bite bigger, higher and harder to cope with the changing times, but it would be nice to know that other people recognise this and respect it. I also concede that the Malinois is an awesome breed with unlimited capabilities to do the real thing, but we must appreciate that this is not the real thing, it is a sport which we all enjoy, and we do not need man stoppers, just well controlled, committed and safe dogs whatever the breed.
I am not naive enough to think we will all agree and everything will be fine, but could this not be a starting point to rational discussion where, although we do not necessarily agree with each other’s opinions, at least give them the respect they deserve. I truly believe we are all in working trials because we love the challenge but more importantly because we love dogs, so let us take this as a positive, and try to work together to take it forward. Doing nothing is not an option and refusing to consider change will not work. It cannot be as it has always been as breeds have changed and so have people, so let’s try to salvage the good and welcome the new so we still have a sport called PD.
I really do welcome your comments but this is not about me so let’s make them constructive and discuss them rationally as mudslinging and fault finding will not promote anyone’s cause.
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PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #127

  • Averil
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Wendy Thankyou for your piece on PD I have no experience of this subject but love watching these amazing dogs and their handlers. I have however plenty of experience of life and as you say the only way forward is to respect each other’s views I wish you all good luck in getting this sorted in the interest of the sport.

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PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #128

  • Wendy
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Thank you Averil, I hope it may do some good.

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PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #131

  • Margo
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Really sensible article Wendy. I don't do PD these days (hip problems) but still love the stake and am grieved by the factions and arguments which are besetting it at the moment. I really hope things can be sorted to ensure the continuation of a a great activity - a few changes/tweeks must surely be better than no PD at all.

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Last edit: by Margo. Reason: word missed out

PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #132

  • Wendy
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Thanks Margo and I agree that perhaps change may be needed, but if it saves, improves and makes for a safer stake it can only be for the good.

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PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #133

  • Gail
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There has been some talk on the merits of using bite suits. I personally do not have an issue with them, although they are expensive to buy for the societies as well as individuals for training and cumbersome to wear and move properly. If a dog is trained correctly it should only take the right forearm sleeve. However if a dog is also doing something like Mondeoring as well as PD (?any) where they can grip anywhere then I could see a problem occurring. PD should be a sport that embraces all breeds and protection should be suitable for all - personally I can't see why everyone doesn't have a German Shepherd!!!! Joking apart, lets keep this going and talking to resolve this matter.

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PD - Lets talk 1 year 5 months ago #134

  • Wendy
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Thanks Gail for your constructive reply

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