Yes, my title is harsh…but read on and you’ll understand. If you don’t then leave a comment and let’s discuss!
This past weekend was the 2014 UKC Premier and as is tradition I was there with my mom and friend. It’s tradition for us to stay in a hotel and enjoy all 4 days of the show. Usually I show my mom’s Silken Windhounds for her but this year I managed to seriously injure my calf while practicing flyball with my golden. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying the show! I am currently processing the photos I took and will get those up here in the next few days. I have a few posts to write about the 2014 UKC Premier but I want to focus on something that happened that put a damper on our weekend for a bit.
The UKC Premier features all major dog sporting events: confirmation, junior showmanship, obedience, rally, agility, lure coursing, weight pulls, dock jumping, and barn hunts (apologies if I missed your sport). We had spent most of the weekend ringside watching confirmation and decided on Saturday we wanted to go watch some obedience. Housed in another part of the expo center, we grabbed our chairs and headed off to watch obedience. There were several rings for rally and several for traditional obedience which was running novice and open. My friend and I decided we wanted to watch some Open, walked to the ring, put our chairs against the back wall about 6 feet from the ring and sat down. We weren’t sitting there more than 5 minutes when a ring steward came up to us and told us we had to move because we were a distraction to the dogs in the ring. We apologized, picked up our chairs and moved. Now mind you, we were a good distance from the ring and were positioned by the garbage can and doors; we weren’t talking and couldn’t have been a bigger distraction then the people coming in and out and walking past us. The dirty glares we were getting from other obedience exhibitors should have killed us on the spot. Seriously… you would have thought we were screaming with bullhorns at a ballet.
We set our chairs up and are promptly told we can’t sit there because it’s a fire hazard. We were a little perplexed. There were no signs and no indications of where we could and couldn’t sit. Another UKC representation comes up and tells us we have to sit behind the yellow line as per the Fire Marshal. We look around and realize that behind the line means squishing back against where all the obedience exhibitors were crating. There was very little space so we pull our chairs back and start to squeeze in. Now mind you, there is almost NO space for us to put our chairs so we’re trying to do the best we can. As we’re attempting to get settled, one of the obedience exhibitors very rudely says to us, “Don’t set your chairs up there, my friend will be coming back soon and you’ll be in her space.” We look around, flabbergasted. There is literally no other space for us to set up. The obedience exhibitor crates are literally wall to yellow line and then have their chairs set up in front. You couldn’t squeeze a chair in anywhere if your life depended on it. So, we picked up our chairs and left. What a shame!
I remember when I first started I showed in obedience and they were the most welcoming, easy going people you could ask for in the dog sport. What happened? We were so unwelcome and treated rudely that it put a little bit of a damper on our Saturday. The problem was compounded upon by several factors. First, the crating. Confirmation exhibitors aren’t allowed to crate in the same building so why should the obedience folks be allowed to? If it’s literally the only space for them then they should be limited in exactly where they can crate. Second, there was no set space for spectators. The exhibitors were literally taking up all available space behind the yellow line so a spectator could not watch. The UKC needs to set space aside that can’t be used for crating or exhibitors so that someone coming into the show can sit, watch, learn and enjoy this part of the sport. Third; the absolutely horrible attitude and treatment from the obedience exhibitors themselves. There was no reason they couldn’t have moved to make room for us. Instead we were told to not sit because that was their spot. Last time I checked, obedience was a dying sport and I don’t think having an ultra-elitist attitude is the way to bring people in.
I think what perplexes me the most about what happened is the attitude of ‘being so quiet you could hear a pin drop’ in the obedience building. I understand not wanting there to be kids running around screaming or other major distractions but since when do obedience trained competitors need a completely distraction free environment?! I remember when I trained we trained in all types of conditions and made our own distractions to help our dogs learn to focus. If your dog can’t handle a couple of gals sitting in chairs watching 6 feet from the ring then you probably aren’t ready to be competing.
Now, you might be reading this thinking I’m a confirmation elitist and I’m not. I have put obedience and agility titles on dogs as well as finished dogs in their confirmation championship. I have waited two years for a performance Border Collie to show in flyball, agility and obedience. I love all aspects of the sport and it pisses me off when one type of exhibitor acts like they are better than another. All aspects of the sport have their own challenges and require training, patience and dedication. We get enough gruff from those outside the dog sport that we don’t need to be assholes to one another.