There have been a nice blog post in Tiina's Blog about dogs welfare (in Finnish). We use dogs to different purposes in our lives. Some are for company, some for sports and some for protection. Do we provide the best care for our dogs? Are some breeds happy if they just lay on a sofa and get to go out two times a day? On the other hand are some breeds happy run and do sports all day round? These are things everyone should think when they take a dog. As breed dog person I have seen too many times that working dog breed is taken home as couch potato or a long back dog like corgi is make to do agility.
Training also is a big part of welfare. There are many ways to train. One is scientific proven way and lots other ways that uses force or correction. I was thought first force way - drive-sanction-drive (reward). This way is still used in working dog sport and obedience. My oldest dog has been trained with this way and she worked well but I have learn a lot from that. I have seen also the side effects that this kind of training does. First I was introduced to clicker training in our ob group. There was a doctor that had read about this kind of training in Swedish training books. First I didn't buy it but I wanted to learn more.
Years past on and read more and more about positive re-enforcement. More I read more I was sure this was the way to do it. More I saw what I had done to my older dog wrong. I started built Pixie as my first clicker dog. More I trained her more I was hooked to clicker training. I could see a major difference in my dog. Positive dog that had freedom to think. I can say that I didn't know answer to all the problems on my new training way. It was hard to find help that knew how to train in a positive way. Pixie wasn't built perfectly but I had had a revolution in training methods.
At this point I started to really ask in my mind some of the ways high level ob people trained their dogs. You could see they training methods in the competition field. Flat tails, tens bodies and so on. Still these people get high scores in competitions. In my mind obedience was a sport with different tricks that should be done in happy wagging tails. I know I'm not a perfect and I have done many mistakes with Pixie. But I have had a new revolution with Freya. I'm not sure that any force or even verbal correction in obedience is necessary if you are good enough trainer. I hope that we will have a
revolutions in this sport so that we will have wagging tails and not a " concentration" tails ( this is a funniest way shadowing a truth that the dogs super tense).
Welfare in agility is also something that should be address from the organizations level. One of the issues is EO ranking. You can collect points the whole year but many people including me needed to keep competing till the end of year to get enough points. This was really tiring and stupid!!! I would be happy to have just a few weekend during the competitions season where all the places would be enrolled. Enough of this year round competing. I can make choices for my dog but this kind of change would make it easier to keep real competition brake. As an idea.... Could winter be for lower class competitions and the hot season only for high class dogs???
Agility is also sport that many of us train during week days and also compete in weekends. Do our dogs get enough rest? Does everyone has a day that you do tricks and different runs to enhance your dogs physic? Or do we do it all during competition week? What is too much and what is the right kind stimulus to keep our competition partner in shape? When dogs is trained it doesn't really need too much of training to keep up its skilsl if the training is done from a good training plan. So if we need more training to become better handlers we should also make plan what we need to train to minimize the training time we need work with a dog. I can only say that I have never been a super handler and it has mean too many jumps from my dogs to train me to be better handler. Could there be a way to train handlers without dogs?
Third part of the training welfare is physical treatment of the dogs. They are super athletes so they should get the best treatment there is to keep them in shape. This shouldn't be way to take everything out of them. Physiotherapy should be way to check that the body recovers and if there's injury help it become better and get professional help to keep you dog in balance. Our pride should be that you dog get a relaxing massage in physiotherapist session if it's ok and doing sport with balanced exercise.
I'm not writer person when it comes to opinions. I better when I talk out loud. I have some ideas and I still a long way to become super trainer but I found my path. I also hope learn more and more about my dogs so that I will know what is what they want and need. I hope to also keep my goals in sight but still see what is happening around. It is easy get lost in training and forget to see partners feelings.
Listen to your dogs and be realistic what you training partner is ready for! Road will full on bumps but it will be a fun ride in the end if you decide to make it so.
That's for know!