Where to even begin on this topic?  It seems that this may indeed be a dying sport.  And those that love it don’t really seem willing to make substantive changes.  When I look around I see mostly middle-aged (& up) competitors.  I definitely don’t see younger people coming into this activity the way they did 10-15 years ago.

So, why is it dying and why does anyone really care?  There are newer performance events that people seem to prefer, specifically Agility & Rally.  Obedience, by comparison, seems slow and dull.  The intense focus on precision means that it requires lots and lots of training and practice.  Not that other sports don’t, but this seems different to many people.

People in obedience like to “blame the victim” and claim that people are just too lazy and want results too quickly, so they don’t have the patience for competition obedience.  But I don’t know if I totally buy that.  People train hard and long for other dog sports, none of them are so easy that they require little to no effort.  Most trainers want to enjoy the process of training as well as showing.  Agility is definitely fast paced and exciting, and there’s such an adrenaline rush involved!  Rally allows for more interaction between dog & handler in the ring (extra cues & redos) and still allows for passing scores even without perfection on the first try.  Obedience gives you one chance only; it has to be right the first time.  It can feel quite restrictive and artificial, compared to how we interact with our dogs in the real world.

So why bother with it at all?  Why not let it go the way of the dinosaurs?  I ask myself that all the time!  Why am I still involved in a sport where many of the trainers use methods and techniques from the Dark Ages and where I see and hear the most appalling things?  Why stay around when it feels like you are the lone voice advocating positive methods for training?  It would certainly be easier to just walk away and do more reinforcing things with my time.  But just look at Zen’s face in this photo!  He loves it and I love working with him.