Unprofessional agility instructor

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Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 7:31am PST 
So, I live way out in the country and the only place we have for agility is run and owned by one person. I don't want to name the place or name names, but I'm thinking of just cutting my losses and returning to our original facility in the city (60 miles away).

In our last class, the instructor made fun of conformation and conformation breeders and insinuted that agility was pretty much the be-all-end-all of dog sports. While I do enjoy agility, my dog came from a breeder who both shows and works her dogs and the instructor knows that I have dabbled in showing my dog.

Since the instructor made fun of the "beauty pageant" in front of the whole class, they were lauging as well.

It made me sad, because I think that dog people in every sport should band together. Being catty doesn't serve any of us very well, because in general dog fancy is a dying sport.

The instructor mentioned one incident in front of the class where a show breeder who also did agility with her dogs came in with some ribbons she had won at a show one weekend. Brags are encouraged in this facility. Rather then being happy for the woman, my instructor said that they turned to their friend and said, "All that means is that you shopped well and bought a good dog! It's not like you bred it!"

I was shocked at the attitude and honestly a bit horrified, as the people in my class look to this person for guidance and they were laughing, too!

While this person is an excellent agility handler, they're not much of a teacher. Objectives aren't clear much of the time and sometimes when I make a mistake, I'm not sure why or how I made it.

Would you stay or would you go? If I go, I'll have to tell the instructor that I'm leaving, but I don't want to get on this person's bad side as it's pretty clear this person is catty.

Advice is appreciated!

Edited by author Fri Oct 26, '12 7:32am PST

Jewel, PCD

8.6lbs of fury- in a bow!
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 8:47am PST 
I would leave but I'm a pretty cut & dry kind of person. My fuse is long but once it's burnt that's it.

Not only is this person catty but they aren't helping you with agility. Honestly what I would do is buy or make some of the equipment and take less classes in the city, should balance out cash wise. Less classes but more work at home. A good teacher should be able to get you on the right track so you can do more work at home anyways.

I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 8:53am PST 
While I don't agree with the way this person expressed it, conformation pretty much is a beauty pageant. It's all about the genetics and fitness for the dog or bitch to breed and carry on the breed's accepted standards. That's why someone emphasized that the person handling didn't breed the dog (just purchased it), because it's the breeding that is stressed. If someone buys let's say a very uncommon breed in the US so there's little actual show competition currently and then starts pretty quickly in conformation, I've heard that called 'ribbon shopping'. All it takes is having enough money and being able to import from good lines. If a breed club is trying to up the number of breeding individuals in the US to gain wider acceptance and promote the breed...well, let's just say it's not discouraged in any way. And those on older well-established breeds with a huge show fancy scoff at them. (This could be regional, I live where the fancy is full of 'old money', and they used to employ a lot of people in dogs) I'm not saying that I agree with any of this, it's just what I've heard.

I've worked for breeders and their pro-handlers that show conformation and as with anything else in life that can be done well, it requires serious skills at the highly competitive level. Otherwise the breeders wouldn't place their dogs out with them. I agree that it would be better to offer respect for those who are skilled at working with dogs in any capacity. How about the groomers?! I've watched and waited for a Dale to be hand-stripped that came off a hunt just miserable looking, talk about hard work to get show ready! And yet I've seen talented groomers treated like crud.

I've more experience in working dogs, so I can see where that sentiment comes from, although I would never condone being cruel to someone in a class. I'll be honest, I've seen and heard just as many people in conformation downgrading working dogs (most especially if there's a huge fault line on work/show in a breed as there was in the breed I was on at the time) and heaven forbid!!! if a dog is anything less than a purebred. Those in agility or anywhere else with a type or a mixed dog is probably sick of hearing that, too, and IMHO what's starting to come out is the backlash. You can lay a lot of that directly on the AKC in the US and their various positions on events and their requirements; although they're beginning to re-think some of their positions as registrations sharply decline.

More and more people now compete in dog sports that do not require a pedigree or involvement with the AKC, so this rub doesn't suprise me.

Member Since
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 9:15am PST 
I just wrote her a friendly email and told her we wouldn't be returning. I didn't say why. She can have whatever opinion she wants to. I'm not out to change her mind, but I don't have to give her my business.

I'm happily returning to a more professional class, which is unfortunately located an hour away.

@ Lucille, I don't care if a dog is a show dog or working dog. My girl has both behind her. While that was the route I went, everyone is different and everyone loves their dogs. I don't look down on someone for choosing a particular type of dog or rescuing or whatever. I'm sorry you've had experiences with people who are like that. I don't understand that extreme, either.

Again, honestly, it would be great if people would just drop the crap and band together. We all love dogs, so why make someone feel bad?

Feisty- Girl
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 9:25am PST 
Good for you! If I felt uncomfortable with, or felt I wasn't getting what I wanted out of a class, I would leave as well.

The Monster
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 10:46am PST 
I work with an instructor who is abrasive, and plenty of students have taken issue with their classes and opted to go somewhere else. I've stuck around because I'm a pretty laid back person and actually like how blunt my instructor can be at times. They know what they're doing, and have helped me quite a bit over the years. I respect my instructor a great deal and enjoy taking their classes.

If I were in your position I probably would have stuck around, but then again I probably wouldn't have been too put off by your instructor's inflammatory comments either.

Good for you for making a decision you'll be happy with.
Alva BH

I ordered the- best dog for me- & got her
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 11:20am PST 
I would probably not let one opinion distract me if there is nothing else wrong and I get the training I want. But people should remember manners. A trainer represents their club and s/he is there to teach people, not to preach their opinions about something off-topic like that a dog is wrong color or from wrong breeder or from a breed they don't like or the dog owner has hobbies they don't prefer. But I could consider leaving if the opinion is somehow cruel like supporting dog fighting or offering some violent training method as first and only solution to solve someone's dog problem.

You told us that you're not happy with the quality of the instruction. I think this should be more an issue. If you think you'll advance better somewhere else and you can go there, then go for it.

Remember, that the trainer can never learn to be better if we just leave telling them what went wrong. We do not do that to our dogs. We tell them how they could behave better. And we expect ourselves to be treated that way that if we need to be instructed we should not be unsure what we did wrong or right. You can't fix it if you do not know that it's broken or where it is broken.

About shows... I do not put high value on shows or show titles (at least not in breeding). They have lost partially their purpose in evaluating how well a dog represents their breed standard and got sometimes too much importance. Some breeds have become seriously exaggerated by looks and actually unable to work in their original jobs. But I don't live in the US, I hope AKC would know better. I don't know. Then, if I meet a person who brags about their show ribbons, I smile with them, no at them. Many breeds are still not-that-far-fetched even if they're showed and most people I know have these. And probably even some breeds where show judges still prefer proper visual characteristics for their work and really understand what they are judging (like Finnish hounds here, I've heard). It is their hobby and they're allowed to be happy with it. But the ribbons should not be the only reason to breed a dog. For a breeder it is blindness to trust only the judges' opinions about their dog. They must study and look with their own eyes.

Professional dog handlers aren't common here and many people at local dog shows are just common people with their only one or two dogs and they show their dog in the ring by themselves or let the breeder help. An then there are the real enthusiasts. But there are sometimes those who take this hobby too serious. Even I have showed my collie once, to see if the judge likes her. Well, we weren't that successfull and I have more interesting things to do with spare money - like go to agility course or canine freestyle classes.

Member Since
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 11:47am PST 
And you know, you guys have a good point. I've taken agility classes for two years with my dog and we've had a variety of instructors. Most of them are pretty abrasive, but I've just never had anyone come out and actually make fun of another dog sport.

Everyone is welcome to their own opinions, but its different when you're in a position of influence and you're vocal about your feelings.

Plus, and I may have mentioned this, I wasn't really all that thrilled with the training. This is the second class I enrolled in with this instructor and I almost didn't do it because alot of the things we really need to work on (like weaves and the teeter) are just not really concentrated on in this class.

Again, this person is a wonderful handler and they have alot of success with their own dogs. It just didn't translate over to me.

dog-sitter in- charge.
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 11:56am PST 
You have the right to (and should) train in whatever facility you think helps make you and your dog & relationship as best as it can be, like if you feel like the remarks don't help you with that. That said, I do actively go to exhibitions with one of my dogs but we are also in an obedience/dog sports club and have a variety of teachers. Some of them also do conformation along with sports, so people don't make disparaging remarks about one or the other. I have other close friends who have never stepped foot in the show ring & have no interest to, and title in high level rings like the Belgium Ring, yet they have manners..

In either case, if I were in your situation, I would have (because it's how I am) spoken up in class and let the instructor know what my dog is by pedigree and what I do with my dog if s/he made such inane comments. I don't like to stay silent and in silence imply I have no objections.
Maggie,- Tika, &- Porter

Aussie-tastic- Trio
Barked: Fri Oct 26, '12 12:54pm PST 
I would leave a class like that. I don't need to surround myself with people who feel that way about other dog sports - I find that things I do with my dog are for fun and appreciate the company of others who feel the same. I do have a thick skin when it comes to criticism, but downright being rude is not something I tolerate and will not pay to listen to. I have dropped two agility instructors due to their outrageous opinions on other sports (I was told that rally is "stupid" by one). Instead of driving 50 miles round trip for the close class (one hour total driving), I go 80 miles round trip (two hours driving) for a much better and understanding instructor.
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