Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Does Your Attitude SAG?

I have been under the mistaken impression that agility was for ALL dogs, no matter the size, speed, or breed.  However, I have observed a certain attitude exhibited by some competitors that challenge this notion.  These competitors ruin agility for the rest of us.  I call this elite group the “self-appointed gurus”, or SAGs.  Your market may vary, but most SAGs seem to own border collies.  A SAG makes the other BC handlers look bad.

A SAG deems most other competitors as unworthy adversaries.  This competitor watches and cheers only for dogs and handlers he deems worthy.  He dismisses all other dogs and handlers regardless of ability, as these are just not worthy of his time or attention.  He dismisses all dogs measuring 16” or less, performance dogs, and most dogs that are not border collies.

A SAG owns a dog as a tool for fame in the tiny world of dog agility.  You seldom see a SAG petting his or her dog.  The dog’s life consists of eating, training, competing, some play or reward and returning to a crate.

The SAG feels he or she deserves special treatment, and can behave in an unsportsmanlike manner.  These special competitors expect the trial committee and the agility community to bend over backward to support their not-so-unique needs, such as:
  • Demanding late entry, as deadlines are for mere mortals.
  • Demanding a team change after closing
  • Demanding a new DRAW partner
  • Allowing his dog to bark and lunge at others
  • Using outside equipment at the trial site
  • Demeaning other competitors
  • Yelling at the volunteers
  • Faking course building to pre-walk the course before the mortals
  •  Refusing to team/pair with a small dog
  • Refusing or giving poor instruction to those with a different dog
  • Bringing un-entered dogs to indoor trials when expressly asked not to do so
  • Slap on a service dog vest for priority boarding and free animal transportation to competitions
  • The SAG, when called out for the poor behavior, finds it beneath him to apologize for it, even if said apology would most likely be insincere.
Example behaviors:
As I was preparing my dog, Bug, for a run, a SAG allowed her dog to give eye.  The SAG allowed the dog to lunge and bite Bug.  This happened twice at the trial.  The SAG did not apologize.  At the same trial, the same dog lunged at a BC and the owner received an apology.  At a later trial, the same dog lunged at an Aussie, and never offered an apology.

A competitor who receives instruction from a SAG approached me at the regional, requesting handling suggestions on a course because I have “a small dog”. 

Before I quit taking classes, the instructor brought her BC pup to classes and it screamed and barked the entire time.  Another student brought a new adult dog to class once and, after all the complaints, worked from her car because of “excessive barking”.

During the IFCS classes at USDAA Nationals, the arena emptied after the large height dogs finished competing.  No one cheered for the small dogs.

SAGs tell their students that they will NEVER accomplish things.  I had two instructors tell me that I would NEVER SuperQ with Scout, one of the smallest P16 dogs you will meet.  One went on a fishing expedition by asking how many SQs I needed.  When I replied, “One,” he snapped, “Where’d you travel to get those?” 

SAG instructors complain about the lack of competition at local trials yet have the ability to create better competition.  However, SAGs seem to be uninterested in helping anyone else improve.

SAGs only volunteer at trials if it has some benefit, such as walking courses before open to all competitors.  I use “Volunteer” loosely, as it may be only setting one jump. 

At a recent trial, a scribe sheet arrived at the score table incorrectly marked “E”.  The SAG complained about it well after the class completed and another event began, despite the results being displayed immediately upon computer entry.  The SAG raised his voice at me no less than three times demanding that I change the scribe sheet, and even did so in the presence of the other judge.  The SAG took the timer and thrust it at me, demanding that I review all the times. 

A friend had taken a private lesson from a SAG, and he did not want to help her because he deemed the dog as having “no drive”.  At the Rocky Mountain Regional, the same competitor witnessed the same SAG belittling the Starters and Advanced dogs to the judge.  He stated that, “None of those dogs have any business being out there.”

The number one complaint at the Rocky Mountain Regional was other competitors complaining about SAGs complaining about the order of classes.

The club for which I trial secretary has laid down strict rules about entries after competitors demanded changes up to the day of the trial.  One of these rules included no late entries.  I had one entry arrive late. During the test dates, I was cornered at the hotel by a competitor wanting to know WHY I denied the entry.  I was further told I needed to be "more accommodating", despite the level of poop I have been through by accommodating competitors.  Had this been someone NOT in the in crowd, I doubt that I would have been accosted.
I understand that not every dog and not every handler has Nationals or World Team potential.  My agility accomplishments and titles represent the relationship I have with my dogs, the dogs that are first and foremost loved pets in my home.  Winning, either locally, or regionally, or nationally, or internationally is just icing on the cake. 

I have played sports long enough to understand the value of the relationship I have with my teammates, and can certainly appreciate that same relationship that other handlers have with their pets.  It is truly a shame that there are the unsportsmanlike few that cannot see beyond winning at the highest level.

I have played team sports since fifth grade in 1985.  At the end of a game, regardless of your feelings towards the opponents, you always shook hands and said, "Good game."  You did not talk smack for fear of being benched.  If children can be good sports, why can't adults be the same?  Would I not be fired from my job for creating a hostile work environment for yelling, cheating, and being ornery to my co-workers?

Dog Agility Blog Action Day: Attitude Blogs


Kathy Mocharnuk said...

Great post!

KT said...

Thank you! Well put.

Kristine said...

Thank you for writing this. I have been training in agility for two and a half years but have yet to enter a trial because I fear this very thing. I am sure most people are very welcoming to green handlers and I shouldn't be bothered by what others think but it does aid in holding me back. It's really too bad some people have to ruin a very fun experience for others because they can't get over themselves.