C-wags new Community Agility Program

Bud Houston wrote (in his blog), “For several months now I’ve been working with Shirley Ottmer of C-WAGS on a new agility program aimed at the recreational agility enthusiast. I’m most excited about the CCAP / that is, the C-WAGS Community Agility Program. This is a real attempt to address the growing schism between the top players in our sport, and the recreational player.”

An amusing sidebar — when Bud wants to know what I’m up to he reads my blog (versus walking into my office area and saying, “hey, what are you up to?” ) And I get all my information on his plans and intentions through his blog.  I guess it’s just quicker than actually striking up a lengthy and irelevant conversation. Ahhh, the state of marriage in America. I think someone needs to invent a refrigerator with streaming “top household stories” or “today’s home news and forecasts” rather than making us take the time to scan the month-at-a-glance calendar.

Shirley Ottmer’s CCAP plans are exciting to me on so many levels. For the first time we’ll be able to register our dogs once, attend one trial, and perform in agility, obedience, and rally. C-Wags is a dog-friendly and exhibitor-friendly venue (see c-wags.org) for young dogs, prime-of-their-life dogs, and veteran dogs. C-Wags has a rally class called Zoom — great for veterans because there are no sits!

And, on another level, I’m excited because we’re scheduling 2-3 weekends in 2009 to introduce our local (mostly AKC) crowd to the joy of titling games, whatever the sport.

In 2008 I had a week of rally camp and about 8 dogs worked through the “Go Rally Training Manual” 8-week program in 4 days. Each 3-hour period we worked on a skill, set a course, worked a course, then had time to play with that course before tearing it down and doing the whole process over for a new skill and course.

In 2009 I’ve set aside 3 weeks for rally camps and have gotten a couple of nibbles on rally camp but no committed registrations. The economy in this part of the world (Ohio) is shuddering and folks are worried about jobs and income, so it’s no surprise that no one has committed to a 4-day camp for rally-o.

One benefit to being one of 2 people owning a dog-training center, and one of 2 instructors, is that we can adjust our schedule and our thinking quickly, based on what our customers tell us. The new CCAP allows me to consider changing those rally experiences to camps where obedience, rally, and agility can all be trained together in preparation for a trial weekend to follow the camp.

I’m going to be thinking about the pros and cons of that while I work with dogs at the shelter this afternoon. I’m meeting folks from an adjoining county’s shelter this afternoon. Like many country shelters they’re struggling with acquiring a facility and providing for the care of the county’s unwanted dogs and cats. It’s a sad story that repeats itself in little county shelters all over the country.

Yesterday, as unlikely as it may seem, the dog warden captured a 5-month-old pup that appears to be airdale mix or border terrier mix or something with a wire coat and goatee. A beautiful, sweet, bitch who picked up the training I was offering very quickly. Ohhhh, to have a pack that could accommodate another sweety-pie. I know she’ll find a great forever home, but I really fell for this girl.

All the dogs I worked with last weekend showed increased interest in people, seemed quicker to self-calm, more interested in my treats and the bit of “come” and “sit” training we do. And I worked with a couple of new dogs yesterday as well, and will repeat the process again today.

Most of my time at the shelter is spent educating dog-walkers and potential adopters. Our local Petland offers mix-breed puppies for $500-700, with lay-away and payment plans. Yesterday I was grilled by a couple regarding pricing on dogs ($59, dog goes to vet for neutering, you pay vet), why it costs so much, and does the shelter offer lay-away or payment plans.

And, once again, “why do you insist that every dog be neutered?”  After talking with this couple I alerted the front desk that they were interested in an intact bitch and probably wanted to breed her. I’m actually developing a bit of thick skin about this — I used to get upset with the people and now I just feel incredibly protective of the dogs at the shelter. I don’t want any of those nice little bitches to end up in a puppy-mill or backyard mutt breeding business.

I met with Marietta College students yesterday to discuss their semester’s PR assignment. I recommended to them that they first discover WHO their audience is, WHERE they shop, and HOW to best reach them with the message of spay/neuter your pet. We discussed questions which would get us a lot of information without giving away our purpose, like “tell me about your last 4 pets, where you got them, where they are now, etc.”

I’m discovering that there’s a growing underground of people looking for intact dogs, small-to-medium-sized, pure-bred and mixed-bred, to feed dogs into the pet store pipeline. I guess it’s too expensive for Petland to go to Hunt Corporation in Missouri everytime they need a shipment of puppies.

Sickening … and I’ll continue to be vigilant and protective of our puppies. Getting them out of this part of the country is, I’ve concluded, the best plan for most of them.

In the meantime, I may start asking shelter guests who ask about our new spay/neuter rules, “so, where are you from?”  I’d like to know if they’re locals or puppy-millers on the prowl for new stock.

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