Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Our first agility trial

We bombed it. I'm not sure why I let myself get talked into going, we weren't ready, but it was fun and a learning experience. No better way to learn until you actually set foot on a true course.

I was most worried about the teeter...so, last Friday I scrambled trying to find somewhere where I could go to practice working on a teeter. Luckily, we found a very nice woman who doesn't live too far from us who let us use the equipment she has. Unfortunately, in my frenzy to find a teeter, I forgot that UKC has some different obstacles than AKC and forgot about the open hoop tunnel. But I wasn't the only handler out there with a dog who didn't Q and I wasn't the only person who had a dog not responding to recalls or the only handler who's dog had their nose glued to the ground - because, oh yeah, it was an outdoor trial. How I missed that, I had no idea.

In our first run he knocked down a bar on one of the first few jumps, which is an automatic DQ. He wasn't listening to my recalls, but he didn't really refuse anything. Then he came off the dogwalk, ran over to say hi to the person sitting there who was to reset the chute for each dog, then began prancing and sniffing down the back line of the fence - and I knew exactly what he was going to do. He pooped in the back corner of the ring. If we hadn't already been DQ'd, we would have been then.

I was kind of upset because they made me stand by the pile so they "knew where it was" (it was right in the corner, hard to miss) instead of scooping him up and putting him in his crate. So, while I'm standing next to this poop pile, my dog is having a gay old time running around the ring.

The second run was better. He knocked down one bar, and refused a tunnel (it was an open hoop tunnel, something he's never seen before), but his recalls and attention were much better. Still, nose was glued to the ground. He did the teeter and the dog walk just fine, yet again proving that dogs will no always behave how you expect them to behave in a trial.

But I wasn't mad. In fact, I was happy there was much improvement between the first and second runs. Many people came up to me and said that they've all had the same probems with their dogs, everyone loved Howie and thought he would one day be a star. They thought I as doing a great job with him, and he was such a charmer to everyone who came over to say hi.

So, even though we didn't get any qualifying scores, I think it was still productive. I know what we need to work on, and hopefully this will help us get ready for our next trial.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

We have the US Department of Justice on our side!

Earlier this week, the American's With Disabilities Act revised their definition of "service animal." This was long awaited news within the service dog community, but even more of a surprise to the anti-BSL community. The good news (no, the GREAT NEWS!) is that the DOJ has rejected the comments of some people who say that the ADA and DOJ should restrict the breeds that can be used for service dogs.


Revised ADA Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III
(Updated July 29, 2010)
Title II: Final Rule amending 28 CFR Part 35: Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services
Breed limitations. A few commenters suggested that certain breeds of dogs should not be allowed to be used as service animals. Some suggested that the Department should defer to local laws restricting the breeds of dogs that individuals who reside in a community may own. Other commenters opposed breed restrictions, stating that the breed of a dog does not determine its propensity for aggression and that aggressive and non-aggressive dogs exist in all breeds.

The Department does not believe that it is either appropriate or consistent with the ADA to defer to local laws that prohibit certain breeds of dogs based on local concerns that these breeds may have a history of unprovoked aggression or attacks. Such deference would have the effect of limiting the rights of persons with disabilities under the ADA who use certain service animals based on where they live rather than on whether the use of a particular animal poses a direct threat to the health and safety of others. Breed restrictions differ significantly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions have no breed restrictions. Others have restrictions that, while well-meaning, have the unintended effect of screening out the very breeds of dogs that have successfully served as service animals for decades without a history of the type of unprovoked aggression or attacks that would pose a direct threat, e.g., German Shepherds. Other jurisdictions prohibit animals over a certain weight, thereby restricting breeds without invoking an express breed ban. In addition, deference to breed restrictions contained in local laws would have the unacceptable consequence of restricting travel by an individual with a disability who uses a breed that is acceptable and poses no safety hazards in the individual´s home jurisdiction but is nonetheless banned by other jurisdictions. State and local government entities have the ability to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a particular service animal can be excluded based on that particular animal´s actual behavior or history–not based on fears or generalizations about how an animal or breed might behave. This ability to exclude an animal whose behavior or history evidences a direct threat is sufficient to protect health and safety.

This is a HUGE victory. Now, to start getting the word out to cities and states with BSL. Federal law trumps state law, folks.