Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Shut up and take my money!

Back in the day, I had a T-shirt that had “All you need to do obedience is a dog, a collar and a leash” printed on the front.

On the back it said, “All you need to do obedience is a dog, a collar and a leash . . . and treats, toys, a crate, crate cover, lawn chair, cooler, water bowl, portable fan, poop bags, floor mat, crate for the car, crate for the motel, crate for the show site, dumbbell, scent articles, multiple sets of gloves, portable jumps, Cato board(s), ring gates/stanchions, backup dumbbell(s), replacement scent articles, long-line, Flexi, another lawn chair in case your phantom spouse/partner goes along, copy of the regs, obedience trial score book, training journal, breed-specific jewelry, jeans that match your dog, show-ring-only shoes, canine sports vet, new car, therapist, winning lottery ticket and/or sugar daddy/sugar mama. Alcohol optional.”


It might not have said ALL of that but hey, if you know, you know.


And I wonder why my gear bags weighs so much.


Let’s look at collars. First you have to decide if you’re going to train on a pinch collar, slip collar, buckle collar or martingale. Sub-decisions include regular or micro prongs on the pinch collar?  What about the ones with the rubber tips? Chain, leather or nylon slip collar? Leather or nylon buckle collar? Rolled or flat leather? Bling-y or plain nylon? Leather or nylon martingale?


If you have a coated breed and decide to kick it old school and train on a chain slip collar, do you prefer regular or fur saver? If you choose fur saver, do you want the big, oblong links or the sparkly hexagon jeweler's chain style? 


If you start training with a six-foot leash, you’ll soon need a four-foot leash. Once you obtain a four-foot leash, you’ll need a 36” leash. Flat? Braided? Flat braid? Double braid? Two-tone? Two-tone metallic? Latigo leather? Bridle leather? Kangaroo? (For all three non-dog trainers reading this, yes, kangaroo leather leads are a thing. An expensive thing.) Colors to match your dog or make an individual statement? 

All this to train a dog who will, if all goes as planned, spend most of his show career in the ring performing the exercises . . . without a leash. But you want it to look nice when you hand it to the gate steward, so there’s that . . .


It’s worse than ordering a meal in a restaurant where every choice requires three more choices and pretty soon you’ve forgotten what you ordered in the first place. And if you’re like me (scary), you probably bought one of each in the process of finding out which style of everything works best for you and your dog.


And just when you think you’ve got everything you need, you don’t.


You get a new dog. You try a new venue. You go to a seminar and have to buy all the presenter's recommended gear. Your old stuff wears out, breaks or gets eaten by your dog. The cat chews it up. Your spouse runs over it. Worse, you run over it. You leave it at a show site in Timbuktu, never to be seen again. The garage possum steals it. (The latter is my go-to when I lose things. Damn garage possum got it.)


Dog trainers are famous for waving wads of cash and credit cards at show vendors, Etsy shops, local crafters and even each other. “Shut up and take my money!” While we know the right leash or a new article bag won’t guarantee a 200, it makes the journey more fun.


After so many years in the sport, one tends to accumulate an overabundance (which sounds better than sh*t load) of gear we no longer use. Maybe it wasn’t quite what you wanted. Maybe it was the impulse buy you were convinced would fix that pesky training problem for once and for all, only it didn’t. Maybe it was inevitable—anyone who has trained for a CDX has experienced the ends-are-too-small, bit-is-too-wide, plastic-versus-wood, OMG-my-dog-needs-a-gold-plated-blessed-by-the-Pope-dumbbell crisis. 

OTCh. Phoenix, working hand-me-down articles,
circa 2010, before wood was approved.
(Photo by Sheryl McCormick)

 Anyone who has trained more than one UD knows the angst of trying to get multiple careers out of a set of scent articles. Articles are arguably one of the most expensive pieces of equipment obedience trainers will buy and we all pray each new dog will "fit" our existing dog's articles. More insight for my non-training readers: even if you’re buying a stock size from a retailer, a nice set of leather and/or wood/metal with spares can easily run into the triple digits. 


If you need a custom size or want to fancy them up with artwork, have earplugs ready so you can’t hear your checking account screaming. (No, wait, that’s your husband, looking at the bank statement. Or maybe it’s the Garage Possum when supper is late.) If you prefer to have several sets to switch off during multi-trial weekends, take that initial investment and double or triple it. Go ahead. No one’s judging. Really.


My first and second UDs were Shelties. Due to size differences, they each had their own sets of articles. My Tervuren, Jamie, necessitated another set. When Malinois Phoenix arrived, I was delighted to discover he could use Jamie’s articles. Look at me, being all thrifty. About then, the AKC approved the use of wooden articles and I decided to switch from metal to wood. It’s only money, right? Here, take it. I’m not using it for anything important like groceries or the heating bill.

OTCh. Phoenix and OTCh. Jamie put lots of
good mojo in their handed-down set of scent articles.


Then Aussie Banner came and miracle of miracles, the Belgians’ articles fit him, too. Wow—I had three generations of UDX and/or OTCh. dogs using the same articles. I was feeling pretty clever.

The infamous "Aww, so sweet" article pic from USASA nationals in 2021.
The real translation was more like, 
"Eff you, lady, and the articles you rode in on."
Long story.
I'll tell it.
Some day.
(Photo credit: Pix 'N Pages)

These articles had logged hundreds of training and showing hours. They had been bounced off cement floors, used in wet grass, rolled in dirt, left out in the rain, run over by the lawn mower (bad trainer—bad, bad!), slobbered on, handled by stewards, judges, training friends and occasionally pounced on by barn cats. They’re cracked, gnawed, stained, scarred, the numbers have faded or peeled and the wooden ones have survived two dogs with hard mouths. They’ve seen things. They look . . . vintage . . . because “like hell” doesn’t seem very respectful to the sport.


We both know you don’t get extra points for having shiny new equipment in the ring but here I sit with Raider's Utility training progressing nicely . . . using scent articles that were purchased around the turn of the century and are on their fourth generation of dogs. 


Yeah. You know where this is going. I’m gonna buy a new set of articles for him. 

Chaos Goblins deserve new scent articles.

Which means I’ll need a new article bag, too.


Shut up and take my money! Take all of it!

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