A SAD GOODBYE TO AGILITY

I’ve been doing Agility with my dogs for about twenty years, most recently running my little Terrier mix Travis. Everyone knows and loves Trav – he’s got “IT” – that inexplicable something that just draws people in.

It was probably more than two years ago that Travis was attacked by another dog for the first time at an Agility trial. I’m no stranger to canine body language. For years I’ve spent countless hours in independent study, attending seminars, reviewing video with experts such as Sue Sternberg, monitoring day care and play groups. Believe me when I say the attack was unprovoked. 

The distance that dog traveled to get to Travis, jumping out of the ring on the other side of the room at an expansive two ring trial (Tolland) precluded even eye contact.

Travis was sitting quietly by my side on a short lead as I chatted with a friend. Nothing that would incite arousal was going on, such as a game of tug. Suddenly there was an explosive blur and the sound of my dog screaming. It was an horrendous experience which thankfully caused no permanent damage. Except to the psyche that is. 

The owner was very apologetic, telling me that the dog was a rescue with very high prey drive. I initially thanked her for her apology. 

After the incident, numerous folks approached me privately to say that people were aware of that dog’s proclivities and often were warned, or they would warn others, when it was in the run order near their dog. Someone else said the dog was in an ongoing training protocol to “correct“ the behavior. Another person informed me that she was standing near the trainer and the owner after it happened and overheard the trainer remark “I guess we didn’t do enough…”.

Before leaving, the owner approached me to again offer her apologies. I told her that given all the information that was voluntarily provided by others, her apology rang hollow. She knew what she had and still chose to put everyone else’s dogs at risk.

Moving on. Trav and I got over the trauma. He is the most astonishing little trooper and he was shaping up towards an amazing career. 

Three weeks ago Travis was attacked again, this time by his Masters Pairs Relay partner, from behind, at the end of the other dog’s run. His screaming was pure torture to hear; the attack was vicious and it took several people to break it up. It was so terrible to witness that many people at the trial were actually crying. At first it seemed he was hurt as he was shaking, whimpering and holding up his right front leg. 

The other dog’s handler apologized. A veterinarian attending the trial examined Trav and found no apparent injuries. She gave him a Rimadyl and iced his shoulder. 

[Punctures are notoriously difficult to find. About a week ago I discovered a scab which when removed revealed a puncture wound on that shoulder.]

I received a phone call the night of the incident from a trial official who was concerned. She assured me that having watched the video repeatedly, in slow motion and frame by frame, Travis was completely without blame for the attack. This I already knew.

In a subsequent, written message to this same individual I asked for updates on what was being done in response to the attack. Would there be a suspension? The answer was, as far as she knew, no. A note would go in her file.

Yes, my dog is a Terrier. Yes, he can snark. I try to be extremely careful and in this particular situation, I was even more cautious because the other handler had asked me to assure her that Travis wouldn’t “run up to, or get in her dog’s face”. (So I was forewarned I guess.) Travis did neither. He was leashed, I saw him take one step towards the other dog, I called his name and he turned back to me.

Once again, since that incident I’ve had fellow competitors confide in me that they viewed that dog as unsafe around other dogs. One person told me she had refused to keep the dog at her home because she couldn’t let it near her own dogs. She informed the owner of the reason.

So…once again, the owner has a pretty good idea that her dog has an issue yet chooses to be out there with fingers crossed.

I seriously considered quitting Agility then. Everyone was commenting on how Travis “wasn’t even fazed by the attack”. Trust me, he was fazed. I started seeing avoidance behaviors indicative of stress and my trainer agreed, saying we had damage control to do.

I have to admit I’m probably having more trouble than Trav. I’ve spent a great deal of time meditating to manage my newly resurrected fear, trying to regain a sense of safety.

So…we were at a trial Friday. By our third run I felt Travis was running with more confidence. We had some amazing segments in our MC Biathlon Standard run. We were waiting to go into the ring for the Jumpers portion.

When there were two dogs ahead of us we were sitting ringside getting ready. Stretch, cheese…touch! cheese… We were focused on each other. Suddenly there was a commotion and snarling. I looked down to see a Border Collie in Travis’s face. I don’t know what exactly happened, but the handler was apologizing profusely, and reassuring me that “she didn’t hurt him…she didn’t attack him…she only scared him!!”

I took Travis for a long walk after Jumpers. My heart was saying “you can’t do this anymore”.

We both love Agility. But questions were running like an ear worm through my head. “What’s it going to take Janice? What if  “next time” the dog shakes him and breaks his neck? Snaps his spine? Maims him so badly that you have to choose to let him go…? How many more times are you willing to spin that wheel, hoping it stops in the LIVE TO RUN AGAIN slot? Where’s the line Janice?”

This may seem overly dramatic, but Travis is a little guy. It could happen.

I’m not really sure what’s going on here. I’ll be the first to admit, Travis is not an angel. But I am confident that in all three incidences, Travis was not the instigator. And oddly, in all three situations the other dog was female, so he was not beaming stink eye at another male.

The Agility environment is highly charged, and dogs are in very close proximity to one another. The chances of something going wrong are high.

Yet at trials I have witnessed the following:

  • Dog(s) running ahead loose through the room while their handler is just entering the building.
  • Dogs trained to run out of the ring at the end of their run to get their toy, with the handler lagging far behind.
  • A dog with a toy in its mouth, unattended, racing back and forth along the ring gating as another dog runs the course. The owner occasionally takes a glance over to check on it. 
  • Dogs on leash too far out to be in the handler’s control, while the handler pays no attention to what they’re doing.
  • And a new one just this past Friday: An unleashed dog climbed in the lap of a competitor with a tiny poodle in her arms and proceeded to nose the poodle in the face. The offender’s owner was about twenty feet away, watching benignly. Then she let it happen again a few minutes later.

The lack of attention and/or concern that I have seen is appalling and frightening.

Something could happen to Travis anywhere. But to continue to place him in an environment where the risks are exponentially higher is just wrong. I can’t keep him safe. And I couldn’t live with myself if safety at trials gets more attention because something beyond horrible happens to Trav.

I always tell him I love him more than life. In a way, Agility was my life. Travis, I love you more.

I am very sad, angry…probably 99% of my friend base is in the Agility community. In reality I know this means I will never see a lot (if not most) of you, again.

No one wants to be the whistle blower in a tight knit community, especially when they consider that community their friends. 

Agility folks are good people; I love Agility folks. But good people are making some very bad choices and someone is going to get hurt. And all the apologies in the world won’t undo it when it happens.

I was recently assured that steps are being taken to increase the consequences of a dog-on-dog attack. If there is a second offense, there will be an automatic 3-24 month suspension (if I’m remembering correctly).

We’ll wait for it to happen again before taking action. Can we have a show of hands…who wants to volunteer their dog as victim #2, so we can get the aggressors out of circulation for a while?   

Be brave. Speak the truth, make trials safer for everyone.

We were going to Cynosport this year. He’s already qualified in Grand Prix, Steeplechase and I just learned that we got our first qualifier in MC Biathlon on Friday. 😢

I really don’t know yet what I’ll do without Agility in my life. But Travis and I will miss you guys. 💔

64 thoughts on “A SAD GOODBYE TO AGILITY

  1. This same kind if thing happened to me too. Now I have a dog who is too afraid to run. She can sometimes work with a toy in an NFC run. I lost the top dog in my breed at the time. It is heartbreaking. I am so sorry for your loss, I know what this feels like. Best to you and your little terrier.

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  2. I am so sorry for what you and Travis had to experience and I do believe that it leaves a lasting impression on both dog and handler. I have a Sheltie that experienced an unprovoked attack by a Border at an AKC trial and, found out later, it was far from the first time the dog attacked without being provoked.
    Perhaps the solution is all dogs on a short leash, walking next to owner, when inside an agility arena. Anybody not obeying the rule gets a $250 fine initially and, with each following incident, the fine doubles. I’ve also seen little dogs, on a long leash, go after big dogs and the owner’s are oblivious. The caveat here is that these people have to be reported. Too many times these incidents are not reported because the person doesn’t want to cause problems. If you see it or experience it and think that you’ll be nice and not report it, remind yourself that the next time your lack of reporting could result in another dog dying.
    Unfortunately it’s always the inconsiderate and uncaring few that make it stressful and dangerous for the rest.

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    1. This has been happening way more often, I do put a lot of it to the all positive kick. I never did Obedience over a CD because of it. The owners as well as TRAINERS who KNOW better. But are afraid to stand up to a client, & tell them to KEEP their dog at HOME, I Do. I never took my dogs past Novice in Obedience(& the out of sight stays), for that reason. Did do Rally as far as I could. I have a the full brother to my best agility dog, who is very biddable too, BUT stayed at home after a certain point(he had a CGC at 9 months, & Rally Novice & Agility Nov titles by 2 yrs). He showed a little bit on the dog aggressive side, after 2. So he stayed at home. This is the AWFUL off shoot of all positive training. Fine do it, But BE HONEST about your dog, if going out in public to a Trial.

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      1. AKC obedience has changed in response to this. There are no more out of sight stays and no more group stays except in novice where the dogs are now on lead for the stays.

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    2. Gloria, both incidents were reported and hearings were held at the trial. In the first (AKC), the owner volunteered to not ever trial with that dog again and this was apparently accepted.
      In the second case (USDAA), the dog/handler were excused for the remainder of the weekend and a “note was put in their file”. They were not suspended or barred from trialing in any way, and in fact were back out almost immediately, running in Team.

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  3. I’m so sorry this happened to you and Travis. Your post brought tears to my eyes just thinking about how frightened your poor dog must be.

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  4. So, you’re going to let the bad actors “win?” Hold your dog. Crate him when necessary. Report all the dogs who are running off-leash or who are dragging their leash. Take it to the licensing body (AKC or whichever). It’s easy to give up, but it doesn’t help anyone, not even yourself.

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      1. Even if the organization (AKC, USDAA, UKI, etc.) does not have safety rules, some facilities and host clubs do have rules in place regardless of the organization – 10 feet from the ring rules, no unleashed dogs in the area (often a suitable off leash area is available,) no food within 10 feet from the ring, etc. I was horrified at one trial where no such rules existed and as I sat 3 rows back rewarding my dog for focusing on me, an unleashed dog wandered over to sniff his butt! I tried calling to the owner who could not hear me as I was too far away but the gate heard me and alerted the owner to call her dog back to her. It actually happened again with the same dog, the same weekend. Needless to say we have not gone back to that place since! I am so sorry that this has happened to you and Travis.

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      2. Kathy, the same happened to me once, with a loose dog sniffing my dog’s butt when I was treating my dog after a run. The owner was in range, and when I told her to take her dog away from my dog’s butt, she gave me a dirty look and said it’s not against the rules for her dog to be off leash, and let her dog continue doing whatever it wanted. I never went back there or entered that club’s trials again.

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    1. I don’t think it is easy to give up. I think it’s the hardest thing to do. I run big and little dogs and my dogs have been on the receiving end. The problem is when your small dog is on the receiving end it can be life or death. It’s a hard, hard choice. You can’t even keep them safe in your arms. I just had a dog jump up at my mini Aussie last week while she was in my arms. It’s a toughie.

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    2. Win? I don’t think deciding not to risk Travis’s life is letting bad actors win. They ALREADY won, in the human world and the dog world because no one will stand up to owners of obnoxious, violent dogs. Police don’t, landlords don’t, neighbors don’t, Animal Control changed it’s name to “Animal Care.” They won’t help nor do they want to. Dogs are literally eating people in America and nobody is doing Jack sh!t about it.

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    1. For my two cents…I have seen dogs at barn hunt being almost worse. Stuck in a tight blind with a dog who it’s publicly known can not be with any other dogs…ever? No thanks!

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      1. That happened to me at my first Barn Hunt trial with my Standard Poodle, I had her on a eight inch handle leash, I had to, she is a reactive dog and this day she knew what was coming, a large poodle mix tore out of the handlers hand across from us and right straight for my girl, who have had done harm to her if I hadn’t had her on such a short lead. I left and never went back to any barn hunt trials or classes.

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  5. This is truly truly a tragic thing when someone cannot enjoy their passion because of the irresponsibility of others. I suppose it’s much like texting and driving…will people ever stop even when they know there is a high incidence of traffic accidents and death resulting from it? Until it is their dog, it doesn’t matter to them. And sometimes no matter how hard we try to protect our dogs, something beyond our control can happen…like a dog running in another ring aborting the run to jump into another ring. It’s very very scary. People complain about the rigidity of AKC and their leash rules but now we know there is a reason for it and always has been a good reason. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it will help to make a difference.

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  6. The only dog running loose at an agility trial (or practice/training) should be the dog in the ring! This was the rule for my club, firmly informed. We had no problems. Anyone whose dog is not under control and on a 6 ft (or shorter) leash should be warned once. If they don’t comply, they must be told to leave. No refund!

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  7. I’m so sorry this has happened to you Janice. It could have just as easily been my Tabby that happened to in Tolland that day. I had been sitting with Tabby in my lap in the exact spot you were just minutes before you. I had just left to put Tabby in her crate and when I got back I heard what happened. Travis is an awesome little dog and I know everyone will miss seeing him and you.

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  8. So sorry, how awful for you and for your little guy. In AKC, for each incident of aggression, regardless of whether there’s harm to the dog, a complaint should be filed and investigated the day of the trial. People shouldn’t “know” that a dog is a problem and not do something about it. I don’t know how it works in USDAA, but if I learn they don’t have the same procedure, I’ll be staying away. I’ve always heard people say they like the more relaxed attitude about dogs off leash at USCAA, but that also has it’s hazards. (By the way, it’s one reason I’ve always been uncomfortable running pairs. I do that as infrequently as possible.)

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  9. Sadly I have heard that about XXX venue. Please check some of the other venues and how this type of situation is handled. If people can’t police themselves and their dogs, then the venue must step up and put policies in place. I can tell you I Trial mostly in what some people refer to as the FUN venue and there is no second chance! A dog on dog attack requires a report be filled and the dog must leave the premises immediately. The dog is suspended immediately and must produce proof and signed statement from a trainer to even be considered allowed back and I don’t know of any dog who has actually been allowed back but I know they have gone on to participate in other Agility venues

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    1. Problem is people need to step up & file the complaint. I am saying this as a trial chair, if its outside the ring & a committee member didn’t witness it, they can’t do anything unless someone is willing to stand up and file an official complaint. More than once people have come to me and said such & such happened – I tell them what they need to do and get OH I don’t want to do that can’t you just talk to XX

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      1. Reports were filed in both cases, hearings held, no suspensions either time. Video sent to President of USDAA in last attack. Handler excused from trial that weekend. Back trialing immediately, ran in Team this past weekend.

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  10. Janice – this is truly a shame – – I really enjoyed your adventures with Travis and admired your spunk (both of you) . I think many people do not understand – – but I do not expose Byron to a lot of dog activity. I spend alot of time in Northern NY on trails and I am astounded that we come upon unleashed dogs and people yelling – – “he is friendly” from a great distance!! Byron does not know life without a leash .. sometimes I am sad about that – – but then I hear about you and Travis – – Byron is in no way aggressive – – but I cannot even imagine him being exposed to an attack – – or two like Travis – – sending you hugs!!

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  11. I am so sorry to hear this. I, too, run a small dog so am hyper aware of positions of other dogs. What I have seen over the years is that a vast majority of people have pretty much stopped taking responsibility for their dogs’ behavior. I was a member of a club for years and I can think of one dog in particular that had a reputation for going after other dogs. I stopped caring that people considered me ‘the bitch’ because when it happened the first time at one of our trials (USDAA), I had them written up. Two weeks later, another trial, same dog, went after another in another ring, no contact, owner decided paperwork was ‘too much of a hassle’ (AKC trial) so didn’t get written up. Happened 3 more times (both AKC and USDAA) no one wanted to be ‘the bad guy’ until the last attack when it left the ring to go after the dog that had just finished and they were headed back to their crate (no tugging, no behavior that would have ignited a response like that). Another person, when they found out about the previous attacks in a year and a half time frame, went ballistic, made sure they were written up and ‘hounded’ the hosting club for allowing the dog to compete. The dog was subsequently banned from ours (not all other clubs) trials. Way too late in my opinion.

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  12. This makes my blood boil. I am so sorry you are being forced out of a sport you love. I too compete mostly in USDAA (and also UKI.) I have a reactive (not aggressive) border collie with whom I am hyper vigilant in making sure I keep him safe from having reactions to other dogs. And yes, I do everything I can to keep HIM safe. He does not enjoy reacting to another dog one bit. He has never come close to going after another dog, and I have put in countless hours of training with him with folks like Leslie McDevitt. But when I go to trials I have to deal with all that stuff you were describing above: competitors letting their dogs run out of the ring without being leashed, competitors paying no attention to their staring and often menacing dogs out in the end of a 6 ft. leash while they chat with friends. I even had a competitor use my dog running in the ring as “bait” to get his own dog fired up to run! A friend politely asked him to step back from the gate and he refused. Then he proceeded to shove my friend, a rather diminutive woman, out of his way so that he could continue with his “warm up routine.” I just don’t understand why people think this behavior is okay. It is not safe. Not for the dogs and not for the people. I don’t care how wonderful you think your dog is. These are dogs. They are animals. And as such, they are unpredictable. Just a few small and very easy changes can be made to the rules to make our sport so much safer. I don’t understand why the higher-ups in the various agility organizations can’t acknowledge this.

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  13. IMHO USDAA is the worst for following up, and after the run is over, the judges never pay any attention. One of several reasons why I gave up on USDAA.

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  14. I’m so sorry for what happened. I too have Terriers and anyone who knew Boone wouldn’t be able to say a bad thing about him. My Novice A dog and the kindest dog. Nailed while waiting to enter the ring. Nailed while minding his own business with me and 100% focus on only me. He rebounded. However, it wouldn’t be the last time. He was very forgiving. And even with my 3rd dog, coming out of the ring, someone not paying attention with their dog on a loose lead, nails my 3 year old and then denies it. No apologies in any of these situations and it’s avoidable. This goes beyond dog sports however. Even in neighborhood settings people are just irresponsible and unaware and do not take responsibility for their dogs’ actions. It’s always the responsible owner that pays one way or the other.

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  15. Janice, Thank you for writing this, I will miss you, our walks, conversations about campers and watching you and Travis tremendously. I concur (as you already know via our discussions) with all of your points. MANY of us have been the recipient of poor community behavior. As a trainer, I often joke to my students, “i am not an agility trainer, I am a behaviorally based trainer, so if you want just AGILITY go elsewhere” (and we all laugh, but should we laugh?). I have often stated that humans trying to read dog behavior in complex environments is akin to watching a child’s playgroup with blinders on. THERE IS SO MUCH GOING ON THAT HUMANS ARE NOT EQUIPPED TO READ. AND LET’S REMEMBER – THE DOGS ARE AROUSED! No, we can’t ever make these environments sterile, nor should we, and no, not every dog can handle the social complexities in a competition environment. But common sense and community etiquette should and CAN be improved. We tend to react once there is a severe infraction, and have processes for this (sometimes amended due to the status of offending parties! don’t get me started there as I have been the recipient of such lack of process), but we should ALL be more PRO-ACTIVE in our procedures for sure. AND MORE CONSIDERATE. I too have a dog who was jumped on more than once occasion. He cared, he remembered, he is a thinking dog, and his reaction was to become more vigilant and eventually could be fairly vocal in tight environments. I need to state that he was not PHYSICALLY hurt in these occasions. I managed his space well and he continued to show joy in the ring! When/if I asked for more space, folks would often say to me: “oh I didn’t know he was concerned” – GOOD – that meant I was doing MY PART for him. But it became increasingly obvious in venues were dogs were allowed to sit ringside staring into the ring, sometimes beating their toys to death, sometimes without a handler close by, dogs allowed to run out the exit without being leashed, or dragging the leash as they run by other dogs, crates, on their way to their crate, dogs sitting in the FRONT row in tight circumstances – peering OVER the ring fence while we were running, sitting in CHAIRS, raised above dogs walking by ………and I could go on, but you’ve all seen it. We’d go for walks after our run and encounter dogs running loose on trial grounds and all of this (after being jumped AGAIN), became increasingly concerning to him. He is TOO SMART, he could identify a handler who was not watching, had their dog at the end of their leashed – DRAGGED the handler out of the ring to run to their “treats”. Eventually, he picked up “LOOKING” as a pre-cursor to staring – to snarking and would tell me there was a problem. I went to venues (and clubs) who setup things proactively and we continued to play agility for a while. Then, even after a couple changes I made in how and when we went for walks or approached the “IN” gate, more negative experiences, caused by loose and or poor management (aka other handlers saying, don’t worry “MY DOG IS FINE!”), I made the decision that it just wasn’t fair to him and concurrently with some (minor) orthopedic issues decided to ONLY do the venues where he could jump lower and employed good management protocols. Eventually, we went to noseworks and rally because I OWED him feeling more comfortable! On occasion, he still goes to agility class and has a great time! I have heard people say TRAIN IT, and I am not suggesting that all dogs are ok. But it is the lack of community etiquette and sometimes – sorry to say – down right LAZINESS – that sets up situations fraught with potential for trouble! Now I run a scud missle, and he is a spark plug, and often as I have been on deck, had the handler in front of me THROW their tug toy from the in gate to the exit – honestly I don’t know why I haven’t lost my shoulder! He is a less thinking dog yet still does NOT enjoy seeing dogs peering over the ring fence, he doesn’t react, yet I can see the stress that my former dog taught me to recognize. So many simple things can be done – hey how about leaving a 2nd toy at the exit? How about NOT coming back into the in gate to retrieve the treats you left there and stashing a 2nd treat at the exit. Janice, I am so sad that Travis has had to endure these things. I thank you for writing this – and hopefully, at least a few folks with wake up and will be open to the fact that we ARE A COMMUNITY and we can all help each other enjoy this sport SAFELY.

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  16. Janice, I am so very sad that this has happened to you and Travis. Agility is a big part of my life and since I live alone, it is usually where I see most of my friends on weekends. Without it there would just be a a big hole, as I’m sure it is with you. I wasn’t aware that you had another issue before your Biathlon run. This is just so wrong!! Too many USDAA competitors allow their dogs to be off leash and unsupervised. Some also have their dogs tugging, barking, and lunging just outside the ring gating, or let their dogs get all fired up by staring at the dog running the course. Your blog is so thoughtfully written and has been commented on so many times on the Facebook groups that hopefully you and Travis will make a difference. I’m sure many of us will be making our feelings known to the agility organizations and hopefully push them to make some rules and enforce them so that all of our dogs can be safe at their events. I will miss seeing you and Travis, but I know you have to do what is best to protect him. I hope you can find another dog sport that you would both enjoy, where you can be happy and feel safe!

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  17. Is there some reason you will not name the breed of the attacking dogs?
    Is there some reason you will not say how often this has begun to happen in EVERY venue where the canine participants can be ANY breed, and the people who run the events will accept an entrant’s declaration of their dog’s breed, even when it is patently obvious they are intentionally ‘miss-naming’ the breed?
    Is there some reason you do not tell people that whenever an entrant intentionally ‘miss-names’ the breed of their dog, it is ALWAYS A SPECIFIC BREED TYPE.
    Is there some reason you are not saying what thousands of people involved in miriad canine venues have ‘learned the hard way’ about exposing their dogs to a ‘politically correct – protected’ SPECIFIC BREED TYPE?
    If you do not name the OBVIOUS BREED TYPE causing these problems, the problems will only continue.
    One thing everyone reading this post can be assured of, is that even though I ALSO did not specify the breed type causing these problems, WORLDWIDE, there is no question in anyone’s mind what breed it is.

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    1. I have seen this kind of behavior from a variety of different breeds and mixes. Some of those breeds are very active in agility. I don’t think it is the breed that is the issue. I believe it is the individual dogs that cannot handle the arousal level and the stress.

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  18. Im sorry this happened and totally understand why you wouldnt want that stress. I hated it when someone would warn me about their dog…as if i was the one who needed to get my dog out of their way. But i then rescued a terrier that had issues. I worked thru them. He was a well trained agility dog but couldnt handle the stress of trials. I barely got him measured!!! I some how got one run then the second time i took him out he got the zoomies. Luckily i had a good friend he would come right too. But i used good sense at that point. I refused to put him me or any other exhibitor and their dogs at risk. I had to accept no matter how good he was, he couldnt be set free ever….i owed him that. To protect him from his own weaknesses. He is a sweet heart to those he loves but you and others at trials shouldnt have to worry whether my dog will act out. I have a new dog im training and has high drive…new behaviors ive never had in my others…but again…i will not show her or allow her to chase or react to others wgen she gets overstimulated. Could be we never make it to a trial…because some things just cant always be fixed…maturity has taught me this.

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  19. I know your pain. I have a toy breed that has been attacked/jumped several times in training and at a fun match. (Since it didn’t happen at an official trial, nothing was reported.) It took a whole year of actual trialing for her to stop looking behind her back for dogs approaching and to learn that she is safe in the ring. She would also shut down if there was a dog barking ringside, especially big dogs. The emotional scars are very hard to heal, if at all. The average person just doesn’t understand the emotional trauma caused to smaller, more vulnerable breeds. I suggest you try other sports like nosework. I have witnessed wonderful confidence-building properties in this venue and my dog loves it. NACSW is especially strict about not allowing dogs to interact. After a while playing nosework you might try agility again when/if your dog’s confidence is restored. It’s worth a shot and nosework is a lot of fun.

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  20. It’s happened to me, several times with one of my dogs, and no breed in particular is the offender. We believe our dog must be giving off a vibe that she’s worried. She’s never even looking at these dogs. It’s happened in training, at trials, at the beach and on walks, they come out of nowhere. Some dogs are on leash, or flexi’s, some are off. The first few times it happened she was a pup, once a dog charged her from behind when I was putting her into her crate. She’s never been hurt physically. But mentally, it’s taken a toll on both of us. I’m hypervigilant now, and so is she, and I’m not sure if that helps or hurts the situation. She’s very uncomfortable with dogs behind her at trials tugging and carrying on (not their fault), and it’s definitely affected our performance. I will hang back and wait to enter the ring, or my husband will hang back with her while I stand at the gate to let them know I’m there. I have been scolded for not entering and starting a run while a known snarky dog (or at times any dog) is still loose in the ring. Sorry, it’s not worth taking that chance. At trials, I agree, that we expect too many hyped up or nervous dogs and handlers to line up at ringside. It’s bound to happen, sooner or later, unfortunately.

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  21. I am sorry to hear this – I, too, have left agility. It’s bad enough about the risks to the dogs. But believe me, if a person needs to push a safety issue, many people in the agility community will turn on you or look the other way and pretend it’s a personality conflict rather than deal with the enabling denial that permeates the environment. It defies logic that dangerous dogs will be more tolerated than putting pressure on the humans to take action. Sadly, I am a survivor of extreme bullying within the dog community – and as you say “oddly it’s the females.”

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I hear you. Each of my Papillons as been threatened, or attacked at an agility trial. They have been jumped from behind, crashed into at the gate by a large dog playing tug while owner was checking their place in the schedule. Get a clue it’s 8 inch, 20 inch will be a while! My third and last Papillon to do agility was hanging out in his crate, I had it open so I could scratch him and give him treats for being good. This was at a TDAA match. A small bully breed, daschund rescue, with known dog aggression and prior attacks on dogs (and a veterinarian owner) jumped off the dog walk across the ring raced across, crawled under the barrier, ran over to my dog and dragged him out of the carrier by the neck. I saw the whole thing and still couldn’t react in time. Felix was injured but recovered, physically. I will never, ever do dog agility in any format again. My dogs are not going to be targets of out of control dogs in training for their reactivity and high prey drive. The agility people whine about a lack of new competitors coming in…..get a clue and police yourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine. Do you think it’s worse is some venues, more than others? I’m just wondering if some of the busier trials create more of an amped up vibe. There’s no excuse for any of it and I think there should be tougher laws. I cant stand it when dogs are off leash. There is no reason for that.

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    1. Thank you Kim for your support. I really don’t think it’s venue specific, but it seems there are some trials that have a more unstructured environment – nobody seems to care that there are dogs running around unattended. 😕

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  24. Sorry this happened. I am a trial chair. When an incident occurs, if it is reported, I immediately take action. An investigation is done immediately and at the very least, the dog at fault is removed from the trial with a formal written statement to the agility organization. As a club we have actually banned certain handler/dogs from competing at our trials. I can only judge what is happening at the trial I am chairing, hearsay can not be used unfortunately. It would be nice if the agility organization (USDAA/AKC/UKI) provided a list to clubs for dogs that are not allowed to compete or have an infraction against them. It is a ton more work for the Trial committee, but it is our responsibility to keep dogs safe. That said, many incidents go unreported. Or reported on Facebook. There is nothing that can be done and it is frustrating to hear complaints after the fact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. In each instance a report was filed and a hearing conducted. One was AKC, the other USDAA. Neither organization imposed a suspension, although the handler at the AKC trial said she would never show the dog again.
      In the USDAA case, the handler was excused that weekend but was back trialing right away. She ran the dog in Team just this past weekend.
      The organizations need to step up.

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  25. I’m sorry. I think the beauty of the explosion of dog sports is that so many more dogs are working and playing than before. The challenge is that they are accompanied by people who aren’t receiving the same level of dog training.

    I fear ignorance is as big a factor as selfishness. People just don’t know how to read or manage their dogs and no one is teaching them. Not only must competition venues and clubs step up, but trainers do too. I was fortunate in that I was trained by trainers who understood that I was the one who needed the training and that my whole dog needed to learn — not just the ability to weave poles, but the ability to weave successfully through closeness with other people and dogs.

    I hope you find a way back to agility and your friends. I can’t imagine the circumstances that would enable that, but I hope they materialize. I quit agility too many times — but I did it out of frustration, not fear, which isn’t the same — and always found my way back because of the people. I hope they find you.

    In the meantime, enjoy your dog.

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  26. HEART & SOUL thank you for this amazing blog, this is being shared around Australia right now with trialling communities, I personally shared it with heartfelt thanks and sadness, never say never Janice in your mind garden keep it open to bloom again in agility or wherever another dog sport lets Travis bloom. But I totally understand your angst & frustrations as I trial with 2 small paps. Our associations try to keep us safe & offer penalties but accidents happen & owners in denial of their dog’s temperament exist. Your honest truth is a call to speak up, be honest & not accept anything less that safe situations at trials. How in a moment of madness your passion can be taken away from you. We pontificate about longevity in the sport, rehabilitation, extensive training, mental & wellbeing, hours and hours of commitment & money invested, but all of that means diddly squat when a dog has stomped on your dog, attacked it or worse. My personal experience in agility in a remote part of Australia has been one of fear, caution & constant wariness to the point of being told I am paranoid, pathetic worrier, silly woman & its my problem for competing with “real dogs”.

    A few years back I realised there were too many close calls at trials for my dogs so I started carrying them, only moving them about in crates & keeping my distance if I could, training on my own rather than at a club & training my dogs with key words & body language as regards danger. My danger signal saved 2 of my dogs sev times at public parks. It was worth it.

    Of late there has now been 2 dogs suspended for unprovoked dog bites & in both cases if my paps had been the recipient of the attack I would’ve given up the sport too & be an emotional wreck for a long time afterward. I think most little dog handlers have this little voice in in their minds to be alert & all the incidents you shared are the ones we see all the time no matter where you are on Planet Earth. Something Susan Garrett once said when she competed and one of her dogs got injured years ago and resonated with me, it is the risk I take when I decide to enter a trial and I need to assess risks and mitigate those risks to the best of my informed ability but it is my decision/choice to risk my dog in the sport & no one else’s. I didn’t associate trial conditions or equipment with her comment tho acknowledge that I check equipment & assess trial conditions regularly as heat stress is a major concern, but I immediately applied that to the greater risk of dog attacks as I would be trialling around loads of dogs & have found it has impacted the way I compete, often at times WD due to fear of leaving my dog in the ring with malinois in obed for example for sit stays. In agility an escaped malinois cross from a house almost got one of my paps in the ring as we don’t have fencing/bunting. Have decided to start looking at other dog sports for my paps and leave the agility behind once I can’t live with the risk anymore and am not physically capable of reacting in time to save my dogs. Janice, please bloom where you land with Travis and take care.

    Like

  27. HEART & SOUL thank you for this amazing blog, this is being shared around Australia right now with trialling communities, I personally shared it with heartfelt thanks and sadness, never say never Janice in your mind garden keep it open to bloom again in agility or wherever another dog sport lets Travis bloom. But I totally understand your angst & frustrations as I trial with 2 small paps. Our associations try to keep us safe & offer penalties but accidents happen & owners in denial of their dog’s temperament exist. Your honest truth is a call to speak up, be honest & not accept anything less that safe situations at trials. How in a moment of madness your passion can be taken away from you. We pontificate about longevity in the sport, rehabilitation, extensive training, mental & wellbeing, hours and hours of commitment & money invested, but all of that means diddly squat when a dog has stomped on your dog, attacked it or worse. My personal experience in agility in a remote part of Australia has been one of fear, caution & constant wariness to the point of being told I am paranoid, pathetic worrier, silly woman & its my problem for NOT competing with “real dogs”.
    A few years back I realised there were too many close calls at trials for my dogs so I started carrying them, only moving them about in crates & keeping my distance if I could, training on my own rather than at a club & training my dogs with key words & body language as regards danger. My danger signal saved 2 of my dogs sev times at public parks. It was worth it.
    Of late there has now been 2 dogs suspended for unprovoked dog bites & in both cases if my paps had been the recipient of the attack I would’ve given up the sport too & be an emotional wreck for a long time afterward. I think most little dog handlers have this little voice in in their minds to be alert & all the incidents you shared are the ones we see all the time no matter where you are on Planet Earth. Something Susan Garrett once said when she competed and one of her dogs got injured years ago and resonated with me, it is the risk I take when I decide to enter a trial and I need to assess risks and mitigate those risks to the best of my informed ability but it is my decision/choice to risk my dog in the sport & no one else’s. I didn’t associate trial conditions or equipment with her comment tho acknowledge that I check equipment & assess trial conditions regularly as heat stress is a major concern, but I immediately applied that to the greater risk of dog attacks as I would be trialling around loads of dogs & have found it has impacted the way I compete, often at times WD due to fear of leaving my dog in the ring with malinois in obed for example for sit stays. In agility an escaped malinois cross from a house almost got one of my paps in the ring as we don’t have fencing/bunting. Have decided to start looking at other dog sports for my paps and leave the agility behind once I can’t live with the risk anymore and am not physically capable of reacting in time to save my dogs. Janice, please bloom where you land with Travis and take care.

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  28. Happened to my dog also at an obedience class at our kennel club. My dog was savagely attacked, totally unprovoked by another male. His ear was torn and multiple puncture wounds to the face and throat. He never fought back but laid there crying. It took 3 people to pull the other dog off. The aggressor dog’s owner barely flinched and muttered “sorry”, as I cradled my bleeding wounded dog. She never checked on my dog or offered to pay the vet bills. Nothing was done by the instructor or the kennel club and that dog did it again at least once that I know of later. The dog was aggressive , competed in agility and obedience, and tragically sired several litters. It took over a year before I could even take my gentle dog to shows or classes . Time and patience helped him heal, but I no longer trust any dog around my dogs.

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  29. Hugs to you and Travis. Those were awful experiences for both you you to have to endure and recover from.

    At my facility, we do try to prevent incidents like this with fenced-in warm-up areas and a ring with 3 solid walls and a metal front fence with a visual wind-screen barrier. The difficult part is controlling human behavior outside the ring. There seems to be a misconception that its a right to have dogs off leash, regardless of posted rules. I am also concerned about the lack of rules in a few organizations about dogs being off leash when not in the ring, so I emphasize that is is a rule at our facility in every briefing (usually while a few people roll their eyes).

    As a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant, I also have a LOT of concerns about Relay. I feel like we are really putting dogs in danger in that class. At the very bare minimum, I wish they would make it an optional class, instead of required for a title. I had a dog go after my dog in a relay class many years ago and it was a judge’s dog. 😦

    I hope you and Travis won’t leave agility completely. Its important to remember that your dog loves agility with YOU. They don’t need a ribbon, or a tile, or a crowd of people and dogs to make the experience special. The two of you can play agility for fun. While I know that a lot of the fun for you was the trial environment, if you think about it, the joy of the run can be experienced by a party of two.

    I founded an organization called The Virtual Agility League. Its for fearful and reactive dogs, but also for dogs who enjoy agility better without all of the commotion of a trial. I think the idea is a little ahead of its time, but check it out if you want to play, and title, but not with risks.

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  30. My dog was reactive to other dogs. I chose to not go to agility trials because I woul never want to be the reason another dog was hurt or not able to do agility because of fear. We did agility in the back yard. He didn’t know the difference. Was I disappointed? Yes! When you rescue your agility hopeful they sometimes come with unexpected baggage. You have to adjust your goals. Never risk another owners dog.

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  31. My Cardigan was attacked at the CKC invitational a few years ago, by a GSD who was supposed to be doing agility in the ring. I was waiting under a shade tent to go in the ring, treating my girl and getting her ready to go. She was only looking at my treats. The dog had to go through a sizable S-shaped chute at leave the ring, and they were already near the center of the ring to begin with. Throughout the day, I saw the handler was always walking her dog around with a fistful of treats in the dog’s face. I knew this dog did not belong at any agility trial. After the attack, the CKC response? Nothing but a verbal warning. If I wanted to file a complaint, I had to pay $200. So I did nothing. It wasn’t the first attack I’ve seen, nor was it the last. It’s not fair that I have to be the vigilant one when I know my dogs can behave appropriately at dog shows.

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  32. I am sorry for you and Travis. I think a new rule should be implemented in usdaa. Do what akc does. No dogs enter or leave without being leashed. No dogs outside of the ring unleashed. I had my dog attacked at a practice and another at a trial one strike and you’re out should be the policy.

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