Monday, May 14, 2007

Paid Handlers

SUMMARY: Will agility become a sport of paid handlers?

I don't see a trend yet. But recently I spoke to a handler from Los Angeles who is running dogs for 3 different owners. I asked why, and she said, "Because they pay me." I asked why (OK, I'm nosy, but she brought it up), and she said, "Because I can Q when I run their dogs, and they can't." Furthermore, none of the owners were with her and the dogs. That rubbed me wrong. Isn't agility about spending quality time with your dog? (Says the sometimes overly competitive blogger.)

So the dogs were traveling with the handler out of town, as is common with show dogs on a circuit with a paid handler trying to earn majors and campaign for Crufts or Westminster or similar. But this was a CPE trial, of all places, where basic qualifying is pretty darned easy, and even qualifying for nationals is extremely simple, not like USDAA where titles and nationals qualifying scores are tough to come by. And CPE is in particular about having a good time with your dog.

Maybe she was giving a short answer to a none-of-my-business question. I got to thinking about people I know who run other people's dogs.

Other people have run my dogs when:
  • My foot was broken and when my back was out, and I wanted my dogs to remain accustomed to competing. We didn't get a lot of Qs during that time. But I was right there ringside. And it was friends running the dogs because they were good friends. It never occurred to me to pay them. Maybe that was naive of me.
  • On a dare with a classmate whose dog ran similarly to mine, we switched dogs for one run for fun.
  • I had my two dogs as partners in Pairs Relay, and of course you can't run two dogs, so someone else had to run one.

I know of other people who I think get some payment for running other people's dogs. In both cases, the owner has a long-term injury or handicap that prevents them from being able to run regularly in class or at trials. BUT--the owner also does most of the training, and attends the trials and is right there ringside while the dog is running.

And I have a friend who doesn't get paid (I don't think so, anyway) and who runs a dog whose owner is not there--but that's because she has only one dog of her own, and this is her neighbor's dog who wasn't getting enough attention from the working owner, and my friend just offered to teach the dog agility and compete with her own time and money.

In fact, I was starting to do exactly that with my previous housemate's dog before she moved out of town and I got Boost. But I'm still betting that, had I pursued that, the housemate would have been at the local trials when I competed with the dog, and she might not have wanted to be separated from her pooch long enough for me to take him to out-of-town trials.

What do other people think about these various reasons for handling other people's dogs?

8 comments:

  1. Linda Mecklenberg run Zesta for Sue Klar. I don't know if she gets paid.

    I have asked other people to run my dog when I don't feel up to it.

    I don't know anyone who runs others' dogs the way conformation handlers handle others' though. It is not a trend I would be happy to see become the way of the future.

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  2. I think it's very strange to have someone else run your dog. If I couldn't run my dog(s)for some reason, I wouldn't go to the trial.
    I can't imagine wanting to watch someone else running my dog. It would make me crazy with frustration if I couldn't do it myself. And I wouldn't get any pleasure watching someone else run my dog(s) better than I do. And I wouldn't want to see my dog get confused by being run by someone else, either.
    And if someone else is training your dog and then going on the road with it and trialing it, is it really your dog?
    No, I just don't get it....

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  3. I must admit that after several months of someone else running my dog when I was out of commission, my feelings of frustration at not running my own became the overwhelming reaction and I quit doing it for a while. But early on, it was great to be among friends, and these were people who already knew my dogs and we had similar handling styles. And I didn't let anyone run them for important classes like legs that would get us big titles; THAT pleasure I saved for myself.

    Anyhow, Tika saved me the trouble (sort of) last fall when my knee was so bad but I wanted to try to get her accustomed to another handler in case I got to the Nationals and then the knee gave out and I couldn't run, so we practiced a bunch with Ashley in class and then at a trial--where she right away said, nope, this isn't right, we're at a trial, I'm supposed to be running with my MOM, and left the course every time. So I guess no one else will ever run Tika for me. My previous dogs would run happily with anyone if they got a few cookies and a little play time.

    -ellen

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  4. I had some friends run my dogs once when I was injured the closing date of the trial and couldn't get my money back. To be honest it was mostly so that both the dogs & I could get out of the house and I could do something other than lay around on the couch and whine about being confined to the couch. I thought it would be interesting to see if the dogs could handle it, sort of a different training challenge. One dog refused to do much of anything except run out of the ring to me but the other dog had a few nice runs and it was fun to see him running a course with someone else, though he did run out of the ring for a few runs. I wouldn't enter a trial knowing I couldn't run but given the circumstances I was glad I did it. I wouldn't ask a better handler to run my dogs so I could earn a title because then the title would have no meaning to me but that's just me. If other people want to pay someone to earn a title it doesn't bother me but it's not something I would ever do myself.

    The only situation I can think of that would bother me is if someone hired a professional handler to earn them a spot in the finals at Nationals and then ran the dog themselves in the finals (and vice versa). I'm not talking about handler subs due to injury or whatever but rather paying a 'pro' to ensure a win.

    I know a couple of handlers who aren't pros but who handle other people's dogs on a regular basis. They do it because they love training and competing but their own dogs have motivational issues and they can't keep any more dogs themselves so they 'borrow' someone eles's higher drive dog that's just sitting around the yard looking for something to do. In that case I think it's a great situation, the handler gets to train a willing teammate and the active dog gets some exercise and attention.

    In general I think agility's sufficiently difficult & time consuming to discourage a large amount of people from handling for money like in the conformation ring. Plus there's not nearly as much money involved.

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  5. I love running other people's dogs--they don't have to pay me! Not that anyone would ever offer to pay me because I doubt I'd be any better at Qing than they would be. I've done it a couple of times in trials and many times in practice and show and gos.

    Once was when a friend had entered both of her dogs and said she just didn't feel up to doing the final jumpers run with her BC. So I ran the dog, had a great time and if it weren't for a knocked bar we would have Q'd.

    Another time, a friend injured herself at the trial, but just wanted to try to see if her dog would run for someone else. It was a rat terrier, so the chance was slim. I managed to get him most of the way through two courses, but he kept wanting to go find mom.

    A friend of mine has a JRT that has a lot of ring stress (she runs out) so my friend never runs her any more. I told my friend I think she's too intense for the dog and that I want to try running her just to see if it makes a difference. So I've practiced with the dog and one of these days I hope to run her in a trial just as an experiment.

    I've let friends run Lucy in practice. If they show her they have really good food she will go with them, but only after I say "go ahead." She would also have to see me standing by the ring or she would go looking for me. If I ever got injured at a trial, I think I'd like to have someone else try to run my dog, but I don't think I'd enter her knowing that someone else were going to run her--unless maybe I just need that one more Q in something and I was unable to run myself.

    It's fun to watch her run because she's cute, though, and I'm often too busy trying to avoid crashing and burning during our runs to appreciate her cuteness.

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  6. I hope it doesn't become a common practice. But I understand why some do when the handler is injured. I just don't think that my dog would enjoy anyone else running him.

    I've run others dogs in practice before, for fun and motivation for the other dog. Interesting....but not something I would do as a practice, unless my friends/training mates were injured and they asked me to.

    BTW - I tagged you -- wanted to get to know you better.

    --Johann (and Mom, Leslie)

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  7. Great blog! I have missed reading it. I think almost everyone has either run someone else's dog or had someone run their dog at one time or another, due to injury, scheduling conflict, or for fun! My MACH2 golden has had the majority of QQs earned by either my wife or father-in-law. But the training was 100% me, and I am proud of her. Professional handling is entirely different. I think I would not mind if it became widespread, but for reasons everyone has already stated, I don't think it ever will.

    What if a conformation person came to you and wanted some titles put on her dog but didn't have the time or know how to do it? Golden people are always shipping their dogs off to professional field trainers. Personally, I would want to earn it myself, BUT I can see the other side, and I am okay with it.

    The most interesting case scenario would be if a pro got the dog to the finals, and the owner ran the dog. To some, this would be "unfair" but I really don't see anything unfair about it. I am a competitor, so LET'S RACE!

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  8. I run a few dogs for other people - I don't get paid monetarily speaking but the grin on my face when having the chance to run agility with them seems to be enough for me :-) I run a sheltie, GSP and another BC...I've q-d and placed with all of them...their owners love watching them run with someone else (they still handle them for most runs) and from time to time a small gift comes my way for doing it, not that I expect or want anything. I'd hate to see it go the way of conformation handling. I think having your dog comfortable to run with someone else is a good thing ultimately. Some dogs will never be like that and that's ok too.
    Any chance I get to run agility is an opportunity I cannot refuse!
    Cheers
    Simone

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