I Don’t Understand Wildcard Obedience

Chase and his Frisbee
Last Weekend I went to a UKC obedience show with Chase. I had him entered in Novice the first day, and when we qualified, I moved him to Open the next day. But I posted about that already. 🙂

Although it’s not really an officially acceptable thing by the UKC, afterward the club had a Wildcard class. If you are not familiar with obedience, Wildcard is just a class where you can go in the ring and, well, kinda train, but you can’t really train… and you can’t get legs or qualifying points or anything. It’s just really a thing you can do to see if your dog is ready for the qualifying events. They have Wildcard Novice, Open and Utility. And I think you can opt to not do two of the exercises in each class.

So the only reason I would enter a dog in Wildcard is, like I said, to see how he acts in a real show environment and see how he’ll do. But, I actually pretty much know what Chase is going to do, he’s a very solid and predictable dog, so I wouldn’t enter him. Maybe I would for Utility, I dunno. I’ll get to that bridge when he has training to cross it.

Most of the dogs I saw in the Wildcard classes were… well, just not really good. Some were slow and poky, or seemed like they needed a lot more training. Actually, what I thought they needed was motivation and positive reinforcement. Since you can’t reward a dog in Wildcard with treats or toys, and you can’t correct with words… what’s the point? It’s just like the real thing, pretty much. Okay you can give some double commands I guess if you want to, or need to. But if you are too enthusiastic then you can be asked to leave the ring… at least I think you can. So unless your dog is trained to the point where all they need is a couple of double commands to remind them of things, why would anyone enter?

To me, if you put a dog in the ring, your training has to be solid. My trainer says it’s like a bank. Training puts money in the bank. Trialing takes money out of the bank. You have to have your bank chock full of training before going into that ring. Because it only takes the dog once or twice to realize that there are no corrections and no rewards in the ring. And if you go into a ring, any ring, and your dog doesn’t do a sit when you tell him to, then you take him out of the ring and you either correct him or reward him for a sit, what is he learning? He’s learning that in the ring he can pretty much do what he wants. Outside the ring he has to do what he’s told. Wildcard or not.

So for me, i want my dogs able to do the entire ring performance without treats, in a solid way, before I put them in a ring. Be it agility or obedience. And I’ll tell ya, I’m in no rush to get Jet into a real trial ring. When he’s ready, he’s ready, and I’m not going to say he’s ready until he is ready. And I want his bank totally full of good training before we go in. I want him to be happy and motivated and smiling, doing a whole routine, without treats or corrections, before we even step foot in a ring.

Of course you can never train for every imaginable thing. 🙂 And I’m sure Jet will come up with some odd things I’ll have to fix. Like Chase and his darn sit stay in the ring. And Chase… well, he didn’t start obedience until he was about four years old, no foundation training at all. And his Open work is actually quite beautiful. It’s that darn sit stay biting us. I was going to show him at an ASCA obedience trial in a couple weeks, but I’ve pulled him because the more he lays down on his sit stay, the more often he’s going to lay down on his sit stay. So back to training it is. And back to ring-like environments so, hopefully, he doesn’t know the difference. Though it’s hard with a smart dog. They know the difference between training and trialing quite well, even when we try to fool them!

With Jet, though, he’s going to love obedience! He already does! And he loves to work, and he loves to do the exercises, so I think he’s going to really excel at obedience. Only one other Danish Swedish Farmdog was doing obedience here in the USA, and she’s moved back to Denmark. So Jet gets to set the standard for obedience work for the DSF. So I want him nice and solid before we even think about going in! And he’s going to get a UD… no doubt! He’s so smart and we love to work!

So anyway, I am confused about Wildcard and I just don’t understand why people keep putting their dogs in the ring and getting the same sloppy results. Okay granted some dogs are just goofy (like a friend sheltie I know LOL) and he has just got to keep trying because he knows all the stuff, and he can do it, as long as his mind doesn’t get too distracted. So in that instance I understand. 🙂 But for the most part, I don’t!

4 thoughts on “I Don’t Understand Wildcard Obedience”

  1. OMG, I am sure glad you said this. I totally agree with you but I have gotten such crap for that. I had a trainer that was just a pill about saying she was not going to work with me if I did not enter my dog in trials. Well, I had never ran an fast dog and had no clue how to get to where I needed in the ring or how to stay even remotely where I needed to be, I felt so lost running a five obstacle sequence, and my dog sure had no idea what she was doing and I could not imagine how lost we would be together a green dog with a green handler. Then now our club puts on this tournament and no one understands why we dont enter. But it is the same thing, no training, no treats no toys, just total trial rules. If I want to trial and feel ready then I will trial, but why go out there and tear down my training when I can not fix anything and there is no real benefit? I already know where we need to work and I can see fun matches where I can stop and fix things if need be, but why would I run and continue practicing the mistakes we have already found in our trials? I wish they would read your post ;-).

  2. Hey! What are you saying? Twist keeps going in the ring and getting sloppy results? LOL I’d say when things fall apart for him, it doesn’t qualify as sloppy, it’s a total disaster. He doesn’t need to enter wildcard to do that. I don’t even know if we’ve ever done wildcard for that matter.

  3. The thing is you can’t prepare the dogs for any thing that could possible happen int he ring, so no matter how well you have trained them, the results really come down to the performance on the day.

    But just a tip from me, make sure they have had practice in adverse weather conditions!

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