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?

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