I went with a friend (who, unless s/he wants to be named here, shall go unnamed because I don't like to out people who don't want to be outed, even if I know they don't really care, becaue I'm circumspect like that) to a "first" for me:
A Schutzhund competition.
And, oh my goodness, it was cool. Really.
Now, if you know me at all, you know that I love love love to learn new stuff. New experiences, new places, new people, new subjects, all are right up my alley. So, being invited to take a few hours out of my day to go watch doggies compete in something I had no idea of what it was piqued my interest right off the bat. Plus - doggies! And a friend to hang out with! And a road trip! Hi-ho, let's go!
After finally (ahem) getting to the site of the competition, my education began. Shutzhund is all about training a dog (mostly German Shepards, because that's who the sport was invneted for!) to utilize their full capacity as trackers and protection dogs through three types of training: tracking, obedience, and protection (T.O.P.). All dogs have to compete in all three areas at every meet, and even if they flunk out of one area they still have to have a go at the other two for practice and good sportsmanship.
There are three levels of Shutzhunds (as far as I understand): 1, 2, and 3. Ah-ha! You can TELL this sport was developed by a buncha Germans, because there is a simple NUMBERING system in place to tell who's who and who has achieved what! The 1's are the beginninest level, and the 3's are a sight to behold. Imagine a dog who can't take his or her (though most shutz doggies are boyz) eyes off you, who follows your commands the INSTANT you give them ,who will ignore other dogs completely and not care to investigate the various crotches of random human beings, who know "left: and "right" and "down" and "heel" (or "fuss"!) and a host of other commends, who is happy to be useful and who WANTS to work for you. That's a shutzhund, fo sho.
To say I was impressed would be only partly true. I mean, it was cold and windy out there on the field, and so maybe my enthusiasm was a tiny bit frozen-over at some point. However, in retrospect, I think amazed is the right word. The handlers spend YEARS with their dogs, working them through the various exercises and classes, the dogs are dedicated, the decoys (for the "protection" part, which involves "bitework") have got to know their stuff and get certified in being decoys, the judges are on the fly all day long.
I didn't see tracking, though I've been told that someday I'll be forced to watch it. That's fine with me. I don't mind learning new things.
Plus, I hear hot dogs are involved, and that's something I can TOTALLY get behind.
This is a public service message to all y'all who might have something negative to say about this shutzhund thing : DO NOT SAY IT.
Do NOT ruin my good time and budding enthusiasm by ranking on the sport, the training, the dogs, the elitism or politics, the power of money, or any crap like that.
That is not what I'm excited about. I'm excited about the NATURE of the sport, and the opportunity to learn new things. There's a possible seamy underside to every pursuit, you and I both know it. I don't know nearly enough about this sport to even start to begin to commence to fix to cogitate on taking a notion on it, so, please, just hush up and enjoy me being happy to learn something new, mmmkay?