International agility has changed my dog’s life

Photo by Joe Camp

This article is part of the Dog Agility Blog Events discussion on Internationalization in agility (to see other articles, click here–but do it after you read my article!). Certainly the complex courses of international competition and the new moves handlers bring to those courses are having a significant effect on agility. Just this year I learned how to do a blind cross called a Ketscher…. But the most important effect of international competition on my dog’s life is an unintended side-effect.

In this year’s AKC instructions for qualifying for the International Team Tryouts (to be held later this year), I find this single sentence:

“Dogs born after January 1, 2006 with docked tails may not participate in the EO 2013 in Belgium.”

When Sonic and Jib, miniature poodles and brothers, qualified for the USDAA IFCS World Agility Championships–held in Belgium in 2009–(as described in this article), the Agility Poodle Yahoo Group (a discussion group for poodle people who do agility) exploded into discussion. Would Jib and Sonic be allowed to compete? They both are phenomenal dogs but they both have docked tails.

The discussion was fast and furious. Some people said poodles have always had docked tails (and also had their dewclaws removed). Some breeders said people wanted the poodles that way, that an undocked poodle would never win in the conformation ring. People provided video of undocked poodles running agility, showing how the dogs used their tails. It went on for months, and crops up regularly again.

But the discussion had a trickle-down effect. Breeders and handlers started thinking about whether or not it was really necessary to dock a poodle’s tail. I realize that discussion had been going on before that, but suddenly it was real: if your performance poodle had a docked tail, you might not be going to international competition, even if your dog was the best dog.

Vikki (Dancer and Rush’s breeder) docked Dancer’s tail when she was three days old (in June of 2006); her dewclaws were removed as well. When Rush was three days old (May of 2011), Vikki let him and the other puppies in the litter relax and enjoy the day. Rush has his dewclaws, and he has a completely unaltered tail. It is long and he uses it with verve and style. Just check out his tail in the photos of Rush weaving that I included at the beginning of this post. You’ll see.

6 thoughts on “International agility has changed my dog’s life

  1. Rose

    I’ve been searching for an Aussie puppy for several months. I’ve given up trying to find a litter where the tails will be undocked, but I have found one from a breeder who plans to leave the dewclaws on.

  2. Naomi

    Hey Diana – so awesome you wrote about this part of the subject. I never thought about it, but it absolutely applies! When I started getting interested in competing internationally, I immediately thought about docking in aussies with the same feedback (albeit mostly negative). I then set out to breed my own aussies that could be successful on those types of courses and I could leave with full tails.

    I love that international agility is making people think about why we do what we do to dogs and being thoughtful about the consequences. Awesome awesome post!

  3. Leanne

    I started eyeing up Aussies before docking became illegal in the UK, and in the end I decided not to pursue it. I felt that my dogs relied so much on their tails for balance and for stability in the dog sports we enjoy. Of course, with the change in the law, docking became illegal and now I have my awesome Aussie girl with her lovely tail (and dewclaws)!

    I think it’s great that it’s opening up discussion in places where docking/cropping/etc are still regularly done. I’d never considered that aspect of Internationalisation!

  4. Nancy Gyes

    Great post! I sure hope breeders in the USA will continue to move away from the unnecessary practices of cutting bits off of puppies. Internationalization has had a wonderfully positive effect on this aspect of breeding!

    Good reads!

  5. Ann Jussero

    I had to do lots of researching and searching to find a good line with tails left intact. My pup is from hunting stock so not extra high drive but what a great personality. I can already see her use that tail as we start agility work. But,many people ask me what breed of dog she is–poodles with tails???

  6. Diana Post author

    I think there will be more and more poodles with intact tails out there. I know a few breeders who are making that decision!

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