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.