Most of us know a title doesn't necessarily make the dog, but does it make the trainer? Why should a trainer, especially one who works mostly with pets, title their dog? Why should a pet owner title their dog?
If you're like me, for fun and shiny things, obviously, but not everyone has a passion to compete, and that's ok. For a moment, however, consider what it means to earn one.
A common concern for owners and a common debate amongst trainers is "Will the dog still perform with out the tools?" Set foot in a ring, and you are stripped of everything. Correction, reward, lures, training collars, clickers, and in most cases, even verbal encouragement. It's just you and your dog, and the mutual respect and teamwork between you, in an unfamiliar environment, with many distractions, and a pair of unbiased eyes judging your performance.
For the professional, a title is the means to put their money where their mouth is, to prove that their skills are enough to get the job done, that their work can stand alone without any extra help. I truly believe every dog trainer owes it to themselves to set foot on a ring or a field, and really see what their skills will yield, even just for one title. Consider your clients. Think of that elderly gentleman who struggles to stay on his feet on icy winter pavement, or think of that busy mom with a child in arms much of her day. They need a dog who will respond, ultimately, without the tools. In an emergency, or simply the bustle of daily life, our clients can't always reach for a lead or a reward. The dog must simply respond. Can you achieve that without earning a title on your personal dog? Sure you can- but why not test yourself?
For the pet owner, it gives them a goal. Something to work toward, a reason to work their dog every single day, even when they're tired, even when they think, "what's one day off?" If a client can walk into that brand new place, step in the ring, and their dog stands perfectly still for a stand for exam, I'd say the chances of that dog sitting still while the neighbors say hello is quite high. The goals in performance rings are a more finely tuned, realized version of the goals most clients will come to you with in the first place.
Now, let me pick apart some excuses I hear frequently from fellow trainers:
"I can, but I just don't want to." Can you? How do you know? The truth is, you don't. Give it a whirl. When you're teaching a client your training methods, don't you expect them to have an open mind?
"I'm not into showing." You might as well say you aren't into taking your dog anywhere and working with them. Training titles are not about grooming products, walking in circles, and/or hideous polyester suits.
"It's too expensive." Entry fees can be as low as $25 each. If you can afford dog food, you can afford an entry fee every now and again.
"My clients aren't interested in showing." Neither were mine, until I told them about how fun it was, and how they could do it, too. Eventually those successes brought competition clients to my door. Grow your business while you grow yourself.
"I don't know how to get started." You're already on the internet, aren't you? Get ye to Google, friend!
Expanding your repertoire really can help you see your current knowledge in a new light, and inspire you to push yourself toward a defined goal. Titling will help you develop an eye for detail that will serve you and your clients incredibly well. Performance and companion events should be supported and encouraged, particularly by those of us who make a living training dogs.