Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Goodbye, CHUTE!

This will be an opinion writing about something I am so very excited about: agility venues have been dropping the chute/collapsed tunnel!   UKI announced about two weeks ago that the obstacle would be removed from their equipment list.   I don't do a lot of UKI, but I was really excited about such a progressive change.   And now yesterday, AKC announced that the chute would be removed.   And then TDAA.   And I thought, "Come on, USDAA...."   Next thing I knew, I checked my Facebook feed and there it was...USDAA is dropping the chute as well!   Wow!   This is so exciting!

Now, CPE is my main venue and they are still in negotiation about the chute.   However, it is rare that I see the chute in CPE as it is not a required obstacle.   And most judges do not use it.

No more "chute fluffing" ring crew job!   Hooray!  And now Perri can play in USDAA, this is very exciting indeed!  Now I did intend to return Perri to USDAA - however, I wanted to see a lot more confidence in the shorter AKC chute before asking her to do the much longer USDAA chute.  And it was not going to be a fast process, nor would I expect it to be.  But it was kind of a bummer since I plan to increase my trialing in USDAA.

I have been rather confused and quite honestly extremely frustrated to see people who do not want the chute to be removed.   "They like it".   "Their dog doesn't have a problem with it." "What's next, remove all of the contacts?  All the obstacles?" "Stop keeping our dogs in bubble wrap."  "If the dog gets hurt or tangled in the chute, that's a training issue."  And similar variations.

I find these opinions to be rather disrespectful.   My own personal dog (Molly) actually loves the chute and has not had an issue with the obstacle - she is a fast and hard hitting dog and has yet to have any bad wipe outs.   Yet.   I have personally never been in a car accident - does this mean that the possibility does not exist?   Here is the bottom line: the chute is the only agility obstacle that deliberately forces the dog to run on a slippery surface.   They are running from the footing surface, may it be: dirt, sand, grass, turf, matting...onto a slick surface.   Blind.   Why?   What is to like?

Yes, dogs are injured doing agility.   On all obstacles.   While jumping, while weaving,  falling off the dog walk, in the tunnels.   Dogs have died doing agility, dogs have been permanently crippled or retired prematurely.   It is a fast, physical sport and it is not without risks.  Do I think the decision to remove the chute is a slippery slope towards removing everything that makes the sport "agility"?   No.  Obstacles have been evaluated and changed, the sport is evolving.   Weave pole spacing increased, different jump heights added and carefully evaluated, plastic jump cups rather than metal, rubberized contact surface rather than harsh slats and slippery wood, sand bags on the tunnels and the teeter, regulated approaches to the contacts, break away tire.   These are all good, progressive changes.   Our sport has been changing, evolving all of this time - evaluating obstacles and improving them, not removing them all!  But how can the chute be improved?   It does not demonstrate agility.   The obstacle demonstrates blind faith on the dog's part.   The dog runs into the barrel, into darkness and zero visibility and suddenly his footing is slippery.   Many dogs will stay upright, many will lose their footing.   And if a dog begins to turn out of the obstacle, he may become completely tangled in the fabric - all the while not being able to see anything.  How is this obstacle demonstrating agility?   It is not.

Here and here are links to two videos that have been making the rounds on social media - resonating with some and for others, falling on deaf ears.  I think it is important to watch them, as an agility participant.   To think about them.   Removing the chute is being fair to our dogs.  It is not fair to ask them to do an obstacle that deliberately has poor footing, ever.   No other agility obstacle is like this.   And I am beyond happy to see it gone!   Molly might not be, though!

Our friend Luna and the chute!

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