Is your son or daughter safe at agility shows?
Tamara Hollands has been involved in agility for years, but then she found herself with a child in tow. She saw no reason why having a child should interrupt her enjoyment of agility, and was very lucky in having a long-suffering circle of friends who help her at the shows. However, up until the recent discussions regarding this topic she had never really thought about her safety at the shows.
I had thought about the possibility of undesirable people possibly being present at the more public shows (and obviously taken relevant precautions), but never really addressed her safety regarding the hyped-up hounds that she is surrounded by week after week. Having now given this much more thought, I would like to share my opinions with the rest of the agility fraternity.It is a fact of life
With agility having risen in popularity over the years and the influx of weekend and week long shows, it is realistic to expect that children will always be present at these shows. After all (unfortunately) we can’t leave them at home to fend for themselves, and in the case of my daughter, she loves coming to the shows. I am obviously keen to feed her appetite for agility shows because then she hopefully won’t be expecting me to give up my weekends so she can do dancing competitions and horse riding! Many of the children you see at the shows nowadays could be champions of the future so we should encourage and support them. It is going to be a very brave person who suggests that children should be banned from shows, so I think that it is safe to say that they are here to stay.
Round the rings
When you are walking courses, children just get in the way. Annoying – yes. But not necessarily dangerous. However, when you are queuing to compete, trying to control your hyper dog, desperately trying to remember the course and how you are going to handle the six pull-throughs that the course demands, it is very difficult to keep a young child attached to your side as well!
It is with this in mind, that I personally feel that if I, as a responsible adult, have chosen to put my child in a potentially hazardous environment (as realistically queues, and start/finish areas are), then it is my responsibility if anything happens. Hopefully, if my child has actually listened to everything that I have taught her (e.g. stand away from the start/finish, keep still, don’t shout/screech/laugh) then everything will be okay.
Obviously, all dog owners have a responsibility to everybody to ensure that their dog is kept under control, but with all the best will in the world accidents do happen. Unless a dog was blatantly aggressive, and should never have been in that environment in the first place, I would consider that any incident involving my child around the rings would basically be my fault for having put her in that situation in the first place. So, I better make sure I teach her well.
Helping around the rings
Dogs exercise area
I strongly believe that adults and children alike should be able to move around the car parking areas and camping areas, without worrying about being attacked by unsociable dogs. Their biggest worry should be that they look for cars before crossing the ‘roadways’.
I have been shocked and horrified at dogs lurching out of the back of parked cars at people walking past, and don’t even get me started on people’s 'gardens!' If your dog is inclined to fly-out at anything going past their car or garden, then don’t leave them in the position where they can do it. It is frightening and dangerous for both adults and children. Plastic barrier fencing is not a sufficient barrier between protective dog and moving child!
However, I appreciate that dogs that are loose/tethered in these areas are going to guard their territory. I recall hearing of a child that was allegedly bitten by a dog that was tethered in an awning when the child went to retrieve his ball. In this instance, I feel that the dog was put into an awkward situation. The child should have been taught not to invade the dog’s territory. After all, dogs need their own space as much as our children do
I do not agree with a suggestion that there should be one area for those camping with children, and another area for those without. One of the main reasons why I enjoy the shows so much is the social aspect of it all, and even though my friends are happy to camp with the small circle of children that we have between us, I feel sure that they would not like to be in area full of children! Perhaps a segregated area for those that want to get away from all children may be an idea?
I have to say that I do not feel that there is a 'problem' in agility. I feel that as long as I teach my child well, and owners of dogs continue to be as responsible as they have been up to now (on the whole), then there shouldn’t be a problem. But I am also realistic. Accidents do happen – even in the safest environments – and I think that we all have to appreciate this.
As I child / teenager my family were involved with horses, and I was constantly being bitten, stood on, knocked and squashed by horses at the horse shows! But this was all par for the course, and once you had wiped the tears away, you just went straight back into the same environment! Perhaps, I might have even learnt a few lessons along the way. I am just hoping that the Agility Liaison Committee et al do not feel that they have to start introducing more rules and regulations regarding the control of children. I have enough problem remembering the ones concerning the dogs.
Tamara then acquired her very own dog (Touchango Tia) from fellow club members Karen Smith and Terry Felstead. Despite a slow start to success - it took about three years to get a clear round! - Tia and Tamara have managed to form a fairly successful partnership and qualified for Olympia in 2002, won the Pedigree Advanced Power & Speed Final the same year, and won the Burgess Agility Stakes in 2003.
Just goes to show that perseverance pays off! Tia has now been joined by Touchango Fizz It Tizz, who has a lot to live up to and is showing the same slow start as Tia! Same manic attitude - maybe it's the handler?
Tamara's constant companion is Erin, her five year-old daughter, who has been going to the shows since she was ten weeks old. Erin is making her debut in competing at Supadogs with Fizz - that's if she can be dragged away from all the entertainment! Tamara is extremely grateful to her friends and family who look after Erin whilst she is competing and judging.
From Sheelagh & Maynard Rea...