A Breif History And Update On Service Dogs Of America
SDA AND THE UNITED KENNEL CLUB’S DOG SPORT PROGRAM
By: Jack Rayl, President and co-founder of SDA
The idea of a new working dog programThe following is an update on the current status of the Service Dogs Of America and the United Kennel Club Dog Sport Program and to provide you’re a brief history of how this program was developed. started in 2001 when I and the two other SDA founders decided to that we would investigate whether there was any interest in creating a new working dog organization that would offer training titles more directly addressing the needs, interest and lifestyles of most American dog owners interested in obedience and protection training and which could meet the needs of professionals concerning various types of service dog training. This founding group developed a working dog program that we thought was practical and needed in our Country. We realized that one of the major tasks would be to obtain a reliable way to handle the paper work and record keeping requirements for the new organization.
We decided to look into the possibility of affiliating with an established registry. We decided to approach the UKC registry given that it represents itself as a “departure from registries that place emphasis on a dog’s looks, UKC events are designed for dogs that look and perform equally well” and “essentially, the UKC world of dogs is a working world.” Moreover, since the UKC is a major player in promoting hunting dog trials we thought there was enough of an analogy between that working dog sport and protection dog sport that the UKC would be interested in becoming involved.
In spring of 2001, we contacted the UKC and they told us that they had been considering starting a working dog program for protection dogs. That phone call lead to a meeting and we provided our ideas and a plan for creating a new working dog program. The meeting ended with UKC liking the proposal we made and was ready to get started.
Meanwhile, two founders of SDA, Jack Rayl and Bill Seltzer, began the arduous task of turning our ideas for training titles into reality by first field testing umpteen routines, eventually setting the final results to the written word. We worked with everything from our green schutzhund prospects to our schutzhund-3 dogs. I must say we learned a lot as to what makes a safe, controlled true protection dog and how to asses a dog that has the character to carry the fight to the opponent without being motivated by the fear based fight or flight reflex.
Once the UKC agreed to participate in the new program, we began writing the titles in a UKC format which, we soon learned, was a difficult task. The rules not only had to be drafted as standalone rules, they had to mesh with the full body of all UKC rules that pertained to any activity touching upon the trial practices and procedures. Frankly, we mistakenly thought we would get some assistance from UKC staff, if even only in the form of templates for formatting purposes. We had other tasks including development of SDA application forms for individuals and affiliated clubs, score sheets, training and selecting the first group of qualified judges and establishing the type of equipment to be utilized. Substantial effort went into establishing the type of decoy skills needed for the new sport. Hundreds of hours of video were taken and reviewed to produce SDA’s first video, which we believe to be a good first effort. We are in the process of producing a second and improved video. In short, a tremendous amount work had to be completed prior to thinking about having an official trial. In the time between getting all this done, SDA founders went to the 2002 & 2003 UKC Premiers and provided live demonstrations of the prospective titles to help seal the deal and demonstrate exactly to UKC what type of working dog program SDA had developed.
After about two years of meetings, demonstrations and negotiations, we finally signed a 10 year contract with the United Kennel Club in May of 2004. We felt we were on our way. We developed and went on line with a web page.
The first official big trial was held in October, 2004 in Tennessee and it was a huge success with approximately 80 plus entries over three days. Then other groups started forming clubs and several trials were held with much success and enthusiasm. The UKC Sport Dog Program was born with lots of hope for providing America its first working dog organization totally designed around the training needs of American dog owners and which had the recognition of U.S. national registry. The rest of the history of this program has been nothing but positive; considering the amount of time this program has taken from concept to implementation of a new working dog organization.
In the last two years, SDA Dog Sport Trials have been held California, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Jersey, both Chattanooga & Athens, Tennessee, and St. Johns, Michigan. Some of the trials offered training seminars by such outstanding protection dog trainers as Gary Hanrahan. Moreover, for the last five years SDA has conducted Dog Sport trials, demonstrations and unique non-title competitions at the UKC Premier dog show in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It should be noted that pre-entries for the SDA events at the Premier were closed each year due to reaching the numerical limit prior to the closing date. At the request of UKC, the founders of Service Dogs of America and some of its members trekked to a suburb of Detroit in January to help put on a winter event that the UKC was considering building into some kind of “Winter Premier.”
Additionally, SDA affiliated clubs were formed and approved by SDA in the following states: Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Currently, new trails are being scheduled in South New Jersey and Ocala, Florida in October of 2009. Furthermore, many new capable people have come on board that want to take a leadership role to help make this program become very successful.
Since the execution of the contract between SDA and UKC, SDA went to work testing and then drafting tracking rules, article search rules and preliminary search & rescue rule teams wishing to simply train and compete for the SAR titles or teams that wish to start developing a dog for further training leading to some future level of certification to become a SAR team. These rules were then presented to UKC for their comment and approval. The UKC was not interested, so the new rules remained as SDA rules only. Some dogs have already competed and earned both tracking and SAR titles awarded by SDA. We believe everything about SDA’s programs are showing excellent signs of taking off and really growing. In the last eight months we have: (1) received more applications for affiliated clubs, (2) had more people join SDA and (3) registered more dogs with the UKC than any other eight month period since our beginning. However, SDA received some very bad news from UKC.
The bad news I am referring to is a June 16, 2009 letter we received from UKC after this year’s Premier stating that at the end of 2009 UKC will not licensing anymore Dog Sport Trials. The reason given is as follows:
“We simply can’t continue to support a program that doesn’t show us some light at the end of the tunnel, especially in event growth….On August 1, 2009 we will stop issuing licenses for SDA events. On December 31, 2009, we will officially end UKC’s affiliation with the SDA program.”
This news came to us as a huge shock and with much disappointment due to the enormous amount of work the founders and its main participants have given to this program. I was told that this decision is final and that they are not willing to give this program any more time. It’s hard for me to believe that UKC doesn’t see this program as huge success when you consider all of the things that have been done from the concept to where we are now. I listed just some of the main things above that we have accomplished and completed so that people can see the considerable accomplishments of this program. I’m also writing to let everyone know that SDA has a backup plan if UKC doesn't’t have change of heart. We signed a ten year contract with UKC and we are now into our 5th year. We estimated it would take at least 6 to 7 years get this program truly established, however this year, we have had tremendous interest and many new influential people wanting to come on board.
We wish UKC would reconsider and abide by our contract; however we don’t want to affiliate with UKC if they don’t want this program or if they don’t believe in it. It has to be something they truly want otherwise SDA is okay with continuing by itself. We have a great plan for going forward and we are now in the process of developing this plan as UKC and SDA separate at the end of 2009.
Last, we want everyone to know that we do not hold any ill will toward UKC. To the contrary, with the UKC’s name backing the new SDA program, we have had a substantial boost in getting our organization and program underway. SDA has been able to create a great foundation for the organization during the last few years. We learned much while becoming known to a many people around the world. We at SDA are very disappointed in UKC decision and feel it is very mistake on their part because this program could be huge and a tremendous asset for them. We at SDA thank UKC for the opportunity they gave us to take our concept of new working dog organization and turn into a program that is absolutely super and that can succeed on its on merits.
I personally want to thank all the people at UKC that helped us with this program. And, most importantly, SDA wishes to express its deep appreciation to all those members and prospective SDA members that have an interest in and support this program. Just think, in a short period SDA’s concept for a new, American made, working dog program turned into reality. We have conducted trials with hundreds of participants, have a working dog program with its own identity and has unlimited ability to continue growing because of the merits and demands for its training titles. All this accomplished in seven years. I call that success!
We have tried to provide everyone a brief history of how this program started, our accomplishment and where we are currently. We tried to make each title be the best for its intended purpose. That is, titles created for true working dogs concerning obedience, protection and other practical and necessary uses of our canine partners. SDA plans to continue to improve this program all the time, if we can. We have many new ideas that we want to implement that will resolve most of the concerns and complaints we have become aware of over the course of our efforts. Thus far, the SDA members we have talked with want to go forward with SDA continuing on its own. We hope everyone stays with us and wants to see this program be a continuing success.
Finally, we feel the hard part is over and the sun is just coming up with new opportunities. In addition, we know the things that need to be addressed and we are putting people in place to make them happen. We have several new and old members that are ready to take leadership roles to see this program succeed. I personally will be playing a different role; I will be involved in making sure things are being addressed in a timely manner and that our short comings are going to be fixed. In closing, I thank everyone for their involvement and support and look forward to this program emerging even stronger; our new plan is super and we think people will be extremely excited when they see what we have to offer. Please call me direct if you have any questions; I will also be providing information on our web site and direct emails; also we will provide a list of contacts that you can call to give you an idea of our plan for continuing.