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Are You a Good IPO Club Member?

I have discussed Schutzhund clubs and training groups, but have not yet discussed one important thing: what it takes to be a good club member. What is it that sets you apart and makes you a good candidate for membership in a Schutzhund club?

What Clubs Look For

Just as you are checking out the Schutzhund club to see if you want to join, so the club is checking you out to see if they would want you as a member. Remember, clubs are about relationships. One person can either enhance or destroy the overall relationship of the club.

So what do clubs look for in prospective members? While this may vary, most clubs look for the following aspects:

  • Respect for both people and dogs

  • Willingness to devote the time to training all three phases

  • An emotionally stable and resilient temperament

  • A willingness to learn and grow

  • A responsible, trustworthy, teachable character

  • An ability to work well with other people and be a true team player

  • An ability to accept correction and constructive criticism

  • A degree of independence and initiative

Notice that so far, there's nothing on this list about the dog! Clubs are about loyalty, family, and relationship. Dogs will come and go, but in a good club, handlers stay. So clubs want dedicated handlers who are good people, and who will be committed to the club and to the training. They want a great team player who fits in with their particular family, regardless of the genetic capabilities and talents of the dog they have.

Don Yelle helps brace 82-year-old Jules Siegel as he and Holly track their way to an IPO3. Photo: Ivana Karlsen.

Don Yelle helps 82-year-old Jules Siegel stay on his feet as he and "Holly" track their way to an IPO3. Photo: Ivana Karlsen.

Are You A Good Club Member?

How do you know if you are a good club member? Take a moment to reflect on the following questions:

  • Do you help out even if there's nothing in it for you, or even if you don't have a dog to train?

  • Do you get along well with others, and accept them for who they are?

  • Are you motivated and dedicated, even when the going gets tough?

  • Are you open to constructive criticism?

  • Are you a team player who wants the entire team to succeed, and not just yourself?

  • Are you resilient? When someone corrects you or when something doesn't go as planned (or is a catastrophic disaster), can you bounce back and move forward?

  • When you have a conflict with a club member, the trainer, or the helper, can you handle it maturely and seek reconciliation, or will you pout, sulk, complain and gossip about that person to everyone else?

What Makes Someone a "Bad Fit" for a Club?

Clubs are reluctant to add people who are difficult to get along with. In any family, there will be some family drama and arguments, but in good clubs, they strive to keep this to a minimum by keeping the drama-causers out! Thus, they avoid potential members who routinely gossip about others, who have abrasive and controlling personalities, who complain about everything, or who secretly undermine others. Other traits that may cause membership refusal include:

  • Having a sense of entitlement and demanding special treatment

  • Having an irresponsible, untrustworthy character

  • Having an arrogant, unteachable attitude and ego

  • Being demanding, inconsiderate, and rude

  • Refusing to listen to and abide by club rules, or having an attitude of "These rules don't apply to me" (entitlement again)

  • Being selfish and always about "What's in it for me?"

  • Not playing well with others (gossiping, stirring up conflict, creating dissension, instigating arguments)

  • Not being a team player

Team Player?

"Team player" has come up frequently. What does this look like at Schutzhund training? A team player in Schutzhund is someone who works together with their helper and training director on the field as they would with a coach and teammate. They also help out other club members with their dogs in whatever way they can. They don't just train their dog and then leave; instead, they volunteer to spot club members during obedience, handle the long line during training, serve as a mock judge or group member in obedience, lay tracks for others, etc. They are invested in the entire team of dog, helper, training director, and fellow club members. Someone who just shows up to train and then leaves, or orders their helper around, or repeatedly refuses to listen to the instruction of their training director/helper would not be a team player!

Training protection at North Boston IPO Club is a team effort. Helper Mike Harrington and Tom Kench work together with Rhonda Greenwood to train her dog Bullet. Photo: Michelle Testa

Protection training at North Boston IPO Club is a team effort. Helper Mike Harrington and Tom Kench work together with Rhonda Greenwood to train her dog "Bullet". Photo: Michelle Testa.

Closing Thoughts

IPO is something we do because we enjoy it, because we enjoy the relationships we develop with our dogs and with our Schutzhund family. Club members do not want to deal with difficult people who make training unenjoyable, unbearable, or a chore. Clubs want people who are encouraging, engaging, and supportive, and it starts with each one of us as individuals. Each of us must strive to be a good club member, to be the kind of person we would like to have supporting us out there on the field.

We do IPO because we enjoy the relationships we build with our dogs and with each other. Garrett Pape celebrates with Kelly Schmidbauer's "Dillan" after an amazing protection routine. Garrett is her Helper. Photo: Ivana Karlsen/Rebel Yelle.


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