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Schutzhund Club in Action: O.G. Indianapolis

O.G. Indianapolis Schutzhund and Polizei Club is well-known for its quality of training and success in Schutzhund. Established in 1980 by Mike Hamilton as the Western Indiana Schutzhund Club, this full-member USCA club has fielded world team members well over a dozen times, including two current members for the 2017 WUSV World Team: Mike Diehl and Sean O’Kane. O.G. Indianapolis, or ‘O.G. Indy’, also has members competing at national championships regularly; three O.G. Indy members placed in the top five teams at the 2017 WDC (Mike Diehl, Sean O’Kane, and Mike Sweeney). I caught up with Diehl, O’Kane, and Sweeney after the WDC and WUSV Quali trial, and they were happy to share about what makes O.G. Indy so special. Let's take a closer look at this powerhouse of a club!

Overview of the Club

If you’re like me, you are probably wondering what O.G. stands for. “Original Gangsta Indianapolis?” O.G. is actually a German abbreviation for ‘OrtsGruppe’, used to denote a local group or local Schutzhund club. The name change from Western Indiana Schutzhund Club to O.G. Indianapolis occurred around 2005.

O.G. Indy is a large club, with approximately 25-30 members, and about 10 helpers capable of performing a variety of work and styles, according to Training Director Mike Diehl. Members title at all different levels throughout the year; the club hosts three to four events annually (including conformation shows, helper seminars, and trials), with an estimated 30-40 titles earned each year. Members also regularly compete at Regional and National Championships, with some continuing on to the International level. Clearly a successful club – so what makes O.G. Indy tick?

Top Notch Experience

One of the stand-out characteristics of O.G. Indy is the depth of experience found in this club. Just a brief rundown of the experience of Training Directors Mike Diehl and Sean O’Kane (pictured left):

Diehl has titled numerous dogs to the IPO3 level, and has won multiple Regional and National Championships, as well as two WPO (police dog trials) Championships. Diehl has also competed on the international level over a dozen times with four different dogs.

O’Kane, O.G. Indy member since 2002, has also titled numerous dogs to the IPO3 level, and has won multiple National Championships. O’Kane has also competed at the international level eight times with four dogs, placing within the top 15 dogs at the WUSV on three separate occasions.

A glance at the club roster shows numerous experienced handlers who have competed at Regional, National, and International Championships, as well as new handlers working toward their first titles. The club also includes several working dog breeders, showing that this club isn’t just about training the dogs, but about producing good working dogs as well.

Michael Sweeney (handler pictured at right), O.G. Indy member since 2014 and rookie WDC competitor this year, provided an overview of the success he has had at O.G. Indy as a relatively new Schutzhunder. "I’ve become a Regional Level Helper, titled BH through IPO3, competed at two Nationals Events, placing 11th at the AWDF and 3rd at the WDC, earning a spot at the WUSV Qualifier," said Sweeney. "Mike [Diehl] has spotted my obedience from the start, did most of the bite work foundation, and coaches our sessions today; we also track every weekend together. He took a novice handler and a green dog in 2.5 years to a WUSV Qualifier Trial."

Club Dynamics

Club dynamics vary from club to club, but are incredibly important for maintaining the health of the training club. So what’s it like at O.G. Indy?

"The club dynamics are simple: show up to training and work," said Diehl. "No one member is more important that the other. We all have goals; some might be only for a BH, others for an IPO3 or Nationals, but we all help each other to achieve individual goals. We are a team." And everyone pitches in, whether it is helping with training, spotting club members in obedience, helping with the website and Facebook pages, or bringing a dish to share on 'Pitch In' Sunday.

What about guests and new members? "We open our club up to any visitors or prospective club members that inquire. I believe this is the only way to grow the club and to grow the sport," answered Diehl. "I've heard of clubs that limit membership and turn away potential club members because they haven't trained IPO or haven't done a BH, and I get it – new people can be labor intensive. But everyone in the sport was that new person at one time. What if everyone that's in the sport today or everyone on the WUSV team had been turned away? We'd be nothing. Clubs need to open their doors and bring new people on board. This will keep IPO alive and growing."

"There is room for everyone in the club," O’Kane agreed. "While we are all competing individually with our dogs, Mike [Diehl] is just as happy to see his club members win events. It shows his training works, and for more than just himself." He also added, "It's also great now that I'm a dad to see how family-friendly our club is as well. We bring Connor to club and everyone helps us with him so we can work our dogs and/or help spot someone else dog."

Uncle Mike spoiling Connor with some ice cream.

The Training

Every club is a little different in how they approach training. Given the enormous success of O.G. Indy in helping members achieve their Schutzhund goals, it’s clear that things are being done well and done right. Diehl explained their process:

"Training gets started with a list for obedience. People work separately or are paired up. We list them so that training flows and we limit down time. Everyone knows when they are up, and have their dog and spotters ready."

"We are real big on spotters," commented Diehl, elaborating on this specific role. "Everyone has at least one spotter when doing obedience, even a puppy just getting foundation work. Some of us even have three or four spotters on the field: one or two for the dog and one or two for the handler."

Good communication is essential, however. "We make a plan before we get on the field and limit talking or down time during the session. Then we brainstorm the session after and talk about changes we will make for the next session," said Diehl. "Protection is very much the same. We make a plan before we hit the field; that goes for young dogs through advanced dogs."

"We train to our weaknesses, not just strengths," Diehl added. "If we have a tracking problem or retrieve problem or whatever it might be, we fix it and work it to become a strength. Too many trainers like to train what they do well, but that's not always how you get better. You need to do everything well."

This type of training requires the involvement of more than just the Training Directors. "One very important club member that helps us train to our weaknesses is Christina O'Kane," said Diehl. "Christina is very generous with her time (spotting people at club for hours sometimes) and has an unbelievable eye for perfecting obedience. There is not anyone in our club that hasn't benefited from Christina's help."

Teamwork, focus, communication, and training to and through weaknesses: O.G. Indy's successes speak loudly for this way of training.

Helper Work

Many clubs struggle just to have access to one helper, so the number of helpers at O.G. Indy really stands out. I asked Mike Diehl how they are able to field so many helpers in one club.

“We have a good number of men in the club. Most had the interest in doing helper work, so we developed them,” said Diehl. “Others have come with some helper experience already, so we move them further along. I believe that talent attracts talent. We have a lot of very talented helpers in our club.”

“The helper work is top notch,” commented Sweeney. “Helper work is not all about being a National Level helper. It’s about bringing a dog along to its maximum potential in the bite work. We have three primary helpers: Mike Diehl, Eric Hultgren, and me. But we have about four or five other helpers that make it when they can or are just learning. Mike is big on saying ‘you can never have too many helpers’.”

What makes O.G. Indy so special?

“The members,” answered Diehl, without any hesitation. “We have some of the hardest working and smartest trainers there are. Everyone is willing to wear an arm or help with spotting, or picking up and setting up equipment. We train our dogs for 300 points. Do we get those points? Not yet, but we still push for that.”

“Lots of hard work,” said O’Kane, when asked about what makes O.G. Indy so special. “Mike Diehl is relentless in his work ethic and it rubs off on the rest of us. He is there every weekend training and many times during the week as well. So not only do we get a lot of training in, we get quality work as well.”

Michael Sweeney agreed, and then added, “I like our ability to have sub-groups. Mike Diehl can’t spot 30 dogs every weekend. So we break into groups and many of our other members step up and help with foundation training for new members and young dogs.”

“One of the biggest reasons I moved to Indiana was this club - for the support, dedication, and camaraderie of the members,” said O.G. Indy member Lisa Clark. “In my 25 years of doing SchH/IPO, this is the most balanced club I have belonged to as far as being very competitive and successful, yet being totally supportive of those who just want to enjoying working and titling their dogs.” O.G. Indy is a very special club indeed!

What's next for O.G. Indy? O.G. Indianapolis will be the host for the 2017 USCA GSD IPO3 National Championship in November, and will have a number of members competing in the championship. Additionally, both Training Directors are representing the United States in international championships this fall: Mike Diehl in both the FCI and WUSV championships, and Sean O'Kane in the WUSV Championship. Best of luck!

Many thanks to Mike Diehl, Michael Sweeney, and Sean O'Kane for taking the time to complete this interview, and to Lisa Clark and the O.G. Indy members for providing the photos!

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