Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Re: No clubs in my area, need some advice please!
Well we did sort of what you are proposing. We had a solid group of people really committed to training and titling with nowhere to go. It has taken us over a year though and we have gone through several cycles of membership and people insisting they are interested, even paying full dues and never coming back. We have gone through dozens of people and there were times I was getting 4-5 e-mails of interest a week, but now we have three people left from the original group and six or seven others that come regularly. My first official "meeting" with my club was late spring of 2008 (this was before I even had a dog for SchH) and we didn't "acquire" (for lack of a better word) an actual training helper (not just someone who has done a bit of helper work, or a trial helper, but a training helper) until a year later, late spring of 2009. Even after that it took a few more months to really develop a routine for working all the dogs in each phase with less and less instruction. Only in the past month or two are we at the point where we can show up at tracking and just go and do what we need to do without the TD instructing everyone individually, and the members who were brand new a year and a half ago can take a new member now and show them how to start scent pads, how to lay a basic straight track, etc. Now we have a great tracking location and our own dedicated field (trial size field with all six blinds permanently up).
So it can be done but it takes time and eventually if you want to get anywhere you really need a good training helper for protection. We are so, so, so lucky in that regard. Protection just isn't something you can really do on your own, and if you are brand spankin new like I am, it's usually better to stick with one training helper than trying to get your dog worked more often but by different people all the time. I think you will really also need a few people who have gone through the titling process. Again we were lucky in this regard, we have our training helper who has trained several dogs BH to SchH3, plus a few others who have SchH titles. We also have 2-3 Law Enforcement Officers at a time that come and while this is different than SchH they have decades of experience training working dogs and know the breed and the lines very well.
Jennifer Acevedo just wrote an article for the United SchH Clubs of America magazine all about finding a club, which could be helpful for what you need to start a club. Probably a good article to take a look at.
I think you can do it but be prepared for how much time and work it will take and that it may have to be something to start with your next dog. I think it's good that you are being proactive. Just because you don't have the SchH experience doesn't mean you have nothing to contribute. I have none but I do a lot for the club, things I *am* good at like the paperwork, the web site, scheduling, communications and keeping everyone in the loop, trying to keep things focused and cohesive, some photography...and I have trained and titled my older dog in several venues including Dog Sport so I can help people learn the obedience patterns and such.
Also you may change your mind about making the drive! I used to moan about driving to club once every two weeks (how often I went when Nikon was a pup) and over the summer there were weeks I went 2-3 times. If you go once a week for a full day, it's not so bad. I drive two hours each way, and our Lake Effect snow will be in full "effect" pretty soon here... If our club was closer, I'd probably be using the driving time for other things the club needs. It's a huge time commitment regardless.