People come and people go from a dog sport like Schutzhund. Could be that they are between dogs. Perhaps they've entered a new life stage and found their time schedules don't accommodate training and/or trialing. They may just need a break. It doesn't mean they won't be back.
Friends have fights. Become enemies. Make up. People move from one club to another... then move back. Or not. It's a small, small, fluid world.
Take care when you talk about another person. Word spreads, grows and develops a life that could very well come back to haunt you. Someone not involved in the conversation may overhear a part without the full story and off it goes without your knowledge.
Even an innocent comment can be taken the wrong way. What you say and what the listening ear hears might not be the same thing, interpretation is funny like that. Sometimes it is an honest mistake, but the human race has a way of skewing things to fit their preconceived ideas. Just look at "science", if you want backup for any view it's often possible to find it in a study. It's hard for us to stay neutral and non judgemental.
In your own circle you get to know the dog/human teams pretty well and can help each other out, but if visiting a new club or watching someone at a trial you should be slow in developing an opinion... When you watch a person and their dog don't be in a rush to judge. If you find you must judge, keep it to yourself unless asked by the person themselves. Even then you must tread lightly. We all know how easy it is to hurt someone.
The thing is, you aren't privy to the details of other people's lives – details that would help the accuracy of your opinion. Things like:
How often are they able to train?
This makes a huge difference in progress, especially in the three pronged sport of Schutzhund. For some, tracking is a thorn in their side. Maybe they don't have time or space to train, some just hate it. Others struggle in obedience. In protection you do eventually need a field with 6 blinds, and their access to a decoy helps, no doubt about that one. Because of work schedules they may only train a few times a month, rather than a few times a week.
What is the history of their dog?
Could be that they bought a pet dog, discovered the sport and are working with what they've got. I've met a few rescue dogs working and have been impressed with how they are coming along, yet even the best bred and selected dogs might not have what it takes.
Who do they have to help them?
Or support can be priceless.
What training method do they use?
Not everyone trains the same way. This is a huge topic in and of itself as we all know!
Did you catch them on a bad day?
Maybe their dog is sore. Their female is coming into season. Sometimes the owner doesn't even know! We all have bad days – I'm talking about both ends of the leash.
How long have they been in the sport?
Every dog, every session, every training obstacle you find yourself behind helps you grow. Experience matters. Being new is not something to criticize.
What are their goals?
Some train with the podium in mind. Others just to pass quality time with their dogs. Both extremes are ok. If you are insecure enough to feel the need to compare yourself to someone not doing as well, that's your problem. And it's a sad one.
With how Schutzhund is structured we all have a lot of time to stand around and develop our fieldside chattering skills. I am nowhere near perfect and I'm going to try even harder to monitor what I say and what kind of conversations I end up in. Aim to be supportive. Offer opinions only when asked. To stay positive. You know, keep it fun the way it should be!