I hate volunteering at trials, don’t get me wrong, I like to be helpful to the host club and I don’t mind keeping busy but if I have to sit through another class full of trotting, sniffing, stressed, confused dogs who clearly don’t want to be there in the first place I may just give PETA a call.   A little harsh, I know, but I can’t help but wonder why these dogs are not liking the game as much as their handlers who clearly enjoy the sport enough to pay the entry fee, or worse, get up at the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning.  When you think about it, it really does not make a whole lot of sense, dogs are meant to enjoy running fast, chasing prey, going over and through obstacles, natural or not.  Sure, certain breeds these genetic traits have been diluted more than others, but I don’t know of many dogs who don’t love ripping through the dog park or chasing rabbits through the forest, just ask half the agility dogs I watched this weekend…I’m sure that’s where they would rather be.  So my theory is that all dogs naturally love everything that is entailed in this game we play, but leave it up to the trainer, handler, owner to make too many of them flinch at the uttering of that god awful precursor to the beginning of their next work shift “break!”.

Now I know there are a few dogs out there that have a good excuse, maybe had a bad experience, maybe are physically in pain, maybe have “rescue issues” or maybe they are so overweight and out of shape that the task placed ahead of them just seems far too exhausting…I’m not talking about these dogs.   Before I blame the owner, trainer, handler, I blame the organization.  Who cares if the dog wants to be there or not if you achieve such almighty greatness as an ATCH or even more your gold or lifetime title.   Ever think about how much those titles are costing you?  I would think on average a lifetime title would cost nearly $7000.00 in entry fees, now that could buy your dog a pretty good time in treats, toys, even taking time off work to run at the park…and we wont even mention the money spent on classes, training time and seminars 🙂  So what’s the deal people?  Why does success need to be measured in this way?  I honestly believe our agility organizations are ruining would could have been great agility dogs and cause people to create dogs who are too careful to make error, afraid to run fast and have fun like they do at the park in fear of being punished or even just the sense of disappointing their team mate.  That’s all I’m gonna say about that.

So next comes the blame of the handler, trainer, owner.  I very strongly believe punishment is the root of all evil in all aspects of life…yes it works, I know, that’s why it’s so freakin evil.  Whether its yelling at the dog for a knocked bar, leaving the ring for missing a contact, putting your hands on your hips and heaving a sigh of disappointment when the dog goes to the wrong tunnel mouth when clearly your lack of communication or training was to blame.  “wong!”, “no!”, “I don’t think so!”, “knock it off!”, “I said target!”, “not again…” I can go on and on but really it just makes me want to run out there and give those handlers a taste of their own medicine, or should I say poison?  Suck it up people, take responsibility for your lack of communication in the relationship you share with this four legged animal, they don’t know any better, they are dogs.  Not sure what dogs ever did to deserve the treatment they endure, if I were a dog there would be no way in hell I would stay within that ring and put up with such nonsense, but alas they are dogs and they are under our control whether they like it or not.  Ok, I know I’m not making many friends here, that’s why I have dogs , they understand 🙂

So we have covered the system, we have blamed the punitive trainers, next on the list is definitely the “good dog trainers” aka the fun suckers.  Its all about timing, criteria, reinforcement, doing it the “right” way, control, control, control and worst of all…perfection :s  I’m not sure why it is that people with sniffy, distracted, reactive, hyper, out of control dogs need to learn to sit ringside and offer long drawn out minutes of eye contact and “handler focus”.  Click, treat, click, treat, click, treat….man its no wonder those dogs are looking for something more exciting to look at, I think I might rather eat horse shit or sniff butts.  It’s all about building a “working relationship” right?  Teach the dog to pay attention and show control, be responsible, never leave work, offer the rewards you give them, do what you say…sounds a lot like a day job to me.  Would you rather spend your free weekends with your boss or with your best friend?…I know you all answered the latter.  Agility should not be “work”, it should be exciting, it should be fun, it should be exhilarating.  So does your dog wanna be there or do they have to be there?  Rather than obsessing on focus and control why not give the dog a good reason to give you their undivided attention and actually enjoy playing, not working with you.  So lure, shape, capture, feed, tug, or praise, who really cares, from experience, motivation has  a lot less to do with “training behavior” and a lot more to do with “playing with your dog”.  Give those crazy, sniffy, reactive, fearful dogs something to do!  Play, tug, do tricks, chase, be chased, rather than fighting the distraction of the fast moving dogs or interesting smells, become the distraction that your dog cannot take their eyes off of.  Respect your dog, treat them fairly, learn to have fun and sincerely enjoy the time you spend together, this will be the start of a true relationship.  So find the joy in playing with your dog, making an idiot of yourself, being goofy, don’t worry so much about “doing it right” and let go of the reins a little bit.  Everyone will eventually know the feeling of losing your team mate, your friend, your partner, and what would you rather remember, the ribbons on the wall or the endless amounts of joy and good times you shared together?  And I am by no means saying you can’t have both, just talking priorities people!  So go play with your dogs and if you can’t learn to truly enjoy them then maybe you should just leave the job to the other dogs at the park.

 

Yes, I am actually going to attempt riting on this thing again, with spring finally here I am finding my motivation 🙂

So this weekend was Summit’s first real trial!!  I can’t say it was my best weekend, but Summit put up with me anyway.  With strep throat, fever and not much of a voice we drove down to Olds for the weekend, adamant about attending my baby dogs first trial.  The weekend was filled with interesting experiences including sluming it at some ghetto motel with only a space heater, a crazy april snow storm on saturday, losing my purse which contained my camera and all my credit cards, not to mention my poor attempt as a competitor, popping antibiotics, advil, cold meds and halls between runs…haha, you know you love agility when…

I was very pleased with Summit, he had perfect startlines with no foot movement, great weave poles, followed my handling cues well, impressed me with his obstacle performance and made me laugh just about every run.  He is still the perfect puppy I brought home a year and a half ago and he can do no wrong.  He isjust such a joy to work with and I am super stoked about getting to play with the big dogs! So we have a busy summer of training ahead of us, gotta work on keepin his feet up, a bit more on contacts (running and stop!) and getting him a faster handler 🙂