Over on Susan Garrett's blog she has a thought provoking post on seeking perfection. I can honestly say, and you can easily tell when watching my dogs, perfection has not been our goal. Versatility, cooperation, teamwork and fun have been my goals. I do not fault those who have goals for those high level titles at all. Someday I may have those goals. But early on I had several experiences that made me realize that, for me, its about me having fun AND my dog having fun. Mostly its about my dog having fun.
Early on in my training with Magic I was at a class early so I was watching the prior class. There was a lady there with her dog doing some scentwork. She dropped the article in the pile, went back and sent her dog. The dog trotted out to the pile, picked the right article, and started back. On the way back, she dropped the article and sneezed several quick sneezes. (not sure whether her sneeze caused her to drop it, or she dropped it to sneeze) Before the poor little dog had stopped sneezing, the trainer was pinching that poor dogs ear and forcing her to pick up the dumbbell. The next send to the pile she went out picked the dumbell and slowly came back, but not straight, not perfect-she got another ear pinch. The rest of the time she worked that cute little dog, her head and tail were down and she worked. She worked well, but she clearly was not enjoying herself. This team often earns high in trial, but at what expense?
I want my dogs to enjoy the ride as much as I do. I really don't want to force them to do the things they hate. Yes, originally I wanted to work toward Magic's CDX, but he hates heeling, and although I will work this year towards trying to help him enjoy it, I won't force the issue. He seems to love the weight pulling. He charges to the front of the cart to get hooked up. I think if he could talk he would tell me that agility is great! I am pretty sure that if I could throw a toy for 6 hours a day he would race after it for 6 hours a day. Are we awesome in any of those, nope, but we are having fun. Even when we leave the agility course and I am calling him a goober and asking him to tell me when did "tunnel" start to mean take the frame, its being said in the a goofy loving voice and his tail is wagging and we are both happy. I am not a great trainer, I am not consistent enough, nor steady enough to be one, and I KNOW our mistakes are my fault. Yes I am proud of the titles we have earned, but I am also proud of my dog even when he does lay down during the heeling pattern and wait for me to get back.
Please if you ever see me lose it at a trial or in training where I take it out on the dog, STOP me, set me down and remind me, that is not the person I am nor the person I want to be. Please.