Thursday, December 17, 2009

Perfection, hah, I think NOT

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.


Sherilyn said...

Amen!! It's got to be all about the fun! Whether it's conformation, agility, tracking, obedience...whatever, if there comes a time when the dog or you decide it's no longer fun, then it's time to move onto something else! :)

Merry Christmas to you and all the family - 2 legged and 4! :)


penni said...

I'm with you, Dawn. I want my dog to be wagging its tail, and me to be wagging my heart. This is fun for us and the titles mean "Man, we had a lot of fun!"

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I completely agree with you! If training isn't fun then why do it? I like the challenge in training for "perfection" but to me it's a greater challenge to try and see how I can make heeling or straight fronts, etc FUN for my dog! Because if their tail isn't wagging then I'm not doing it right.

Crystal said...

I love this post, and agree completely. I do aspire to the high level titles, although I recognize that I may be limited in that due to my dog's reactivity.

In addition to fun, I believe training (and trialing) is about relationships. Every moment we spend together should be because we enjoy each other's company, and helps us develop a closer, deeper bond. I will not do something in the name of high scores or letters before my dog's name that will violate the love and trust we are developing, and I love to read about others who feel the same way. :)

Eileen said...

Life is too short to spend lots of time being miserable and to make work out of what should be passion. A dog's life is even shorter, so it applies double to them.

And the fact is, dogs and children love to please, and love to do what they were gifted to do. Give them plenty of time and encouragement in doing what they love, and they will have plenty of energy and reason to encourage YOU by doing that extra bit that they don't care about but that obviously makes you happy.

In the meantime, you both enjoy life so much more if there is plenty of play and joy to go around. I haven't seen those two you mention in action, but my bet is that the trainer/owner wasn't enjoying the process any more than the dog was. I'm glad that you are wiser, both for your own and for Magic's sake!!

Sharrie said...

Nothing is greater than to see that little white flag just waving back and forth as he does what I asked him to do. That wag brings great joy to my life. Your philosophy is great in my book!

Muttsandaklutz said...

Hi there,

Came across your blog today and this post really struck a chord with me. I'm by no stretch of the imagination a perfectionist nor do I aspire to become one -- just wanna have fun with happy dogs!

So yeah, ditto to what you and the previous commenters wrote!