Thursday, September 22, 2011


Because I have nothing worthwhile to write about, I'm going to get on a soap box today.

All photos belong to Alan Pet Portrait Art -- He got some nice shots of Secret from our trial! I love the reach she is showing over many of the jumps.

I continue to be surprised by the number of negative handlers I see at agility trials. Granted, I will say that they are outnumbered by positive & good-natured handlers, but the very nature of their negativity seems to make them stand out above the rest.

Maybe I notice it more because I used to be one of those handlers. I was very hard on Luke at times in the beginning. Looking back it is obvious to see that my frustrations stemmed from my own shortcomings as a trainer. I would get SO MAD at him for missing his contacts. Run after run would NQ because of his dog walk contact. Or he would tunnel suck instead of going up the contact. I maintained that he took off course obstacles because he was just being naughty.

Or.... It could be that I had not trained him properly to successfully negotiate those tasks.

I think it's easier for people with "hard" dogs to fall into this habit. You could hit one of these dogs over the head with a hammer and they will just bark at you and wait for you to give them another cue. Bless these dogs for trying so hard. But I still feel bad for them when I see them trying so hard and getting yelled at, especially when the mistake was obviously due to a miscue from the handler.

I was forced to check my attitude at the door with Kaiser. Both he & Secret are what I would label as "soft" dogs and do not respond well to correction. This has made me more thoughtful with my training style, teaching me to be more creative in my set-up to allow them to succeed & learn at the same time.

Time has also been a good teacher. I have learned my strengths & weaknesses as a trainer and know that 99.9% of the time it is not the dog's fault. When something goes wrong at a trial, I first look to myself and wonder what I could have done differently. THANK GOODNESS for video. :o) I often wonder if some of the more negative handlers would open their eyes a bit if they had the benefit of watching each of their runs.

I think a lot changed for me when I almost lost Luke in 2009, too. While I have experienced the very sad loss of many of my friend's agility dogs, I have been very fortunate to have not yet gone through that myself. When Luke crashed in October of 2009 and was subsequently diagnosed with Addison's Disease, it was one of the worst weeks of my life (not far behind losing my horse the year before). I hate that death or near-death experiences are what it takes to really cherish our loved ones, but it is what it is.

When you compare it to not having them in our lives anymore, that NQ run really is pretty insignificant.

We more or less skipped our Wednesday training session last night. It was windy & crappy outside, so I didn't feel like setting up a course. I did set up the contacts for Kaiser, though, so that ended up being Secret's activity of the evening as well.

Kaiser was consistently faster than he's ever been at the last trial, and I got to wondering if it's because I have been doing nothing but running contact work with him for the last month. Every time he sees equipment, he's running as fast as he can -- and it appears to have translated to more than just the dog walk.

It got me thinking and I'm wondering if I spent the next month more or less focusing on long sweeping lines with Secret (ala the fun old arc of jumps or hoops), if that would lead to overall increase of speed on the course. It's something to ponder.


  1. It always surprises me too, especially when the dog keeps coming back for more!

    We've been working on arcs and straight lines to build confidence, speed, and distance. It really seems to be working too!

  2. I could not agree more. These dogs are first and foremost my pets. They are what I would still choose even if agility did not exist. Im not sure that's the case with a lot of people who are always looking to buy a newer faster dog. Anytime I'm aggravated or disappointed in how my dog ran I just remember I love her and I dont care if she's not the best agility dog or what others might think of her. The thought of losing any of them is terrible and I hate to think about the day I have to go through that again.