This weekend I watched a friend with a nontraditional dog run a class at an agility competition. The handler and dog were struggling throughout the course. They got all the way to the last jump (already NQ’d) and the dog missed the last jump. I saw my friend’s body slump and she threw her hands up in despair.
I get sad when I watch people’s body language give in to frustration. Dogs are so incredibly in tune with us. They can read when we are frustrated and screaming, always assuming we are screaming at them. This type of behavior is exceptionally hard on soft dogs.
Open to advice
I walked up to the handler and asked if I could make a comment. She said yes. We talked about her frustration and her body language. While I understood her frustration, her dog did not. I suggested, “If the frustration gets too great, hand your dog off and walk away until you can control it.”
We talked about how hard it is to “cheerlead” our dogs, but I expressed how important it is for her dog. She was upset and started talking about leaving. I said, “stay for standard, even if you only take 4 or 5 obstacles. Then run out and jackpot your dog with treats. I think you both would benefit.”
Try again, a little more upbeat
She went in standard while I watched. I heard a happy voice and lots of “good dogs”. I saw the handler stay upbeat and encouraging . . . and she Q’d!!!! I met her at the outgate with a big hug!!
She decided to stay for JWW (jumpers with weaves). They started slow but she stayed upbeat. Her dog entered the weaves ever so slowly. I heard “good dog” and noticed an improvement in her dog’s speed.
Then the handler got lost, figured it out, and her dog stayed with her because even though SHE got lost, she stayed positive. Her dog stayed on the correct course and Q’d again!!!! I’m not blowing my horn but I was so happy she let me talk to her and that she took what I said to heart.
Belief in our dog sets the stage
I am a FIRM believer that if dogs can smell cancer, they can also read our minds. If you think your dog can’t do something, they won’t do it. We must believe in our dogs. They don’t ask to play this game, though some do live for it. They also don’t set out to mess up to spite us.
Have fun. Run the course. Enjoy the journey you are on with your best partner. Especially with a soft unsure dog, it can make all the difference when you run happy!
This post was reprinted with permission from a Facebook post.
Ann started trialing in agility in 2008. She has run both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. She is currently running her 3rd agility dog, Aim!, a 4 ½ -year-old Golden who recently earned her MACH2. The two of them train with Christine Frank from Hot Dog Agility at Highest Hope Dog Sports in Grand Blanc Michigan. They also compete in Obedience and Field Retriever Tests.