Monday, July 25, 2011

A Right, A Wrong and A Could Be

Ooooh, two blogposts in one day, that hasn't happened in a while...

Anyhow, I have a few varying and wide-ranging and colourful and odd and vast thoughts to share tonight, that in my opinion all comes down to one broad statement... see if you can guess which one...

First of all, I cannot stand the people in agility that have NO sense.  The formula is easy:

Training + Follow Through + Consistency = Result (Result is variable good or bad)

So when you are having a problem (thus bad results) you ask yourself:  Have I done the training?  Have I followed through, done all the steps and been thorough?  Am I consistent?  If one or more of those answers are wrong, you know what you have to do.  And if all those answers are YES (and it is one of those moments where you like REALLY have to be honest with yourself... Do a proper confessional!)  Then I have bad news for you, but you have to FIX something with YOUR training... no use in blaming the dog or the moon or the judge or the bunny.  Sit down, analyse it, ASK FOR HELP, google it, think about it some more and make a decision.  

I have a specific handler in mind here, one of those that says 'but at home/in training he ALWAYS does it'... which I wouldn't know, since I don't live in her house and I don't train with her... but I can tell her exactly what the multiple parts of her problem is... 1.  Her dogs have NO boundaries, off the course they are allowed to do WHATEVER they want.  2.  She is inconsistent as all hell (is hell inconsistent?  No clue, never been there)  3.  She rushed ALL her training, there was no follow through... cool you have succeeded in step 1 ONCE, so now lets skip to step 13...  The worst part... it is her THIRD agility dog and every single one of them have the same problems... but don't you worry it is ALWAYS the dog's fault.  Drives me friggin bananas!

The second lot that irritate me AND makes me sad... is the lot that made such huge mistakes in agility training that the dog crawls around the course, with the tail between the legs.  Poor things REALLY doesn't want to be there.  Now recently an unnamed person posted JUST such videos of their dog... me and a friend happened to be chatting and she mentioned how horrified she was by all this.  As it turns out, this specific person had asked both our advice early on with this puppy and we BOTH  mentioned that she was hammering the dog WAY too hard as a puppy.  The dog was creeping over contacts and stopping in a 2o2o by EIGHT months old.  Needles to say, said person did NOT listen to us.  What makes it worse is that she thinks a course of 15 obstacles taking her 5 hours and three minutes now, tail tucked between the legs is GOOD.  May I just say that this person has been involved in dog training for more than 20 years and has had super high drive dogs, so she is under no illusions.  Now I may be sounding harsh on this one, but I just have this view on things...  I can also not afford to get ALL the agility dvd's and books... seeing around here we have to import everything... books, dvd's, dogs, trainers, the works.  BUT the internet is a wonderful thing.  There is SO much information available for free.  Especially since quite a few people I know of has given her this information.

My pet peeve in the world, are those that think there is only ONE way... now they can also be categorised in separate categories.  First of all there are the worshippers and the quoters.  This lot, fixates on one handler/trainer/person and every single thing this person says HAS to be written in the agility bible... oh but if 'insert name here' it HAS to be right and it IS the only way... erm by that logic there should only be ONE person that wins every single event, every single time.  No-one is perfect people, use your OWN logic for once.  SO many people have helped me along my agility path, international guys that have never met me and probably never will, local people that also don't know, trainers the realise their influence... Take what you can use from every person you meet, but leave the blinders to gather dust in your closet.

The other category in this lot, are the ones that happened to have a successful career with one (sometimes two) dogs using a specific recipe and now they think they have found IT(it being THE agility secret)... these handlers then attempt the same recipe on all of the dogs to follow and when it fails or does not succeed to the same extent... they try and force it on the dog and when this does not work, they BLAME it on the dog.  In fact one situation comes to mind, a very sad day indeed... Said handler, tried for years to apply training methods to dogs following a first dog's  international success, but failed.  Said handler had living restrictions regarding dogs and ended up re-homing two dogs and having another PTS claiming 'unfixable' behavioural problems.  Said handler has not since returned to agility or dog training in general...

The next problem is those that refuse to grow and research and learn.  These handlers tend to blame it either on circumstances or the dog.  It might be one of the hardest things in life, but ACCEPT your mistakes and learn from them.  Don't blame it on the judge, the course, the bees or the birds (and I mean that literally).  Just learn and keep track of agility life.... it does wonders.  A perfect example from the past weekend comes to mind, but I would be crucified if I mentioned it, since WAY too many people that read this blog would figure it out...  Also included in this lot though, are those (including friends) that refuse to understand dog behaviour... Example... create drive by shutting your dog in a crate/puppy pen/enclosure while watching you do agility with your other dogs.  Said puppy/young dog/new dog going ballistic means it now has drive.... Erm, by my opinion... wrong.  First of all being completely over-stimulated is bound to make your dog go insane... I can attest to this from both perspectives... I have Delta, whom I over-stimulated, that will go nuts for any movement as I have mentioned repeatedly in past posts... and just thinking of myself at the Feb Rammstein concert...  ooh pretty fire, music, people... etc etc... complete sensory overload.  Second of all, just knowing my own dogs... if your dogs love you (which they all do) they are bound to be keen/interested/insane while I am working, playing or sometimes even looking at another dog...  Now I truly believe in dogs learning from each other to a certain extent.  And I do sometimes crate my pups where they can see me training my older dogs for a reason.  But this has nothing to do with 'creating drive'.  That to me is a basic fact I have learnt in my life with dogs AS WELL as a ton of research and reading. Just as an example, a handler this weekend was raving about the fact that their dog was going nuts in the high energy environment that we were competing in... which she was.  However, Spaz still beat her by miles, while he was so chilled and fell asleep when he was not competing.  My point being, dogs going insane while watching/being in the vicinity of agility is not drive.... it is prey instinct or over-stimulation.  I can name so many other examples... once again, from the past weekend, a dog lunging out at everything that moves, where I will put money on the fact that the dog has been allowed uninhibited prey-drive, but the owner claims it to be 'agility drive'.... bla bla, if you have sense you will get what I am saying.

I can name at least 10 more categories of handlers/trainers/spectators/teachers/random people that I have issues with, but I think you get the idea by now.  Just by writing this post I am admitting to making most (if not all) of these mistakes, but I am hopefully learning and growing.  The first step of recovery is admitting the problem right?

My point is, ladies and gentleman, Agility as such is a learning curve.  Our dogs differ, we differ.  Take what you can and work with it.  Each dog and each day is different.  Embrace it.  This is my philosophy with each of my students, each of my dogs and each of my days  Please don't mistake this for being without a backbone... I have my core beliefs and laws and regulations and rules, and I will bet my life on them, I just always believe there is room for improvement. 

Now I know I have made this post in other times/formats/methods, but OBVIOUSLY the right people did not read it or the people did not take it right :) 


  1. Great post Alett!
    You really are inspiring me to start a blog of my own ... I might just get up the gumption! Keep telling it like it is :)
    Catherine Thomas

  2. Oh yes, yes, yes... PLEASE start a blog... I love blogs and such a cool way to share agility info across the world!