As most of you know, I recently lost my dear sweet Surfer Boy. This sudden shocking loss has caused me to reflect back on the amazing life that I shared with this little brown dog.
Surfer and I always had amazing chemistry. From the day he was born, he knew he belonged to me. I don’t think I ever taught him a recall. He just naturally came back to me. He really wanted to be with me and he would always do his best to try to please me. When we walked to the start line, I knew that we were together as a team. We might crash and burn, but we would crash and burn together. He would always look to me for direction and he was very forgiving of my many mistakes. I also forgave his inability to love the table or have a bomb proof start line stay. I recognized that it was my poor training that was the reason he missed so many dog walk contacts. I did not blame the dog. I knew that we would never be able to compete with the border collies and aussies, but we could have a lot of fun.
I believe it is the lack of teamwork that is the underlying cause of many of our struggles with training and especially trialing. We do have some amazing teams in our club: Randy with Circe and Justice, Anne with Hunley, Lori and Matilda, Gary and Jesse, Deb and Lily, Joyce and Greta, and Ken and Annie. I also wish that you could have seen Mike and Sporty, Kathy and Echo, Kim and Dillon, and Mary Evans with Peaches. Forgive me if I missed someone. Some of these dogs were destined for ADCH’s, some had physical problems that forced them into retirement and others were just played with for Sunday afternoon fun.
The great question in agility training is how do you build that strong emotional connection that makes you a team? I am no expert, but I will give you my thoughts. You should never place blame on your dog. Realize that you are also learning this agility game and that you will make mistakes in your training. You need to have real expectations of your dog’s physical and mental performance. You cannot compare your dog’s performance to that of another competitor. You need to really love your dog. He needs to be your buddy. You need to have fun off of the agility field. You need to figure out what he loves the most in life and make that part of the training reward. You also need patience; it takes time to build a team.
So, I hope that you will take time to evaluate your agility team. Part of the team may include training the dog, and the other may include training yourself. As Mike reminded me last night, I need to stop yelling at my dog.
Shelly and Splash