Thursday, April 16, 2009

Real Life.

If you don't already read Full Tilt Border Collies blog- you should. She had an EXCELLENT post yesterday. Everyone with young dogs, and people who are planning on getting new pups should take a minute and read what she has to say.

When I first got Pixel I was petrified of making a mistake. I wanted to train her perfectly- using all the new, cool, better methods, and hopefully prevent all of the bad things that I didn't do with Wicca. Well, let me tell you- the pressure was intense. I gave up. Not gave up as in gave up training- but gave up trying to do things just so.

I am a wing it kinda girl. I am flexible in my training, and don't stick to one method or one type of anything. All dogs are not the same- so it makes sense that not all training can be the same. Right now the trend in training is tug, tug, tug and more tug. I myself LOVE to tug with my dog- and my dog LOVES to tug- so it is not an issue. But what about those dogs who don't like tugging? Should we force those dogs to tug just so that we can follow the footsteps of the team before us? The other trend is train, train, train and train some more- right from day one- impulse control, drive, enthusiasm, and operant conditioning are all mandatory skills. Aren't they?

Search Puppy Agility training on youtube- and you will find THOUSANDS of videos of brilliant little puppies doing the most amazing things. Is this a bad thing? No, of course not. But don't feel badly if your puppy isn't doing those same things just as well. I still am trying hard to have a smart puppy, and to train all of the things that one day I will need- but I am not in a rush, and I am not sweating over the fact that at 8 months old she still cannot put all four feet in a bowl, or back up in a straight line.

In my pet obedience classes I talk about Real Life alot. In real life we require our dogs to listen- to sit when asked, to come when called, and to stay put when told. In real life we ask our dogs to walk nicely at our side and not pull on the end of the leash. In real life we want to be able to take our dogs anywhere- to the pet store, to the bank, on a hike, to the dogpark. We expect our dogs to be well behaved, and to respect us. Period.

In real life my dog does not need to have a perfect nose touch, and in real life she does not need to know how to run for her crate like a mad woman on one word. Are those things great to have? Well, of course. But they aren't neccesary for real life. And more than anything my dogs are my pets. I love agility, I love training, and yes, I want my dogs to be well trained, and yes, I have no problem putting in the work to get the performance I want, but mostly I need my dog to have real life skills. Period.

Those same real life skills will transfer over to the sport side of their life. Teaching a stay now will mean the teaching start lines will be that much easier. Teaching basic sit, down, and stand will easily transfer over to Rally, and Competitive Obedience. Teaching a puppy to love her crate and not come out unless asked will transfer over to crate games, building drive, and impulse control. And letting a puppy mooch food, and steal random clothing items will teach them.....okay, maybe that's a bit of a stretch..... :o)

I guess what I am trying to say is that I realised that I needed to stop trying so hard, and expecting so much. Once I figured that out it became easy to put things in perspective. Pixel is a baby. At 8 months old she is just starting to mature and act like a dog. She still turns herself inside out when she meets another dog, and will on occasion submissive pee when she greets said dog. She will launch her little body on you if you promise a treat, and she doesn't always come when called.

She will be a GREAT agility dog. Truly she will. She has the heart, the desire, and the enthusiasm. How we get to that point is completely up to me and I am in charge of where we end up. I try and teach her something every day. Wether it be a new trick, a little bit of manners, or something more serious like how to stay- she is a little sponge soaking up what I tell her. But everyday she is allowed to be a dog- she plays with her daycare buddies, visits people, wrestles with Wicca, and sleeps on my couch. You have to find the balance- between real life, and sport.

I finally have, and over at Full Tilt Border Collies she put into words what I struggled with. It was an enlightening post, and made me even more aware of the decisions I have made, and the reasons why.


Nikki said...

Hi. I just wanted to say that I totally agree with you. As someone in a similar position, I too really felt the pressure to do all the things with my youngest dog that I didn't do with the others. Do all of the fancy little tricks to get her ready for agility and obedience and do them the right way the first time. I think that by doing that when you have a 'real life' that you can easily set yourself up to fail. I lowered my criteria (not a bad thing!) and am much happier. My dog and I will get where we get and will have fun doing it. Does that mean sacrificing, I think it just means being realisitic about what we *can* do. We will get just may take us a bit longer.

Thanks for your inspiring post...I am off to read the Full Tilt Border Collies post you wrote about.

Nikki in Utah

Sarah said...

Her post was great, I agree!!!

So you're not going to stress out so much about the little things and worry you are going to screw your dog up if you cut a step or don;t have 50 nose touches, or perhaps do something a little differently because you think it will work??

... thank god because you were beginning to annoy me with your nervousness like someone was secretly videotaping your training sessions or watching over your shoulder. Dude, relax. (and that is coming from ME!!)

And guess what, you will make mistakes with Pixel, and guess what, she is dog and you are human!!

She will be a superstar that is no doubt

... now to work YOU on those threadles ....

Dawn said...

Amen! I really enjoy spending time with my dogs, but I don't enjoy having to constantly be training. I want to relax and enjoy and think they do to.

Jules said...

GREAT post! I will have to go read the Full Tilt post.

gay said...

Wow. Thanks Amanda. This is a wonderful post and rings so very true. It was exactly what I needed to read today as I get ready to head to a trial and as I fret about the trial and whether I am doing all the right things or screwing my dog up. I almost feel the pressure like I'm going to break her like a piece of glass.

You gave me just the tonic I need! Enjoyment, perspective, and permission to just be great friends having fun together. What a concept!