A year ago to the day we entered our 1st Kennel Club show. I’d just brought Milo back after a 8 month break.
Milo’s only goal was ring confidence and to see if we could get his weaves in the ring, he actually got 2 wins at that show and I can remember it like it was yesterday!! I felt so happy I think I even cried! The relief and joy that we were working together as a team, that I’d got the balance right and that he was happy in the ring after months of working on his confidence!
Fast forward a year and this weekend has been a funny one.. Friday we had a fantastic time at the largest dog agility show we have done to date.. 8 rings, LOTS of dogs entered. I didn’t know what my dogs were going to run like, new venue with lots happening ringside, all the rings were close together, open rings with no fencing and a large lake was close by. It was an intense, busy and loud environment.
Milo is in a grade change over period as he won out of grade 4 into grade 5 at his last show, meaning any wins wouldn’t count towards progression but would still count on points towards his Agility Warrant.
He was only 2 points off what he needed to get his Agility Warrant Bronze.. So that’s just a clear round. This was the goal I set us for the end of July.. To get a clear round to claim his warrant.
We were down to run on Friday and Saturday but we also have another show booked in for Tuesday so there wasn’t any pressure or rush to get the points.. They will happen when they happen and if they didn’t happen in July – so what !
Friday Milo performed excellent, a tiny mistake in his 1st run got us eliminated (always something to work on in training) but I was happy with his run. He had 3 more classes to run and came away with 2 x 2nd places and a 4th! More than enough points gained to claim his warrant 😍🥂.
Despite the goal, the thing I was most pleased with is how he coped in that environment, if you’ve read my earlier blogs you will know that Milo hasn’t been the easiest dog to train, some dogs as you will probably know are ‘easier’ than others … Flash is an easy dog in many respects but Milo hasn’t been.
Milo had a scare at a show early on due to the person who was doing the measures dropping the measure onto him at exactly the same time as a very loud ringside noise!! It scared him and he bolted! I worked hard to increase his confidence in his 8 month break, lots of games at home and then working in different environments, building up to a show environment but not actually competing then starting back with little goals. He absolutely LOVES agility so just pulling him from the sport was never an option, he’d hate that!
Despite the results at that first show back then, how he coped and performed is a huge achievement for him. We definitely wasn’t going there to win, we weren’t even aiming for a clear round back then, it was purely just a happy dog with the weaves in the ring set as a bonus. It was done with no pressure if he didn’t get them that was fine too.
This Saturday I’d entered the dogs for 4 runs each and didn’t run a single one!!
Because the environment / situation on Saturday wasn’t right for my dogs.. See this is the thing that people often get wrong when training their dogs, not looking at the dog in front of them at that time, in that moment.
Milo was way over threshold on Saturday, he’s a foodie dog and when offered food he spat it out! His body language was also telling me he needed some R and R! Why wouldn’t he take food? Because he was over threshold and the last thing his body needed at that time was food, so simply put he spat it out! He would have definitely been up for running the agility but would have it been successful with him in that mindset ? No certainly not! Why would I put him through it, why set him up to fail? Just doesn’t make sense does it?!
Flash’s ring on Saturday was a few steps away from a massive lake with lots of 🦆 🐦! Birds are something that we have been working hard on in training and we have been making fantastic progress, so why set him up to fail too?!
He may not have failed, but why risk it? It only takes 1 tiny thing to undo all the hard work and I wasn’t prepared to take that risk for a few runs at agility! He isn’t ready for that level of challenge just yet, nearly but not quite. Flash is new to the competition ring, he needs lots of successful experiences (and I don’t mean wins) to build up his ring confidence. He competed at the show on Friday and worked fantastically in the rings just missing out on placings but again I’m not chasing rosettes for him. He hopefully has many more years of Agility yet, there is no rush at all.
Agility for me is fun, it’s teamwork, it requires both members of the team to be working together, both team mates need to be on form and if one is finding the environment too much then there is little point in running, it just sets you up for failure and ends in frustration or disappointment for you, the dog or both! Where is the fun in that?! There is plenty more chances to have another go.. What’s the worst that’s happened I’ve lost a few ££’s.
Running a dog in Agility or training a dog in general has to be a two way thing, if one of you – handler or dog isn’t in the right mindset then the training will go wrong! Too many people make the mistake of training or running a dog when it is the last thing the dog or they need at that time – maybe they have had a bad day at work or the dog is over threshold. This sets the dogs up to fail before they have even started ! Then what usually happens is the handler blames the dog , when the dog has done nothing wrong at all!
I am a massive believer in reading what your dog is telling you with their body language on that day in that moment. Just because a dog has been fine in that situation before doesn’t mean its going to be fine there again on a different day!
In our classes we will always go at the dogs pace – the training wont work if you don’t!
It wasn’t a wasted trip on the Saturday for me or my dogs it was actually a good training experience..
They learnt that they don’t always get to come out of the van and run agility in that environment.. Ditching the routine.. This will help with the break up of anticipation and anticipation heightens arousal!
You can’t rush things, not if you want a happy relationship with your dog. People often think if the dog has been fine in that situation once then they will always be fine, this isn’t always the case. There are lots of variables when dog training and you can’t control the environment, it’s up to us as owners to work with the dog in front of us and do what’s right for THEM in that precise moment!
Yes I could have ran them if I was bothered about wasting money or chasing rosettes… However what’s more important to me is the well being of my dogs! Agility is a game of longevity and you don’t get longevity by rushing them or pushing them into situations that you want to do and that they are not ready for.
Neither of my dogs have been rushed and yes I have had the odd comment from people wondering why I haven’t done certain things a certain way – but like anything people have opinions based on their own thoughts and experiences – thinking outside of the box is sometimes needed and in dog training one size doesn’t fit all!! Every dog’s journey is unique to them, just because one person / dog does it one way doesn’t mean that is the right way for another dog.
I will always do whats right for the dog in front of me , whether that be my dog or a clients dog – always going at the dogs pace!
We have some fantastic trainers, coaches and business mentors who are at the top of their game with modern, kind, up to date training methods and we are always continuing our own personal and professional development (daily) so you can be assured that as trainers when we advise you what we say has come from a place of knowledge and from a formula that works!!
Dogs don’t have goals, humans do and you achieve those goals by working alongside your dog, nurturing their needs, reading their signs and signals and letting them tell you when they are ready – they will let you know!
To achieve what Milo has achieved in such a short space of time considering the set backs he has had is actually quite something! From Grade 1 to Grade 5 in less than 10 shows and less than a years timescale and to also have his Agility Warrant Bronze with 178 points (out of the 200 points needed) gained through clear agility rounds and not jumping rounds! (you only need 50 agility points) This is something that I’m immensely proud of! This is a testament to the games we teach and the ethos we train by!
Dogs do speak… to those who know how to listen !
Check out our website to learn more about us and our training and come along to a class that is focused on building a strong relationship with your dog in which you as a team will achieve great results!
Happy training achieves great results !