Day in and day out the dogs and I have trained together, working towards my lofty expectation of someday earning obedience titles and ribbons. But I’ve found that when you don’t show for a long time, when you don’t proof your training, you never really know if it is successful.
Periodically it’s time to move beyond the back yard and go out into the real world. Nowhere at home will I find strange barking, yipping dogs, loud or high energy strangers, tall teenage boys or huge blowing fans. These are all things that were heaped on my dogs at a recent trial. On top of all that my adrenaline-fueled nerves continue to be a problem even though I’ve shown dogs for over thirty years. Dogs need a relaxed handler for them to remain calm and focused. Training my dogs every day is the one thing that helps give me confidence. We have done our homework. Unforeseen stuff happens in the real world but at least we can go into the ring prepared. Dogs are not perfect. They are fun and sometimes funny and do behaviors out of the blue that keep us all humble. But when I step into the ring, I know I’ve paid my money and there’s no turning back. The worst that can happen (and will if you show long enough) is that the dog leaves a “deposit” in the ring. Anything else a dog does wrong in the ring never requires a roll of paper towels, cleaner, and scathing looks from fellow exhibitors and the judge. It’s a good day when that event doesn’t happen.
But, there’s always a BUT, my show career lately has included my Border Collie, Catcher, who is the most independent-minded dog I’ve ever trained, worse than a Rottweiler and an Alaskan Malamute I trained years ago. He has no work ethic, no desire to please. He’s a beautiful, heavy coated, blue eye/brown-eyed, devil-dog that loves people, loves training, and loves traveling. But one step into the obedience ring and he becomes a mule-headed, stubborn, naughty brat. He is actually trained to the highest level, Utility, and does a nice job…at home. Perhaps his less-than-stellar hips bother him, although he is on monthly Adequan shots. Who knows? Who cares? Catcher has spoken and I need to honor his request. No more shows. Many trainers with goals of fame and fortune in the obedience world would re-home a dog like Catcher. That’s not on my agenda. Catcher is a love, a goofball, and he will always be a pain in the butt about coming to me from the back forty. If he were a horse, he would try to buck me off every morning. Really, who else wants a dog that is too smart and tests your intelligence every day? Nope, Catcher is mine to the bitter end. But down the road, I have stories about his inventiveness. The dog isn’t stupid.
The girls, as I call them, Tom and Razz, want to please me. They are a joy to train and show, try hard to understand my requests and have a sparkle in their eyes. Life to them is just a big game with a bowl of kibble at dawn and dusk.
Dog shows bring out the best and worst in people because it can be so frustrating. Like anything else in life, you have to be able to take the good times with the bad. How you lose is just as important as how you handle winning. In the end the best old saying is still relevant, “Train, Don’t Complain”. I need to post that saying on the back of my hand, my bathroom mirror and my training building. But the best saying relevant to dog shows, training, and life is:
We all fall in life. The ones who succeed are the ones who get back up and try again.
It’s Monday morning and it’s time to evaluate the weekend’s performance, play and relax with the dogs and send in more entries.