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Musings on agility greatness

I’ve just watched a video of Silvia Trkman’s dog La, and then seen another video of Lisa Hughes’ Beep (Ella’s daughter, Borderspirit Amazing Grace at Perranfell). Both stunners, one having proved her potential and now towards the end of her career, the other showing it at the start of hers. Driving home from another fab lesson with Jade-star, I was wondering how many of the top handlers knew their dogs were going to be the world-class stars that they became, right back in the early days. In watching both clips, and through the experience of my own dogs I think the key thing can be summed up in a quote I love so well: “And they’re not awesome because they’re agility superstars, or super athletic, or super fast or anything – they just have to walk into a room, and, BAM, awesomeness ensues.”

I think the point I’m trying to make can be summed up by an example of my wonderful Ella’s recent naughty behaviour. Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore her and rate her competitive ability, and yet just the other day she stole a tomato ketchup bottle off the side and then made a mess of licking it out on the sofa! The dog that at agility shows is self-control personified! It reminded me that she isn’t perfect, and it isn’t something that I didn’t really know. It’s just that thanks to one of my favourite dog trainers Susan Garrett, who has greatly influenced my dog training for the better,  “when I look at my dogs I can only see greatness.”

Karen Pryor in her fabulous book “Reaching The Animal Mind”, talks about the fact that once you’ve started training using positive reinforcement methods such a clicker training, your eyes are opened to a greater understanding of natural behaviour and reading the signals the dog is giving you. I’m so pleased that there are so many examples of handlers at the top of our sport building relationships with their dogs that are built on such solid foundations of love and trust. There are so many to inspire me in my own training, and take me further along the path of understanding. We’re starting to live in a training world where this is the norm rather than the exception, what a great time to be involved in dog training 🙂

Today, in fact like most days, I’m grateful for my dogs 🙂

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