Agility and Attitude: Getting it Together

The timing of today’s Agility Bloggers Event couldn’t be more fitting. The theme is “attitude” – something I’ve got in spades this week. On Sunday, Team Shiva had our best fun match run in history. Saying it that way probably makes it sound more impressive than it was, but I am still pretty chuffed about it all and don’t care. After two and a half years, we deserve a bit of exaggerated praise.

Naturally, I don’t have one second of video or even a single photograph from the day. We only like to record Shiva’s goof-ups. Can’t have people actually think we know what we’re doing, after all. No, it’s best to keep away from all those scary things like positive thinking and… Expectation. Now there’s a word to make one shudder.

I wrote a lot about attitude in my last agility blog event post. It truly has been the most critical piece of our training. I am finally starting to learn what Shiva has known all along, that it is the challenge, the journey of figuring things out, that makes the sport so much fun. If agility was easy, we probably wouldn’t still be doing it.

Oddly, I have never seen myself as a tenacious person. When the going gets tough, I stand aside to make room for the onslaught. Well, either that or I turn around and run in the other direction. Giving up comes easy to me. At least I thought it did. For some reason, when it comes to my life with Shiva and our participation in dog sports, quitting just isn’t an option. It’s occurred to me plenty of times that perhaps we’re just never going to be good enough, and yet I keep hanging in there, hoping that maybe next spring or next fall or next year will be our time.

Our run on Sunday was not perfect. She had a moment of typical Shiva insanity at the start line, taking off to leap on tables and shop for food. I should have moved quicker to reward her stay before she had a chance to bolt but I was too slow. Story. Of. Our Life. The only thing that saved us was the fact she took off before I released her. Since it was before the clock started we had the chance to line up again as if nothing had happened.

I’ll take what I can get!

The rest of the run really couldn’t have gone better. It was prevented from being clean by Shiva’s taking of a tunnel instead of following my direction toward a jump. I was no doubt too slow – again – and the tunnel entry was on her line. What’s a drivey dog to do? I wasn’t mad. I just called her back, was thrilled when she actually came, and we tried the jump sequence again. Despite the two blips we finished the course without knocking a single bar and with plenty of time to spare. For us, that’s pretty awesome.

It can be hard to find a balance between acknowledging mistakes from which to learn and dwelling on the negative. When it comes to my abilities, I tend toward pessimism. When things go wrong, I struggle to brush them off. In agility, that kind of attitude can be lethal to performance. It is important to know the areas in which you need to focus your training in order to improve but at the same time, I think it is just as important to celebrate successes, no matter how small. The latter may be even more important.

Dog agility is a sport, a hobby, not a practice in self-flagellation.

I’ve received a bit of well-intentioned pressure lately to enter our first trial. I don’t really know what I have been waiting for. A perfect performance at a fun match? A magical fairy to come down and wave a magic wand? For the stars to align in an A-frame formation? Maybe I am waiting for Shiva to look at me and say, “Okay, I am ready. I promise never to run around the course like an idiot again.”

It’s clearly not going to happen. My instructor warned me last week that the longer I wait, the harder it is going to be to get up the nerve. If I put too much significance on the event, I am only going to become more overwhelmed. But then again, after all this time, if we go out there and Shiva jumps over more fences than she does obstacles, how will that reflect on our training?

It’s a ridiculous question and one that shouldn’t matter. The one I should be asking myself is this: what if we go out there and Shiva and I have fun and stay connected and feel great afterwards?


Like all other aspects of dog training, agility is a sport of dizzying highs and crushing lows. The best moments I find are the ones in which my dog and I finally achieve a difficult move after hours of work. I think because it can be so frustrating at times, it can also be so wonderful when everything goes right. If agility was easy, I don’t think it would be any fun.

If you get the chance, make sure to check out the other blogs participating in today’s action day here.

11 thoughts on “Agility and Attitude: Getting it Together

  1. I’m really happy I was there to see it, it was a fantastic run! My fiance comes home tonight so hopefully he can figure out how to find that video off my new phone!


  2. Love this! I’m finally biting the bullet and signing Rio up for his first CPE event in July… We haven’t been training for that long and we are far from perfect…but i figure the more practice he has in the ‘real world’ the easier each real-world event will be and the better he’ll get.

    It’s funny because I had no issues entering him in his first disc dog competition at 7 months old. My goal was for him to NOT run into the crowd, NOT dash off to say hi to all the people/dogs on the sidelines (no fence to separate dogs from the crowd), and just go out and have some fun with me. Little did I know my little guy would go out there and catch 3 discs in the first round and 5 inthe second and that he’d play enough w/ freestyle that he’d win 3rd place novice AND that he never once ‘checked out’.

    But with this agility thing… it seems so much more intimidating… we are WAY more prepared for this agility than that frisbee competition… i mean at 7 months old i’d only had him for 3 months and he’d only been catching the disc for maybe a month… but still, this agility thing is scary. I so hear ya! (on a side note, i’ve got rio’s latest agility video on my wordless wednesday post)


  3. Hi Kristine, we’ve all done fun matches before and the shelties are still going to those. Owen and I have kind of retired from all that although Owen does still go to agility class. My brother Jetta (male sheltie) is usually quite good when he can keep his focus and not go “all nuts” on a real agility course. My mom says that as long as he appears to be enjoying it, she’ll keep going. And I think that’s the point here. It’s not the what or the how (win ribbons and a “Q” by doing a perfect/near perfect run) but the why that’s important (to have fun with your dog). So go on, you’re there to have fun and bond with Shiva. The ribbons, perfect runs, Q’s and stuff are the what’s and how’s and not the why. Sound good?


  4. Maintaining a “good” attitude is so difficult, but as far as competing is concerned, you really need to just treat it as another training scenario. It will probably be ugly when you first start, but it will get better, and EVERYONE ELSE THERE did the same thing. Sure, there’s the rare exception where someone shows up as a new handler and their dog is perfect, but that doesn’t happen very often (and later, when that person gets a more difficult dog further down the road, they’re probably going to be even more frustrated than you are now, only they won’t have spent months or years figuring out how to deal with that crap before they try throwing their dog in the ring).


  5. Our agility area is much smaller than the one you work with, so trying to complete a ‘clean’ run is difficult at best. I am not doing agility for the competition and probably will never enter a formal ‘match.’ I am doing it to have fun with my dog.

    Agility is difficult because timing is critical, either I beat Delilah to the end of her challenge or I am too slow and she has no idea where she is expected to go next. If I laugh and have a good time, I’m satisfied. 🙂

    You’ve done amazing work with Shiva and it shows, and you continue to critique your style and make improvement where needed. In my mind, you are already Agility Super Stars. Enter your match and have a good time. You’ll do fine.


  6. I have absolutely no words of wisdom on agility, but I am exhausted from reading your post! you obviously put a lot of thought and effort into agility.
    I honestly don’t think I could ever do agility because I am not a quick thinker, I admire those of you who do this so well!


  7. Anything you and Shiva do in agility is far superior to what those of us who don’t attempt can accomplish so you have our undying admiration (and envy) Could it be that a camera jinxes your runs? I love your descriptions.


  8. Glad to hear you guys had a good fun run! I say go for it! Sophie and I are far from perfect and we can be in fact downright comical in how confused I look as she zooms by me on the course. But we have fun and sometimes we even have some clean runs 😉


  9. Just do it! Go easy on yourself and just enter a few classes on one day of the trial. Every time we do something new and scary, it becomes that much easier the next time. You also may be surprised how many people have many less-than-perfect runs at trials. Everyone is there to get a little bit better and assuming you have good people to “bunk up” with, you’ll have fun no matter what.

    If you ease yourself into it, you will soon be hooked. I have a lot of interests in my life, but as you say, something about agility keeps me coming back, victory, torture and all the rest of it. 🙂


  10. It’s sounds like a lot of fun and of course, that doesn’t come without a lot of work! It’s great that you and Shiva have something you can do together – and it looks like you BOTH have fun!!


  11. What a great post. I am glad you had such a wonderful run. I used to think that the dogs had to be perfect before entering them in a hunt test. But I figured out that if we waited for that, they would never test. Yes they have done some bone-head things during tests that leave us hanging our heads, but as you say the triumphs make the whole thing worth it. One piece of advice our trainer gives is to not dwell on the failures. As he likes to say, he has probably failed more tests than any of us will ever run. He just picks himself, and the dog, up and keeps training.


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