Dog Agility Blues

In many ways dog agility is similar to other team sports. Only harder. Dog agility is like playing doubles tennis with a partner who doesn’t speak the same language, has never heard of the game before, doesn’t know how to hold the racket, and needs to be reminded of the rules multiple times throughout each game. If you are me, every ten seconds your partner also needs to be prevented from dashing off the court and jumping into the bleachers. Where she will promptly steal someone’s lunch.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been a little down about this whole dog sport business lately. It’s not Shiva’s fault. She’s a super talented dog who could probably rack up the titles if she had a more dedicated and experienced handler. A handler who is better able to read body language and faster on her feet. A handler with quick reaction time, whose brain doesn’t short out at the worst possible moment. A handler who has the energy and drive to match Shiva’s. Basically, a handler who is not me.

I’ve been hesitant to write about any of this because I hate to be a downer. Also, I am kind of afraid of the comments. I am scared people will agree with me and tell me it’s okay to quit if I want to. If I read this, I am afraid I will twist the words into something that was not intended. Then, if I do stick it out, they will reverberate in my head the next time I stand on a start line.

A part of me, the part of me that felt like bursting into a hysterical mess after our last fun match, wants to hear that giving up does not make me a loser. That, in fact, it is the thing I should do. Another part of me, the one who doesn’t want all the work we’ve done together to mean nothing, really, really doesn’t.

The thing is, agility hasn’t been a whole lot of fun as of late. Yes, I still love the sport itself and I definitely love working with my dog. What I don’t love is the stress and inevitable frustration when Shiva ignores her recall for the 586,970th time. I love reading course maps and strategizing. I don’t love not getting to put my plan into action because my dog runs away at the start line. I love hanging out with friends and cheering on members of our club. I don’t love standing alone in the parking lot, wondering if my dog even cares that I exist.

It’s not about Qs. That isn’t even a remote concern. I just want to trust my dog and actually finish a course again one day. Maybe show that we have been working together for three years and kind of know what we are doing. It’s happened before. We’ve had some good runs. Honest.

It’s just been a very, very long time.

Because agility is a sport that relies so much upon one’s connection with her dog, it’s pretty hard not to take it personally when it looks like your dog doesn’t know you are alive. Off the agility course, I do think we have a decent relationship. Her recall in the “real world” is pretty nearly perfect. As good as it can be. When practicing at home, Shiva also responds very well. She rarely tries to take off even when off-leash in our unfenced yard. Most of the time, I am pretty sure she likes me. But when we get on the agility course, all of this comes into question.

Maybe it’s agility she dislikes? I hardly think that’s true. Or maybe we need some sort of relationship boot camp?

This past Saturday, we had the best class we’ve had in a while. It could not have come at a better time. On the edge of putting away our weave poles forever, Shiva pulled off the best recall we’ve had in that space for a long time. I was so thrilled, I almost wanted to carry her off right then, finish it on a high note. I didn’t and fortunately the class ended well anyway. It made me feel a lot better, though I am still uncertain of our future in the sport.

I’d like to keep going, I’d like to believe we will be able to get through a full course again. It would be great if this regression of hers is only temporary. But I am scared to expect much of anything. All I do know is, I can’t go through another fun match like the last one. It’s not a good time for either of us and it’s not why I got involved.

I wonder how hard it would be to create our own dog sport…

39 thoughts on “Dog Agility Blues

  1. I’m not gonna tell you to quit. I’m not gonna tell you to keep going. I am going to tell you that whatever you decide, Shiva is still a great dog, loves you and you won’t be letting her down no matter what.

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  2. Sending you positive thoughts! It’s hard to want to keep doing something that can be so embarrassing/frustrating when canines go awry.

    Maybe think about the journey over the destination? Take some time away from agility and work on control unleashed activities, and focusing work while in those environments. Keep working the agility aspect if you have the time, but spend a lot of time maybe going to OTHER people’s agility classes/matches (with permission of course) and instead of practicing agility, play focusing games, control unleashed activities, and such. I would stay start using a long-line so Shiva has more choice but can’t REALLY fail.

    Fix the piece of this that is frustrating to you so that you can enjoy the sport that you really want to enjoy.

    But, on the flip side, it’s okay to quit if you are miserable–there’s a good chance that misery would trickle down to Shivster and she’d start not having fun, and if she’s not having fun, what’s the point? There are also plenty of other canine activities that you may want to get into in lieu of agility if it ever comes to that–even if just for a break 🙂

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    • Thanks so much for the advice, Tena! It’s not really about being embarrassed. I’ve got pretty tough skin when it comes to my dog and don’t care what others think. It’s more that I am just not having fun any more and it all seems like more work than maybe it should be. I’ve no doubt Shiva has the potential, just not so sure if I am capable of bringing it out in her.

      Agility is a hobby, not my job. It feels like if I am ever going to be able to do more than watch Shiva run around while I stand uselessly at the start line, I am going to have to dedicate all my time to that purpose. I don’t know if I can or even want to do that. But at the same time, we’ve already put so much in it feels like failing to do otherwise. Does that make any sense?

      I don’t care about competing, not really. But I would like to participate in fun matches again. I just don’t know if even that goal is possible. It’s a depressing thought.

      There aren’t really any other activities we can get involved in where I feel Shiva will have fun and be remotely successful. Obedience and Rally are out for obvious reasons. And while I’d love to try flyball again, there is no way to get involved in my community. We are going to take a disc dog workshop this November and maybe that will be more fun?

      I apologize for the downer of a response! 😛 I just really don’t know what the right thing to do is. I used to love agility. The idea of giving it up forever makes me really sad.

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  3. I am of course going to tell you to keep going, but add that continuing in agility doesn’t mean it has to end in competition; if you’re not having fun there isn’t much point in investing all that money. However, you have a fabulous relationship with Shiva, and because of that she is super attuned to your emotional state that no “game face” will ever fool her into ignoring. Which is why it’s so hard to figure out a comfortable competition state–you feel like something bad is going to happen, your dog can tell that you feel like that and assumes the same thing, dog runs off as a displacement behaviour, something bad happens and your original feeling is reinforced.
    This was the conversation I had with our other classmate when she declared that she was quitting agility after her dog ran out of the ring. But then she came back, kept it positive and lowered her expectations and nailed her next round. A lot of people tell me that I have a super cool game face, but I’ve been dealing with showing with animals since I was 13 years old (and working for people competing animals at the international level since I was sixteen, which meant I had to have my game on just to assist them properly in warming up), and it took years and years of doing it before I got my show nerves under control. Basically, you will “suck” (in an objective, ranked by competition type way) for a long time at first, unless you’re lucky enough to get one of those dogs that just does whatever you say no matter what state you’re in. But those are the same types of dogs that tend to hit a wall and don’t get any better. However, if you’re working with a truly talented animal that can improve with you, it takes a long, long time to figure out your rhythm. Start out with low expectations, call them reasonable if that makes you feel better, and they ARE reasonable, and go from there.
    My first horse show my goal was to not break my neck, which clearly I did manage. We had eight refusals over jumps my pony could have walked over, but I still made it around. Next show I didn’t want any refusals; we went like gang busters and I’m pretty sure I embarrassed the hell out of my trainer, but I met my goal, and at our third show things got more controlled.
    Try to take competing against other people out of it. Whether you’re going to go to a proper show or you’re just going to stick with fun-shows or classes, forget about the other people there. You can only compete against yourself. I was there are your first show, your very first class, and yes, Shiva left the ring. Second class, you got her over one jump–guess what? YOU WON. You beat yourself, which means you got first place. Next show start at the same place until you can get the one jump every time, and move on from there. It’s just another training challenge. And if you get tense and don’t make all the training decisions you might have in another environment, remind yourself that you are under training as well. I know I have years of practice to go before I get this dog handling business down–I forgot to do all kinds of stuff at our first show. That’s the real challenge of competing with an animal–you both have to be on at the same time, which is impossible to predict.
    Remember, if you don’t do well, it’s just money, which you can recoup, and you’re not going to “flunk out” of a training class, so except it as a personal challenge, and make that challenge as big or as small as it needs to be.

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    • Thanks Jenn. I really value your advice and know you have battles of your own to fight. I guess we all do, really. I’ve just been fighting this one for many years and just when I think I’ve won, it seems we have to start all over again.

      I don’t think it’s stress. Shiva isn’t the most senstive of dogs and while she might be picking up on some of my emotions, that really should just be par for the course with me since I am pretty much permanently tense. 😛 I wish I was joking. But regardless, I don’t think her running around is anxiety-related. She is definitely over-aroused but again that is kind of a permanent thing with her. I just don’t know if I am experienced enough or quick enough to capture all that energy and focus it constructively.

      I don’t know. I would like to go to a fun match again one day. I would like to run a full course again one day. Is that possible? I remain unsure. I don’t know if there is a point in keeping on with what we are doing if it’s never going to get better. Too bad I can’t just rent a dog to run on the course with. Someone should start a business!

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      • Well, there may still be some anxiety there. I’ve come to accept that Mufaasa’s “zoomies” are just him trying to break the ice ;p
        However, in Shiva’s case I kind of get the feeling that she’s patterned running out of the ring—like she honestly things that that’s what she’s supposed to do. I’m sure Adina has lots of ideas on this, but if she were my dog I would take her to the next fun show (there’s one in November, so lots of time to prepare), walk her to the opposite end of the course (so she would have to go through equipment to get out), and be in there with a whole hunk of steak in my hand (or whatever treat she loves most, I can give you some of my special brew if you’d like to try). I would then reward really frequently and just move around inside, take a jump facing away from the door and move on from there.
        I think once Shiva gets the picture that she’s supposed to stay in the ring she’ll turn around quite quickly. It’s just a matter of figuring out how to explain that to her.
        Also, if you want, you could run Mufaasa at the next fun show if you just want to get out there and run a course—might help you feel better. He’s got similar speed to Shiva but less likely to run out the door so it’ll be good to get that kind of practice in.

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  4. Also, to second what Tena said above, the big turnover for Mu and me was when I specifically started practicing working away from his rewards. Encourage Shiva to stay with you, and then (starting at home) work on getting her to stay with you when there’s a big distraction somewhere else. I can message you if you want me to explain what I did with Mu.
    I constantly feel like you are on the cusp of really getting things going, and I’m going to be cheering my darn head off WHEN it finally happens.

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  5. I agree with Tena and Jenn – they both gave great advice. Again, it has to be fun for you and Shiva. I think you love the sport too much to give it up and clearly Shiva also gets enjoyment out of it. Hang in there – we are all rooting for you and Shiva!

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    • Thanks, I really, really appreciate that. We did used to enjoy it a lot and I am sure Shiva still does. She doesn’t know what she’s “supposed” to be doing anyway so I am sure she has a good time even if she is just running around. Hopefully I can get back there too.

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  6. Hey Kristine…what you are describing is almost exactly what I’ve went through with Toby. I tried for years and years to make him into a therapy dog, and then later, into a great Rally partner….both plans eventually fell apart for us for several reasons.

    During therapy visits, even though he loves people and is trustworthy temperament-wise, I couldn’t trust him 100% not to jump up or pull or search for food rather than being social. When I gave up, at first, I felt like a failure. All those years of work to get him to pass the test-gone. Vanished.

    But then, I still wanted to do “something” with my dog, so we tried Rally. Like Shiva, I think Toby likes me, but when there is something better to do, or he is stressed, he seems to forget about me too. I never knew which dog I was entering the ring with in Rally – sometimes he was 100% on my page, and other times he ran from the ring, or over to the food bowls (part of one of the courses) and it got to the point all I did was stress about why I couldn’t figure him out, or why he would work so good at home or in class, but fall apart in the ring.

    But I kept at it. I gave up therapy work cause I couldn’t trust him to be reliable, but the rally choice was made for us when he got that cyst on his knee – because I couldn’t make the choice. I struggled on and on like you, hoping one day the problems would just disappear.

    They didn’t – and now, looking back, I’m SO glad the choice was made for me.

    Because here’s the thing, once I finally gave up the Therapy Work and Rally – I didn’t give up on being a team with Toby or continuing to work with him…I moved on to something else. Now we are doing Nose Work, and you know what, he’s NOT great at it, but he is having a lot more fun, and so am I.

    I don’t have to worry anymore about his reaction to other dogs, or him running out of the ring, because the dogs are separated and the courses are fenced or on leash. I also don’t have to worry about him running off to find food, (one of HIS big issues) because finding food is part of the sport. Basically, this sport fits us both better – so even if he never gets great at it and we don’t end up competing, we are having a lot more fun. Which is why we got involved in sports in the first place.

    And as far as our relationship, the dog who would bolt from the ring is now looking at me for direction when he can’t find the scent – which, frankly, really shocked me. Anyway, I just wanted to share my experience in hopes that it helped in some way.

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    • Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts and experiences, Donna. It really does help to know others have gone through similar things. I know every dog is different and we all have our training struggles but it’s hard not to get a little pouty when everyone else is having fun and actually running courses and I am blown off after less than two seconds. 😛 It sounds like Toby and Shiva unfortunately have similar MOs when it comes to events. So I know you know exactly how it feels.

      I don’t think there are any nosework classes here, at least none that I have heard of, but I am so glad you were able to find something that is fun for both of you. Because that really is the point of it all. The fact that he is out there and you can actually participate in something together means so much. Good for you for hanging in there and trying new things! And yay for Toby checking in! That is an awesome feeling, one that should never be taken for granted. Congratulations!

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  7. So your post speculated on people telling you to quit. Or to keep going. But I bet you never speculated even in your mind how much people care about you and Shiva and want you to have a good time together. 🙂

    You know deep down what you want from agility, dog sports, and your relationship with Shiva. You’ll figure it out soon.

    I’d just tell you to watch some of your old video. I think you’ve made amazing progress together.

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    • Thanks, Pamela. I wish I’d had it figured out already but like everything else with this dog, I am sure it will come to me in a “duh” moment when I least expect it. Nothing is ever easy, is it? Not when it’s important, anyway.

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  8. It’s possible Shiva can sense your frustration and that in turn is affecting her performance. I’ve been considering getting into agility with my dog Pierson. He loves to learn new things and I get a great feeling of pride when I train him. Two things stop me from getting into agility. One, easy access to agility equipment. Two, I am worried that if I make training a chore it will no longer be fun. Agility sounds fun, competition does not. Can I suggest that perhaps you lower your expectations a bit? By comparing yourself to other trainers and by stressing over Shiva’s failures, you’re putting on a lot of pressure. Celebrate her successes and don’t worry about whether she does as well as the other dogs.

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    • It is possible but I don’t think that’s the problem. I entered this last fun match with very high spirits. She’s been successful there in the past and it was not a new environment for her. Ah well. What can you do?

      I certainly don’t want to steer anyone away from agility and hopefully yo do give it a try with Pierson! It really is a lot more fun than I have made it sound in this post. I do still love the sport and even if I decide not to continue with Shiva, I do intend to try again in the future. The equipment is only a minor concern as there are plenty of ways you can easily create your own on the cheap. Anything can stand in for a jump or a set of weaves.

      Competition is also not at all a requirement and it can really be all about the fun! I’ve not really competed yet with Shiva and I’ve had a great time these three years, recent whining notwithstanding. If you find a great instructor who understands your goals, it can be a really great experienece. Not to mention the things you learn really do have impact on the rest of your life together. I really do have to credit our agility training with helping Shiva become an easier dog to live with, and it’s made me a much better trainer. I’ve no regrets on that front!

      Sadly, Shiva hasn’t had a whole lot of success lately. It’s hard to succeed when you are forced to leave the course without having done anything. That’s where my frustration is coming from. It has nothing to do with the sport itself or the pressure to win and everything to do with my relationship with my dog. Something I probably need to work on.

      Thanks for your thoughts. I do hope you and Pierson give it a go and have a great time!

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      • So Shiva gets disqualified right from the start? That would be frustrating. Thanks for the tips on Pierson. I have him jumping through a hula-hoop at home. Now to try other things. He is very agile and very smart. But it may take him some time to get used to certain equipment. He is wary of anything new. When I started with the hoop, it took him a couple weeks just to be brave enough to walk through it. I can only imagine how long it will take him to go through the tunnel. 🙂

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  9. Two questions: Does Shiva like it? Do you like it? If the answer to these questions is Yes, then you should keep at it. It doesn’t matter that you or Shiva mess up. It doesn’t matter what others think. If you think the problem is actually competeing, then maybe just do it at home for a bit and see what happens.

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    • Thanks for your very sensible approach, Sue. Yes, Shiva likes anything that involves doing something active with her people. I used to like it and I still really like the sport, I just haven’t liked it much lately. If we can get back to where we were, though, hopefully this would change.

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    • It’s true and I’ve contemplated that as well. Withhow hopping things are going to be in the next few months, this may be something we’re forced to do anyway!

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  10. Well, I don’t know what to tell you, but I will say that I have never regretted quitting something. I’ve quit a lot of things – jobs, group sports, hobbies, friendships. And when I look back at those things I don’t regret quitting any of them.
    Quitting ISN’T for losers. Sometimes it IS a good option. Also, quitting for a little while doesn’t mean you’re quitting forever.
    One of the best things I ever did was stop pushing Tibby and foster a rescue dog for a while. It made me appreciate Tibby more and I had fun teaching the foster dog things.
    Maybe try out a different sport for a while? Nosework or tracking or lure coursing?
    I got this in my fortune cookie recently, “There is nothing final about a mistake, except its being taken as final.”
    There is nothing final about a decision either – you can always change your mind!

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    • There are only so many activities available to us but I think your idea of looking for others is a good one. We are actually going to a disc dog workshop in November so we’ll see how that goes.

      Honestly, after reading all these wonderful comments, I do wonder if I am just taking this all far too seriously. I love agility. A lot. And I want to keep loving it. Maybe what I need to do is find a way to find the joy again and set both of us up for success.

      Love the fortune cookie. Thank you so much for sharing!

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  11. I have never thought quitting is a bad thing when you think of it as just moving on to something else. All good advice above and I have nothing to add except I do like your agility tales and always enjoy reading them even though I don”t do agility.

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  12. I’m at the same point with Elli and just recently posted about it… if we’ll ever make it to competition in the many sports I’ve undertaken as goals for us.

    I think Tena’s advice is fantastic. And have been focusing on control unleashed exercises myself recently.

    I haven’t given up. I don’t think you should either.

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  13. I would think you have to decide why you do agility – is it for fun- is it because you feel Shiva needs something to do it – is it something you really enjoy. Is doing agility for you or for Shiva? Do you think that if you quit agility Shiva would suffer. Or would she be just as happy with an afternoon at the beach. I have never done agility with my dogs – I am just not that ambitious. I have always prefered spending time with my pets in a non-competative enviroment. Being with my dog rather than having my dog performing – but that is my choice. You need to decide if the positives of agility outway the cost, time and frustration of doing agility.

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  14. Wow. Not wow about what you’ve written. Wow for the comments. Tena, Donna and Jenn and everyone else has given you great advice, insight, encouragement, whatever you want to call it… Like Pamela said, look at how many people spent so much time thinking about you and Shiva and sharing their insights with you. Whatever you decide to do, you can certainly know this: you both are loved, respected and admired.

    Maybe I’m just you three years ago but I have no illusions of Bella ever being in a ring. And maybe you can take some pride in that: was there that time three years ago that you never thought Shiva would do anything? And yet look how far you’ve come.

    I have to believe dog sports are much the same as people sports. In high school, everyone gets to play. But they don’t all make it to the big league. That doesn’t mean the benefits of participating are diminished. There are health benefits, personal rewards and individual achievements that make playing at whatever level valuable.

    Lord knows I’m not going to assume I know what you should do. But I do hope you’ll take a moment to reflect on what got you started, what you wanted to achieve and assess whether or not that has come to pass. I also just read this blog post and thought you might find it interesting: http://www.bcxfour.com/2012/09/goals.html I don’t know how hooked up you are with other agility (or other competition) bloggers but maybe you need to read some of their stuff to be reminded you are not alone. We all have doubts sometimes. We all deal with failure and disappointment. But Tena’s suggestion of focusing on the journey rather than the destination can help us get through all that.

    Hang in there, Kristine. You were the sole inspiration for us bringing Bella to agility. If you and Shiva never do anything else in the sport, please recognize what you have done for us and for her with your efforts and your blog.

    Peace,

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  15. It’s hard isn’t it? I was there in the space last winter with the dog sledding. I didn’t have the courage to write about it. I ended up taking a massive step back and reevaluating whether I was going to follow through with this “hobby” and most important whether the dogs were enjoying it. That was my biggest fear. It wasn’t worth it if we were both unhappy. Eventually I let go of the idea and decided theirs and mine happiness was more important than sledding or pulling. I was the one putting boulders of stress on myself and expectations that no one could shoulder. So I gave up and focused on the dogs and myself.

    Maybe you just need to take a break, and not make such an ultimate decision of Yes or No. Maybe just back off for a while until, your answer will come. Trust your heart, trust Shiva, you’ll both know.

    I think you are being way too hard on yourself. You and Shiva are great together. She’s your first dog, don’t forget that. 🙂 You can’t learn it all with the first one. 🙂

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  16. Nothing really worth having comes easy or without hard work. I don’t think you should quit, but maybe you should take time to examine what it is you really want from agility. There are tons of dog sports, so if agility isn’t a good fit for you, think about trying some of the others. You could still use a lot of Shiva’s training that she’s already had and focus it in a different direction. Changing focus doesn’t mean you’re quitting, it just means you’re evolving. You and Shiva have both grown in the three years since you started agility, you’re not the same as you were when you started. Growing means that sometimes your focus or what you want changes, and that’s perfectly alright!

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  17. Hi Kristine, just stick with it. It’ll get better because the distractions will cease to bother or drag Shiva away. But it’ll take many, many more trials to do that. But one day, it’ll all gel. If you quit now you’ll only lock in the current level of performance. Don’t be so frigging hard on yourself, this was supposed to be fun for Shiva and you.

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  18. Well that sucks, eh? there’s nothing like working really hard on something and not feeling the enjoyment and satisfaction in it.

    I wish we could all tell you what to do, but that probably wouldn’t be very helpful. Listen to your heart. Life’s too short to spend your time doing things that don’t make you happy, BUT before you give it up, I’d take a long look at what you found so satisfying about it originally and why that’s not making you happy anymore. Is it the sport or your own expectation of what you “should be” doing?

    For me, what Koly & I loved about agility was learning something new, but once it got to that hardcore, “agility dog” level I knew it was time to move on. I didn’t have the drive to train or compete at that level. We loved the challenge, the chase. We took a tricks class for a while, then rally o, now we’re working on nose work. For us, it’s all about learning. For others, it’s about perfecting a sport. Figure out what made you love it and maybe you can figure out if you can recapture that love or if it’s time to love something else. Either way, there’s no “wrong” decision, only the wrong reasons for making it.

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  19. Typist says:
    You have to do what is right for you and Shiva, but I would advise to stick with it a little longer! The important thing is that you and Shiva are doing a great activity together, where you are excercising her, bonding with her and challenging her. I know how disheartening it can be when something which is grasped one minute has vanished the next but then I wonder what would happen if I just give up and I owe my dog so much more than that! So i look at the situtation wonder how I could have handled it differently and swear I will do better next time! All i have to do is looking into my dogs eyes and know how much he loves me, and how upset he looks if he disappoints me!
    Keep going, if you both stop enjoying it then maybe it is time to find a new sport! However if you don’t imagine how great you will feel when you do get it!!!

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  20. Boy oh boy could I write a book on this post. 🙂 Hunt testing is not unlike agility in that at the higher levels, it is very much dependent on team work. Dogs can get through the lower level with a little training based mostly on instinct, but the higher levels require a bond between handler and dog. I hear where you are coming from.

    The things I have learned while spending hours training with our dogs and other dog teams is that sometimes the dogs are just dogs. Sometimes they act as if they have never fetched a bird in their lives and it can be very frustrating. Then there are the times they “break” from the line (hello Miss Storm) and you are out before you start. Thank you very much for your $70 donation…lol. Yep we have been there!

    But then they will figure it out or remain steady even with a bird thrown in their faces and the “high” from them doing a good job is wonderful. Hunt testing is a learning experience for dog and handler…it is a journey…one long journey.

    If you and Shiva enjoy the training, then why not just do that? As you say it is not always about the Q’s. We have to think long and hard about retiring Thunder because he is getting older and we cannot have him in a cast and missing hunting season next year, especially if he is going to refuse to give his birds up at a test…lol. But if we decide to never enter him in another test, he will still train. If nothing else it is good exercise and the training pays off during hunting season.

    I am sure there are skills that you train in agility that pay off in your everyday life with Shiva. Maybe that is a goal worth pursuing? Then one day your journey may lead you to enter a match again. I wish I lived closer. I’d love to come and cheer you on!

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  21. I think you should continue on with agility only if you are having a good time. It’s not worth the stress, otherwise. I used to take my dog to agility (for fun, we never competed), and I eventually stopped because I wasn’t enjoying it. He was pretty good, but he would bark the entire time and get so excited he would nip at my hands. It’s actually been at least three years since we took an agility class, and now that he’s older, I’m thinking about trying again. Maybe Shiva will settle down too as she gets a little older. And don’t be afraid to just take a break for even six weeks or so. If you really miss it, then you’ll know to go back. You could also do more obedience-type competitions since that type of work typically keeps the dogs a bit calmer, vs. agility which gets them pretty excited.

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  22. I have been reading your blog for a while now because it reminds me of my own dogs and struggles. I have my own rescue dog that seemed so nice and normal in the shelter, but once I brought her home she was a wreck! We’ve worked hard to get over most of our food/toy guarding and lots of our dog aggression, but its always a work in progress.
    I have another dog that I’ve been training for agility for 4 years now. It’s been an uphill battle very similar to yours. She had no clue that it was a “team” sport for a full year. So I decided to find somewhere to train indoors, where if she ran away I could get her back reasonably fast. I also made sure our sessions were short! She was the type to run off and sniff everything as soon as we did something 1 too many times (try 3 times) or if it was too tough ( jump to a dog walk!?). I found that short sessions with tons of tug/cuddle time between helped alot. Have I mentioned we’re still working on her screaming bloody murder if she’s put in a crate anywhere near agility? I know she has been having fun, but that she was easily stressed out and would run away from what was stressing her out (me telling her to do something). Just over the past 2 months has she actually started to realize her job and has been behaving like a “normal” agility dog. It can happen!
    What I’m trying to say is don’t give up if you like the sport. There are ways of figuring out how to train each type of dog, we don’t all have border collies! You just need to figure out how to make it work for you two.
    Keep going and keep writing, I love reading your stuff!

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  23. aww… sucks to be going through those tough “arg, i fail at dogs… all things DOGS!” times. I’d say do what makes you and Shiva happy, the problem being that right now, I don’t think you’re feeling happy at all about something that usually does make you happy. hang in there, and I hope you have more good days in the ring 🙂

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  24. You know, whatever you decide you will still be able to find enjoyable things to do with your dog.

    And as an owner of dogs that do NOT have recall off leash-it in no way says anything about the relationship you have with your dog. Shiva might just not be an off leash dog. It sucks for agility. But it doesn’t mean you don’t have a bond even stronger than some of the dogs that are glued to their owner. She’s just different.

    As for dog sport…if you feel strongly that you need to participate in one-you could always try another. Freestyle, dock diving, rally, nosework….it’s all waiting to be discovered!

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  25. Wow! What thoughtful comments! I would never try to convince someone one way or the other. It is a purely personal decision. But I will say I understand the frustration and sadness. I do agility with a high drive corgi. We’ve been training for, well, since he was a little puppy and he’s 5 now. While I can’t say we have had no success, he’s got several AKC agility titles, I can say I have felt the frustration of watching a lot of those puppies we started with, now working on their 3rd or 4th or 5th Master Agility Championship, and we are nowhere close to getting our 1st. Trial after trial my guy won’t do the pause table. It’s perfect in class, it’s perfect at home, but go to a competition and hell, no! he won’t get on it. He runs around it, he runs past it, he stops just short. And this will be our only mistake for the run. In the Jumpers course we Q almost every time. I need double-Qs for my championship, and try after try, the table kicks my butt in Standard. I have seriously considered just throwing in the towel and then get very depressed thinking about never doing it again. My dog loves it, too, but I guess trial stress comes out at the table. Over the summer, he pulled his iliopsoas muscle and that was that. We were done while he healed. It gave me a chance to think about priorities and fun and not taking this whole thing so seriously. We start back to trialing in another week or so, and I am going to be so thankful just to be back at trials, seeing friends, and running with my buddy. So what if we don’t Q, I just want to rejoice in being there again. I have to take the joy however it comes, because you never know what the future holds.

    So really I don’t have any good advice or easy answers. Just know that you are not alone in the struggle. We aren’t all on the same rung, but many of us still deal with frustrations that just don’t seem fair. Keep plugging away and find joy in the process not in the results. I have a pendant I wear to trials. It has a little silhouette of a corgi and around the edges it says “Agility is a Journey”. I need that reminder.

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  26. Pingback: Follow-Up Friday: Dog Agility Blues, Part Dva | Rescued Insanity

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