Follow-Up Friday: Dog Agility Blues, Part Dva

Today I have the honour of co-hosting the Follow-Up Friday Bog Hop with Heart Like a Dog. It couldn’t be more timely as there is a post on this blog that is screaming for a sequel. Really, I should have waited until after my vacation last week to write it as I simply did not have the time to respond to all of the comments like I should have. And I should have. Because, wow.

You guys? Seriously? I am so completely humbled and flummoxed and appreciative of how you reached out to me when I needed it the most. There are so many people I need to thank individually. Every single comment meant so much at a time I felt pretty dang low. Even though dog agility is just a goofy little dog sport and my angst over the whole thing was akin to some people’s angst over world hunger, you understood. You didn’t make me feel silly or inadequate. You got it and because of that, I was able to pick myself up and attend the next agility class with quasi-confidence.

Which is pretty big for me. I wear confidence like I wear a silk dress – awkwardly.

I still haven’t made a final decision about my continuance in agility with Shiva. Part of me kind of wishes my PH would just take up the reins with her so I could find another dog who would better mesh with me. I’ll keep working on him but so far, no dice. Given all he has witnessed, I can’t really blame him.

As of today I think I am taking a hiatus on all fun matches, trials, and pressure situations. What I think we need to work on the most is our relationship. I need to learn how to have fun with it again. Coincidentally an agility coach of mine just sent out an email notification of an upcoming connection workshop she will be holding from December to March. Could it be any more appropriate? I haven’t trained with this instructor since last winter but I’ve always had really great results after our sessions. I have hope that with her aid, we may get back on track.

What have we got to lose, really? I mean, it can’t get any worse than what it is now.

Also, I’ve decided to stop rewarding Shiva on her line completely. I’ve also decided to only use food treats instead of a tug toy. Yes, I know. I spent three years trying to get Shiva to tug in class. But from what I have seen, using toys instead of food may have contributed to her regression. Tugging can be over-stimulating for an already too-drivey dog. Treats, on the other hand, instantly snare Shiva’s attention. If she learns that the only way she gets said food is if she stays with me, then we might one day be able to get a semblance of focus on the course. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to do more than take a single step off the start line.


Shiva doesn’t run off out of stress. I’ve never believed that. She isn’t sensitive to my feelings and doesn’t really care if I am upset. In my opinion, based on my experiences with her, Shiva runs off because she is distracted, bored, over-stimulated, or looking for fun. When I am nervous and stressed out, I am not exactly Nova Scotia Good Times. So she goes off in search of her own. Who can blame her? I probably wouldn’t hang out with me either. Until I can learn to laugh while on the course, Shiva isn’t interested in what I have to offer. If I am boring or freaking out over what she deems as nothing, she’ll continue to take off.

I need to learn how to enjoy myself at least half as much as she does.

I’m keeping my expectations low. As in, non-existent. Instead, I am going to spend my time playing with Shiva again. I am going to stop taking it all seriously. I am going to remember why I fell in love with her. And I am not going to enter any matches, fun or otherwise, until I can enter the ring with a genuine smile on my face.

At least, this is how I feel today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. If there is anything I’ve learned after living with this dog, it’s to keep on my toes. Life with a Shiva is never dull. I need to remember to appreciate that.

A hundred thousand thank yous, again, for every kind word. You each have made such an impact in my life. I am so grateful Shiva led me to this incredible community.


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21 thoughts on “Follow-Up Friday: Dog Agility Blues, Part Dva

  1. Great follow-up Kristine,

    Most of the time when Delilah is on the line she’s totally focused on me because I have food. She usually only goes off course when she smells food someone else has left. 😦 My biggest problem? She’s way faster than me. I can’t get myself to the next obstacle before she does.

    Some time last year Pamela suggested a book called Bonding With Your Dog by Victoria Schade. (sp) It helped me with Delilah and I actually feel we’ve gotten closer.

    I know you will get there with Shiva, I’ve seen your persistence, patience and willingness to take the extra step that Shiva needs. If I had to bet on anyone, it would be on you. 🙂

    Thank you for joining FUF, I’m truly honored to have you on board!


    • Well, there is nothing wrong with a fast dog in agility! There are a number of handling techniques to direct dogs that are faster than their people so once you get more comfortable out there with Delilah, I am sure you could start putting those into play. Have you worked on sends or lateral distance in your classes? Both of those will definitely come in handy with a fast dog. You could also work on directionals (teaching left and right) so that if Delilah is ahead of you and you want her to go to the obstacle on the left, you could just shout out “left! tunnel!” (or what have you) and she would know to take the tunnel entry to her left. But it all comes with practice. A lot of practice.

      Thanks for the book recommendation. I am definitely going to see if I can find a copy. Anything that will help get me in the right mindset is welcome!

      Thanks again for inviting me! Unfortunately, my website seems to be having issues that I can’t figure out and the home page is all wonky. I am trying to fix the problem but have no idea why posts aren’t showing up or why the comments for this post keep linking to comments for Monday’s post. Ugh. I hope this doesn’t affect anything with FUF!


  2. I’m so glad to hear you’re made some choices about this. It sounds like you’re getting yourself into a good place. And it sounds like you’re listening to Shiva. The tug toy vs treats is a very smart insight.

    And the connection workshop sounds great. I hope you and Shiva become closer than ever and rediscover the fun.

    I’m glad Jodi mentioned the Victoria Schade book. It was a game changer for me. I think you’d find the beginning pretty basic but it will reaffirm what you already know. But the ideas she has for reconnecting with your dog and making yourself fun in her eyes were just terrific.


    • I hope so too, Pamela. Thank you very much for all your encouragement. I’ve thought a lot about the things you’ve written in the past and realized I really need to make my relationship with Shiva my number one priority.

      Actually, I just finished reading Wallace’s book by Jim Gorant and there was a quote in there that helped me come to my conclusions. It was from champion disc-dog handler Chuck Middleton in reference to a dog of his who had passed away. He said he would readily give up all his titles and ribbons and accolades for the chance to spend one more day in the park with his dog. It really resonated with me and reminded me what is the most important.

      We are so lucky to have such great companions, aren’t we?


  3. In all your posts, what rings clear is your devotion to understanding Shiva. Always. I love it. A book that especially helped me was In a Dog’s Heart by Jennifer Arnold. Subtitle: What our dogs need, want and deserve…and the gifts we can expect in return. Pretty much to the point.


    • Thanks, Peggy. I try very hard to keep in mind the most important things and learn to shrug off the rest. It’s not easy, especially when I sometimes feel I have something to prove, being one of the few with a rescue dog in our agility group. But at the heart of it all, Shiva is what matters most, right?

      I have read Jennifer Arnold’s first book but haven’t gotten around to her second. I will have to check that out for sure.


  4. I’m not sure how I missed your previous post 😦 But Shiva is lucky to have you! Our relationship with our dogs is ever changing and they teach us so much, don’t they? I hope you and Shiva are able to have fun with agility so you can BOTH enjoy it! Good luck Kristine!!


    • I hope so too, thanks Julie! Dogs really are the best teachers. I certainly never expected how much I would change and experience after having one in my life. But once you go dog, you can’t go back! 😉


  5. It sounds like an excellent plan. I think it is important to have fun. If agility doesn’t work out, maybe you can find something else fun to do with Shiva. I can’t imagine how much training is required to do agility. Good job on how far you have come.

    The connection workshop sounds very interesting.


    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your encouragement! I agree that while I’d love to actually compete in agility one day, it isn’t the be all and end all. There are plenty of other ways we can train and spend time together. This is what matters the most.


  6. You have made such a good point that sometimes we are not very pleasant to be around and our dogs naturally will seek a better place to be. Motivation for us to try to be a fun place to hang around in spite of the frustrations of life.


    • That’s my plan anyway. I think if I focus on finding the fun in even the worst situations, I will be able to convince her to stick around a whole lot more. It will be a challenge as I am a fairly emotional person but with such a happy dog as Shiva for my inspiration, I just might be able to pull it off!


  7. Have you thought about doing a Control Unleashed class, or have you read the book (or have you done those, written about them, and I am totally forgetting about that?)? It sounds like it might be something that would help you and Shiva a lot. I’ve never taken the class, but did read the book, and it was pretty interesting.


    • I have read the book but it was a long, long time ago. It might be worth another read for sure. Especially since I know so much more now I might retain the information better. A class would be interesting but I don’t think there is anything like that offered here. Certainly my usual trainers do not.

      Thanks for the great suggestion!


  8. Can’t help with the off lead stuff, as mine are only off in my dad’s garden.

    Would like to say that you have enriched my life with your lovely blog. I love hearing about Shiva and when you show photos of her she always makes me smile as she is obviously a very happy dog.


  9. I think you sound relieved to be taking a break, or stopping completely, whatever you decide. And hey, no matter what you decide, decisions are NEVER permanent. They can always be changed. 🙂

    I bet a workshop will be lots of fun!


  10. Sometimes I think making a decision about things really helps to settle your mind about it, regardless of what it is. It sounds like you’ve found a place of peace with things, which I think is the best thing of all! You’re right, we all need to remember to have fun with our dogs!

    And btw, you’re the one with sponsorship to BarkWorld, not me! I look up to you!


  11. Thank you so much for stopping by!!

    Coming in at what sounds like the middle or end of the situation I must say you have really made a great point, “HAVE FUN” our dogs pick up so much from our attitudes and body language, something I continue to learn everyday!


  12. Good for you , Kristine! We spend enough time striving and working and making ourselves crazy. Endeavoring to have fun is a much better way to spend your time – and I’m sure Shiva will love it.


  13. Glad to hear you are sticking with it. I think you and Shiva will have lots of fun now that you’ve adjusted your mindset a bit to just go with it. That’s what I need to do with Ace, too, if we return to agility classes. The main thing is that both dog and human have fun!


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