Yesterday I attended the Kennel Club International Agility Festival which is being held at Rutland Showground. It is a very busy show with thousands of dogs at the venue. You may be surprised to read that I only took two out of my three dogs! Yes I left one at home!! 😳 (obviously in the care of a family member)
You see fair doesn’t always mean equal, when we do anything with our dogs it is really important to ask ourselves if our dogs would actually enjoy the experience too?!
Dogs often don’t get a choice when it comes to us taking them out for the day and it can often be hard to spot the signs if our dog is feeling uncomfortable.
Yesterday I left Milo at home and took Quest and Flash out for the day. As you can see from the pictures below, both Quest and Flash were more than happy being in that environment. I couldn’t be sure that Milo would have the same experience so I left him at home, it is a simple as that.
You might be wondering if I felt bad for leaving Milo at home and the honest answer is yes, for a brief second because that’s human nature but I knew that he would be having a lovely time at home being spoilt and having all the attention to himself for the day.
I’d never been to the KCIAF before but I knew it was a very large event and until I had visited and knew what to expect I didn’t want to take Milo as this wouldn’t be fair on him.
If you’ve read my book then you know Milo has different needs to my other two dogs. He can be anxious in certain situations and it really wouldn’t be fair for me to take him and just hope he would be OK, especially if I then expected him to play agility.
Not every situation is right for every dog and we can often put our own needs and wants before those of our four-legged friend! We then sometimes get frustrated if we are in these situations and the dog isn’t behaving how we would like, rather than looking at why the dog is acting that way.
In dogs, behaviour is driven by emotion and it is important to look beyond the behaviour and ask why the dog is behaving in that way.
Our own emotions also effect the dogs behaviour, take my agility runs yesterday for example. Flash had two agility runs yesterday, he is a dog who is very consistent in his agility but in his first run yesterday, if you were watching you would wonder if he had ever been trained! 😆 This is because MY nerves got to me. It is a very big event, I had never competed there before and I didn’t handle the course to the best of my ability and it resulted in an elimination.
Flash didn’t know any different though, we still had fun and kept smiling and he still got a big reward at the end with me laughing at how awful that particular run had been 🤦♀️.
Now if that had happened with Milo it would have massively effected his confidence. Milo picks up on my emotions and these can change how he behaves. Flash isn’t like that in the way Milo is, and aslong as I keep the experience fun then Flash doesn’t know any different. If Milo gets something wrong in agility his confidence takes a dive, and in those split seconds our human behaviour can alert the dog to this despite all our efforts to not let on!
Flash’s second run was much better, I had less nerves and it resulted in a clear round. He came in at 11th in a class of 48ish dogs, mostly collies, so I’m really pleased with his result.
I didn’t go to the event with any big goals in mind at all, I never do when it comes to competition. You never know what is going to happen. Yes, you can train and prepare but your working with an animal who has their own brain and the ability to make their own choices. A clear round is, I suppose, my main goal but if it doesn’t happen then it is no big deal.
We play agility for us, for FUN, to give the dog an outlet to work their brain but ultimately we do it for ourselves. It is so important to consider the emotional needs of the dogs who let us enjoy this sport.
Milo loves his agility but he wouldn’t of necessarily enjoyed the environment it was being held in yesterday and for me his enjoyment of it means more than the actual results themselves.
Agility is built on relationship, nurture that relationship and you will both enjoy the experience far more. A byproduct of that will be the results that follow anyway.
I train my dogs in agility for me, to allow us to enjoy something together that inhances our relationship and gives my dogs a chance to work their brains as well as their bodies.
I’ve been criticised in the past for not attending certain shows which are larger or not doing things the way others think I should, but these people need to remember I don’t do agility for you, I do it for me! I don’t need to prove anything to anyone other than that my dogs are happy 🙂.
Agility is a competitive sport but the competition shouldn’t be with others, it should be with yourself. Are your dogs getting better or are they regressing, if the latter look at WHY.
Comparison is the theif of joy, never compare with other people, dogs etc. Everyone is on their own journey, just enjoy that journey as much as you possibly can.