The number of activities we can do with our dogs has grown by leaps and bounds. From obedience and agility to dock diving, lure coursing or flyball it seems pretty much endless. With endless options come endless opportunities for competition and endless shows and trials where we can spend our hard-earned cash on a chance for a dollar store ribbon.
Some competitions however can quickly become a long tedious descent into a level of hell Dante never thought of because he’d never tried to regain a dog’s attention who is focused on a shadow that could possibly be a bug on the ground. Today was one of those days. While it didn’t result in ‘temper tears’ (Which have happened to us, so we don’t judge) it wasn’t awesome and we need a reminder as to why we do this, and maybe some of you do too.
1) Training is about more than the end result
There’s nothing like the bond that training with your dog will bring you. It sounds hokey, but it is true. Rather that training leads to calm walks around the lake or running around a horse arena while your dog flings himself over various obstacles or picks out a leather bar you touched once from a pile of other crap… it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you are spending time with your dogs. Some of us choose to use that time to train towards a competitive goal and it becomes a passion. While the alphabet soup around our dogs’ names are appealing, it’s all an expression of the bonds we have with our dogs, just in a structured format.
2) Competition with an ideal is healthy
People who don’t like competition have issues. Healthy competition is just that, healthy. We have standards of competition for a reason. In pretty much every competition you’re aiming towards a dynamic idea of perfection to that particular judge. An objective third party is telling you how close to that standard you reached on that day and usually what you need to work on. It’s a simple optional test of your training. You should know the material and you’ve studied hours on end. If you don’t know it, don’t enter. Being aware of your own weaknesses in training is helpful. My dog may be good but if I can make her better, why wouldn’t I?
3) Raven Syndrome.
What does that winner have that I do not and how can I steal it and make it my own? That guy who beat me? Why did he beat me? What are they doing better than I can do that makes that difference. Judging is subjective (sometimes extremely so) but they beat me for a reason and I will know why. The answer, however tempting, isn’t their dog, it’s sometimes minor tweaking sometimes a major overhaul of something that wasn’t working. Either way, I want his mojo and I will find out how to get it to take it back to my nest so my dog will perform better next time.
3) We’re Competitive.
We’re not ‘The Dog Snobs’ by accident. While we’re polite about it, we’re competitive. Your dog is great but we’re pretty sure ours are better today and now we’re going to prove it. We don’t want to compete unless we’re sure our dogs are on par (or better than) the competition because there’s a difference between titling and excelling. Titling a dog is a major accomplishment but if it’s not my dog’s best effort, it’s mediocre. We can’t be snobby in mediocrity so we work harder at being smarter and come back stronger with more effort. Effort will always count more than a ribbon but the ribbon doesn’t hurt. Unless it’s Novice, because Novice is boring.
We have time for the losers too. We have a lot of time though you probably know that.
4) The People and the Connections
Training connections are gold. If you want to know about who’s training where with whom for what, you need people on the inside and you find those insiders at clubs and if your clubs are dysfunctional places for hopes to die, you find them at competitions. You get those connections by being friendly, polite and willing to offer a hand. As always however, with some no good deed will go unpunished and there are jerks. In its defense however, for every asshole* that is not willing to help a newbie out there, there are five other competitors that will fall over themselves to get you involved in the sport. Dog People? They really do like to share the madness. There are cliques and cults, of course. (We’re pretty sure we once saw ladies exchanging a blood oath in a trial bathroom.) Those people that are too snobbish to help out the new person aren’t the ones you want to socialize with anyway. Go, make friends, bring snacks, and avoid the folks that have forgotten that they were once new too. And if someone snaps at you over something? Deep breath, blank look and walk the other way. They’re not worth your time or energy.
Here’s a little secret. If I want to compete with my dog, and you are a trainer that wants to teach me how to compete with my dog… you sure as hell better have titled the dog in the sport I’m interested in. Not a novice title either, I want the good stuff. So if you want to be a dog trainer? You have to get out there. Title your dog, then start making up your business cards.
6) The Prizes
Okay, yeah we could order our own ribbons for cheaper than any entry fee, even the doofy toys are a nice show of accomplishment. Plus, we can subtract their cost from the entry fee and not feel like we just paraded our dogs on stage demanding pretty-feet and “booty popping” out of creatures who really don’t give a damn. Though if they had dog tiaras we’d probably*** be down for that.
*To all the assholes, it’s Thumper’s rule. If you can’t be polite or at least civil, you need to just not participate in dog activities with others. You ruin it for everyone else and you drive away the new competitors who actually allow these sports to continue. Also, trial results are easily available with minimal effort. We know who you are and have long memories**. We have a zero tolerance policy on bitchery to newbies. Educate, mentor, guide and even direct, but put on a happy face and suck it up buttercups. They’re here. They paid their entry fees just like you did. Get used to it.
**As of today Fang’s list which had previously been empty reluctantly grew by one.
*** We’re already seeing if this is a thing and what we need our dogs to do to get one….