At the trials over the weekend, I watched a lot of different handlers interact with their dogs both inside the ring and out. It was obvious each person had their own agenda and the success or failure of it was reflected on their faces and in their body language as they left the ring and in how they treated their dogs.
It got me thinking (not always a good idea!) about what I really want when I show my dog. The obvious answers are “To Q,” “To get a leg,” “Win my class,” "Get points," etc. but we all know there’s more to dog sports than that. At least there is for me and my friends. That’s why they’re my friends. We think alike. (That is scary but really, we're basically harmless.)
In no particular order, these are the things I want from any obedience or agility run with Phoenix:
• To be a confident team (no uncertainty or confusion about exercises or skills.)
• To be a happy team (however this doesn’t mean my dog has to be in an insane frenzy the entire time we are in the ring.)
• To be a focused team (outside distractions do not faze us; we are totally in the zone and living in the moment.)
• To trust that my dog knows how to do whatever I ask him so I do not have to over-handle.
• To perform with as little stress as possible.
• To have the same dog in the ring that I have in the back yard.
• To be the same handler in the ring that I am in the back yard.
• To be able to read my dog’s body language from minute to minute (or second to second as the case may be) and determine what he needs from me, as the handler, to perform to the best of his ability.
• To perform with obvious joy in whatever venue we are participating in.
• To be able to analyze our performance afterward and figure out, within reason, why things (both good and bad) happened the way they did.
• To come away from the event knowing what skills need work.
• To come away from the event with ideas of how we can improve those skills.
• To find positive elements of our performance, even if it did not go as planned.
• To look into my dog’s eyes and see reflected there the same love, enthusiasm and joy I want him to see in mine.
There are probably dozens more things I could come up with if I had the time but it all comes down to one thing: it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters most.
Oh, by the way, there are TWO Seekers in Phoenix’s world: his litter bro Seeker and his border collie friend Seeker. Seeker the malinois recently got his CD with some very nice work and also thinks he’s had enough when it comes to Novice obedience. Seeker the border collie is thinking outside the box (or maybe he’s hiding inside the box or stealing the box, who knows) to find ways to eliminate any further entries in Novice obedience on Phoenix’s part.
Thank you, Promise (Phoenix and Seeker’s mom) for straightening out ALL the boys and reminding them how lucky they are to be OUR dogs. But I am never telling Phoenix that his mom has her own personal cat. Honestly, there would be no living with him.