Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tuesday musings

I like training my dog better than showing my dog.

There. I said it. I’ve gradually realized this during the last five years but Phoenix’s arrival on the show scene in the last 12 months has really brought it home.

It’s not that I don’t like showing. I like it very much. I just like training better. I like the one-on-one time spent learning to communicate (with varying levels of success) with a different species. I like it that I can train when and where it’s convenient for me, with people I like and I can set my own agenda for the session. I can change the agenda if I want.

So why not forget shows and spend all my time (and money) training instead? Sounds like there would be a lot less stress and fewer gray hairs that way, huh?

I show because showing is a test of my training methods. If I didn’t show, I’d never find out what behaviors I’ve taught successfully (that is, which ones hold up under the stress of a new environment when the cookies and balls disappear.) I’d never know what my dog really understood, what he sort of understood and what he didn’t have a clue about.

We joke about our dogs being a 200 in the backyard but how many trainers can walk into a totally new environment and still have a 200 dog? If you CARE whether your training methods work, you gotta show to find out. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

Showing drives me crazy because when my dog and I make a mistake in the ring, I want to stop and work through it. I am such a control freak (show me a serious obedience competitor who isn’t) that I can’t stand having to go on to the next exercise when my dog has just shown me he didn’t understand the previous one. Or that he was distracted. Or just plain didn’t give a damn on that particular day. I want to stop and TRAIN.

What if there weren’t any obedience trials? Would I still train?

Of course, because I love the interaction with my dog but I probably wouldn’t train the same things. I’d focus more on games and tricks in addition to basic household obedience. And I’d still teach scent discrimination because I think it’s cool.

What if they had obedience trials but didn’t keep score or have titles and you could just show at whatever level you wanted for as long as you wanted? Would I still show then? Absolutely, because I’d still get to go into the ring and test my training methods. Scores don’t have a lot of meaning to me. If I got a 199 with a robotic performance, I wouldn’t be happy because that is NOT how I want my dog to work. If I got a 190 with enthusiasm and animation, I would be delighted.

What about you? Do like training or showing better? Would you still show if they didn’t keep score? Would you still train if there weren’t any shows?

Today I am thankful for good friends to bounce training ideas off of. (Yes, I know you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition. And I don’t care.)


  1. I like training better. Showing makes me nervous, but in training I just get to enjoy watching my dog learn and allow our relationship to get stronger. I think I like agility showing better than training though-because I just get to run and enjoy the course! I like scent discrimination too-it's just too cool.

  2. I've always enjoyed the process(training) more than the product(showing), but like in all things a balance must be struck. And hoo boy, do I wish we could stop everything and request immediate do-overs, both in obed as well as agility!!

  3. I like training best, but I tend to get lazy if there is no show to "aim" for. I really don't care about scores. I try very hard to set my own standards. I hate getting a high score for a mediocre performance. I don't mind getting a lower score than I think I deserve because the performance met my standards for that day. I love agility trials because the courses are interesting and I don't get very nervous for agility.

  4. You have had the best posts lately!! Thought provoking... I DO like training my dog. Do I like it better? Hmmmm... I like it DIFFERENTLY. I love the social aspect of the show and running my dogs on a course that someone else has invented.

    If there were no shows... I would probably only be teaching some basic home obedience and tricks - love love love tricks! :-)