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How Your Old Running Shoes Can Be Like Relationships

Posted on 07/17/09 31 Comments

I am sitting here under the golden arches of McDonalds getting an internet connection before the trial starts this morning. I had an early morning because I woke up thinking about some smut I heard last night about Greg Derrett and myself (not romantically, ewwwwwweeee, but rather as instructors). It started me thinking about when I recently changed to a new brand of turf shoes to run agility. Mostly I am a loyal person, I find something that works I stick with it even in the face of that which is shiny and new. However when I make the decision to change, then it is easy to find fault in that which I previously stood by. If some tells me, wow don’t you love those new turf shoes and crap, didn’t you just hate those old ones, we can waste a good 10 minutes of our lives, 10 minutes  that we will never again get back,  doing nothing more then slamming that old brand of turf shoes. 

I guess loyalty is one of the reasons that I still follow Greg Derrett’s handling system. The other is that it works and I win alot:) As I have told students that have jumped ship to follow other systems, “I prefer to dance with the man that brought me to the party.”  I have won a lot of championships and invested a ton of time in my relationship with this handling system. So I am not going to get to the top and then abandon that which brought me my success.

Although I am the first one to try something new in my training, I do so with great deal of thinking, experimenting and record keeping before I do. Just because something is bright, shiny and new doesn’t make it better. But there will always be those that like to try the newest fad and I am not judging you if this is you, just explaining a bit more of who I am and why. I think my loyalty may have something to do with my upbringing. Let me digress and tell you about my family. . .

 I have 8 brothers and sisters who have (I hope I am right) 18 offspring of their own plus (4 more from those offspring, I am a Grand-Aunt:)). My father had 2 brothers and 3 step siblings (his mother died at a young age and his father remarried). My mother had 9 brothers and sisters. Do you get the drift here, we have a freaking huge family. I don’t even know how many cousins I have, like a zillion or so. So within this massive collection of people, there are likely hundreds of us, there is one ultra unusual thing about almost all of us. This is a freaky fact, something I think National Geographic should be interested in doing a documentary about; within this massive group of people there has only be two failed marriages and 1 divorce versus well over a

At the 2007 Worlds with Lynda Orton Hill and Greg Derrett
At the 2007 Worlds with Lynda Orton Hill and Greg Derrett

 hundred or more marriages. All of my brothers and sisters older than me have been married for over 25 years each. My parents were married for 45 years when my mom passed away and all of their sibs (with one exception) are either still married or died being married to the person they first fell in love with. Loyalty is in my blood I think. And don’t get me wrong, those are happy, communicative relationships, they are fun couples to be around, not ones that are just “staying together.”  And no, we are not catholic:).

So that tells you about me and loyalty. However the point of this post is, if you choose to leave an instructor, philosopy, training or handling system you don’t need to toss away the relationships with the schooling. Try not to get into the former turf shoe mode of mindset because if you do, you are going to waste your time trash talking about something you formerly held very dear. You are going to be tearing down people this time, not just a brand of old sneakers. You do not need to justify your change by degrading what you have left behind. Moving on doesn’t need to mean burning the bridges that once connected you to the past. Your own journey is taking you in a new direction and it can be taken in peace without judgement, really it can. 

Remember that half empty glass is still half full.  

Today I am grateful for the strong sense of loyalty God has blessed me with. It is much easier for me to live me life when I don’t have to keep changing my mind about the people and things I hold dear!


  1. Corry says:
    Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 5:11pm

    It’s funny how, of all days, today I came across this blog and website for the first time. I just paid for a re-membership to the local Agility Club. I have been away from it for almost 2 years and in that time lost my beloved Sheltie to cancer. He was only 8 1/2 years old. I now have a 1 1/2 year old Sheltie who needs a job and something fun to do. We are getting back into Agility. With my first dog, I think I had the best training- ever. The ladies who helped us become a great team were amazing. I am now living in a different city and the potential for the same amazing training is gone. I am looking to the past at what I had and not what could be. It’s really, really hard to move on from something great, but…(even now it brings tears to my eyes)…I also need to look forward to what could be, not what was. Moving on can be scary , and sometimes a necessity, but it helps us grow and hopefully be better for it. Right?


  2. A.Alfonso says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 4:58pm

    oops typo! you CAN’T earn respect…


  3. A.Alfonso says:
    Monday, July 27, 2009 at 4:57pm

    DITTO!!!!! I have students that come to me from other trainers and it’s completely forbidden to talk trash about their previous trainer. First, because I respect the other trainers (just putting up with some people takes talent) and second because I believe what goes around comes around, you can earn respect by trashing others. I know I don’t have all the answers and never will but I believe in training find out what works and stay consistent..If it ain’t broken don’t fix it….improve it maybe. You will never succeed with any system if you don’t stay consistent(that rhymed!) and ultimately is about being fair to your dog.


  4. Elizabeth says:
    Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 7:36pm

    I have to say I am one of those people that ran using the GD system for years. Even though I found success I changed. You see mine was not lack of loyalty, I would be perfectly happy to continue in that very system today. However, with that said, the reason I changed is I found a sytem that was easier on my body. I am a plus size woman who despite back pain and knee pain wanted to continue doing the sport I loved. It was tough to retrain a dog {Border Collie} that understood the Derrett system so well. It took me back in my training for months. However now I can say we are running well and my body is not taking as much stress. I think sometimes when we get so focused on doing it “our” way we lose sight of those that can’t for some various reason.`Mine was not because I wanted to try something new or that I lack loyalty in my gene pool it was because all hats don’t fit all heads. I wish everyone luck in their choice of systems and I have to say the GD sytem is great and works, not just for me.


  5. Ann says:
    Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 11:18am

    The GD system provides a brilliantly simple means for delivering consistent messages to your dog. I don’t have a problem being loyal to a system that can do all that …..


  6. Kimberly Smith says:
    Wednesday, July 22, 2009 at 5:12pm

    I believe this bashing is really people defending their positions. When someone makes a decision about something, they often have to explain that decision to friends and people of interest in their lives. They disassociate with the people on the off side of that decision and seem to be blind to the fact that ill-spoken words always lead to hurt feelings. Unfortunately I have been on both sides, but fortunately with age, I am now more understanding of consequences. These are folks either humanly immature or just nasty. In either case, they are not worth your worry. It is their problem. The fact that they are being negative shows they are still thinking about their decision, and may already subconsciously have doubts, but are talking themselves into why their new decision is still good.

    Forgive them, pray for them, and keep winning, both in life & agility!



  7. Bobbie Bhambree says:
    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 11:04am

    As usual, agility and dog training mirrors philosophies that should be followed in all parts of life. That is the greatest thing I am taking away from the training I have received over the past couple of years working with Say Yes!

    A difficult thing is committing yourself to a system and philosophy while still “green” to agility, and then facing negativity by other competitors and instructors as a result of your decision–and the crazy thing is they don’t even know you on a personal level. It’s really too bad. I just make it a point to focus on the good in my life, especially my dogs.


  8. Trudie says:
    Tuesday, July 21, 2009 at 8:42am

    I’ve just been enjoying reading so many of these comments: Sharon, Susan, Heidi, Claire….Kathy…

    Just as an aside, in the category one might call “Greg Derrett Secret Garden”:
    I love to use Greg’s “back”,and “close” for left and right. I also love Susan’s “check” for “turn tightly after a jump and come back to me”. Yesterday I was asked “What is that word you say to get your dog to turn? BAC?” (In French this is a word for some kind of container”) I think I’m considered a wierdo, like that must be some weird English word for “turn”.


  9. Kathy Smith says:
    Monday, July 20, 2009 at 12:32pm

    Hmmmmm…. it is weird the way your blog always reflects current things in my life!! A little spooky at times. I just got back from attending a trial and the bulk of the people either don’t have a “set” system or right now most are doing the other popular one. I find it all very interesting. I was questioned on my leadouts in a very nice way and why I do the Derrett sytem. They showed me their way which I know well too only it conflicts with my chosen system. I was SO surprised that I was the only one to lead out with GD. Both worked… I felt that mine was more efficient but not because of the “system” but because every leadout we did I have trained before. MY 2 1/2 year old boy could do 4 obstacles on his own and look away form me to his first jump when I raised my arm and be turning over a jump to me with me just changing arms.. (VERY PROUD).

    So again… TRAINING seems to be the issue, not the system. People dance around all over the place and confuse their dogs. Consistency is SO important. Right now I hear little comments bashing my chosen system from just a few but I walked away with fantastic times and 9 clean runs (out of 11!!) with first places overall (my husband beat me in 2 runs with our other dog, LOL) so times are really good too. Dogs always seem to know where they are going and are fast and confident. I see this sometimes in the other system too but again, it is those who are consistent and TRAIN!!


  10. Candice Itzkovics says:
    Monday, July 20, 2009 at 3:38am

    Hi Susan,
    I am new to agility and don’t know much about dog training, handling systems or methodology. I am just trying to learn the sport and have some fun with my pup. So I started to follow your blog.
    Reading this post has made me think about another aspect of my life entirely. It reminded me of a relationship I had which ended very badly. I know this former friend spoke poorly of me as “The Old Tennie” as I did in kind, of her, out of hurt and confusion over what had happened. You have helped me to realise the mistake of this. I should be loyal to the good times she and I shared together, move on in that new direction and do it with the peace and lack of judgement of which you spoke.
    Good trainers give advice which can apply to so many aspects of our lives if we only look at it in a broader way. Thank you Susan for this observation which can be be seen as more than just a way to handle our dogs, it’s a way to handle our lives in a kinder, gentler way.


  11. Megan says:
    Monday, July 20, 2009 at 2:25am

    I come from a horse riding background and would have lessons occasionally with a variety of instructors, all of differing levels and disciplines. I never had anything bad to say about any of them, as I always gained something in each lesson. You need to pick and choose what works for you and continue with it, if you don’t like someone else you don’t go back. Having said that you can’t continually chop and change, one instructor I had was great for jumping but not really good with dressage so you do what you can. I have converted to dog agility, a- because my dog was bored, b- its heaps of fun and c- its way cheaper than horses!! If I had known about Greg and Susan way back when I started I might be better than I am today. My next dog will be following a much more rigid system incorporating everything I have learned from Greg and Susan and even though I may never get to a clinic (unless you plan to holiday in Far North Queensland, Australia 🙂 ) I will do my utmost to consistently put into practice what I have learnt! I no longer worry about missing competitions (I have 2 small kids) I focus on having fun with my dog and any problems he has is a reflection on me and my training consistent or otherwise!!


  12. Claire Duder says:
    Monday, July 20, 2009 at 12:37am

    I think it is human nature to be negative about a path you no longer chose to follow: Better to find fault with the path than the traveller!

    When I sit and watch at a trail, it is usually pretty easy to see who has a system and who doesn’t. It is also usually pretty easy to figure out which system is in use. Honestly, for the majority of handlers, the fault is not in the system, but in the execution: Who cares if you indicate a turn with a verbal, an off-arm precue, a decel cue, or a voodoo dance- if your cues are miss-timed, you will mess up. If you have not taught your dog to jump, bars will come down.

    Handling systems are generally not training systems (although most systems do have assocaited training)- the assumption with every system I have seen is always that obstacle performance is a given. I still see lots of obstacle faults happening- missed contacts, bars down, weave entry problems, which probably account for more NQ’s and low placements than all the handling system differences you could think of.

    So, I guess I don’t see what all the fuss is about: Chose what works for you, do the foundation work that will allow the system to work best, and wish everyone good luck! Why be nasty? I don’t get it.

    I like the idea of a system- improved clarity and consistency for the dog translates into faster runs. I like the Derrett system- it makes sense to me, and I can do it pretty well. I do, however, do some things that the Derret system would frown on (I LOVE, love, love to gamble, and I layer and flick away on a pro forma arm change without qualm), and I do make some handling choices based on the limitations of my dogs’ obstacle performance skills . I don’t think this is “disloyalty”


  13. Charlotte Rundgren says:
    Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 7:40pm

    The people that keep changing systems are generally those that are unable to be consistent themselves and certainly incapable of giving their dogs any consistency. I for one am a fan of the GD system, and will stick at it. Greg has been out to New Zealand a couple of times and for a while after each visit there are loads of converts, but at the end of the day there are only a handful of people that stick with the system. We have handlers here that are constantly looking for short term gain and quick fixes (both in handling and training methods – contacts in particular change from show to show!!!), and every now and again they have good results but are they consistent? NO! Whilst the smut talk and rubbishing of others is unpleasant to say the least they are in reality only hurting themselves by wasting their energy on negatives.


  14. Heidi says:
    Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 4:25pm

    I love the GD system. I have noticed at trails there are lots of different styles that do very well. I think the key is being consistent in what you teach your K9 friend. I have seen lots of people doing the same system as me but they don’t do as well because the are not consistent in what they teach and they don’t train on a regular basis. My two cents! 🙂


  15. Susan says:
    Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 11:52am

    As Susan has said elsewhere, quite eloquently, we are all on a journey, searching for the path that is right for us. It is when we think we are RIGHT(with capital letters) that we get into trouble. If there was only one way to do anything then there would be one book and we would all be doing it that way. I think it is important to be curious and to listen…it is difficult to be judgmental if you do both. Often in agility, and the world in general, we are quick to put down or discount difference, rather than bring it in to the dialogue. I think most people “make sense” and have reasons for what they do. I don’t need to agree with them but I want to understand their point of view. I think the goal of any conversation is to have an impact….so often we are afraid of letting someone have an impact on us(we may have to change). I like the Derrett system because it makes sense to me, is consistent and seems easy for the dog(if and when I get it right 🙂 )


  16. Penny Mead says:
    Sunday, July 19, 2009 at 2:53am

    Great photo!!! Especially Lynda looking so enthusiastic, vivacious and glamourous .. as usual!!


  17. Sharon says:
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 9:46pm

    If you are confident in what you are doing, who cares what someone else thinks or says. Its all about your relationship with your dog and the goals you have set for your team. Many paths to the same destination!!!! No one system works for every dog or handler. I look at my sweet babies and embrace all they have taught me and will continue to teach me. When its all said and done, the number of wins is irrelevant. Did you enjoy the ride? I hope so!


  18. Stephanie says:
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 7:05pm

    I have to admit to exploring a bit at this time, but I also have learned so many good things from the different instructors that I have had and the Workshops at Say Yes. I try to the best of my ability to apply much of it to my training with my dogs, including my new puppy. We are doing the tug on the table, 123 game, shaping etc. and I see how much fun and learning goes on with these methods.

    Obviously the Greg Derret Handling System works as both Susan and Linda have accomplished so much with their dogs. And if I could even be half as good as either of them I would be happy.

    I hear critcism of different systems and it bothers me as I believe, at least the two main ones that I know of, work and both have their merits. My hope is to settle into one system, but I would vigoroursly defend both.


  19. jeanine says:
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 2:22pm

    As someone who has HD and has had one hip replacement, I don’t follow anyone’s training system, because my ability to do front crosses well deteriorates when I am in pain. But I do find that certain training philosophies or features from several systems work for me and I like to add more skill sets for me and my dogs. So I am not a “system” person, but I like to train certain things in certain ways without adopting a “system” wholesale. Somedays I can put in front cross and get there in time to do it; other days I’m hurting and slower and need a different skill set. No reason to trash anyone or any system, though.


  20. Linda says:
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 12:47pm

    It is a shame that the sport of agility has been tainted by “system” bashing. I use a non- GD system. Like you, I see no reason to toss out something that has brought me a great deal of success- something that I have invested a lot of time into. However, I can appreciate that other well-trained and well-executed systems work too. Frankly, agility would be really boring if everyone walked the same path. My feet might not fit your running shoes, but I can be happy that you have found shoes that do not hurt YOUR feet. 🙂


  21. Gail Gooch says:
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 11:46am

    Hi Susan,

    I enjoy your posts alot and this was a really good one. So many good points and great to hear about your family. Mike and I have just celebrated 28 years of marriage and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. That’s quite an accompishment in todays society. Keep up the great posts and I look forward to seeing you again soon.


  22. Joe says:
    Saturday, July 18, 2009 at 9:29am

    Hi Susan!

    Whenever people start gossiping to me about others, I always end our ‘conversation’ with, “Do me a favor/favour, when you say crap about me, and you will — please send me a written copy of it. Thanks a lot.”


  23. Beth says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 8:54pm

    Hi Susan,
    I agree with you 100%!!!! The negativity that goes with the word “systems” has to stop! There are a ton of “systems” out there and people should choose the one that works for them. If there weren’t any choices, then life would be pretty boring.
    I believe that everything in life is a learning experience, and if you move on, then take that knowledge with you and learn from it.
    I have been doing Greg’s system now for 5 years and it has worked well for me.


  24. Mary M says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 8:21pm


    Good for you, for processing this upset and noting how harmful this “trashing” can be to anyone.

    Yes, people are judgmental, all people, we make judgments everyday….and we all have our own issues….know where you are is where you are meant to be and leave other people to figure out their paths, but along the way if we add a little less negative energy to this world, we will all be better off for it. In fact if instead we put out positive instead we will be better off for it, and in our interactions with our dogs, so will they.

    We are all here for a reason and I truly enjoy and benefit from your ability to teach, write and help others have positive relationships with their canine companions – you have helped me insurmountably (even though I have never even met you) through you books, blogs, and DVD’s (and so has Greg) with my boys…..so thank you!

    Keep up with the positive and let others wallow in the negative they allow and bring in!!!



  25. Marilyn says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 8:13pm

    I agree with what you have to say about making changes and then trashing what got you the success you currently enjoy. I, too, am a very loyal person. In fact, when asked for one adjective to describe me, I often give loyal. I must disagree with the marriage part, though. While I am thrilled that the majority of your family stayed married and are still very happy, I was in an abusive situation, and I had no choice but to get a divorce, no matter how loyal I was. Not sure that loyalty and staying in a marriage are one in the same. Now the fact that I go on vacation each year with two of my friends from college and all of our children and that we have done this for 24 consecutive years – now that is loyalty. As a side note, during the very difficult divorce – my most loyal friends were my dogs 🙂


  26. Tyler says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 2:48pm

    There is also a point that has to be made, if a person tries out a different system they shouldn’t be ostracized for doing so. Greg’s system is fantastic and works for some folks, it doesn’t work for everyone out there and if they find that fact out they shouldn’t be shunned, spoken poorly of or dismissed at trials because of it. This goes both ways.

    People are very loyal until they are given a reason not to be.


  27. Sarah Mairs-Heaslip says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 12:46pm

    The paparazzi often spread the word of evil for the pure enjoyment of gossip. I am thankful for seeing truth in my own dogs response to a systematic approach. Smut is smut and I guess makes for good reading….my mom always buys the magazines, but they just end up in the washroom aiding in bowel movements.

    Added stress in and around the agility ring is not needed…….the bigger picture of life has so many more legitiment stressors. Speaking of which…..I have to attend to small mess I just made……I put the wrong soap in my dishwasher………Crap………LOL
    See you tomorrow


  28. Michelle says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 12:31pm

    Your statement – “The other is that it works and I win alot” is one of a lot of confidence. I wish I were as confident as you in my convictions. However, you have the luxury of your method in the ability to have it so accessible. And yes, you worked and earned it. But it was like someone said yesterday, and I will rephrase to make a little comedy out of it as that is my nature, I could take all the piano lessons in the world, but I dont think I would be buying a baby grand anytime soon or playing at Carnegie Hall either (is that where you might play !!!) You have a gift, this is your thing and you excel at it. We all have strengths in certain areas, some of us just havent found them yet! There are a lot of wannabes out there. I think I fall into that category in the dog world. But then if I were really serious I would probably go and get a BC and do my best to win. But I love my springers and accept a somewhat limited fate. I digress, I always do that. Point is sometimes us pleabs with a mean streak cant accept the talent of others and just arent so nice about it. Well I say to you, bring it on, inspire me, maybe one day me and my Springer, could be my next one, will be on the podium with you!! And you know, I am really confident you will be happy for me!


  29. Andrea says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 11:43am

    I absolutely agree! Just because a person decides to try something new or different doesn’t mean that they should burn all their bridges with the people who they’ve worked with before and vice versa we should all be supportive of our friends decisions to try something new.

    I’ll never understand why a person’s choice of handling system all of the sudden says something about their moral fibre or their intellect. C’mon it’s just dog agility and if we all love our dogs (and are keeping it positive) and they are loving the game then let’s stop judging each other on the handling we use. I like to be able to have a dicussion with others on how to handle a sequence, course etc but lately it seems to have become such a touchy subject, with way too many personal feelings involved for some people.

    Okay I’m done ranting and off to play with the dogs 🙂



  30. Jason says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 11:41am

    I can’t speak on the Derrit System. I can speak to people being negative. “Yuck” Now that I have spoken- I am going to look for some old running shoes and tell them I still love them.


  31. Wishy says:
    Friday, July 17, 2009 at 11:29am

    I’m still sold on the Derrett system, not only because of loyalty, but also because I’m still convinced it’s a set of cues as consistent and clear to my dogs as I can find and it’s grounded in solid learning theory and understanding of ethology and behavior. Loyalty and appreciation of how far you’ve come and how you’ve gotten where you are and who has helped you get there never hurts either though!


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