Can a Family Pet be a Great Agility Dog?
Well anyone of you that has been reading my blog for any length of time knows the answer to that question. Without a doubt, my great agility dogs all start out and end up being great family pets first and foremost. I was asked to address this thought on my blog and why some competition training books suggest that your dog will never be great in the ring if you raise them simply to be a “pet.” I guess the difference may lie in your definition of “pet.” I want my dogs to be an awesome family pet, not just “a pet.”
I won’t comment on why there is such a dichotomy of opinion in the training books describing how a dog should be raised, only to say that dogs are a
divine gift, they learn to do what we want not always because of how we teach them but sometimes inspite of the methods we choose to teach them. Last year Encore knocked 3 bars in her first run at the world Championships. This year she didn’t have any bars until her last run. I dug deep as a trainer and came up with new grids to help her after last year. And after my bar this year I have even more ideas. By way of contrast I was told by someone whose team won the gold at the FCI World Championships one year (he was on the team) that for three weeks prior to the World Championships their team practiced with bars with spiked nails facing out to hurt any dog that touched the bars. Their team was reinforced for this action with a gold medal. Dogs learn regardless, but there are consequences with all choices you make.
Although I may be considered an “elite” dog trainer because of the awards I have won in International Dog Agility competitions, the truth is that my dogs are every bit as much a family pet as anyone else’s dog on this planet. That doesn’t change for me, not ever.
They sleep beside (or on) our bed, they hang out with us in the living room, and go for walks around our property. I have never re-homed a dog if it wasn’t good enough, I have just searched for the dog training solution to help that dog to become as good as he could be. I believe every dog takes you on a journey, so I allow each dog to take me where I need to go. If my dog training knowledge has evolved to be considered “highly regarded” by my peers, then that is the reason. I have arrived here, by following the lessons from my dogs.
Having stated all of that let me say that all of my dog training books and DVDs that I have written to describe my training program are developed from this single belief that I know I have stated on this blog previously.
The attributes that contribute to a phenomenally trained family pet lay down the foundation for a world champion competitor.
My program is based on controlling the reinfrocement in your dog’s life. There is no force, no collar corrections, no intimidation or pushing, pulling or smacking a dog into position. It is mutual respect that is earned through play and controlling sources of reinforcement until ultimately, you become more valueable to the dog than any reinforcement. The program has been successfully adopted by family pet owners, police dog trainers, highly competitive obedience, flyball, agility, protection work or schutzhund trainers alike.
I still read this false belief on various internet lists (did so as recently as 2 weeks ago) where it was stated “Susan Garrett does things in her training in order to win, but that isn’t the way “pet dog people” should do things.” I want to make it very clear that If I didn’t step foot inside another competition ring for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t change a single thing about the way my dogs are raised and trained (aside from the obvious of not training on the actual agility obstacles). So many people believe I train the way I do in order to have success in the ring. However my success in the ring is only a by-product of the way I train my dogs and there is a big difference between those two statements.
So yes, all of my books and DVDs will do the average pet owner a world of good as they are all packed with informaiton on how to create the family pet that everyone enjoys and wishes lived in their own home. This theme will continue with the latest DVD I am working on.
My blog and website have lots of free dog training advise to get any pet dog owner started. Every book or DVD I have written, even the ones that are about specific agility equipment have dog training gems scattered throughout that will enhance your relationship with your dog.
There is no difference. Today I am grateful that my awesome agility dogs are first and foremost my well loved, slightly spoiled, family pets.