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Or is it . . .

Posted on 10/21/09 23 Comments

Some great comments following my post yesterday. I love when my own students don’t agree with me!  Not that I want a lot of arguments when I am teaching, but it is brilliant if you question opinion, that makes everyone better.  If you push me to explain myself you may expose a weakness in my theory which forces me to either improve what I do or at least improve the way it is presented!

Several of you brought up breeders picking puppies for you. Let me tell you, I think the dog I have had the strongest bond with over my lifetime was my Jack Russell Terrier “Twister” (although Stoni would have something to say about that). Every week after Twister was born I drove 75 minutes through the worst part of the Canadian winter (Twister was born December 26th). When she was 5 weeks old the breeder told me she would be the one I would be taking home.  I told her she was nuts. Twister was half the size of the other puppies, I wanted a performance dog, that little weakling puppy was not going to stand up to the demands of a performance life.  I had no early photos of Twister as I was certain of the 6 in the litter she would not be mine.  

By the time she was 7 weeks old there was no doubt, I was crazy about her, she was the one. The breeder knew long before I did.  A good breeder, one that spends a lot of time with their litters and spends the time to find out what people really need in a dog,  often do know better than you.  This is especially true if you are new to dogs or to the breed you are selecting. Just know you will get the dog you are intended.

Others of you have said “your puppy chose you.”.  Let me say I was certain when I left for England two years ago that if I took a puppy, it would be Feature. The breeder was so certain of it as well, she started calling her “Feature” when she was 4 weeks old.  I had pick of the three red bitches. We went into their garden (aka backyard to us that live across the pond) and let the three of them out. They all came to visit me and then two left. Feature just sat at my side, she would not leave. I tried to get her away as I wanted to see her structure, she would have none of it. She was not afraid, she was just making a point, I was hers and she wanted to make sure I realized it.  I knew. It took her several minutes before she left to play, but eventually she joined her littermates taking away my worry that there was something “wrong” with this puppy.

Still others have written you grew to love your puppy. I think Buzz would fall in to that category for me. I knew I had to have him, but it wasn’t the same heart-grab all of my others had given me. There was never a doubt I was going to keep Buzz, even with almost everyone around me telling me he was too crazy to be successful. I guess it depends upon how you define success.  Buzz gave me far more than I ever gave him in return. Besides being a constant source of entertainment as he goes through life (still at 13 years young, he still cracks me up) Buzz gave me the gift of dog training knowledge that no other dog could ever give me. Buzz is the reason I have been able to help so many Border Collie owners. Stoni, who came before Buzz, was an awesome Border Collie but she was almost human-like in her understanding of what I wanted. Buzzy showed me that only solid scientifically proven technique was going to help me help him to be the best that he could be.  As a puppy he made me further my knowledge of laws of reinforcement which lead me to a close relationship with Bob Bailey. As a two year old Buzz then showed me I needed a clear handling system which lead me to bringing Greg Derrett in for the first time. It started (then 23 year old), Greg’s seminar career (we have worked together 2-4 times a year every single year since). Buzz then showed me I knew nothing about jump training which lead me to force Susan Salo to start to travel and do seminars.  Susan and never left home to teach and had only ever tried to help dogs with jumping once in her life before.

Buzzy being Buzzy (if you look closely he has broken a slat off the Frame has he powers to his position)
Buzzy being Buzzy as a young dog (if you look closely you can see he has broken a slat off the Frame has he powers to his position)

Not successful? Well even if you don’t count Buzz’s two National Championships (one in Canada and one in the USA) I think you would agree that a dog I had to grow to love,  grew to be the most important dog of my life (and a pivotal part of Greg Derrett and Susan Salo’s)!  So please don’t let my post from yesterday scare you. Not all of my dogs were love at first sight dogs but they all were (or are ) very well loved dogs!

Today I am grateful for Buzz and what (and who) he has brought into my life. Buzzy has to have some surgery next Monday (nothing major, a tooth he knocked out of his mouth being a knuckle-head two years ago, now has a left-behind-root that is becoming a pest and must be removed) so please send your good vibes for my boy.


  1. Jackie says:
    Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 10:22am

    Love this topic! I’ve had dogs who have fallen into all the categories …. love at first sight, those who have chosen me, and those that I’ve had to learn to love. Buddy is my Buzz!! A dog who forced me to learn & expand my knowledge. Buddy was a wild child when he came to me at 10mths of age, & he pushed all my buttons. At times I felt I hated him & then I felt enormous guilt for feeling that way. Nobody wanted him …. he was too wild! Trust me .. I tried to place him 🙂 He was a lot of dog with a lot of unfocused energy and barrier frustrative issues. Sheer necessity forced me to find a way to help Buddy learn & save my sanity. He grew up to be a great dog but the bond between us took time …. it grew from constant frustration to an understanding and eventually LOVE. Buddy is thirteen now & I wouldn’t trade him for a million dollars!

    Of all the dogs I have now, my “heart” dog is Rowdy and he chose me. I was looking at a different puppy in the litter, but Rowdy just wouldn’t leave me alone. I didn’t click with the puppy I had chosen & Rowdy was insistent that I notice him and as soon as I did ….CLICK! …. it was instant. And as soon as I felt that click, I instantly knew his name would be Rowdy. And for those who know me, you’ll know how significant the name coming to me like that is, ‘cos I have a terrible time naming puppies :-))

    I think we get the dogs we are meant to get whether we realize it or not. They are our teachers if we are willing to learn.


  2. Tammy Rudd says:
    Monday, October 26, 2009 at 2:30am

    Shebang’s breeder (Gloria Smith) picked her for me, although I had the choice to change my mind for a different puppy, and yes, it was love from day one, but little did I know she would become the absolute love of my life. Even though she had littermates who had good hips (Shebang had TPO surgery at 6 months) and became big winning agility dogs, and Shebang retired at 4 years old because of her hips, I will be forever grateful to Gloria for picking Shebang for me. http://www.youtube.com/user/clickertrickdog#p/a

    Tammy Rudd


  3. Devora Locke says:
    Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 10:13am

    Oh lord, we are grateful for Buzz too! And all dogs like him. 🙂 I just love this blog, Susan. It has come to be one of my favorite places on the web. Keep up the great work and congrats on the new house!


  4. Kelly says:
    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 8:35pm

    I fell in love with my youngest dog without ever meeting her. I was planning to get a Sheltie, but not for about a year. A chance conversation with a breeder grew to the slim possibility that this little girl might be available. As the conversation continued over the following weeks, I became more and more convinced that she was meant to be mine (and in time managed to convince her breeder, too ). You should have seen me “rehearsing” how to tell my husband that I felt 100% certain that this little girl should come live with us, despite the fact that we were already at our “legal limit” for dogs. I was lucky enough to have input from Susan and Lynda on my baby girl and then flew down to Tennessee to get her, with orders that she was not to come home if I didn’t love her right away (or she didn’t love me). Turned out it wasn’t an issue. She is an absolute gift, as are her breeder and extended family, and I couldn’t be more delighted.

    Our dogs come to us because they are meant to come to us; I fully believe that.

    Good vibes winging Buzzy’s way from Eastern Ontario!


  5. Janis says:
    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 5:10pm

    This blog hit me closer of all your ramblings. My 1st BC, is human-like in training, like Stoni. She was the one I wanted out of the litter (choose her for her markings and didnt know much about dogs) and she has made me look alot better than I actully am on the agility course. My 2nd BC, is the complete oppisite. The breeder tried to talk me out of Spyder, because, he was so laid back. But, this little pup is the only one that came to me and showed me, he wanted to choose me. He is still a couch potato, but when it comes to doing agility, he is awesome!! I did have my doubts, before our 1st trial last week, but wow, he really shined. I was in awe, how great he did. He is head strong, but deep down, he does know what I am wanting from him. I am so happy, Spyder chose me.


  6. Katie says:
    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 4:56pm

    This is all such great food for thought. Currently I have just my one, first ever agility dog and can’t help but think about getting a puppy soon, this whole animal training world so so very much fun! This blog has been an invaluable resource for me, combining Susan’s knowledge with the experiences of other blog followers. I hope I will be able to make all the right choices in picking out that second dog!

    The thing I am curious about is just how important the structure is when you are looking at puppies, considering Susan was going to leave Feature behind if she didn’t have it. Does anyone know of any good resources about puppy structure I can read to get more informed on the topic!?

    Any tips appreciated!



  7. Joan says:
    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 4:40pm

    In the years since I acquired my own ‘wild’ one, I’ve listened to many comments that disparaged our relationship, my training methods, the dog’s genetics, his biochemistry, breed suitability for agility etc.
    Susan’s books have helped a great deal in dealing with and training my own ‘Buzz’, but his biochemistry prevents a solid cure. Why do I keep him? For some reason this dog wraps himself around my soul – he’s athletic, funny, smart, hilarious, a gentle soul wrapped in a personality even he can’t control. I used to say that without my previous experiences with hyperactivity and temper in my young daughter, I would never have been able to handle this dog at all. Now I can say that without the constant challenges of this dog and the mindset and skills I’ve developed working with him, I would never have been able to persevere long enough to help my own son resolve and recover from the issues he’s faced as young adult. All things happen for a reason…



  8. Jenn says:
    Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 10:41am

    I love this post 🙂

    When I decided I wanted a Border Collie I was NOT prepared for the one I got. I drove 4000 miles to get this cute little devil in disguise. When I first started training him, all I could think was ” man this dog is BRILLIANT!”, but then there was the other side. He is not a naturally confident dog and me, being a first time BC owner didn’t help him in the least. I struggled with him for a year before I was told to read Shaping Success. Not only did that book put it all in perspective for me, it changed our relationship. I LOVED this puppy but I was so frustrated with his aggressivness towards people and dogs I thought I would never be able to trial him. SS showed me that it wasn’t about what he was doing wrong, it was about what I was doing wrong. SS became my bible, about a year after that I found Christine who introduced me to the entire say Yes program and we have never looked back. Zep will now go out of his way to say hello to people and dogs. Zep is my ” once in a life time dog” , he has taght me so many lessons, not only about BC’s but about life in general.

    I also believe the certain dogs are sent to us at specific points in our lives , and without Zep I don’t think my life would have reached this point. I thank you for looking at Buzz and seeing the dog he COULD be and not just the crazy puppy he was.

    Jenn & Zep


  9. Claudia says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 9:53pm

    “Buzz gave me the gift of dog training knowledge that no other dog could ever give me. Buzz is the reason I have been able to help so many Border Collie owners.”

    – Thank God for Buzz! Having said that I think it’s also the attitude and the perspective you CHOOSE to see Buzz and challenge yourself rather than making excuses and running away from it.

    I know. I own a “Buzz”. To be honest, I wish he didn’t have so many issues. (I know again, because I have another dog which is a “Stoni”, which came after him) but deep in my heart, I know that he’s taught me SO MUCH that no other “easier” dog could have. Or rather, he “forced” me to learn so much in so short a time. I’ve never known a learning curve could be so steep.

    I just didn’t have any other choice. He is too fearful a dog to be punished, so I had to learn operant. He has too many demons in his head, so I had to learn counterconditioning.

    Everyday, we still have our battles. But I know without him, I would never have become half the person I am. I’ve learn so much of dog training in the short time we’ve shared with each other. And I’ve also learn that not ALL trainers out there are what they say they are. I’ve learn that not ALL methods work on ALL dogs and as his owner and protector, I owe it to him to find the best methods to motivate him to learn, not scare him to obey.

    I’m so glad I didn’t give up on him and when I look into his eyes everyday, I’m thankful he didn’t give me up either. I made my fair share of mistakes and he has every reason to be cautious, but everyday, it seems like with fresh new hope, he believes all over again. The willingness of that dog to keep trying and keep believing just motivates me to learn more to help him, to help us.This dog teaches me so much more than just dog training. He teaches me what is faith, what is hope,what is life.

    It does get tiring and discouraging at times, that I will not deny. Life with a “Buzz” is not a bed of roses, but because he is a “Buzz”, it makes every little progress a champagne moment, a celebration, an achievement.

    Every dog comes into our lives for a different reason. Our”Journey” with them on this earth will not come to waste when we embrace them as who they are and learn from them the many lessons they will teach us.

    I thank God he sent a Buzz to you, for so many of us have benefitted from the journey you shared with him and the lessons you learnt from him.

    And.. thank you Buzz! 😉


  10. Mary says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 9:20pm

    Sending good energy from Michigan to Buzzy across the lake!

    -I would add to the Buzz boy’s accomplishments – giving me the tools (via Shaping for Success) to help with my red and white boy who is the dog who picked me, showed me his best in the first 20 minutes of my meeting him to get me hooked on keeping him, and then for the next 12 months of our time together made me work smarter and more well informed as his guardian to get beyond his reactive behaviors. He is now an amazing dog and while many hours, trainers, and honest feedback from him (yes, he still lets me know when I am wrong, but in a very gentle way 😉 are all to credit….Shaping for Success was the pivotal book for me to put all the pieces together.

    I would wager that this could be many others’ story, but know that this story means the world to me and a dog whom I love dearly.

    Thank you Buzz and Susan


  11. Ann Hopp says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 7:52pm

    Susan, I can remember back to the very first agility seminar I attended – yours in Manitoba. My Willy (now 14 1/2) was my first agility dog and you had Buzz along. I will never forget you calling to him from his open crate and when he finally got to come – WOW! I was hooked. If that could be done, I would learn it- and here I am waiting for you to come back to Manitoba!


  12. Angela says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 6:26pm

    Thanks for opening up the discussion about love and our relationship with our dogs. At first I thought … what is she trying to tell us? I have a dog that is my heart dog raised from a pup…and I have a rescue dog who is absolutely smitten with me and nobody else, and I have another rescue dog who is finding his place in our hearts and vice versa…life is complicated like this…but that is what makes life wonderful too.

    There is an intangible aspect to agility. So I think what I’m getting from you is to be aware of the importance of both our intuitive self and our logical self…both have things to teach us if we listen to them.


  13. Pam says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 6:04pm

    Like some previous posters, my puppy choice was limited by what was available. I had wanted an ACD for years and finally had my name and deposit in on a litter. They are not that popular or common in my area and I certainly didn’t want to wait any longer. I had always envisioned a blue girl, but already having a 7 year old, very alpha female BC, I decided a blue boy might be a better option. It so happened that there were 2 blues and 5 reds and only the one blue male. When I saw the puppies at 4 weeks my boy didn’t stand out except in terms of his beautiful double mask. Between the ages of 8 weeks and 14 weeks I loved him in that way we love all puppies because they’re helpless and need us. At about 3 1/2 months he turned into the puppy from hell….snarly, independent, not wanting to be told what to do and basically wanting to rule the world. The trainer of the puppy class we were in had no idea how to deal with him (we left after 3 classes). I would have happily handed his leash off to the first person who smiled at him. Thankfully we found an excellent trainer to work with and Arkasha is now 11 months old and truly my canine soulmate. We have just started agility, dabble in freestyle, and might try rally-o and tracking. He is still a constant challenge but has taught me so much about training with play and motivation and there seems to be no end to what he is willing to try. I’m so glad I persevered with a pup that at one point I really had no love for.


  14. MIchaela C. from Italy says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:29pm

    Best wishes to Buzzy e il suo dente!


  15. Andrea says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 4:11pm

    Best wishes to Buzzy and his tooth … good pain meds to follow I hope!

    We recently rescued our 3rd Aussie. I didn’t feel the love for her that I do for our first 2 girls. Yesterday’s post made me think a bit that I never would. She basically either had the chance to live and train with us or live with her original dog-allergic owners who couldn’t handle her energy. I felt obligated.

    She’s a wonderful girl. But I don’t feel that connection or spark yet. Today’s post gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe it will hit me one day. She deserves to be loved and adored and goggled over just like our other two perfect, amazing, brilliant girls. Working on it…


  16. Bobbie Bhambree says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 1:40pm

    Positive thoughts sent from Carmel NY to Buzz!

    I thought I was done at 5 dogs. Working at a shelter does not help the issue. One day I walked into a room with 5 puppies at 5 weeks old and the mom. I thought, “Yay! More puppies to smooch!” Then I saw Tricky. I immediately knew at that moment that she was meant for me. And what a journey we’re on! Holy cow! And then there was 6…

    Two months later, my husband met number 7-to be, Dexter. The moment he held him in his arms at 5 months old, a wave of emotion hit him. He just knew.

    The heart wants what it wants…


  17. Helen Verte says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 1:29pm

    Someone sent me a link to a soldier’s reunion with his dogs. It ties in with all our talk about the varying strengths of the bonds with our dogs. This man has “it” with his dogs. It’s a touching video 🙂

    I love that picture of Buzzy and his piece of wood.


  18. Michele A says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 1:08pm

    My friend fostered a litter of “designer” puppies last Nov (the humane society had closed down a puppy mill that had over 1600 dogs)….the pups were adorable, (1/2 silky terrier/1/2 shnauzer) I love scruffy looking dogs and the puppies certainly fit the bill, I kept going over there, sitting with the puppies, playing with them and something never connected, my heart never went pitter-patter, BUT from day 1 my heart fell in love with the mother dog, when our eyes met I knew that is who I wanted, I knew that she might not ever make an agility dog, but that is ok, I was able to adopt Comedy and she is doing fantastic, in the last 10 months she has learned how to run and she is now enjoying life and that is what counts….I have never regretted the decision I made.


  19. Diane says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 1:03pm

    6 years ago I bred and raised a litter of 3. Watching, studying, analyzing structure, personality, etc., I still was undecided which pup to keep. It finally dawned on me after looking at many, many pictures that I had taken of the puppies, there was only one dog in most of the pictures! I kept him and he is the most wonderful dog you could ever ask for… I absolutely adore him. Always go with the one you love the best!!!
    Thanks Susan for all your thoughts and advice.


  20. Julie W. says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 12:51pm

    Two days of excellent posts and on top of it fantastic comments. I have to agree that for those really special dogs in your life there is a spark in your heart almost immediately when you meet. Just about 9 years ago I chose my first agility partner. For about a month I visited the local shelter every weekend – looking at all the pups. What I most remember was the shelter staff who kept asking me if I wanted a long haired, short haired, big or small dog? What type of dog? I couldn’t answer, but to say I will know when I see him. Well I was right because after about a month I walked into the shelter and her was this screaming and I mean screaming at the top of your lungs pup, but he had the look. I didn’t grab him up right away, but continued to look at all the dogs in the shelter, but before I went home I went to his cage once again. He was much calmer then and he still had the intense spark in his eye I to loved.
    He came home with me that day and now 9 years later he is still my great companion. He has taught me more then any dog before him and has lead me to the other dogs I now also share my life with.


  21. Deanna says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 11:54am

    I finally got my own dog a year and a half ago. I wanted a black boy (lab). but to my surprise i was last to put a deposit so i could only get one of the three girls. I was set on a boy, and was so heart broken but i wanted a dog and this was of great linage so i stood with this litter.

    The breeder chose my dog according to what i filled out in the aplication. Sure enough i got my high energy, high drive, million kisses a day dog.
    I have never fallen flat on my face so many times, i’ve never been so embarressed with the things she’d made me do in public, but i have never loved a dog so much as i do this girl. I don’t rememeber an eye spark when I got her, nor love at first sight. But i’m so head over heals for this little girl! Besides all the hair ive lost and pimples ive gotten because of her, i can not imagine myself without my little Apple. She has started us in agility, hunting, tracking, and obedience, and what a journey it has been so far! Every day theres something new, something i taught wrong… Yet she doesn’t care, and she continues to trust me, as i do her. We are a match made in heaven!!!


  22. Ferreh says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 10:12am


    I have really enjoyed your posts from yesterday and today. I had been head over heels over my first 3 Aussies, but then I had a pup chosen for me that it took me a long time to bond with and to love. The more we work together, the closer our bond becomes, but I still don’t feel silly over him the way that I have in the past, but I keep looking for that “spark” to arrive!

    I had another puppy after him that I couldn’t bond with at all. I was to get a female, and she was the only girl in the litter, so it was already decided. We never really clicked and I never felt giddy over her either. I worked and worked with her to try and get something to click, but in the end I had to rehome her because we were both unhappy. She is now in her perfect agility home and I just think that I was a pit-stop on her way to her forever home!


  23. Michelle says:
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009 at 9:31am

    Susan, do you have any video of Buzzy doing agility? I would love to see that! hes an amazing boy, I will send good thoughts for his surgery next Monday.


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