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Victim or Player?

Posted on 09/19/11 31 Comments

Okay, I know I haven’t written in a while. Crazy busy around here again. But at 2 AM the coyotes outside our bedroom window told me I should write a blog so here I am. I have mentioned in the past that I am a fan of Anthony Robbins’ teaching. One thing Tony promotes is to live your life as a “player” rather than a “victim.“ In dog training terms a victim is a person who owns an agility (or other sport) dog who;

  • Knocks Bars (is a “bar knocker”)
  • Shuts down
  • Zooms out-of-control
  • Tunnel sucks
  • Is a “weave pole blitherer”
  • Visits the scribe
  • Leaves the ring
  • Sniffs
  • Lacks impulse control
  • Has start line issues
  • Ignores your handling cues
  • Acts like he can’t hear you
  • Is a “freak-a-zoid”
DeCaff who learned to overcome fear through play.

Do you get what I am saying. A victim just happens to own the one dog on the planet or one from a genetically similar band of dogs that don’t “follow the laws of learning.”  Now most victims still love these dogs just as much as any of us, but how sad for them that they happen to be saddled with such a dog while lucky people like the rest of us have wonderful, problem-free dogs that are born to be perfect right from the start!

A victim is a victim because, unconsciously anyway, it meets their basic human needs which Tony describes as: Certainty, Variety, Love and Significance. Tony suggests when anything meets 3 of our 4 basic needs it becomes an addiction (hence dog agility addictions).

If you have a dog that embarrasses you for what ever reason you have certainty in your life that the dog will do as you expect (ie embarrass you, even though you say you hope this time will be different). You have variety because every embarrassment is slightly different for you. You get love & connection from your friends who comfort you and listen to your tale of drama each time it happens and you get significance because YOU are the one that owns that “________” dog.

(Fill in the blank with anything from the list above)

You are a victim. What a trooper you are to stick with such a dog even though he has “issues.”  You play little roll in this dog’s limitations it is his; structure, mental make up, genetics (his sibs or parents are this way), bad experiences as youngster or breed that are to blame.

You create drama where ever you go and often your drama is reinforced because their will be others sharing their own plight of woe whenever you start up on yours! Just hang out around ring side when someone has had a poor run with such an agility dog “well there he goes, up to his old tricks of _____________” You can fill in the blank of old tricks from my list above.

I am not suggesting that all dogs were born with the same amount of God given talent. I am saying that how we as dog owners respond to disappointments along the way play a massive roll in not only bringing out this dog’s true potential but also in how enjoyable the journey is for each of us along the way!

The flip side of the “victim” coin is the “player.” Life doesn’t happen “to you” it happens “for you.”  Every situation has an upside and ever state can be changed in a blink of an eye. You do not need to re-live your pain by telling everyone that is in ear shot of what just happened, you search for a way you can make life better for you and your dog.

I am dyslexic. I consider that one of the biggest blessings in my life because it has developed within me a unique “outside the box mentality.” I learn differently, I see things differently, so I approach dog training differently; which I know is a big reason for my ability to innovate and have success at what I do.

Now reading that last statement those of you that are victims would have said to yourself “oh crap that explains it, Susan Garrett is the kind of dog trainer that I can never be because I am not dyslexic!” While the players out there said the themselves, “hmmm, interesting to read how Susan Garrett sees things differently, I wonder what unique talent I have that she doesn’t that will allow me to become even better than that Susan Garrett.”

Victim or player. It is a matter of choice and a matter of habit, but being a player is so much more fun.

Today I am grateful for all of the challenges my dogs and students have brought me that have helped to open my doors of learning.


  1. kay acres says:
    Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 1:48pm

    A worthwhile conversation. In retrospect I understand. My Irish Terrier needed a Player. She was born ‘a player’. I have been tested by a very intelligent dog. A demanding partner – athletic and playful. A dog with a gentle soul and a big heart. We are strongly connected, but I needed guidance. She thanks you Susan that I finally understand.


  2. MRB says:
    Sunday, October 16, 2011 at 7:55am

    My dog is a weave pole dozer. Remember the old pole with a nail in the bottom weaves? Weavey Wonky after she’s done with them. We’re still working on entries but I’m pretty happy with how the rest of them are going.

    My dog requires me to be a better dog trainer. And I really can’t blame her when I can’t remember where to go next fast enough for her. That’s a good thing really.


  3. Anthea says:
    Monday, October 3, 2011 at 3:37pm

    Thanks for this Susan! I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. My dog-aggressive dog who was always good in the ring started running out after the final obstacle harassing dogs in the queue. She had reached Champ at UKA but I kind of gave up on her because I was so stressed and knew that my nerves would affect her. I therefore concentrated on my older dog, and first agility dog. He progressed brilliantly and finally made it to UKA Champ in both S/C and Performance. Then at the end of this summer he stopped because of back injury. I had no option if I was to compete but to run Ponto again, I had done over a year’s training including Leslie McDevitt’s Look at That and Relaxation with her and then the Recallers Course. She ran really well, came right back into me at the last fence in all her runs both the competition and the NFC runs I did with her. I started to believe that I really had become her cookie just as I was Dylan’s cookie. She even behaved like a normal dog with dogs in the forest when off lead last weekend. So, tomorrow, we are off out to do the one bit of Recallers I didn’t want to do – asking a complete stranger to stand on her lead for me to do a restrained recall. I’m not a victim, I have a dog and she can behave despite her fear of other dogs. PS she was a singleton who didn’t have Swagger’s advantages as I didn’t know about that then.


  4. maura says:
    Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 3:23pm

    THANK YOU! I have 9 rescue dogs and have had a good success with many of them . Most of theses dogs were deemd “unadoptable” yet I have actually had some people tell me how “lucky” I am to have such “good ” dogs Of course it had nothing to do with the training Ive applied (with you as my mentor ) ,just luck. Some people just will not learn


  5. Sabina says:
    Friday, September 30, 2011 at 4:17pm

    Wow, this blog-post really hit home with me. I’ve HAD (!) “that” dog, that won’t come back when rewarded with a toy and has no impulse control…

    But no more! From now on I WILL be a player in my dog’s team. No more labeling, no more sighing and no more frustration!
    We’ll work on impulse-control and we’ll work on bringing toys back to me for a game of tug. While were doing it we’ll have a ton of fun!

    Thank you for a much needed wake up call!


  6. Abigail says:
    Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 10:33am

    you always do it – send out some inspiration!
    On a sort of related topic, I have just started to trial my younger dog, Sawyer. He is doing nicely, AND he likes to bark when he is in the ring. I am realizing that it is akin to “over the threshold” stuff, and can hurt our chances, when I need him to LISTEN…
    I googled “barking agility dogs” and found your post “Barking Agility Dog Hall of Fame” dated Jan 25/10 (which co-incidentally was the day Sawyer was born LOL)
    In the post, you mention “taking ownership of MANAGING the issue” … I am wondering if you wrote more about it…
    because I am going to begin adding that management to our training, and could sure use some ideas!!
    no-victim Abi


  7. Kristi says:
    Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 11:15am

    Being mindful, mentally present in what we are doing at the moment, is so important — making the most of what we have in front of us right now, whether we are in the ring with a MACH on the line or in the backyard for one of the thousands of training moments behind that title run. A great mindset is a huge asset, a practiced skill often neglected. Thank you, Susan, for the reminder.


  8. Melissa says:
    Monday, September 26, 2011 at 11:19am

    This is great, Susan! This philosophy applies to so much more than dog training, but to life in general. I so admire people who are a “player” in life, rather than a “victim.”

    Great writing…I’m glad you were inspired to write this, though I do hope the coyotes will stop interrupting you sleep at night! 🙂


  9. Kari says:
    Monday, September 26, 2011 at 10:44am

    Thanks for this — wish you could get it out to some trainers too! Sometimes they impose the victim label on their students.

    I have 2 porties — one is a shy, less confident dog but she likes to work and is very very proud of herself when she finally “gets” what we’re shaping or working on. And then she does it consistently. With her, you take your time in shaping, make things very black and white, and she’ll work at it over and over. The other is her son — a totally bold beast who exudes confidence and loves to work. He’s a blast to train and shapes quickly.

    I’ve had trainers tell me “it’s too bad about ….” (the shy dog) and “you work so hard with her, it’s just too bad that she’s not a great dog. I’m amazed you put a CD on her at all ’cause she was never a good heeler.” (She has her rally excellent title too BTW with several placements in all levels.)

    Finally, I got tired of it and went to another trainer who just had me up my rewards to the dog, learn to walk with a metronome (to keep my pace steady, cause it wasn’t at all steady), work in 2 min intervals only with her, and voila. Miss Not-so-Sure was doing fine heels and wagging her tail. She started running to retrieve her dummy. She decided flying over that broad jump was kinda fun. And the bar jump doesn’t look so horrifying now. So she’s well on her way to being trained for her CDX and UD titles. Now I’ve put her agiilty classes where we are working on building our relationship.

    And I’ve found a marvelous water trainer who has shown me how to build joy in both dogs in just being in the water with me for no particular reason other than being there with me. The shy dog is slowly learning to swim confidently, something that other water trainers told me would never happen with this dog.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Full-of-Myself is coming along great in obedience, agility, and water work. And he’s a Recaller’s graduate too.

    Some of it is all about who you train with too!


  10. Margo Fournier says:
    Friday, September 23, 2011 at 3:30pm

    I’ll have to think about this one for a while.

    My first thought though is that if I knew better I would have done better. Did I appreciate the empathy from others when my boy zoomed nonstop around the agility ring? Yes – did I recognize it was a lack of training & knowledge? Yep, yep again.

    Am I “trying” – you bet – do I know where I want to go – Yep – do I know how to get there – well that is the whole idea, right?

    Do I think I’m a victim – yep sometimes – don’t know too many people who haven’t been at one point in their lives.

    Do I pay money to train classes, go to camps read every single piece of literature on dog training possible and apply what I know and want to learn more? Yep again.

    Do I really want to read a blog and pay money now? Nope – not really…


  11. Eeva says:
    Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 5:05am

    LOL for player description 🙂 Great post again!


  12. Kathy says:
    Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at 2:07pm

    Love it love it love it! I have learned the most from my failures and I am now someone who gets charged up when things go wrong. I am more motivated to improve my skills because I see that as something within my reach.

    Also, someone else’s opinion of me is not something I can control, so I don’t spend any time worrying about it. I’ve faced this a lot in the past few years as I have a breed that faces a lot of prejudice even though mine is an awesome example of one. I’ve heard alot of rude comments about my dog and his breed. I’ve learned to laugh to myself when people say stupid things. If they are in my jump height, watch out cuz we will kick their butt!


  13. Mary M says:
    Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 10:38pm

    Each of my dogs has brought with them many lessons for me each one moving me twards the next step in my journey with them and other dogs. My most recent girrlie has taught me this lesson well, and continues to remind me of it! No lables, just train and play with your dog with the short and long term goals in reach!

    Love this one Susan, hits many cords for me.



  14. CJ says:
    Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 4:14pm

    I love this post! (Well I love all of them, but this one really really hits home for me). My dog has been challenging and sometimes put me to the test to find out if I am really smarter than the dog (in Bob Bailey terms lol). I am so grateful that she wasn’t just easy peasy from puppyhood so that I ended up getting addicted to learning more and more about the fantastic world or dog training.

    After a bumpy run in Rally-O (her first trial run ever), I realized that I had a great opportunity to learn from her lunging and spookiness, and help work on the holes in her confidence that I hadn’t realized were there. The judge was great and people were supportive on helping us both learn and our second run went great! Once we’re finally ready for our first agility trial, I’ll have that experience to help her succeed. Thanks to my challenging Aussie, I get loads of chances to learn :-).


  15. Devora Locke says:
    Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 11:02am

    With all respect, I do fear we are getting close to victim bashing here?

    It occurs to me that we are all a ‘victim’ at one moment or another in our sports lives. Maybe our foundation training didn’t go so well, maybe we’re still working on proofing it. The crux of the issue is not whether or not we are a victim, but whether we let it define us, or use it to motivate the development of a more productive ‘player’ mentality. And that is our personal journey.

    Here’s another aspect of the ‘victim’ discussion which has more to do with our judgement of others than with any personal development- I have a friend with very talented dogs who trained hard and I believe falls into the player category. However, with one past dog she did have challenges that earned her some ‘labels’ (victim is a label), and these hurtful labels stuck far after the problems had been resolved and the dog was performing beautifully.

    Its one thing to manipulate our self-perception (labels) to improve ourselves, but if we are going to label our fellow exhibitors as either players or victims, lets also make sure we regularly update our prejudices by judging each performance on its own merit. I do not believe that applying labels to others was ever intended in Susan’s message.

    Respectfully submitted, Devora


    • Margo Fournier says:
      Friday, September 23, 2011 at 3:25pm

      Thank you…


  16. Lois says:
    Tuesday, September 20, 2011 at 8:39am

    I do beleive I am not a “victim”. No I do not run perfect dogs or am I a perfect trainer. We do try to have the most fun we can that day.
    However one could fall into a victim postion very easy. Not because thay want to blame the dog but because it is easier to deal with other people.
    Do people outside the ring think that you can not hear them when you step to the line. Here comes the _____. fill in the blank. Or I always make sure I am around to watch the _____. Or when you try to learn from your video and you can hear people in the background saying the same comments. If one hears the same comments about themselves one will start to believe it. Then by default the dog gets blamed. Maybe without realizing it we have all played into someone becoming a victim.


  17. Andreja says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:24pm

    Oh, I love your victim test at the end 🙂 “oh crap that explains it, Susan Garrett is the kind of dog trainer that I can never be because I am not dyslexic!”

    It’s so easy to find excuses for not doing my best and this post really put them in perspective.


  18. Gina says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:20pm

    Ah Susan, sometimes I think you are talking right at me! I so clearly remember telling you that I asked Sydney not to embarrass Momma, and her making a beeline to that lovely pond on your property (and I truly appreciate their adventures). My furry kidlets are the players and as Kristi aptly put it, their conversations must be about their momma who needs/ed more guidance. THANK YOU Susan for the guidance. My kidlets are thinking their momma is no longer a victim and is becoming a better player.


  19. Deb D says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:13pm

    Kristi – your post could have been written by my dog! He’s a much faster learner than me but he loves me anyway. I’m blessed to have wonderful classes where we all know our dogs are amazing and us possibly not so much.

    Although I don’t see myself as a victim (after all I picked my dogs) I have been encouraged to believe that I didn’t think I could and to keep trying even when I’m having a dwdht moment.


  20. Kristi says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 7:28pm

    Thank you, coyotes! Please visit Susan regularly.

    And thank you to my little dog, who is a player. It would be understandable for her to think, “I have the one human on earth who can’t __________________.” (Fill in: be consistent, have clear criteria, see what I’m seeing, learn as fast as I do, tell her right from her left, pick up my body language, translate English to dog fast enough, etc., etc., etc.) But she gives me her best, looks for the best outcome, never brings up the past when I’ve finally figured something out. She sticks with me so well, she deserves a player for a partner, and I work to be worthy of that.

    Susan, I thought several times of your “how to be a good student” series of articles while reading this post. Acting on the information in those articles helped me think as a player even though victim-thinking is common in the classes available to me locally. I get so much more out of class now.


  21. Barb says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 5:12pm



  22. Debbie M says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 4:28pm

    Yes I so know this!.

    I struggle with people who constantly blame their dog for their poor relationship with it.

    I take a foundation class our loacl club. I initially hear the excuses for poor tugging and no recalls, despite sharing all the tools to develop these. Then I watch as the victim mentality develops months down the track. Last night a classic example, a woman who is going to change her breed of dog! so she can get a faster one.

    I have a saying, if it has to be, it’s up to me. There is no wand, but lots of tools to assist.

    I’m not entirely a heartless bi*ch,(only occassionally), however you can only give so much and if nothing is going to change the attitude of these people then it’s time for your own self worth to move on and not blame yourself for their poor realtionship/training methods with their dog.
    On the other side, it’s so awesome to watch trainers who have worked incredibly hard to overcome obstacles, have taken responsibility to improve and have achieved a a break through. I’m equally as excited as them! Thankfully last night there was more of them than the victims……actually…. if I had to analyse it a bit more, I would go as far to say it’s the people who are coming thorugh with their 2nd, 3rd and 4th dogs that don’t see the importance of developing that relationship (they know better) – quickly the victim mentally sets in as they have no start line, no drive, no recall etc. I feel so sorry for the dog!


  23. Crystal says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 3:16pm

    So, so true. I know people in flyball who have that “ball-spitter” dog, or that dog who will rerun them self, etc. Different list of issues, but the same mentalities. I try really hard not to have that ball-spitting dog. Instead, I have a dog who sometimes drops his ball early, but who has made huge strides in holding onto the ball all the way, all the time.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, September 19, 2011 at 3:17pm

      Excellent Crystal, exactly what I am talking about!


  24. Debra says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 3:02pm

    I like Chelsey’s post! My dog wakes up every morning and puts her face on my face, tail a wagging! She is sooo happy every day and that makes me happy and laugh more. A big part of that is Susan’s training of finding the Joy in everything; even the failures. Our dogs are the expression, or shadow of us.


  25. Shelley says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 12:48pm

    And I am grateful to you, for always thinking, for finding solutions and sharing it with us – our dogs are better because of your attitudes and desire. Your philosophy gives everyone in touch with you so much.

    There aren’t many trainers, who’d show us their flaws, mistakes, frustrations as freely as you always do, not only do you show people a way forward but you allow us to see you are human too!!

    You have a gift to teach and I’m sure glad you took it.


  26. Jess says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 12:08pm

    To own your successes you must also own your mistakes. Bonus points for turning those mistakes into something productive!

    I’ve got to ask: what’s a weave pole blitherer?


    • Susan says:
      Monday, September 19, 2011 at 2:01pm

      LOL @Jess, some define a weave pole blitherer as a dog that appears to thoughtlessly throw himself at the weave poles with no regard for entries, self preservation or even taking the poles in the correct sequence.


  27. chelsey says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 12:05pm

    I am glad that you have posted this. It really hit home. I have, for the last several months, taken the perspective of ‘victim’ in my life, and my constant negativity (which was reinforced by anyone who would hear it) resulted in a lot of tough lessons, and I am sad to say, I KNOW this perspective and resulting negativity had affected my relationships and training with my amazing and inspiring dogs. It has only been the last couple weeks that I have been able to “see the light”. Part of my realization, for which I am so grateful, is for my dogs treating each day like a new day. I have begun to see that I AM a player, and my choice to stop dwelling on negative things has made me find simple joy in the things I enjoyed before I fell into my ‘victim’ state. On top of that, all the little things that have been rattling me (that my negativity had no patience for) – in my dogs’ training but in other aspects of life – seem so much more obtainable.

    I try to focus on positive/constructive thinking, and I don’t know any better place that brings clarity to this message than Susan Garrett’s blog. Thank you 🙂


  28. Karen M says:
    Monday, September 19, 2011 at 8:42am

    here, here!


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