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Random Reflections From 2012 FCI World Championships

Posted on 10/11/12 37 Comments

“If you aren’t learning you are dying”

I am sure I have seen that quote somewhere before but for the life of me, I can’t find it who gets the credit for it.

I do love the quote, each of use has to make a decision in our own direction, no matter how much we would like to think it is possible; nothing can stay exactly the same; we are either moving forward or going in reverse. Ideally with each lesson learned we continue to grow forward (it is called “experience“:)).

Hopefully we get these little lessons every day of our lives as we train our dogs. But for me, certainly the biggest epiphanies have come while at the biggest agility events. I remember getting two while watching the 2003 USDAA National Steeplechase finals. At that time I was running only my Jack Russell Terrier mix “DeCaff.” She was the second dog I had trained to do a running contact but I had never tried it with a Border Collie; too big a risk . . . so I thought. But sitting watching the 22″ class finals in 2003 I made two big decisions. First of all my next Border Collie would have a running A Frame at the very least (my next BC “Encore” was born the following year and she was the first Border Collie I trained to do running contacts). My next thought was; “agility is no longer about the speed of the dog but about the tightness of the turns while at speed.” That is when I started working on my my “check, check” and “s-w-i-n-g” verbal cues which have brought the skill of tight turns at speed to each of my dogs since that time.

This year’s FCI World Championships was no different. Some of my goals where met, others fell short, but either way lessons where learned. In this blog I have included videos of my runs along with some random thoughts . . . truly random thoughts as they pop into my mind.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

~ C.S. Lewis

What a great photo. Showing 3 of our 4 “large dog” team handlers who need bi-focal glasses in order to read the course maps. This may be the last time we see a sight like this; with so many brilliant young dog and handler teams coming up I predict the average age of the Canadian World Team handler is about to drop. I keep telling myself I am 25 years old so I know I can still fit right in:).

Do not permit what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.

~ John Wooden

Our large dog team had the best performance to date at this year’s event, tying our 8th place over all finish from 2008. With the new FCI format (of running 4 dog and handler teams but discarding the worst score) it allowed us to finish up scoring 5 of 6 clear rounds. Feature and I ran anchor on the team, a place I am very comfortable running and Feature rose to the occasion. Heading into our first team run we  needed a fast but clear round as one of our team dogs had a bar down. Goal set and made, Canada goes into the final round sitting in 10th place, a medal wasn’t completely out of the question. Feature and I took the floor for our final team round in the same position, with one of the dogs head of us having faults, we needed another fast clear round. Alas we were one brick in a wall away from  that and a bronze medal:(. That wasn’t just “another brick in the wall” it was pivotal for me, telling me “something needs to change” if I am going to be competitive on the level I want, note taken plans are in the works. Here are Feature’s two team runs.

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

~ Jim Rohn

There is risk in agility for all of us. Some dogs may lack strong enough obstacle skills so their handlers may not be able to trust these dogs to independently hit a weave entry, stay weaving while they run off or nail a contact in competition. For those handlers, the risk lies in how far they dare to stray from their dog’s side while driving them around a course. Happily I don’t think of my dog training skills as a risk. My risk comes in the form of wondering if  I “can get there” when handling my fast dogs. You see I am proud member of the 30 – 30  club.  I am more than thirty years older and 30 cm shorter than most of my competition (who mostly can run like the wind!). No excuses, we all have risks to take and that is where mine lines. This year I had an aggressive handling plan for jumpers, one I felt confident in but, alas, it was not to be our day.

Here is Feature’s individual jumpers run.

The best competition I have is against myself to become better.

~John Wooden

Occasionally in the past, while competing at a “big event,” I have felt the paralyzing fear of failure take over my body as I tried to handle my dog around a course. I hate that feeling. It encouraged me to look for the “safest” route rather than the “best” route for my dog and I. It was like a momentary infection that took over my voluntary muscle actions and prevented quick movements or decisions. Like something had a hold of my feet, forbidding them from leaving when they should have, or stopping words from coming out of my mouth or preventing my brain from flowing in a logical progression forward.

It was as if I had been infected with an ultra short term disease; something that was gone the moment my dog cleared the last obstacle. The disease was gone but I was always left with the empty after effects of regret. I am happy to report that rarely, if ever, happens to me any more. I think the key for me has been focusing on the present and not thinking about or caring about the outcome. I love my dog, I love this sport and every run is just another opportunity to do something I love with a dog that I love. Doesn’t get any more complicated than that.

Failure will always be a possibility in everything we do but those possibilities should never paralyze; rather they should energize, giving us what we need to run from failure and towards success.

Failure I can live with, regret . . . not so much. I live my life hoping to avoid thoughts that start with the dreaded “what if . . . “

Risk without recklessness is a key ingredient to success . . . certainly in dog agility but possibly in everything in life.

This picture was taken as I run along the dogwalk in Feature’s individual agility run. That look you see in my eyes is one of realization as my feet are sending the message up to my brain suggesting it “moves to plan B . . . we aren’t going to make it.” I thoroughly enjoyed the ride even though no medals were won. Here is Feature’s last run at the 2012 FCI World Championships.

Easy to say if Feature had a faster handler she would not have had that wide turn out of the first tunnel or she would have been driven down the dog walk over those last two jumps with power rather than with her head up waiting for late verbal cues. Possibly Feature may have won that round with a faster handler. But that is a moot point for me. It isn’t about the winning it is about the doing and doing what I love with my dog that I absolutely adore.

Today I am grateful for for Feature for being an amazing teammate, for John Hill for these fabulous pictures, for Johnnie B. for sharing the trip with us, for Lynda Orton-Hill for always being there to help out, for Dr. Leslie and Carol S. for taking such great care of Feature, for my human team mates on the 2012 Canadian team, for Jane & Andrea taking care of things at home so I had no worry  and for Sharon and LB for having the trust to send Feature all the way to Canada as a wee puppy all those years ago. She is an amazing dog and it has nothing to do with her abilities in the agility ring. So love my Peach Pie!


  1. Sylvie says:
    Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 9:51pm

    hi Susan!
    I’m sorry I dont know where else to write this….I am a member of your Facebook page, I am also on News Letter….
    Everytime i clik on your members for the 5 mintutes recall I am told I am not a member…what do I have to do….I know this is not the right forum, sorry….


  2. Kerstin says:
    Monday, October 29, 2012 at 3:21am

    “I love my dog, I love this sport and every run is just another opportunity to do something I love with a dog that I love”

    Yes! So simple but so often forgotten…

    I love your agility videos!

    Greetings from Germnay


  3. Janet Yee says:
    Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 10:39pm

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your inspirational words. I attempted to enjoy the sport of agility almost 25 years ago and gave up. Positive relationships with our dogs was not a foundation to the sport, and valuing outcomes were the sole rule. My dogs at the time and I did not enjoy the process. Your outlook, techniques, methodologies resonated with me and have given me back a sport that lets me laugh at myself, love my dogs and yet positively challenges me in a way that I haven’t experienced in many many years. Thanks so much.


  4. Susan Anderson says:
    Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 10:24am

    you know 99% of us do our little local trials, I am 67 years old and do quiet well due to your foundation training and handling. The world team only is made up of 1 % of everyone doing agility. You have been an inspiration to many of us, and continue to do so. The best thing you have done has shown us how to treat our dogs as our team mates, made their training 100% better than it was 18 years ago, taught us what it really is about agility, not ego or winning but the love of the sport and our dogs. It shows us who you are by how you loose, not how you win. We know how you win;-)) you are so awesome and I will continue to support you and your methods.


    • sharon empson says:
      Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 9:06am

      Susan excellent point, who we really are shows up best when things do not go as we had hoped. I agree with every word of this post, Susan Garrett, you have made a world of difference in the dog training world. Sharon


  5. Ninette says:
    Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 8:25am

    Thanks for sharing these refelections ad insights with us, Susan – I especially love “I love my dog, I love this sport and every run is just another opportunity to do something I love with a dog that I love. Doesn’t get any more complicated than that”. You and Feature did great.


  6. Eric says:
    Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 7:52pm

    Great Blog! Susan, I admire your handling skills. By your own admission, you may not be the fastest runner out there but you sure are effective. Great example for all those (aging) weekend warriors – very much including me – to keep playing this game for a long time to come. Very powerful quote: “I love this sport and every run is just another opportunity to do something I love with a dog that I love.” Can I use it when I see someone in the ring berating his/her dog for a handling mistake?


    • sharon empson says:
      Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 9:05am

      Yikes do people really beat their dogs for mistakes of any kind?
      How incredibly sad! I like the positive reinforcement training you do Susan much better! I know myself I do not blossom under the heavy hand of punishment, but flourish under the grace and mercy of my Master.
      Thanks Susan for setting a wonderful example of positive training and love for your dogs and for ours as well as we learn from you. sharon


  7. Michelle says:
    Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:55pm

    One thing I have noticed in worlds and laughed at one of the commentators remarks on Hoss, the BC Queen of the BCs. I think sometimes the conventional, very disciplined handling that you support doesnt always lend itself to you hauling your you know what to get places you need too. Maybe this is something you are thinking about. Is it wrong to say that there is a time and place for doing blind crosses. Your dog has been trained to the max, your dog is not going behind you or flicking away, you would be choosing when to do this and allowing yourself to get places that your handling may not let you right now. And hey I dont compete at this level, just a spectator and very grateful to you and the others competing at this level to let me dream and think of the possibilities!


    • Tracey says:
      Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 3:04am

      I would like to pick up on what Michelle is saying. To start off I am a huge supporter of your training and your methodologies and stick to many of your principles in training despite being very alone in my country in applying consistently the anti BC rules.
      This morning I had a debate with a friend who has just returned from the Czech Rep after watching the FCI worlds. Her comments to me were “that if I don’t change my handling I will never compete against many countries that do BC’s …..” I have watched some of our local handlers who have been very successful in the past that have not changed their style and seem to be off the pace now or not as agile on the course in getting to where they need to be,my thoughts are, am I becoming them?

      Well done on all you have achieved it is always wonderful to watch you and your dogs and how much joy they have “playing the game” (I can’t wait to see young Swagger at the worlds).


  8. Barb Stanek says:
    Saturday, October 13, 2012 at 12:32pm

    Well said.


  9. Susan says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 9:12pm

    Those are not bi vocals, they are Progressive Lenses. Congrats on your runs, and by the way, I too was admiring the leg muscles!


  10. sue-w says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 4:59pm

    Wonderful Blog Article! Susan Garrett = Inspiration! As always.


  11. Marie says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 4:13pm

    Reading your blogs are always a source of inspiration for us (me and my little Kala I mean). We find true motivation in each of the quotes we read here and especially in your accomplishments as a team.

    It was so nice cheering on you guys from here in Quebec and watching you and Peachy go ! Thank you for being such a great coach and for making us want it as much as you !

    Cheering for Canada makes me proud, Our team ROCKED !


  12. Karey Grisdale says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 12:42pm

    What a wonderful post Susan!!!! You and Feature looked amazing and I loved cheering for Team Canada!


  13. jane says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 12:42pm

    I agree with Adrian.
    susan you had great runs. canada is proud of our AGED team


  14. Adrian says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 12:07pm

    Being the good team player that I am, I put the glasses on to help you fit in. Believe it or not, I’m around 20 years old and plan on doing this for a long time yet! 🙂


    • Andrea says:
      Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 2:03pm

      I think Fi is counting on that!


    • Tiffany says:
      Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 5:53pm

      Hmmmm…… Adrian are you calling me a bad team player?


    • Michelle says:
      Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 12:48pm

      Adrian, that is hilarious. I sure hope you are running for a long time yet.


  15. Kate says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:22am

    What a great post. Makes me realize I should train myself the way that I endeavor to train my dog – with confidence to try and enthusiasm to try again and dedication to keep getting better. A tall order, but one that my dog lives up to, so why shouldn’t I? Thanks for sharing. You are an inspiration.


  16. Debra Jones says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:13am

    “The best competition I have is against myself to become better.” That has been my life, Susan…sometimes it drives me nuts!

    You have taught me a very important life sentence……”It isn’t about the outcome…” it’s about the moment…the moment between you and your dog flowing together as a team, responding to each other at every turn. I’m new at this agility world at an older age but I too “dream new dreams”…


  17. Michele Fry says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:11am

    Yesterday I purchased streaming rights for the 2012 FCI Championships from agilityvision.com. As I watched the small dog team runs, I was shocked to see how fast the handlers are running, how close most of them are handling, and how often they are ahead of their dogs. It’s kind of like watching a game of chase, with the dog taking obstacles and the handler twirling around at the turns. So fast! Those of us who don’t know how to run very fast are playing a different game, directing our dogs here and there. Not enough emphasis is being put on handler fitness in this sport. I look forward to more articles on stretching, strengthening, warm-up routines, etc. Thank you for sharing your videos, thoughts and training tips. You and Feature are both amazing.


  18. Bonnie says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:11am

    “In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.”
    ― Lou Holtz


  19. Mary Kapner says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:08am

    Thank you for this, Susan!

    This particular post has much meaning for me having just returned from a championship event myself where I was just not quite on-my-game and feeling I had let my little girl down, who really doesn’t know the difference anyway and had the greatest time.

    You are so inspiring. Thank you, again.


  20. Linda says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:41am

    Thank you for what could be your best blog entry yet, or at least, the entry that is most meaningful to me right now. The words “if you never try, you’ll never know” are on continuous replay in my mind… and I would hate to live without knowing.
    Thank you for sharing your feelings about your runs. Maybe because I’m jumping deeper into this sport and finally beginning to understand all the technicalities that go into a perfect run, I felt so invested in each one of your perfect runs. And yes, a perfect run encompasses the time and training I’ve put into my dog, the connection we had on course, and the thrill of exceeding my own expectations. Thanks for teaching me all of that too.

    I’m going to print up this post and put it in my binder of important thoughts for reference.

    Has anyone ever told you that you should publish a big book of blogs? 😉


  21. Anji says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:23am

    Great blog Susan! Was a thrill cheering you and Feature on in the wee morning hours from home. I felt myself getting lightheaded from holding my breath the whole run! Congrats on a great showing; you made Canada proud!


  22. Deb Bogart says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:13am

    “It isn’t about the winning it is about the doing and doing what I love with my dog that I absolutely adore.” When you discussed outcome goals vs. performance goals at one of your camps I attended with my Aussie Storm, that’s when I reflected and realized I was more concerned with the outcome. As soon as I stopped worrying about the outcome and just focused on the performance, qualifying and winning no longer mattered, but interesting enough, qualifying and winning increased. When you can learn, and yes I use the word learn because for some of us it doesn’t come natural, to focus only on the fact that you are playing a game with your dog, who is “a direct reflection of your dog training abilities”, everything takes on a completely different meaning. Thank you for another terrific blog and for helping many of us put things in the right perspective.


  23. Debbi Compel says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:08am

    Words to live by!


  24. Kristi says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:07am

    Susan, I have great admiration for your accomplishments in the ring — not only medals, but even more, for the self-realization and willingness to go after greatness. I hope you never feel conflict between your work making the world better for dogs and handlers and your work preparing to be in the ring, but sometimes I wonder if it’s there, because both are such large undertakings. I would like you to never get burned out, please! And to always remember what enduring joy and understanding you have brought to my life and that of the animals around me. Thank you.


    • Susan says:
      Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 11:06am

      @Kristi, so lovely a thought thank you. I am still working on the “balance” in my life but I get great joy from working hard at both areas. I think when you “get it right” there is no burn out as life becomes this perpetually reinforcing event. I adore working with my dogs and I love thinking that I am making a difference in the lives of dogs and dog owners. I guess it is just balancing the joy!


      • sharon empson says:
        Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 8:57am

        Susan, for those of us who live far away and can’t travel and afford to come to your seminars, have you thought about making a video them and putting them on DVD so your audience is even more expanded? Just a thought.

    • Mary M says:
      Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 1:33pm

      Kristi I could not have said this better myself thank you for sharing the words that I feel!

      Susan your runs are wonderful, Feature and you are such an awesome team on all levels 🙂


  25. denise says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:06am

    “I love my dog, I love this sport and every run is just another opportunity to do something I love with a dog that I love”

    Nice and simpel. Our dogs don’t care about winning. They just love running with us.


    • sharon empson says:
      Thursday, October 25, 2012 at 8:54am

      so true. My dogs haven’t competed yet, but when they sense, even in training, that I am having fun with them, they explode with joy and love what they are doing. That is the point for them, the one they love, their master is there with them, loving them, running with them, jumping with them, playing with them and tossing treats! That is pure dog joy! And their joy is contagious to me as I train them. Our joy bounces off each other. that is the goal for me…to bring joy to my dogs as they do dog things.
      Being older (62) I understand how hard it can be to be quick like the “young ones”. However, I feel all the lessons we learn as “older” people has given a freedom they haven’t learned yet. We are not better, just more settled maybe. Dog joy! What a blessing to experience with a dog as a team working or training together.
      Thanks Susan for sharing your joy with us. Today I am grateful to God who is the source of all joy and the wonder of His creation, that He would create such creatures like dogs to bless us with.
      Loving my pups, enjoying their joy! Sharon with Bindi, Cody, Terra.


  26. Linda Robertson says:
    Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 9:59am

    I have to say that while I was glancing at photos of various handlers at the same point on course, I had to admire your leg strength. Your muscles were defined in every photo. Those with youth and leg length seemed to have relied on that for their speed. I Your legs looked strong for the event. Congrats on your nice runs with Feature.



    • Susan says:
      Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 10:56am

      @Linda, thanks for that so nice of you to mention, we have been working hard!


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