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Could I Be A Dog-Loving Mentor?

Posted on 01/03/14 181 Comments

To some dog owners who participate in performance sports around the world I am considered a dog training “mentor.”

Definition: men·tor  ˈmenˌtôr,-tər/

noun: mentor; plural noun: mentors

1. an experienced and trusted adviser.

Being a mentor is an honour I take very seriously.

Why would Susan Garrett be considered a mentor?

Possibly because of the national or world championships I have won in dog agility. Maybe because of my successes with both  “high drive” dogs and “motivationally challenged dogs” or because of the success I have had  focusing on the manipulation of positive reinforcement in dog training rather than the consequences of various forms of punishment.  Or maybe there is some other reason I haven’t even considered…

The truth is, if I had my way, what people would  take notice of is not just my training, handling or performing but also of the way I share my life with my dogs, the fact that my life at home with my dogs, reflects the love and respect I have for each dog equally.

I would have people take notice of how my dogs are much loved family pets which means I go to great lengths for the physical and mental well being.  To see how my dogs sleep at my feet when I work at my desk, or see the dozens of dog beds, dog toys and dog bones scattered around our home for our dogs’ comfort,  how I engage with my dogs mentally not for a prize in the performance ring but for their cognitive stimulation and to return the joy they bring to my life.

Lately I have seen too many dog owners missing out on the nuances of the  “pet ownership” part of performance sports. Yes I wrote “Ruff Love” but I never intended any dog to have to regularly spend 10-12 hours a day without any meaningful human contact. If you work long hours or you can’t make it home during the day, invest in a dog walking service rather than pee-pee pads on the floor or dog door exiting to a humanless back yard. Sure dogs can “tolerate” just about any lifestyle . . . but they deserve better than just “any lifestyle.”  It isn’t finances that makes the biggest difference in the life of a dog it is your investment of your time, your attention.

Crates are great tools for raising puppies, rehabbing injured dogs or working through behavioural issues, however I have never recommended a crate ever be used extensively beyond these short-termed, problem solving times in a dog’s life.

IMG_2097My dogs have access to open crates in my home (those “crates” have been stylishly built in to look like a piece of furniture  (however that is not the focus of this blog post:)).  At different times during the day one or more of my dogs may choose to curl up in one of those crates but it is their choice.  Once I have developed a strong relationship with my dog (via Recaller Games and other foundation training . . . usually by 10-11 months of age) my dogs are rarely crated around our home. Sure we use crates in the car and possibly at a trial (I prefer ex-pens) but I can’t remember the last time I actually locked a dog in a crate at home.

Being a performance dog trainer who loves my dogs means my dogs go swimming once or twice a week and we aim to do a “shaping” session weekly (obviously more often with the younger dogs). My dogs get at least one long walk a day and get taken out for shorter  sessions 5-6 other times during the day (we have no “set” schedule but it goes something like; early am, after breakfast, noon, 4 pm, after supper, 8 pm and bedtime). It used to be that if on occasion I had to be away from home for a longer period of time alone . . . say  7 -8 hours, I wouldn’t worry about it, my dogs will likely just sleep in my absence. However if I was going to be away longer than that, I would arrange for someone to stop by to exercise, talk to and engage my dog’s in something that activates their brain (even if it is as simple as a “sit for a cookie”). However today with so many geriatrics at home (3 dogs between the ages of 10 and 17 1/2 years old) I wouldn’t let them go longer than 4 hours without having a pet sitter or neighbour stop by to let them out. I think it was Oprah Winfrey who said:

Being grateful for what you have- will bring you more to be grateful for …

If it wasn’t Oprah, it should have been :).

As a performance dog sport participant I often hear of these  “AMAZING breedings” between two talented dogs that I know has the possiblity to produce really cool puppies with tons of potential to win in the agility ring. But as a dog lover I realize how difficult it would be to equally love and care for a large “pack” of dogs. . . let alone the financial responsibility of paying for quality veterinarian care when things don’t go as planned. So I resist the temptation to buy every amazing prospect that happens by, knowing that when the time is right, a special puppy will find his way into my life.

There are too many people that start off as dog lovers  in dog sports and somehow turn into “dog collectors” because they just can’t bare to  “miss out” on the next “superstar.”  My experience has been that as much as genetics may play a role in a the next world champion it is focused, quality time invested in a dog you love that plays an even bigger role.

No matter how many dogs you buy, each of us will get the dog we need at the time we need it in our lives … so why not space your dogs out so you can invest your time and love into all of the dogs in your home equally. Expect your dogs to live to be 16-18 years old and get a next puppy when your youngest dog is 3-5 years old. This means you will never have more than 5 or 6 dogs in your home to care for at any one time.

Being a dog lover means I care for my dogs because I love dogs … not just because I want to play a dog sport. I feed good quality dog food not just to my young dogs who are still performing, but also to my older dogs who have given me their all and now deserve respect and comfort in their senior years.

anti_aging.jpgIn 2012 I wrote a series of articles on keeping your older dogs healthy and happy. Today all of those tips have been put into a  Kindle ebook you can pick up through amazon entitled “Anti-Aging Tips for Dogs” by Susan Garrett.  If you are lucky you will find it for the price of less than a dollar if you are really lucky it will be free! When you go through it I would really appreciate it if you would leave an Amazon review. Here is a link for the ebook.

I am proud that there may be people around the world who consider me their “dog training mentor,” but it is my wish that more people would consider me their “dog-loving mentor.”

I  write this post not to point fingers or judge  anyone but to provoke thought in everyone. None of us lives the perfect life nor is it healthy to seek or expect perfection. However if we take can aim for tomorrow to be better than today then our progress forward should lead to a amazing outcome for both our lives and those of our dogs . . . it is, after all a journey.

Today I am grateful to all of the amazing mentors that have influenced my life . . . some I have met personally, many others I haven’t.

To quote the late Issac Newton;

“If I have seen further . . . it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”

If I am considered a mentor to you . . . it is because I have been blessed with great mentors myself.

Feeling grateful in 2014!


  1. Laura says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:12pm

    Excellent post. I think what makes you a great dog training/dog loving mentor is not just your experience and previous success, but also your continued learning. I love following a program that is always growing!

    I do have a struggle related to crating. We have two dogs who are well behaved family pets, but one of them likes to dig in the couch when we aren’t home. He doesn’t go on the couch when we are there (has never even attempted) and I haven’t seen the digging behaviour elsewhere. I know it is happening though, as he is leaving his fur behind and there is stuffing coming out of the couch… We are getting new furniture, and my husband wants the dogs crated while we’re away so that the couch won’t get ruined. I can’t think of how I can train my dog not to go on the couch (or more specifically not to dig in the couch) when I never see the behaviour? Help! Has anyone in Do-Land dealt with this before or have any pointers?


  2. Maggie says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:06pm

    Thanks for the great post — you are definitely our mentor for sure– and yes, above anything else — our three dogs (all rescues) are family pets first. Our 4-year old competes in agility and has fun, as well as obedience. He does well at both and enjoys them, though he would definitely fit into the category that he loves it because it’s something we do together. He also does Pet Therapy. We are training our 11 month old in both and he LOVES them more — maybe just his puppy exuberance. We go on hikes everyday that every dog loves — three is our limit!


  3. Lesly says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:57pm

    “So I resist the temptation to buy every amazing prospect that happens by, knowing that when the time is right, a special puppy will find his way into my life.”
    Words I firmly believe in!!! I too resist the urge to bring home every animal I fall in love with and boy is that hard! I currently have 3 cats and 3 dogs, (and 3 human children, guess 3 is my number!) which I affectionately call my ” band of misfits”. I never imagined I would have so many but also realize that is my limit. With the exception of 2 all have their “special needs” and I firmly believe they made their way to me because they knew they would be very well taken care of. What fool would keep a dog that has a genetic skin disorder, needing medication for the rest of his life, not returning him to the breeder when the offer was made…….that would be me. A little “self righteous”? Darn right, proud of it and I don’t care what others think. Self righteousness is often how people misinterpret a love and passion someone has for something.
    Inspiration is where you choose to find it.
    And my special boy……well he is almost a complete Masters level agility dog and that I am most proud of!! Biggest compliment I have ever received is when a judge and friend told me how well my boy and I work together. Makes every past, current and future struggle worth it.
    Can’t imagine my life without my furry critters!


  4. Caroline says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:35pm

    .99US. Thank you. Ditto to what everybody else says. Love, love, love everything I read and see with your mentorship. As they say here: You da bomb!


  5. Roxanne says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:25pm

    You are my role model for how I want to be with my dogs. Whether or not I actually do agility with my puppy doesn’t matter. What matters is my attitude towards the dog and the steps I am willing to take to make both our lives as rich as possible. You are “all in” in it comes to your dogs. I am extremely grateful that you are “all in” when it comes to sharing your expertise! You couldn’t be self-righteous if you tried, because, for you, the dog comes before self.


  6. Karla Wilson says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:22pm

    The “food for thought” you serve is always nourishing!


  7. Pam says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:20pm

    I love your built-in “crates! We don’t have $$ to remodel, but crate doors are kept open and these are used by dogs at will. I think dogs should always have a place to find peace and quiet.
    We do very well in obedience competitions but only venture out a few times per year. Never more than three hours from home because we don’t want to spend all day in the car. It’s the training process and time spent doing silly stuff with my three that makes our lives happy. Not everyone understands this, and so I appreciate your blog of reassurance.


  8. Amy says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:19pm

    Thanks for the interesting post.
    You mention buying a new dog. Please don’t forget to also mention adopting a dog from a rescue or shelter. There are many great dogs waiting for the love and attention you describe in your blog who may never find homes.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:20pm

      Great point Amy!


  9. Patricia Dunn says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:14pm

    Hi Susan,

    I just read your blog on being a dog-loving mentor because you referred to it in your newsletter. Right on! I’m down to one dog. The most I ever had was three and that was for a short period of time. I doubt I’ll ever have more than one dog again though I do worry sometimes if Panda would be happier with an in-house pal. Thanks to your good advice and training, Panda loves her crate. Some of my friends think I’m nuts to keep a crate in the living room but, as long a Panda wants a crate, she gets a crate. Of course, the door is left open. One of her favourite things is to throw her toys around the inside of the crate after dinner to hear the noise they make bouncing off the sides. No, I don’t stop her. It’s not on my annoyance list so its a I can afford to ignore. Thanks for all the effort you’ve put into me and my dogs over the years.


    • Patricia Dunn says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:17pm

      Its a behavior I can ignore. The word ” behaviour” got lost. Patricia


  10. BEVERLY GARAUX says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:11pm

    Such a nice article. I have heard of so many instructors that say when their dogs come out of the crate they are “on duty”. All play is training. Made me think I will never have an agility dog because I love to just leet my dog out to have fun. She also cuddles up against me when I am sitting in my chair or on the couch. I also have a basket of toys out for her to play with which I have also been told is a no no. They should only get toys for training. Kind of takes the fun out of having a dog. Glad you wrote this. Gives me new hope.


  11. Shelly says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:10pm

    Hi Susan,
    I really liked this post. I currently have 2 rescue BC’s ages 4 and 5. One is challenged with issues of noise / motion reactivity, fears (of people, new things, etc.), and is what most would call crazy. He has come a long way in the 3 years I have had him but we are still working on things. He will never be totally sound mentally most likely due to the abuse he received before he turned 2….I could write a book about him. The other is your typical high drive BC and she was quickly learning the agility game and loving it when she suffered a partial tear of her cruciate ligament. She is sound now but will never do agility again (vets orders) but will be a great hiking dog plus she loves learning new tricks, etc. Now without an agility dog I have spent hours pondering another dog. This is the first time in 10+ years that I have had less than 4 dogs. But I for me right now I think that I can offer more of myself to my dogs if there are only two since one of them sometimes takes the work of 3 dogs. My special needs boy has miles to go, and although I REALLY miss agility I need to do what is right for the dogs I already have. I think your post speaks to this. Only have the number of dogs you have time for (real quality time), and even if that dog can’t do what you wanted to do with it it is still your responsibility to take care of said dog. Thanks for sharing all that you do, you are a true inspiration!


  12. Sylvia Oglesby says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:08pm

    Fantastic Blog! Because of all you have taught me in Puppy perks and Recallers, and now about aging dogs, I am able to share it with many of my students in my classes. When I start class by saying “I Found another great idea from Susan” everyone is grateful to you.

    All of my students are in Puppy Perks and some day we all want to come to your camp. I would Love to work Louie, My BC in your facility. Keep on trining from your heart. That’s what I do. It’s really all about the dogs, not the ribbons. Sad some people don’t get that.


  13. Donna says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:07pm

    This Blog seems to hit home for me as yesterday I sat in the Vet ER with my 5 year old NSDTR when I had wished that we would be competing for the second day at a local trial. In my mind that trial was not important at all at the time the only thing important was getting the Veteranary intervention that would turn what is a relatively minor illness around and bring my boy back to health. A comment was made to me by a friend when I picked up my agility setup at the trial site asking why I did not come to run my other dog. My comment was that my boy needed me more and it was not fair to my other dog to run her when distracted.

    Thanks you for supporting the belief that our dogs are our best friends and they deserve all the care we can give them throughtout their lives.


  14. Helen says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:06pm

    For me, this was a very thought provoking post for sure. I crate both of my dogs for 7-9 hours a day while I’m at work. And during that time they get no human interaction. I crate for several reasons. None of which are probably that important to you, but I do it because I truly believe it is what’s best and safest for them.

    I’ll admit, my immediate reaction to this post was a bit of defensiveness 🙂 I’d love to be a work at home dog mom. I’d love to be able to afford a dog walker.. neither of those are possible at this time. I hope the implication isn’t that I should not have dogs because of the choices I make for them.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:24pm

      Helen, when I worked out of my home I also crated my dogs for 7 hours a day. Mostly because I thought if we ever had a break in I wanted my dogs to be safe. It isn’t those 7 hours they are crated that is as critical as the attention they get after that. I think our dogs mostly just sleep when we are gone from home anyway.


      • Helen says:
        Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:08pm

        When I read parts of this blog on Friday I was kind of thrown. It seemed to imply that because my dogs get no human contact for an extended period of time during the day, I am giving them a substandard life.

        I was shocked to think that you might feel that way 🙂

        I do sincerely appreciate your clarification.

      • Susan says:
        Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:48pm

        Helen in no way was I implying people who work at regular employment away from home shouldn’t have dogs or are being unfair to their dogs. It is the people that leave their dogs on a regular basis for 12-15 hours a day that I am trying to inspire to look for other solutions. It can even be as someone pointed out, the single dog family that day in and day out doesn’t pay attention to their family pet. It is about doing the best we can for each dog we own.

      • Laura W. says:
        Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 12:30pm

        We were broken into, the very first day both of us were back to work all day (with hubby coming home at lunch) after bringing our current pup into our lives about a week previous.

        I don’t even want to think what might have happened if she hadn’t been crated. As it was, she had to endure the house alarm screaming in her ears until my husband got home to the mess about 10 minutes later. Fortunately she never seemed to suffer any after-effects of that whole scary episode.

  15. JanV says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:06pm

    I love my dogs to pieces, each with their unique quirks and personalities (3 dogs, ages 3 to 14 years). I find this blog inspirational, as it confirms that our dogs are here to teach us multiple lessons about relationships, learning and growing.


  16. Debra says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:03pm

    I loved this post, Susan. I find it very inspirational indeed! I have an almost 14-YO border collie that I adore and when I got him, I too couldn’t see using the conventional methods on my pal. I love Puppy Peaks and I love the recallers games and I CAN’T WAIT to try them on my next pup.

    Keep up the good work; I’ve never found you to be accusatory — just the opposite.

    (And I love those built-in crates too!)


  17. BK Grice says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:53pm

    Well said! A friend of mine likes to say that all dogs are pets first and competition partners second. I agree.


  18. Ami says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:53pm

    Spot on! If my dogs suddently could not play agility tomorrow… Guess what? They would still be amazing family members who bring me lots of joy. My 4 are (ranging from 11.5 yrs to 20 mos) are lucky enough to enjoy swimming, hiking, and plenty of silly time. I would guess that our fun time easily eclipses the time spent agility training…and that’s OK. Family members first. 🙂


  19. Rick Rauwerda says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:43pm

    Great blog! We have 8 dogs between 2 of us for competitions and shows. I work from home so it is not that crazy. They do get crate time but are loose for the most part once they have proven themselves.


  20. Jan says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:39pm

    Truly inspirational as always. Love your doggie house!


  21. BEL says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:36pm

    Those built-in “kennels” are beautiful! That makes it tough to play crate games though 🙂 LOL


    • Susan says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:03pm

      Actually we have played Crate Games with our built in crates (but not to start). There are doors on the Crates . . . they drop down from above.


  22. Brigitte says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 8:17pm

    Awesome blog post Susan! I find that I have become a much more positive person all around since I use the Do Land approach:)
    I would really like to get the ebook with the Anti aging tips but have no kindle but an ipad. How can I down load it to that?
    Thanks for your help,


    • Susan says:
      Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 9:15pm

      Just get the kindle app on your iPad Brigitte. I love reading books on my iPad!


  23. Laura W. says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 3:23pm

    As someone who only has one dog at a time, I must be the ultimate ‘anti-collector’. I’ve had people ask me about getting a second, and my answer is always, “But I haven’t finished having fun with the one I have now!”. Maybe one day I will change my mind, but I honestly have no desire for a second at this point.

    Working full time, helping aging parents, raising a family, I honestly can’t fathom being able to do more than one dog justice – giving them the attention and training time they need and deserve. My hat goes off to those who can (and I know there are lots of people out there who do a bang-up job of it). I think it was Clint Eastwood who said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

    Grateful to have you as my dog-loving mentor and grateful for the mentors you have had.


  24. Carol says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 1:18pm

    This is what I value most about Susan’s classes like Puppy Peaks, and Inner Circle…I learn how she develops her puppies into great family pets and great competitors.

    What do you have if your performance dog is not a great family dog? I have working-line Aussies who make me very proud because they are growing up to be wonderful family dogs, and oh yeah – watch for us in the Rally, Obedience and agility rings because when although we are casual competitors, we bring our A game, aim high, and want to light up the ring with our partnership! Great posting, Susan!!


  25. Deb says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 11:51am

    I first got crate games when Rylie was a puppy and Max was about a year old. I had no intention of “making” my then 11 year old do them. She soon let me know in no uncertain terms that while she might be old she was NOT too old to learn and there would be no training without her. That taught me a valuable lesson.


  26. Nancy Smith says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 11:23am

    Love the message. But don’t be too strict in the take-away regarding crating. I crate my dogs with the door closed overnight and it may have saved their lives Jan. 17, 1994 during the Northridge earthquake that hit at 4:30 am. They loved their crates, as do my current dogs, and it protected them from falling objects and all the broken glass everywhere. Thanks to you, Susan, and Crate Games, my current dogs love their crates even more and enjoy their meals there, too. But during the day they are chasing each other over acres of land in between training sessions.


  27. Arlyn Sigeti says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 11:05am

    As an agility judge, as well as a dog trainer, I see many competition dogs. In the ring, I observe many dogs and their behaviors. I see lots of stressed dogs running agility, especially at the higher competitive levels. Their handlers believe the dogs are having fun. They aren’t. I have had several competitive agility/flyball dogs over the years. Only one really lived for it! You might remember her, Moe. All the rest do it because I enter them, and train them for the sport. With a couple, I retired them early because they didn’t enjoy trialing. I do other fun things with them. My great agility hope, drivey BC pedigree, now has only three legs. A new path for me.

    Thank you for this piece. I hope the people who need to read it, do.


  28. Marjolein Hicks says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 10:04am

    My Kindle now has your Anti aging booklet. $1.06 cdn well spent!


  29. Marjolein Hicks says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 9:57am

    My Aussie lived a long and healthy life, I lost him at 15 1/2 this summer. I now share time with a 9 yr old Golden who was my performance dog until she was 5 and then ended when my husband became ill and died 2 yrs later. I have not returned to performance with her but do some training and learning for fun. I have recently been challenged by taking on a new breed for me, a PWD who is 20 months old. I have found that 2 dogs are now a perfect number since my young boy learns differently, is motivated differently,has incredible joi de vivre, and inserts himself into my life in a big way. To learn so much that works for him, and to keep my older girl happy and healthy is lots for this young senior. 2 fur kids works great for me!


  30. Christine Double Last Name says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 9:25am

    I will admit I missed part of the message even after coming to a few camps and sometimes it takes several reminders to fully digest the investment, it isn’t just the seminar or the books but fully living and being in that moment it really is a shift in mindset and living.

    We found our youngest was never able to just relax, his early time was made up of many structured little sessions, crating and xpenning at appropriate times but really he never learned to just settle. We were always active with exercise but did one longer stint a day. After shifting my plan to incorporate smaller is better we have a more at peace boy living in our home.

    There has been a series of investments made to help with our dogs future, and planning is key as agreed how easy it would be to have three up and coming dogs but isnt it nice to pace out timing and have the time to enjoy each at the point that they are in each day?

    I always tell breeders although I have high goals that burn inside me each day my goal first and foremost is to have an amazing pet to live with and love for many years to come.


  31. Carol says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 8:31am

    Another great post. I find 2 dogs is a great family for me. My 10 year old Sheltie was retired from agility at age 6 due to recurring back issues. It took 1 1/2 yrs before my new baby came into my life. He is now 2 1/2 and raised through Recallers, PP, Shaping a Difference and Say Yes to Contacts. I can truely say you have been my Dog Loving Mentor. Now my retired girl gets to demo all the new skills for the baby boy at 6″. She smiles from ear to ear to be able to show off her never forgotten skills. It makes my heart sing.

    I had read the original articles on Tips for aging. So excited to see it in ebook form. I just downloaded it 🙂


  32. Christine Schragel says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 7:04am

    Many thanks for your post, it so much fits to how I feel about dogs and living with them. We train them for a task only so few hours of their life and they give us so much more. (even when they are trained for tasks like SAR, service dogs, therapy dogs, hunting,…) All my dogs show so well that living a happy good life and being trained positive creates the most reliable dogs willing to do what they were taught with fun a long life and at any time. Even more often they give much more than we would think. At the same time they simply do what they were taught by us.
    This is why I wanted to learn from you and have never regreted any course, book, video I have baught.


  33. Sally Jones says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 6:11am

    Lovely article Susan, as always. Reminded me if when we had our kitchen redesigned ten years ago and the auto cad system they used couldn’t cope with some of the features we requested. So they had to invent a new macro ‘SFDUW’ which meant Space For Dog Under Worktop’. One is next to the Rayburn range and another at the cooler end of the kitchen so the lucky pups have a choice.


  34. Anthea and her doglets says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 5:51am

    Thank you for this blog. Ruff Love saved my life when Bob arrived with me in 2012 – I had never had such a hyper/naughty pup before, but using the crate and getting him out to potty then play 8 or nine times a day meant he slept happily in his crate for the first few months – and now he loves his crate but hardly ever has to have that door closed. Also, your advice about the old dogs is great – Bob has his turns in the den but so do all my others, even Percy who with her cancer doesn’t like to do too much these days but her eyes light up learning something different. Indeed, the lives of all my dogs and myself have improved with your addition of the element of fun into everything.


  35. Debra n Snap says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 2:37am

    Wow, Susan… I so relate to this awesome post! You know how I feel about you – you have changed my world on the joy of training my dog. You truly are a “dog loving mentor” I don’t know if I would ever have more than three dogs at a time – having two now is fulfilling – although lately I’ve been thinking of a Border Collie puppy. But I’ve still goals I want to fulfill with my Snap and I don’t want to take away from that. I look at my tiny front room with toys scattered here and there and think “my two sons never had this many toys!” I look at the two crates and two dog beds and think to myself – look what Recallers have done for us – I have two dogs that love their crates, the doors are never shut – they behave nicely when people are over… I can go on and on. Yes, you are a dog-loving mentor. I’m striving to pass what you have mentored – forward. And by the way – I LOVE LOVE LOVE those built in crates with no doors! how cool is that!


    • Susan says:
      Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 9:40am

      Thanks Debra, but the crates actually do have doors . . . if you look along the top you can see them they pull out and then fold down:)


      • Debra n Snap says:
        Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:32am

        Wow – that is really creative ! Did John build those? I would love a couple built under my stairs – would be perfect and just neat looking in my lil home!

  36. Janet in Oz says:
    Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 12:47am

    Mentor or Guru? All I know is the Susan Garrett – Say Yes way – works – when all other methods I’ve tried especially ones involving any kind of punishment from scolding (Frosty joins in, I couldn’t possibly be mad at something she did) to rolled up newspaper (which Frosty caught and shredded – what fun, hardly a disincentive for her).

    The worst thing I ever did was put a choke collar on her. Took years before she looked forward to going for a walk like normal dogs.

    So I want what Susan has. So I try what Susan does, and I love how Susan makes it relevant – she shows us what to do when it goes wrong – how to spot it and figure out how to deal with it, and she shows us how to make the most of when things go right…

    So I am grateful for Susan and all the trainers (dogs and people) inspired by her.


  37. chloe says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 11:58pm

    Whoa, what a fabulous post!
    I can very much related to what you wrote on many levels.
    I am a pet sitter and dog walker so I know quite well how lonely dogs and cats get when left alone for over 8 hours and as you said our elderly friends need visits more often for company but also to check that their health is good.
    As a dog owner I have made the decision long ago to have only one dog because of finances; there is nothing worse than having a sick animal and thinking “how the hell am I going to pay for the emergency room.”
    When I competed in Agility I did observe a few competitor who would accumulate dogs in the hope of getting the ‘the’ dog that would be a champion or the dog with the right height etc. I also observed the retired dogs left in the crate or car or home.
    I stopped competing because my BC could was so uncomfortable with unusual noises especially without her ‘safe’ areas to decompress.
    I miss it but her and I have made a different life and that’s that.
    Thank you for this wonderful and courageous post!
    I do consider you one of the best trainers in the world because of your understanding of how to train but also your respect towards these wonderful creatures.


    • barb says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:06pm

      Good for you Chloe. I’ve always felt if your dog doesn’t enjoy agility it’s not fair to compete. We don’t all have to win ribbons/championships, although it’s great when we do. But to see the look of joy on your dog’s face at the end of the run is the greatest joy.


  38. Annette Alfonso says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 11:57pm

    Great post! I enjoy the quality time with my oldies (currently between 12-13yo) as much as my adults (6-7yo) and the bonding time with my 10 month old puppy! I wouldn’t know what to do with the younger ones if I had not lived the experiences I did with my older ones.

    I never planned on having 6 Border Collies but can’t imagine my life without each be of them. I can truthfully say I could walk away from agility tomorrow and still enjoy having and living with BCs…it has never been about agility or any performance sport. For me It has always been about being fascinated with dog behavior!


  39. Gwen says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 11:27pm

    I read this post with four dogs (and two cats) curled up on the bed next to me. I am sharing this with some of my competition friends – it is difficult to say no to the next best thing, but so much easier than collecting dogs that you just can’t meet the needs of.


  40. Teresa Nauman says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 10:00pm

    Good post, Susan. To me you are a dog-loving mentor. Off to walk the dogs and soak in some joy!


  41. Anne says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 8:17pm

    Susan, What a great post. I love that you pointed out what is really important here. I wouldn’t be who I am today without the dogs that have graced me with their lives.
    Thank you for reminding us what to be grateful for. I am grateful for that one dog that entered my life, and opened the doors to this amazing dog community, in which I have made so many dear friends.


  42. Laurie Glencross says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 8:05pm

    I am grateful that you share these thoughts/ideas so that we can all benefit. Thank you, Susan!


  43. Brenda McKague says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:47pm

    Thank you, thank you very much Susan.


  44. Vineta says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:40pm

    Great blog Susan and oh so true the things you say! I’ve seen those dog collectors you talk about wanting more and more of the winnings thinking of themselves before their trusty companions who are trying their best to please. We should all be greatful for what we have and like you say……when the time is right…..it will happen!!!


  45. Dr. Laurie Coger says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:28pm

    Great blog! Love your perspective on what I call “standard of care” — the way in which an individual chooses to meet the daily needs of their dog(s). And the mental and emotional investment they choose to make in them (whether they call it love, connection, caring, pampering, or something else), makes a huge difference… I see the full range of clients at the hospital, from the “It’s just a dog” people to those who remodel stairs, decks, rooms, and life schedules to be sure their dogs are happy, comfortable, and engaged in life. Needless to say, you can imagine which clients I work more easily with!

    As someone who breeds occasionally, and usually has puppies with more drive and energy than many homes would enjoy, I am always seeking people who believe what I believe (thank you Simon Sinek, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4 ) when it comes to dog care and training. Not always easy to find… Fortunately there are people like you, sharing knowledge and inspiring more enlightened training and daily life. Knowing a potential puppy person has such a mentor is a huge relief for a breeder.

    I believe long ago you said you would share some of the things that you put in the design of your home especially for the dogs. I bet the crate/cubbies pictured above were one of them, and they are brilliant! Any others you can share?


    • Susan says:
      Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:33pm

      Funny Laurie I was thinking about Simon Sinek after I wrote this blog. Yes I will share some of our “house renos with dogs in mind” possibly in February.


      • Dr. Laurie Coger says:
        Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:42pm

        Excellent, thank you. I am determined that my new, dogcentric home will happen in 2014 — so I need ideas!

        Simon is brilliant, isn’t he? Find your audience, those who believe what you believe, and see how amazingly well everything comes together for everyone, and how easily and naturally it happens. So simple, so insightful.

      • Susan says:
        Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:52pm

        Yes he is awesome.

      • Pat Wojcik says:
        Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 3:10am

        House renos with dogs in mind
        Hopefully you’ll reconsider and post something sooner rather than later on this subject. We’re in the process of building a new home and one of the biggest challenges is designing something with both people and dogs in mind

      • Willy says:
        Saturday, January 4, 2014 at 10:02am

        Please do make a blog post about your house renovations for dogs. Through PuppyPeaks, I’ve gotten to see your built in dog bath, which is so freakin’ fantastic. And now these awesome built in crates. Would LOVE to see what other dog goodies you’ve dreamed up (and implemented into your house).

      • Susan Brasel says:
        Monday, January 6, 2014 at 12:49pm

        I love the idea we will have more house renovations. I am so enjoying puppy peaks with my new puppy.. I limit my house for the dogs to just a few rooms… But find that I never go anywhere except those couple of rooms as I don’t want to be away from the dogs…. Made me realize that I could certainly be very very happy with a much smaller house!!

  46. Sally says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:59pm

    Susan, You are indeed my dog-loving mentor. I recently added an older dog to the household and she has some imbedded behaviors that try my soul. I admit I have raised my voice a time or two..or three, but then I think about the Say Yes training and get a grip. I realize this girl has had 12 years to hone her behaviors and I need to be patient and work the plan and help her become a positively trained companion.


    • Susan says:
      Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:01pm

      Great realization Sally and honestly we all have a breaking point where we end up raising our voices . . . for me a little voice inside my head immediately laughs at me and says “well did that make you feel better?”


      • Jo-Anne says:
        Friday, January 3, 2014 at 11:42pm

        Isn’t that a great realization!…love it…puts it in perspective!

  47. Carol schriner says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:57pm

    I have all but stopped doing agility because it was not adding to my relationship with my dogs but taking away from it. We all seem to have more fun chasing ball, going to the beach and snuggling in bed.
    I’ve all really enjoy our agility training and will continue our weekly lessons.

    I want to enjoy trials more but haven’t been able to make that happen. I don’t seem to enjoy athletic competition. I makes me feel inadequate somehow and my dogs pick up on that and get too stressed. I don’t need a new dog to fix this but too many people seem to think it will.


  48. Zoey says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:50pm

    Thanks so much for this post, and hopefully this will prompt people to take an honest look at the relationship they have with their dogs and their quality of life. I recently decided to start training one of my older dogs. She is so excited and is loving every minute of it. It means that my dog training budget will now be split between two dogs but in the big picture, it is so worth it. My relationship with my dogs is what this is all about for me.


  49. Sue says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:04pm

    Some very good points here that really resonate with me. We have three dogs in our household almost 15 years, 9 years and 4 years) and two kids (15 years and 12 years. We just passed on an opportunity be on the list for a pup from a breeding that I have been looking forward to for some time. Sadly the timing is just not right for us right now. With the demands of the two legged kids and their activities and preparation for some dog-related travelling this Spring, I can’t in good conscience add another dog into the mix. Already I feel that the older two dogs are not getting enough of our attention. The almost 15 year old pup is the most demanding of all three of them and has no intention of going anywhere anytime soon. Time with every dog is precious (as well as time with those two legged kids!); I have no intention of missing out on spending that time with them. There will always be another litter…


    • Susan says:
      Friday, January 3, 2014 at 7:00pm

      Well done Sue, love your obvious adoration of your 15 year old 🙂


  50. Lori Kline says:
    Friday, January 3, 2014 at 6:02pm

    Thank you for this reminder! I’ve seen a lot of my agility friends get puppies this last year and it does pull at your heart strings to want one too. But, I know the time isn’t right for me. Even though my youngest is 4.5 years old now, none of my current dogs would get the attention they deserve and neither would a puppy. It’s so easy to look to the future and lay the excuse about your current dog’s shortcomings. But, it’s those shortcomings that have made me a better trainer and handler. I don’t want to short changes the ones I have and they all deserve my best for them. Maybe in 2-3 years, but we’ve got lots to do, the four of us, before then! 🙂


    • Pat says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 1:06pm

      I’m laughing about the house renovations. I’m in the process of re-doing a kitchen and bath. I finally had a design brainstorm where if I moved my kitchen and then took down another wall I could create a “dog” room for indooor training. Now I’ll have a space where I can keep our “tools” easily to hand and have a wide open space for unbounded enthusiasm. what fun I have with my dogs!
      On the crating – yup dogs are crated during the day to keep from setting off motion alarms. But I have a daily pet sitter who comes in to break up their day.
      On new puppies – yup I’d love to have another while I’m still young enough to have a shot at training for agility. But I’m having way too much fun with my little boy dog (4 Yrs) to devote enough time to him and a puppy. And my gift to myself and any future dog is no more dogs till I retire.


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