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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. Kathy says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 10:36pm

    Get a new dog when he’s 5 or 6??? No way, not for me! I have a ton of ideas about how we can spend his older years-nosework, tracking, obedience, whatever.

    Not judging people who get new dogs, but it’s important for each of us to know what is right for us. For me, I want to enjoy the whole journey with my dog. When he can’t do agility, we will do other things. I can’t bear the thought of leaving him behind. I’d rather do a different sport than get new dog.


  2. Valerie says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 10:08pm

    I’ve struggled with the “should I get a puppy now” question. One dog 7, the other 8. I appreciate your insights.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 10:50pm

      Valerie no one can answer that question but you. Kathy, great perspective on the subject. Really no one can no when the best time to add your next dog is. All I know is that when I do it, my heart breaks a little for the dogs I have at home because I know they won’t be getting as much attention as they used to!


  3. Rita says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 10:01pm

    I find this blog post motivational. Over the past 15 months since we rescued our pup, I have throttled back on training because I did not want to be “that person” who values high performance sport trophies over the pure fun of just interacting with their dog. Once I saw your videos on training struggles, I understood your training philosophy and your life is all about the joy of sharing life with your dogs and helping the rest gain skills to enhance this joy. Thanks much for your words of wisdom and kicking my training efforts back into gear!


  4. Katie says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 9:58pm

    Hey, if you hit a nerve, you must be on to something.

    My vote: inspirational, and a good wakeup call for the sport.


  5. Bethany says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 9:43pm

    The best post I’ve ever read! These are all issues I’ve thought about over the past year and I’m so amazed to find someone with the same views I have.


  6. Julia says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 9:03pm

    Inspirational! I have had so many eye-opening moments while viewing your videos, reading your blogs and participating in Recallers. I have worked with dogs for 35 years, and I really wish I had experienced all of this great information sooner! rock on!


  7. Marjorie Trebino says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 7:12pm

    Susan you are always so inspiring..I mentor and feel very blessed to have people that feel I can mentor them
    ..I am always saying ” Susan Garrett says, does, acts etc..”

    I have traveled far but each time you post I see I have a fun journey still ahead..margie


  8. Darlene says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 6:43pm

    I was impressed with your ability to say what I have to remind myself of. I catch myself doing the “with my next dog” I’ll do this or that differently. My dogs are wonderful and do anything I ask, so I realize any agility shortcomings are on me. But I fall into the trap of thinking a new dog would somehow be perfect. I will add another dog, when the time is right. Probably a couple of years before I retire my older dog from competition. But not unless I’m sure it’s the right time for all of us, and not to try for the perfect dog. Keep reminding us they are family first anything else is just a bonus.


    • Laura W. says:
      Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 1:08pm

      It’s Susan who inspires me to stop thinking ‘with my next dog…’ and start thinking about how I can make that very change in my current dog. I just keep thinking how fantastic my next dog is going to be, because I’m getting so much experience continuing to improve the performance of my current one rather than giving up on things.


  9. Pat Burroughs says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 6:14pm

    Inspirational !! I love your blogs keep them coming


  10. Kim Secter says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 6:09pm

    Great Post. I would love to see some articles and maybe even seminars geared towards how we may need to change our handling techniques and or timing for the aging agility dog that is still competing. Most seminars seem to be all about the latest European handling techniques etc. Many of us work hard to keep our older dogs running healthy and safely into their senior years. Are there any tips that you might be able to share about things that you have learned needed to be adjusted as you ran an older dog?


    • Valerie says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 10:05pm

      Love this idea! My vets are all telling me to keep my 7 and 8 year old poodles running and keep them in condition. I’ve dropped one down to preferred and modified her training (e.g, very few full A-frame and DW rep). Training focus is on relationship building (Recallers games) and handling. Would love further thoughts.


  11. Kat says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 6:00pm

    When I first discovered ‘Susan Garrett’ there were a couple of videos which really sold me. Firstly the update on Encore after her health scare – seeing Susan with Encore upside-down in her lap on the floor. And another early one of Swaggy where she picks him up and kisses him on the head. It was just something in her manner that i knew ‘this woman loves her dogs the same way I do’. It is the very reason I am now a ‘Do-lander’.


  12. Ann Potter says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:45pm

    Inspirational. I saw your opinions. Nicely done!


  13. Laura says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:31pm

    Leaders are usually controversial. If there were not controversial, then they would not be leading others on that “path less traveled,” which will eventually blaze a new trail.


  14. Glenda Russell says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:22pm

    As always a humble and humbling post.
    This really brought the “human” element o what I consider the great and even egnigmatic top trainers. I have been doing
    Dog dports for quite a long time and have always been so thankful for my mentors.
    Thank You for this wonderful reminder .


  15. Dianne says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:19pm

    I have the best relationship with my two dogs. Better than any others I have had and it isn’t because they are so different but what I have learned from Susan. I read Ruff Love and Shaping Success before I got Fly as a 8 week old puppy. We did crate games right away and continue to build with recallers, Puppy Peaks, Contact Success and more. About the same time I rescued a 8 year old dog. We aren’t the best Agility team yet but we have fun and work together. I am still being trained, Fly learns so fast when I get it. Starbuck is 12 and we learn new stuff everyday. He is my Rally dog and we have so much fun together. The toenails thing I learned from you Susan gave me a whole new dog at 12. Everything has given me great family dogs that do Rally and Agility but more just have fun. We learn new stuff because it is fun first. When the dog doesn’t get it I look at what I am doing (normally confusing the dog)first. We play all the basic stuff often because it is fun.


  16. sharon empson says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:58pm

    Great article! I understand what you are saying about competing, I personally don’t want to have a dog that is only used for competing and is not my own dog who can be a dog in the house with me. The reason, I want to take into consideration my dogs life. Dogs are amazingly willing to please us, are we as committed to giving them a “dogs life”, a life full of the things dogs love, and love to do.
    It has been one of my passions that no matter what type a dog we have, even a mixed breed, we owe it to them to give them the best. Since I believe God’s creation should be treated with the upmost respect and love. He gives us our animals to bless us and also for us to care them, being good stewards of what He has given us.
    Susan, I did not feel the least bit that you were being self righteous, or anything like that. I am glad you wrote it. Many of us do not know you personally and I think it was gracious of you to open your heart and give us a peek in. Sharon California


  17. nancy dube says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:57pm

    I completly agree with your blog. A dog is a living being who deserves care, attentiveness, love and quality time. A dog is not a thing that we can disregard if it doesn’t suit our goals. Sadly, in the world of competition and with the human desire to win medals, we see too much of the incredible search for the perfect dog. And, we are missing what should count first; a Relationship filled with respect and love…

    You have my profound respect for all that you give to your dogs. You have showed us that it is possible to have both; success and a wonderful Relationship with your dogs.

    Nancy Dube


  18. Kate Fulkerson says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:54pm

    The problem is not the number of dogs you have. The problem is the amount of time and energy you want to devote to them. The saddest situation to me is the single pet dog who spends his or her entire day alone, is walked as little as possible, and is never trained.


    • chloe says:
      Wednesday, January 8, 2014 at 2:13pm

      As a petsitter/dogwalker the number of dogs does make all the difference in the work I have to do.

      2 muddy dogs different than 6
      a pup in addition to 3 adults totally different than a pup + 1



  19. sandra harvey says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:53pm

    I just want to say that even tho I am not active in Agility. I love you, your philosophies, and your mentorship. You never need to apologize for anything you say or do. I, like you am an educator, and want all those that I interact with to want knowledge, to digest thoughts and not critique words or sit in judgment.

    I love this from you–
    “As an educator I like to consider myself as an “inclusive” person. I learned years ago while teaching hundreds of seminars in a very short period of time, that the way to make change in the world is not by bullying or shaming people for their choices, but rather by supporting them while you inspire them with new possibilities.”

    Thank you so much Susan!!! for being such a inspirational mentor.


  20. Dina Zinnes says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:51pm

    Intriguing post. But I would define “love.”

    For me its developing a special relationship that encompasses warmth, trust, understanding, and the desire to work together.

    And to your point, its not possible to develop meaningful relationships with a herd.

    I recently commented to a friend how sad it was that X, after so many agility classes, lessons and seminars still did so poorly in agility competitions. My friend’s answer: she has no relationship with her dog.

    Its not about how many hours you train but the relationship you develop with your dog. Its not just about teaching tug to have a way to reward, but its about having a means to communicate and PLAY with your dog — building a relationship.

    So like you, my bottom line is cherish what you have and realize that sometimes more can lead to less.

    P.S. I think you are a mentor to so many because the “say yes” training programs are built on establishing “relationships” as defined above.


  21. Sara says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:40pm

    Well this blog post just says it all, and confirms what I’ve been thinking alot about lately.

    I’ve Always felt that I’m in some way “extreme”. What differences me from my friends I consider as dog people? I love my friends, so don’t get me wrong, they actually agree with me and lovingly teases me for being all about dogs all the time.
    I care about my dogs wellbeing, the length of her Nails, excercise, I could go on and on!
    I want the best for my dog. By the time I learnt about dog food, I started do feed raw. Only the best is good enough.
    I’m Always striving to become a better person to care for my dog.

    Thanks for sharing the awesome built in crates! I’ve Always pictured my house (when I grow up ;)) being made for me AND my dogs, so it was fun to see that yours is! 😀

    You sure is my dog-loving mentor, and I appreciate the opportunity to learn something new every day in Do-land.

    Thank you, Susan.


  22. Nicole says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:23pm

    I whole-heartedly agree! “Dog collectors” sadden me. They are always on the look out for the next best thing, rather than appreciating and investing the time needed into the dogs that they already have, in order to make each dog the best they can be.
    A great breeding does not guarantee great performance or speed. It may give you the potential, but you need to be willing to invest the time to bond with and train your dog…it does not come automatically.
    Amazing breeding or not, if you don’t have quality time for each dog, odds are in favor that their performance will be lacking. You get back what you put in, so rather than adding more dogs to the pack, invest the time into the dog(s) you have and you may be surprised to find the superstar that you already own!


  23. Malley Heinlein says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:16pm

    Thanks for putting this thought I myself have had brewing, so very well! Your voice of experience is inspiring, and you have every right to warn students of potential pitfalls, and lead by example.
    I am still a newbie to dog performance sports. My dogs have some titles in obedience and rally, and one has a few legs in Agility. I have already seem the potential for the dog losing his role as a partner and becoming a means to an end.. The thrill of winning is such a rush, and our will to power, as humans, should always be a force to beware of.
    Is that judgmental? Perhaps, but all judgement, or discernment, is not bad. Our dogs expect to be lifetime companions, are always wanting to please us, feel deeply, and can’t speak for themselves. Learning to work with my dogs, for me, is an often humbling journey of self awareness and self improvement, which my dogs patiently love and support me through. So it’s important for me to check my motives and behavior, so the results of our training is always fun for both team members, not just an ego trip for the human one. Otherwise, canine performance sports could become just another form of exploitation, like the circus, or dog racing.
    Thanks for supporting people to respect their canine partners!


    • Sara says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:48pm

      Love the way you put it, and I so agree with you.
      A humble and loving relationship between human and dog where both parts gives and takes equally.


  24. Diana says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:01pm

    I have an incredible connection with my dogs and so much of it is due to your mentoring. It goes way beyond the agility ring, but that’s where it started when I took your 3 part webinar on the mental game. Some people compliment me on my connections and others put me down and think it’s not real or odd. But then I say leiderhosen! I will be forever grateful to you and hope that some day we can meet in person.


    • Susan says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:21pm

      @Diana Leiderhosen! Awesome!


  25. julia bennett says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:50pm

    Hi all

    This post was amazing. Food for thought for all. I have recently come to realise that our busy lives impede what really matters. 2013 was touted as a difficult year for many who got us through our dogs. Mine all live inside and enjoy most of what you discussed. The baby bc now 18months pushed every button I have. Through reading your posts I have learnt patience tolerance elation committment and enduring love for my boy. Your blogs without you even realising emit so much more than how to train a dog. They send messages of hope and as I look into those big brown eyes I shed a tear not in sadness but for the journey. This journey would not have been possible without you. The best trained dogs are adored by their mums and dads and it is seen by their demeanour. Keep at it susan we could all use a little help on the way. Im very proud of our journey.


  26. Maggie says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:48pm



  27. Abhaya says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:44pm

    Susan, it breaks my heart when any domesticated animal is treated without loving attention to what IT needs, whether it be a horse, mule, dog, or rabbit. Thank you for reminding us what dogs need to thrive. (Dante, my black standard poodle, thanks you, too.)


  28. Suzanne Gilbert says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:44pm

    What an inspiring blog! Susan’s comment about “each of us will get the dog we need at the time we need it in our lives …” really spoke to me. My german shepherd has often been a challenge.
    We adopted her a 2 yrs and she had some behaviors I had never dealt with before. Life with her has made me more understanding as a dog owner and a trainer. She is my companion and friend and there is not a moment with her that I would change.

    Thanks Susan for all the good things you do for dogs and their owners.


  29. Debra Moody says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:34pm

    My Dad always said, “When you are pointing your finger at someone, look at your hand – there’s always three fingers pointing back at you.”
    Your post is inspiring, beautiful and insightful, Susan. A great reminder from a great MENTOR that our relationship with our dogs should come first and foremost; and in my humble opinion, presented in a way without judgment, malice or ego. I’ve had others in the dog training world spew vitriol about Ruff Love in the past…I’d have to say one of the most misunderstood gems out there in the publishing world…My advice to them? Take what you like and leave the rest.
    Thanks for all that you do, Susan. You are a constant, beam of light who shines that brilliance right back on us.


  30. Sue says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:26pm

    One of the things I like about reading ‘stuff’ by Susan Garrett is that she loves her dogs. Like Susan my dogs are ‘family pets’ first. If we can have fun doing lots of other things along the way then that’s great also.
    Susan Garrett – great mentor – thank you for all the ideas and training tips.


  31. Sue McKee says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:21pm

    Love this!!! So very true


  32. Julie says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:12pm

    Excellent Blog. Made me stop and think… do I love my dogs enough, do I engage them enough, do they spend too much time away from me? They are never alone at home but I do work and therefore have to spend time out of the house. We also don’t crate them in the house, as I have young dogs a 19 month Rough Collie and a 3 year old Pug they have safe zones – where they can lounge in comfort and be safe, where we don’t have to worry about them tormenting my 89 year old Mom if they get spunky when I am not there. Brand New to Agility I am working on deleting all my old thinking on how to train, raise and care for my dogs. Love is not a problem as they are everything to me. – Thanks Susan. You are an inspiration and a great guide!


  33. Joanne says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:11pm

    I feel the same. It doesn’t mean you can’t be successful (however you define success). A good relationship with your partner if the foundation for accomplishing anything ; )


    • Joanne says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:12pm


      IS the foundation


  34. Jonelle Wolf says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:09pm

    Love your article. Loving your dog is not about what they do for you on the agility course or what ever sport you have chosen for them, its about the love you get from them every day every minute. If they are well trained then the bond becomes so strong because you are not continually frustrated my unwanted behaviors. I have used your training methods with my three year old Sheltie and now using it for my five month old Sheltie and we are having such a good time, they love the attention and are doing well. I am overwhelmed with all the information, but taking it slowly and working on each step patiently. My third dog is a twelve year old Bichon who is still doing agility with me and still loving it. we do not trial as much and when we do it’s only a couple of events a day. She still has a wonderful bounce on her everyday walks. You are my dog loving mentor, because of your philosophy on being a pet owner. Thanks so much for all your help and all you do.


  35. Lynn Cuthbert says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:05pm

    I loved the post. I think we need to treat our animals with the utmost of respect, putting their needs first before sport. I am most concerned with the health and happiness of all my animals first, and none of my animals either train, go to workshops or go to trials when they are ill or injured. I wish we had some way of checking this as trial organizers, although I know this would be difficult.


  36. Tracy D says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:03pm

    Beautiful post. Just lost my oldest and am left with my lovely 12.5 year old “youngster”, so emotionally I’m not able to write all I’d like at this time, but it’s so true that our dogs deserve our devotion every day of their lives, without regard to their ring performance or lack thereof.


  37. Sandi says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:00pm

    My philosophy/belief is that my dogs and my love for and ability to compete in agility is a gift from God — another controversial perspective. Because they are a gift, it’s my responsibility to take care of my dogs. But more than that, I love my dogs and they love me — what a blessing!! I can’t even picture my life without my dogs in it. This is what I hear you saying, Susan; that your love for your dogs is high motivation for you to do what you do every day for and with them. Thank you for sharing that. I personally look at my ability to compete in agility as a blessing because sometimes I think to myself “I shouldn’t even be able to do this.” I’ve been in agility less than 5 year and I am 64 years old/young!! My Sheltie has blossomed and continues to thrive because of agility and the relationship we have grown together. Again, I cannot even imagine our lives without each other. Trust your heart, Susan, and keep doing what you do. Thank you.


  38. Barb says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:59pm

    Great blog! I was drawn to the emphasis you have always placed on first and foremost having a happy relationship with your pet(s)! Two is my most comfortable #! And with a possible upcoming litter sired by my Harley’s boy Quin it makes it hard, because he is such a dear boy. But I think I will wait for the time to be right. Love the training, have trouble with competition
    (trying to overcome some pretty significant self-limiting beliefs)but have such a stronger bond with the dogs that sometimes all that doesn’t seem to really matter!


  39. Dot says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:55pm

    I agree with you totally, great blog.


  40. Nicky says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:51pm

    I so totally agree and I am so glad you put me straight on som sections of Ruff Love which I have to admit I found hard to aceept when reading but possibly I misunderstood. I love and respect my dogs, whatever their dog sports results…


  41. Mark ruckstuhl says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:48pm

    I love my dog and totally agree with, especially your email about not casting judgments. You compete with your dog as companions and I have a lot more respect for someone that is able to take a normal dog with an “inferior” pedigree and make her. Star performance dog than someone that shells out thousands of dollars for the “superior” pedigree dog and than after 3 -4 of these dogs gets their super star and discards the others. I love my dog like I love my kids, nurture, train, love and get the most out of it. A great coach can adPt their ways to that of any dog. You are an inspiration to me!


  42. Lamolina says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:47pm

    Susan, thank you for posting this. First of all, this post clarifies any doubts and misunderstandings about Ruff Love – because if there was something I actually viewed quite critically from the start, it was the crating part in Ruff Love. You see, if you are the average single full-time-job dog owner, I cannot help but think that your average Ruff Love dog might end up crated something like 20+ hours a day (i.e. all day and most of the night…). For me personally, this price would be too high to pay.

    None of my dogs have ever been crated at home (but here in Germany, this is different in any case as it would be against the law to crate a dog all day long). They are crated in the car for safety reasons, and sometimes at the club during their down time, and yes, we play crate games quite a lot – but we don’t even have a crate in our home, only in our training barn.

    So thank you for posting what I’ve learned in your online courses – Ruff Love is not an isolation program, and it is not about just crating your dog all day long, it is about meaningful and fun interaction and limiting your dog’s opportunities to self-reward.

    Also, thank you for your critical thoughts on getting new dogs in quick succession in the hopes of finding “the” next agility superstar. The trend of agility to be ever more competitive, sometimes really at the cost of the dogs’ health and mental well being, has actually cemented my decision not to start trialing again for the time being.

    I have seen this sport change so many old friends to the point that I can hardly speak to them anymore, as they define themselves, their dogs and everybody else by their successes in the agility ring exclusively. At the same time, their old dogs are forgotten, never to be seen in any training session, even though they could still have a little fun at playing agility or learning new tricks.

    So just a little hint, because I think it fits so well here: In your next online surveys, maybe you could also consider a category of people like me who are having a blast training their “backyard superstars” without considering to trial now or in the foreseeable future. Because doing agility really and only JUST for the fun of it does not necessarily mean that you do not want to seriously train and lay a great foundation AS IF you wanted to be the next world champion 🙂


  43. Marie says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:47pm

    Amazing as always& straight from the heart, we love our dogs as pets & friends first, their happiness & well being a must.


  44. Tibby Chase says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:44pm

    So agree about love your dogs as family pets. Also I think as we get older ourselves we come to appreciate the special bond caring for older dogs and friends brings to our lives. The old Girl Scout song about ” make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold” is as true about our canine friends as our human friends.


  45. Penny says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:43pm

    Reading this blog reminded me of the most important thing about teaching and being human and that is the ability to build and maintain relationships. Isn’t it interesting, that it is no different with our canine companions. I am working with my 7 month old yellow lab-Charlie. He is just a love and happily for me he LOVES to train. I am reminded time and time again how important it is to stay in the moment with him and to really relish all he has to offer me. This is instead of what I have done in the past which is to get the things off my list I need to do for today. Charlie will not permit that. Thank goodness he doesn’t. It has been particularly cold out in WI these past few days and I have been diligent in getting both of my dogs out to potty. Charlie had gone out 4 times on this particular day. I left to get some groceries and when I got back he had piddled in part of his crate. He just sat there looking so forlorn and it occurred to me that he was waiting for me to raise my voice or get upset. I spoke to him in a low voice and told him it was ok and we went outside immediately. I brought him back in and I cleaned it up. I am not certain what caused it but he is still a baby. He then crawled into my lap and just wanted to be held. To me, it was a great reminder of what is important. The here and now—-He is spectacularly breed and I am doing everything in my power as an agility trainer to ensure he is the partner I want him to be. But, it is the relationship with have together that makes all of the difference. In case you didn’t know it, I love him and my 7 year old labrador, Otis, with all of my heart.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts—controversial? I didn’t think so. It just makes sense.


  46. Whitney Lamberson says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:43pm

    This was a fantastic post and, hopefully, it will make the entire agility community think a little harder about their dogs and their relationship with each of them (young ones as well as old ones). Very well done.


  47. Jean says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:35pm

    This blog post is excellent reading! Susan’s thoughts reconcile the internal conflict that I sometimes feel between being the owner of a well-trained dog and the owner of a “pet” dog. It is possible to be both! thank you!!


  48. Di Henry says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:24pm

    I think the quote ‘live the life you have imagined’ comes to mind… totally inspirational Susan ;0)


    • Do Land says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:12pm

      kudos Susan, INSPIRATIONAL!!


  49. Sue Briley says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:21pm

    Here are my comments regarding this blog, I put them in my “Share” on FB
    “This is a great post about loving dogs, Susan said she has had some back-lash from those thinking she was being judgmental. I didn’t get that impression (could be because I happen to agree with her and love her positive feedback training).
    I think she was just being thankful for her mentors and explaining her way of thinking but I sure did not see anything that put any other dog lover down. If that is how they took it, perhaps they should look inward a little deeper.”

    I look at my relationship with my dog as a guardian not a dog owner. Seems to bring out the best in us both.

    You have really helped enrich and improve so many dogs lives and there are MANY of us who can’t thank you enough. Continue on – you do make a difference.


  50. Christine says:
    Monday, January 6, 2014 at 2:12pm

    One of your BEST blog posts, in my opinion.


    • Mary says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 3:51pm

      I want to applaud your latest thought-provoking posts. I see people who try to do everything perfectly, thinking they will make a perfect dog, and somehow in the process, the dog no longer is viewed as a beloved family member, but more of a performance machine. They end up only valuing what the dog can do, vs who the dog is. In human psychology, it has been highlighted that people need to be loved and recognized as “humans being,” not merely as humans “doing.”
      Thanks Susan!


    • Chrissy Donovan says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 4:26pm

      I shared your link on my FB and this is what I wrote there—–I LOVE that you are brave enough to delve into a few subjects that many of us choose to ignore or maybe even haven’t just sat down and considered. I totally agree that our dogs should first and foremost be a part of our family. We shouldn’t just get another dog cuz the one we have isn’t “good enough”. IF we have the TIME and resources for another dog, if there is space(financial,emotional) sure get another dog. But not to the detriment of the dog that didn’t “make the cut”. Crates are for puppies, training situations, medical reasons and transport, not everyday life.


    • Christy Skinner says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 5:49pm

      Susan, you are my mentor in every way. First and foremost, I admire the person you are, not just the dog trainer, not even just the dog lover, but the person…it shows through your blogs, online courses and when I am fortunate enough to see you in person at trials. We have met once briefly and although in the midst of competing in a World Team Event, you were so very kind and considerate to me. I love hearing you laugh at your dogs and yourself in Puppy Peaks, Say Yes to Contact Success and Recallers. The love and caring you have for your dogs shine through every video of every course I have taken. Your passion for dog training and that you want to share EVERYTHING you have learned with each of us is undeniable. You put so much effort into your courses that sometimes it’s overwhelming how much information is crammed into each week but it definitely shows how hard you work to share your passion and knowledge. You even offer free videos and eBooks for us to benefit from your experience. There aren’t too many people that would work so hard for people they don’t know but you do that. So it’s not just the great competitor that you are, the brilliant dog trainer that you are, or the dog lover that you are but it’s for the caring compassionate person that you are.



    • Julia says:
      Monday, January 6, 2014 at 7:45pm

      For the first time in two or so years I actually finally read beyond the first paragraph of one of your posts. I must admit that to my suprise it contained great insight into your level of compassion for your family.

      I am usually turned off my your strong presence in ego.

      So, in future I will put aside the first two or so paragraphs and follow on with interest as to the actual content.


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