001 002 003 004 005 006 007 008 009

Dog Training in Agility: What We Do For Love

Posted on 02/17/16 30 Comments

One of my online students challenged me recently. She is a highly successful agility competitor in the United States. She has been a student on Handling360 since the beginning. She said to me last week “why do you not stress the dog training part of your program? It is the main reason I follow what you teach.” I shrugged her comment off because “the dog training” is something we just take for granted right? The more I thought about her comment the more I realized the things we take for granted are most often our greatest gifts. What is well “obvious” to us can be a massive “ah ha moment” for someone else. That is one of the reasons I love my “online coaching sessions” that we regularly have with our online students. That is the place where I sit down and ask the universe “what can I share today that can help someone right now?”

Today I want to share about the need to protect your dog’s confidence while training.

Agility brilliance comes from two places:

1. The understanding of dog training and…

2. The understanding of handling.

If you are an amazing handler you can get by with knowing less about dog training… most of the time.

If you are teaching agility to people, you can get by with just an average understanding of dog training… most of the time.

I say most of the time because not all dogs are the same. Some dogs are just naturally brilliant. They make us all look better than we really are. For those dogs, having a weaker understanding of dog training is not a big deal. They learn and perform at the top in spite of their handlers. I’m sure you have have met dogs like this.

However, for every naturally brilliant agility dog there are 10 more who bring great challenges to the table. For those dogs having a great understanding of dog training is not only helpful… it is imperative in order to bring change to that dog.

Today I’d like to bring a little “Love” into your life. Pardon the pun. Love is a 14 month old Border Collie who came into her owner’s life with so much promise. Karen flew all the way to Europe from Canada to pick up this puppy at 8 weeks old. She came from brilliant pedigrees in the agility world… she had so much promise and potential.

Yet, even though Karen was able to bring out the brilliance in her last Border Collie, they were even named to the Canadian European Open team… she was lost with Love. She did everything her instructors told her but she couldn’t reach this puppy and it broke her heart. When I started working with Karen I said to her something my students have heard me say over and over… and that is you need to protect your dog’s confidence. Number one rule of training, to bring out the best in your dog she needs to walk in confidence. Strive to do nothing more than bring that forward.

It is our job and responsibility as dog lovers, to protect it. But I’ll go one step further, we owe it to ourselves to do the same thing for our own confidence.  A dog training strategy that shows progress like in the video below helps you be more confident in your choices. It empowers belief in you that you CAN do this.

However the opposite is also true. I’m sure Karen’s confidence in her own abilities took a real hit raising this puppy without seeing the outcomes she was hoping for. We all want to bring out the best in our dogs. When we can’t it is easy to believe we are the “failures.”  Protect YOUR confidence, follow a dog training program that fuels your fire at the same time it is fuelling your dogs!

Here is a short video clip showing the transformation Karen has seen in Love in just 30 days working in Handling360 (a program of both handling and dog training)… a program that strives to build both you and your dog’s confidence. Love used to be a puppy who would rarely tug. Who until last week at our training facility couldn’t work in a noisy building with other dogs and people milling about. Last week she was a bright and confident puppy, full of joy as she tugged when asked and didn’t once try to leave Karen or take her focus away from her work in the midst of great distractions.

Realize agility brilliance is more than just handling …yes handling is important but there is a huge dog training component that allows the handling to become effective and possible for all dogs.  What about you? How are you going to protect both your dogs and your confidence? What is your current strategy? If you would like more insight from me please follow this link to learn more about Handling360 … we currently have registration open… but only until tomorrow at midnight. (Thursday February 18th, 2016)

Today I am grateful for Karen, who was willing to change everything she was doing and start over with us following in Handling360 as if she was a complete beginner. Showing what is possible when training happens with layers of learning that focus on protecting your dog’s confidence.



  1. Andrew says:
    Friday, May 26, 2017 at 12:28pm

    Those first few weeks for a puppy is essential to the rest of their lives. I always try and socialize a new puppy as soon as possible, otherwise fear sets in. BTW, thanks for sharing this post.


  2. Jean says:
    Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 12:49am

    I have signed up for the course however am having difficulty justifying the cost.. Susan you have provided tons of material and for new clients the value is certainly there.
    I am a long time customer and have every one of you Books and DVDs as well as being a graduate of Recallers and current member of Puppy Peaks. So while the course is a bargain for new people, I feel I am being charged for material I already have. I took a look at the advanced course work and realize that as I do AKC will not need a lot of the skills presented so while it may be fun to play around with it, I will not be getting a benefit. At 70+ my goal is to be in the top 5 of Labradors with my 2 1/2 year old. I am not interested in World Team or International courses.

    I think if you offered the same price for the course as given to those renewing H360
    to your previous and current Recallers and PP customers it would be more in line..You are so generous with your time and willingness to share your knowledge I am surprised a discount isnt available.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 3:08am

      Hey Jean, I would suggest you hold off until nearer the end of our 30 day refund period. The course is LOADED with all kinds of new dog training and handling. If you still struggle with seeing the value just contact us and we will give you a full refund.


      • Jean says:
        Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 12:28pm

        Thanks, will do. I felt like I was taking unfair advantage of your 30 free look. When I expressed my concerns and discount suggestion to customer happiness this was the response.

        “We are very happy to refund you for H360, please just let us know if that is what you would like and we will arrange that.”

        To be clear its not a question of value of the H360 but the issue of repeating a lot of material I already have and use as a long time customer. Now that I am retired I have to be careful to get the biggest bang for my buck.


  3. Lorna Morrissey says:
    Friday, February 19, 2016 at 4:30pm

    I am at my wits end with my border collie I started H360 this time last year and went back to flatwork and started to work my way through.During the year I purchased Recallers in the hope that I could teach both myself and my dog to manage horse and car herding. Towards November we saw great results but now in January we are back to square one with a dog who barks and loses concentration knocks bars and generally makes me feel like a complete failure so I am tempted to retire her and my self. I would love any suggestions you can give me. So very disappointed and I’m sure it is my fault and not the dogs.


    • Kari says:
      Friday, February 19, 2016 at 7:43pm

      I took in a 3.5 yr old rehomed border collie. She was, what I would describe, psycho with absolutely no impulse control whatsoever. She was also kid and leash reactive. I spent a year (yes a full year) doing nothing but working on getting her to tug without biting me, tearing my clothing (she even got my underwear once!), and no regripping. It was basically ItsYerChoice with tugging. If she bit me, the game ended. If she regripped, the game ended. If she didn’t release when told “out”, the game ended. She is now 6.5 yrs old and is doing obedience and nosework and tracking. I realized that she was a dog who ramped up too quickly for agility, but nosework helped her learn to focus and she is a rock star at it. Same with tracking. I had to acknowledge that this is the dog I have, not the one I wanted, and work within that framework. She’s come a long way in 3 years and now plays with kids and can go to training facilities. Good luck with yours.


    • Susan says:
      Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at 3:08am

      Lorna don’t give up just yet. Post a video clip in H360 and lets us help you. We need to know where you are starting in order to help you move forward.


  4. Susana says:
    Friday, February 19, 2016 at 1:57pm

    Hi Susan&all,
    I’m one of your new students.
    My #1 priority is speed and focus with my Cocker spaniel Greta.


  5. Sharrii Hunt says:
    Friday, February 19, 2016 at 9:59am

    “When I started working with Karen I said to her something my students have heard me say over and over… and that is you need to protect your dog’s confidence. Number one rule of training, to bring out the best in your dog she needs to walk in confidence. Strive to do nothing more than bring that forward.

    It is our job and responsibility as dog lovers, to protect it. But I’ll go one step further, we owe it to ourselves to do the same thing for our own confidence. ”

    This resonated with me concerning the young GSD girl (now 20 months). I have been involved with the whole litter since about 2 weeks old. She is one of the 3 the breeder decided to keep from the litter and the blood lines are “German working”.

    Showed the greatest interest in herding/tending as a young pup. Loves Barn Hunt, Enjoys tracking and now we are working on agility.

    From an early age, this young GSD girl sought me out. After a disastrous time of being sold to a kennel, she came back to the breeder. Since then she has let us all know I am her person. For the past several months she lives with me and for all intents and purposes is “mine” .

    She learns different from the other pups – but then again, I am not the trainer her breeder is. I don’t have constant access to stock but that no longer matters because she is refusing to tend or herd. She runs right back to the vehicles. Tracking – she is refusing to stay on the track (laid by the breeder), but she will stick to a track and follow with enjoyment to the end when it is someone else laying the track, or following behind us.

    I have been told this line is very unforgiving and refuses to work with someone if they feel a correction is unjustified.

    I train with positive reinforcement, play and shaping. She is more food motivated than toy motivated but will work for both. I don’t train for long periods of time, instead, short increments ending on a positive.

    As I am also fairly new at the herding/tending and at tracking/scent work, I am sure I am not as confident as I should be to support my dogs confidence as well.
    We are no longer doing the tending and concentrating on the tracking, and now the agility with the hopes of us learning distance work in the process.

    At almost 70 years of age and having arterial heart disease, I don’t have the speed or stamina I used to when I trained my Belgians.

    While a GSD is not my breed of choice, this GSD girl is MY choice, or should I say a mutual choice. I love her, want her and want to do the best I can for her.

    I need to build her confidence level as well as mine when training and in the real world.

    Thank you for this gem of information.


  6. nicky thompson says:
    Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 11:26pm

    how can I find out more about this programme I have a 13mth border collie who is hard to do anything with when not coersed with food


  7. Anne Becker says:
    Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 9:36am

    Susan, do you still travel and do seminars? I see a lot of dogs in our breed (Shiloh Shepherd) who are sensitive pups that turn into adults that lack confidence. We’re a breed that’s a bit too big for competitive agility but I’d be very interested in a seminar on Protecting/Building Confidence. 🙂


  8. Christine says:
    Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 7:31am

    I learn about Susan about 8 years ago because I was asking how I could teach my highly active puppy to relax better between work. Not at home but outside when she was tuned to work. Since then my next dog who was a lot like “Love” and after accidents also highly reactive with dogs,I had enough possibilities how effective this thraining philosophy is. Now I am using it also as dog trainer with very difficult and partly also dangerouse dogs in my work as dog trainer in a mass shelter. We do not play with toys but I use the way to teach choices, reinforcment, right timing and working through frustration to give them and us a new chance and it works so great. Yes, there should be more out about the philopsophy and in more languages. It also taught me tons for myself.


  9. wendy says:
    Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 7:14am

    I have two dogs,5 years old,brother and sister of no particular breed. They love agility attending weekly classes and practising in a limited space at home. Neither of them have ever been interested in tugging. I interest them with tasty treats. What is all this obsession with tugging? Is tugging really necessary to train a confident dog?


  10. Deb says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 11:28pm

    A year ago I adopted a 4 yr old poodle who was very sweet but did not get out much in his prior life. I spent a long time building his confidence in many situations. And I joined the Recallers group to get some structure around his training. Then I tried like heck to teach him to tug with enthusiasm.He would tug sometimes with enthusiasm, but just did not make progress and sometimes did not want to tug at all. Sigh!

    A couple months ago he had an acute digestive tract upset and ended up on IV fluids, medications etc . . . he had pancratitis – most likely a chronic version going on for some time.

    Oh My Gosh! I was asking him to get excited about tugging when his pancreas was inflamed and hurt so badly! My heart hurts for him. I’m glad in the end for the acute episode, cause now we know!

    He’s on his home-prepared low-fat diet, is so much happier, does not go sulk in his house crate, does not barf anymore in his car/crate, and is on his way to being a happy tugger – what a difference! My confidence is now restored!!!! And it seems his is too!


  11. Valerie says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 11:20pm

    Such good advice — to protect and grow confidence! I’ve taken this to heart with my puppy who has a tendency to worry. Susan taught me to be a splitter, not a lumper. And, that startegy builds confidence. Breaks my heart to see dogs being asked to do things while they are worried. When I see this on my own videos, I cringe and resolve to do remember that with “confidence first” the rest will come.


  12. Jo says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 10:13pm

    Oh my Gosh! What an eye opener. Confidence is what is lacking in my rescue bc. Totally looking at him with a new perspective. And I think that this will help with the distraction issue. Also realized that I was not being consistent with my commands. Oh such much training to learn & with that comes handling I think. I was in Recallers & signed up for H360 on the first day it was offered. So exciting.


  13. Ruth says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 8:04pm

    Ab-sol-ute-ly fan-tas-tic! Confidence is the number one priority, above all else and when dog lovers understand and protect this, everything starts to blossom. Confidence is like fertiliser, water and sunshine all in one:) Thank you so much for continuing to share the gems!!


  14. Beth Burton says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 7:42pm

    I have been in since the recaller videos & am really enjoying the progress my dogs & I have been experiencing especially with my young Collie. Since I started following your free videos my agility trainer has also started following you. ????


  15. Caroline says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 7:32pm

    Lovely to,watch the transformation. I too have a dog who lacks confidence but hers is not from engagement. Her confidence is lacking because she’s had several major traumatic life experiences & to this is noise phobic, is worried about other dogs & some humans coming near her. I have followed your blogs, videos & for years. Unfortunately your courses are out of my financial budget but your video blogs have made a huge impact but also I have learnt just to train for fun with my dog. She loves it but because of her experiences & anxiety we will never compete, she can’t take any pressure in a trial environment & im happy just to train for fun. I love her unconditionally & she is an awesome dog. It’s not about the competition but about your relationship with your dog. Thank you for your inspiration to just have fun with our dogs.


  16. Gale says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 6:49pm

    Recallers make training fun and teaches the dog to think and problem solve. They become selconfident and controlled, LOVING EVERY MOMENT. Puppy peaks was great too.

    One day, h360 will be within my financial reach.


  17. Karin says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 5:52pm

    I started at recallers 1.0 and never left….???? For me no better teacher and no better online course than Susan..handling360 , love it….
    Thank you Susan.


  18. Bill Mercado says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 5:50pm

    What a beautiful and inspiring story. It made me aware of my responsibility to guard my dog’s confidence. Thank you Susan.



  19. Anne Miller says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 5:34pm

    I went to my first Susan Garrett seminar in 2012 in Keller, Texas.
    When people asked me how I liked it, this was my answer:
    “I signed up to become a better handler, but I left a better trainer.” Four years later, Susan never fails to give me another ‘gem’ or ‘ah ha’ moment. Thank you Susan!


  20. Diane says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 5:01pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your lessons. I don’t have a dog right now but can’t wait to try your training once I do get one!


  21. noa says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 4:49pm

    Really nice transformation 🙂 I couldn’t help but notice that the “new” Love vids are all taken indoors – is it b/c of Canadian winter or is the puppy also more confident in a small quiet space ? I have one of those ultra sensitive dogs with a shaky sense of confidence that is highly influenced by the environment…


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 5:58pm

      My guess it is both noa. But Love did come to a brand new work environment (traveling to Say Yes) last week and SHONE!


  22. Renee King says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 4:26pm

    Susan, your training program, philosophy, and outlook continue to amaze me! I appreciate it so very much and see the difference in my dog and the students I work with that utilize your methods. I adore seeing these success stories, like Love’s. It really shows that if you put in the time in the LITTLE THINGS/DETAILS and always put the dog first, anything is possible! Ain’t No Mountain High Enough! 🙂


  23. Charlotte says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 4:06pm

    So many lessons for me watching this video. I am immensely grateful for all the guidance and support I get from you 🙂


  24. Karen Sanders says:
    Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 4:01pm

    I literally got teary eyed watching this. So many times frustration leads to people thinking ” I need a different dog, a different breed ” or that they are not good trainers and they lose their own confidence. Truly inspirational! Love all that Susan so willingly shares with the world!


    • Susan says:
      Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 4:04pm

      So very true Karen!!! When I see dogs like “Love” I so wish I could somehow get through to their owners and let them know “life could be so different for your dog!” And in the end life will be different for you as well.


Post a Reply to Karin

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *