Irritation is motivation. Some of you may have heard me say this before.  When you are really irritated by something you will take action to change it. Those of you that are overweight right now are that way because it doesn’t bug you enough. When something irritates you enough your words and thoughts turn from “it would be great if . . .:” or “I really should . . .” into more like “I must make this different right now!”  For some people, if they get to a weight that is 5 pounds more than they would like to be,  it irritates them enough to make a change (man I wish that was me!).  For others, you maybe haven’t even yet decided how much is too much.

With my dog training, I get irritated very easily. DeCaff for example,  who is now 9 years old, was a dog that had “issues” as a youngster. She was afraid of different textures under her paws, sounds, certain dogs, even the wind!  She shut down on me once during training as an 11-month-old puppy. I remember everything about that session, exactly where I was, what I was working on and how I felt. It affected me greatly

DeCaff in her prime, screaming across a dogwalk.

DeCaff in her prime, screaming across a dogwalk.

that my little puppy, my family pet that I adored, stopped working with me and had a look on her face that told me “this is not fun for me anymore.”  I was crushed. It was like a dagger went through my heart. It irritated me enough that I swore it would never happen again and it never did. It would have been easy to think, well this is just a shutdown dog, I had better lower my standards. However DeCaff and I won everything in agility that available for a mixed-breed dog to win, so clearly, that is not the stand I took.

Any of you that own a dog you have labelled as a “shut down dog,”  have such a dog because the first time it happened it didn’t bother you enough.  When DeCaff shut down on me I knew it was something I didn’t ever what to see happen again, with any dog. Let’s face it, if agility isn’t an all-out rip-roaring good time for the dog then it becomes just something we do to meet our own needs.  So in order to feed my needs (I love to do agility with my dogs), I need the sport to fill the dog’s need of having a good time with me.

This brings me to Feature. Feature is 26 months old today. For the last two weeks, I have been obsessing on her contacts. If you haven’t seen the video of her runs, you may think her contacts are complete crap by the way I am going on about them. Nope, not at all it really.  This dog has done nothing more than leave one dogwalk in competition without a release word from me. She completed 80% of the criteria I have for the obstacle, just left out the nose touch and the wait for the release!  How many times has this occurred? Once. Only once. Yet I am irritated beyond belief about it. That is why it is unlikely to happen again (more on Feature’s training in a future post).

If you have a start line issue, it is there because you didn’t care enough when your dog moved one paw the first time it happened. If you have a dog that can’t weave in competition it is because you were happy to just resend him with an easier approach so you could get your qualifying score for that run. You got your Q, and likely never get it another thought when you returned home that night. It didn’t irritate you until you got to a higher level where refusals started to count. I could go on but  I don’t think I need to do I?

Become irritated by the little cracks in your dog training to avoid them from becoming impassible chasms somewhere down the road. Stop allowing ribbons and titles to dictate what is important to you and let your dog’s level of enjoyment and the mastery of the sport be the standard you measure yourself against.

Today I am grateful for DeCaff. I really need to write more about her because not only is she a really cool dog, she has been a great source of learning for me.