This is in continuation of a blog post a friend of mine just posted. "Are you really having fun with your dog?" She talked about how hard she was working toward different goals and how if she pushed herself and the dog too hard Beanie would shut down.
See, dogs put off these things called calming signals. (Sniffing the ground, yawning, sneezing, looking away from you, dropping their ears back, suddenly having a horrible itch, shaking off, pretending to forget their name; aka avoidance, and many others.) Some people know nothing about these. Some people know enough to notice when their dogs aren't comfortable with a situation. Then there are those of us that train our dogs in obedience, tracking, agility, and other dog sports. At the competition level you would think that we would recognize how stressed our dogs are when the do something that, "isn't like them". But no, we just keep pushing, trying to get that title because we know our dog can do it, and for some reason we want a piece of paper and some ribbons to prove it to others.
I am, for the first time, guilty of this; and I'm a professional dog trainer studying to become a "BEHAVIORIST". Ya, bad huh?!
Achilles and I were in a drill team dance last weekend and I have a three day Rally trial this weekend. Both of us have never done this before. I've been teaching dogs and people for years, but never felt the need to compete. Over the last few years my curiosity over competing has continued to grow. Athena did great this year in Nadac Agility trials, so what's different about me and Achilles? I'M PUSHING US TOO HARD!!! Duh. Yesterday we were spot on as a team and we did great. Except that I felt like going home and getting into the fetal position afterward because I worked myself up so much. What's fun about that? Then today...Achilles sniffed the ground through 40% of the course, suddenly needed to scratch his neck in a front, and sneezed at me when I told him to sit in heel position. About halfway through the course he looked at me like "Oh! I'm supposed to be watching you!" So, tomorrow we are going to go into the trial for fun. Yes, Achilles really wants a title, but I'd rather, "Have fun with my dog..." Check out Erica's blog too... http://atraineradogandtheworld.blogspot.com/
Also check out my link to Turrid Rugaas, an internationally respected trainer who has videos and books on "Calming Signals".