How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish that my dog had more drive” or “I wish that my dog wasn’t so distracted by the environment” – or “I wish my dog liked obedience more”. Maybe you have even made these statements or similar ones yourself.
If you choose to participate in dog sports with your dog, it is your responsibility to train him properly and introduce him to the sport correctly. A dog’s first introduction to a sport has a great deal of influence on how he will perceive this activity in the future. Some people flit from sport to sport trying to find the “magic” one that the dog will enjoy.
Dogs do not exist for our entertainment. If we choose to participate in a sport with our dogs, we must be willing to take on the responsibility of learning all that we can about the sport and accept the job of working to find the proper motivation for our dog through understanding our dog’s needs and personality.
A sport does not provide a solution to your dog’s problems. A sport is just a structured environment in which you can set goals and enjoy teaching and learning from your dog as your relationship develops. Success is simply how you define it. Your dog really does not care what you do if both of you are having a good time training together.
Obedience and Rally are both very structured dog sports. One is not more “fun” than the other. Obedience simply requires a higher, more precise level of performance than Rally. The fun is what YOU make it. Great performance comes from confidence and knowledge; confidence and knowledge are a product of good training and understanding your dog’s needs.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions regarding dog sports – which ones are “mean” or “boring” and which ones are “fun”. There is also a wide range of training available ranging from “totally positive, never say no” to shock collars for good pet behavior. To anyone relatively new to dog sports, this can be very confusing. My best advice is to visit a class in an activity you might be considering. Talk to the students and watch the dogs. Do you like what you see? Talk to the instructor and find out if this might be a fit for you and your dog.
Ultimately, the responsibility lies with you. Success in Obedience, Rally, Agility or Tracking (to name a few sports) takes time and dedication. A willingness to accept responsibility to learn and put the time in and learn how to make it motivational for your dog.
There is no magic formula. Dog sports provide venues in which to work. Don’t blame the venues if it isn’t fun!
Carolyn Fuhrer has earned over 130 AKC titles with her Golden Retrievers, including 4 Champion Tracker titles. Carolyn is the owner of North Star Dog Training School in Somerville, Maine. She has been teaching people to understand their dogs for over 25 years. She is also an AKC Tracking Judge. You can contact her with questions, suggestions, and ideas for her column by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. https://www.facebook.com/NorthStarDogTraining