by Carolyn Fuhrer
With a new year starting, many people like to reflect upon the year’s past events and set goals
for the new year. I encourage my students to set goals and also to realize it is okay if you end up modifying your goals, and it is okay if you, for some reason, do not achieve those goals. Goals are simply something we want to work towards. They do not define us or our dogs. The new year is also a good time to re-examine our values and why we compete and want to work towards certain goals.
All of us started in dog sports because it looked like a fun way to spend me with our dogs. Many of us were very impressed with the relationship we saw between dog and handler or the joyfulness of a dog performing a task. We admired the focus and physical skills the dog exhibited and wanted to do that with our dogs.
Once we started learning and training in a particular dog sport, most of us set a goal to enter shows, tests, or trials where we could compete. All competitive venues have their own rating system. In some venues (like rally, obedience and agility), teams compete against each other for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place. There is also a qualifying score where teams that do not place can still earn a “leg” towards a title by achieving minimum requirements. Other venues like tracking and hunt tests have a simple pass/fail rating where the team either passes or does not qualify, but teams do not compete against each other.
Most venues have ribbons or prizes or certificates, depending upon what level you are at. Some people like to set challenging goals – a perfect score in obedience or triple q’s in rally or a champion tracker, etc. Others just want to qualify to complete a title. It really does not maer what your goal is, but you should be realistic about it. Perfection requires a great deal of time and effort and can become quite costly in time, entry fees, and travel.
Competition can offer something to everyone. The level to which you aspire is really personal. It should be a goal for you and your dog to achieve together. Don’t forget: your dog doesn’t know
or care about titles, ribbons, or certificates. They just want to be with you and enjoy their time with you. Unfortunately, sometimes pursuit of a goal distorts the reason we are in the sport with our dogs. Exhibitors, judges, and clubs who choose to ignore unsportsmanlike behavior or dishonesty undermine the sport as a whole for all of us.
It is up to all of us involved in dog sports in any capacity to make sure our goals and actions reflect the value we place on the sport, our fellow competitors, our dogs, and ourselves.
For 2020, make a goal to be someone who works to keep integrity, camaraderie, and kindness in the sport. Be proud of what you and your dog do and be an example to others.