Some dogs may achieve the ideal criteria in agility, for example, a low hit on the dog walk with split rear feet, super tight turns and great collection or the perfect rhythm in the weaves. However, there are many dogs that although you follow a brilliant method (or many!) meticulously, the end result is not ‘perfect’.
Harvey more than any dog has made this apparent for me, there is nothing Harvey does that follows dog training rules or patterns. Over the years I have learnt to adjust to his learning needs, we may be following one method for a whole year before he suddenly decides that doesn’t work for him anymore! Take for example his running dog walk, 100’s of hours have been spent teaching him just the foundation work for a running dog walk.
Our training was slow, detailed and precise however most of the time Harvey hit in the top quarter of the contact which some may consider ‘high’. At the start, I was only allowing low hits, and because I was doing so, this affected Harvey’s confidence, Harvey’s worry about the criteria would not only affect his dog walk but his speed on the course too. Once I realised that low hits were not realistic for him, I allowed hits within the top quarter. His confidence grew and grew meaning I had a much happier and faster dog!
For me, I would much prefer a happy dog who is clearly within the contact, then a worried/unhappy dog who might hit low on occasion. After all, a hit is a hit!
On the very special day, Harvey did his first running dog walk in the ring, I had comments that the hit was high. I was more than happy to explain my reasoning for accepting such a hit, but just remember you know your dog and the journey you have been on together. Know your own criteria and own it 🙂
This is not to say we should ever give up trying to reach ‘perfect’ or ‘ideal’, we should continue to adjust to the dog and find new methods to help them learn the criteria in new ways. Nonetheless, it is important to remember when training your own dog, to adapt to them, find out what makes them tick and enjoy the process of readjusting to them.
Learning never stops for us, the same goes for our furry friends….adjust, adapt and have fun!