Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Sense of EnTITLEment

I have some thoughts:

It annoys me when Blogger doesn't work but I forgive them because they used the word 'widget' in their apologetic explanation,

Rain makes places where dogs go potty at a show smell really yucky,

Pineapple Upside Down Cake is my favorite cake AND my favorite drink. 

I actually like AKC now.  Dun dun DUNNNN! Shocking, right?

Here is what I like. AKC has removed the competitive aspects.  It's true- I doubt I'm saying anything controversial here. Yes, they have a National, and sponsor a highly sought after world team, but even at those events, they still prize consistency first.  I get here that it's really not about whether you win or lose, but seriously, how you play the game. When you go to run, it's 100% you and your dog against the course.  Because of this mentality, you get a far more accessible organization. I really do like this part too. If it's accessible, you get breed loyalty.  People can stick with their breed of choice and- in theory-have a great time running their dog and earning some titles. I think that when the competitive component is introduced, you get pressure to get a dog that can not just run, but win.

Don't misunderstand- I'm not saying any one breed is better for performance than any other, nothing is ever guaranteed. Just pointing out a common misconception. We have all seen slow BCs and amazingly fast representations of other less likely so-called 'agility dog breeds.' It really all comes down to the dog you get and how you TRAIN it. But still, there is perceived pressure and with pressure comes doubt and then things go downhill from there.

I might be wrong, but I ask how else one would explain the BC breakout in USDAA? There is an organization that holds the competitive spirit above all else. Right down to the structure of their Nationals, they hold dear the wildcard dog that can come in and take it all in one run.  I love this too. It's exciting! It's why I do USDAA and gives me reason to run to the limit every time. But I think it's at the cost of variety and breed loyalty and that makes me a little sad. Sad too, that it feels sometimes like people don't have faith in their breed and their own ability to train it to greatness.  But that's my opinion, like I said I always think it's down to the dog and handler. Confidence and all that.

But besides variety and breed loyalty and all that, there are other things that give me reason to do AKC more now. The environment is so...friendly.  I told a friend the other day that there was a supportive aspect- camaraderie. You forget what it is like to sit and watch fellow competitors and to hear cheering for run after run.  The level of niceness is very refreshing (so are the high levels of cake). I think this is something else USDAA has lost (plus there is almost never cake).

But what I don't like about an individual, title-driven mentality is that it is ALL about the Q. Or, the QQ actually.

Whenever I have downtime to observe at an AKC show it amazes me how much seems to ride on qualifying.  A beautiful first run often is dismissed as worthless after a mistake in the second run. Literally, I hear people saying to their dogs "well, we might as well have not even come today." What about the first run?? I saw it, it was lovely! Did you forget? Did you forget that your dog is only here for because you brought him? So, you're telling me you had no fun?? There really doesn't seem to be a lot of fun, on an individual level. Lots of disappointment and dogs without treats, but not much fun despite it all.

So here is some unsolicited advice.

I've learned a lot in the last year. It actually took starting AKC again to realize that I too was guilty of putting too much value on a Q- I was a Title Chaser.  When I started AKC again last summer, I looked around and saw myself- but to the next degree. I was shocked at what the pressure of title chasing did- let me just say, it's not good. Wrong mentality.  No fun. No treats for doggies.

One of the big reasons I started my little project was to hold myself accountable.  That means obsessing over running well, not over running clean. Running well means running as a team- having a good relationship with my dog. Having a good time. Getting smarter. I force myself every weekend to shed the conservative and abandon what is safe- not to buckle to the pressure of running clean but to run my girl in a daring way.

And you know what? It's working. She is running better than ever. And all those former main goals of running clean and getting titles? Just falling into place. A pleasant side effect of GOing for it.  No- every run is NOT clean.  I can honestly say some of her best runs have not been clean, but I was just as proud and praised her as though they were. And I can honestly say we are both having fun. Can you? I hope so. If not, consider this option-

It's NOT all about the Q. Or the QQ. Every run is a new opportunity for being great and seeing your dog do something amazing. Remember the best part, it IS you and your dog- together- against the course.  Let go and Let Dog, as they say. 

They say that, right?

As for my gorgeous girl- she blew me away in Standard (and finished a title!! hahaha). But before you call me hypocrite, I would have called her a genius even with a missed contact or a bar down. More to my point- the best part of my day was her recovery after a smashed bar in JWW. Bars still make her sad, but she bounced back and flew through the second half, nailing a tough exit line. Good girl. Doggie treats flowed like cake.


  1. You hit it, nail on head. Both your runs were awesome! I was 0-fer today, but my dog ran great and had a huge grin on his face so I did, too.
    Thank you for reminding us what makes it fun!

  2. Shenna, This was an awesome message. It's difficult to put into words the feeling of just going out there and just having a blast - maybe taking a risk, trying something new, but just a moment in the "sun" with your best friend. Worrying too much about anything, is not good for the soul and will usually bring on more of whatever is worrying you. You were able to put all of this into words. Thanks for taking the time to write this all down. See you tomorrow.

  3. AMEN Shenna! Really great post. The supportive aspect is why I enjoy CPE, glad to hear AKC is bringing it back.

  4. Awwww...this sounds like my day today at the trial...I honestly had a BLAST not worrying about anything...and my dogs did as well...I do agility because it's FUN...and I need to remember that! :) Great post!!!!!

  5. The funny thing is, is how people's perception about their agility experience and their dog changes within seconds after a run. If it's a 'Q' run, no matter how good or bad, disengaged or a perfect team in sync, it's great, it's a great dog, great course, etc ....
    if no 'Q' then it's immediately excused as 'oh we're just here to have fun', no matter how awesomely fantastic the run was. The dog actually does not get much acknowledgement, rather excused for often handler's error for ' let me be sloppy, half-ass, don't give a damn, cause I'm just here for fun.
    Excuse me??? Aren't we all??? Cause honestly I bet you million bucks many dogs would much prefer to spend a day digging in the yard, playing ball/frisbee/whatever, napping, than all day in a crate for 35 sec of fame for 'our fun'.
    I truly believe the phrase 'just for fun' should totally be banned. I have now developed a very strong disdain for the word FUN. Period.