It has been SO long since I posted anything. I got a little sidetracked and busy the last few weeks. I’ve been struggling trying to help Penny find her adult brains, run Briar more to get ready for Regionals and have both dogs ready for the first trial this season in a mere 17 days. Not to mention it is still freezing and snowy here. I can’t fall asleep tonight so I figured I’d open up WordPress and write in my long forgotten blog ;) It comes on the heels of something I’ve often thought about when thinking about this sport- the fact that herders (and Border Collies more specifically) seem to dominate it.
When I got Penny, I had no dreams of being an agility person. My plan was to snuggle, run& teach her fun tricks. While mastering snuggling, running& tricks, she shockingly may make an agility dog someday. There were a lot of struggles and I got told more than once and by different people that if I was serious, I’d be back in a few years with a Border Collie. Will I? Maybe. In the meantime, I’m having fun with my very driven, very fast Vizsla. We have focus issues, sometimes we have contact issues and honestly? We don’t always have fun. Some days I want to kill her. As she grows, an amazing thing is happening. She’s maturing. For the longest time, I thought this was simply a myth. I am pleased to report it is, in fact, a truth! Every puppy grows a brain. Some just quicker than others. I have had unique struggles with Penny that people with herders (generally) don’t have. Namely building tug drive& speed, finding a consistent motivator, keeping things different enough to keep her from getting bored but mostly FOCUS. The 5 letter word that haunts my dreams. Vizslas just don’t have that innate focus on their handler. We have conquered a lot of our issues and I am actually getting excited about the future with Penny. A few months ago, I was completely deflated and not even sure we’d ever see a trial.
I have been to two fun runs& instead of looking for overall success, I decided to look for mini-successes to celebrate. The first one? We have a lovely Starters’ Jumpers run with connection and speed. The second one? Lovely Steeplechase run. She weaved awesome. She took the A-frame. What else can I ask for from my baby dog? Considering I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to agility, she is doing pretty darn good. In fact, I would say we can expect to have just as much speed and drive as a Border Collie. Which brings me to my post title.
There is no right breed for agility. They may naturally give you more focus& drive and that whole herding sheep circling thing may be true. Instead of rushing out to buy a Border Collie, you should make agility work for the dog you have. Some of us got dogs and decided afterwards to give the game a try. I think it is harder for a non-herder dog owner to stick with it for two reasons. The first is because you are made to feel like success only comes in a certain package. It doesn’t. Success comes for anyone who wants it. The right breed is the breed you decide to make your agility dog. Watch your dog run around on their own. Are they fast? Most likely. If they are fast on the flat, you can find a way to motivate them to be fast around a course. Find what works for your dog and use it! It doesn’t matter how silly you look or what works for your dog, embrace it! Remember an agility run is anywhere from 30- 90 seconds. You don’t need perm-focus to have success in the ring!
The second reason? Excuses. I am sick of hearing the excuse ‘I would do better with a Border Collie’. No. Train the dog you have for success and don’t blame the dog. If you aren’t having success or can’t figure out the solutions on your own, ask someone who you know has struggled through it. We are out there and we are more than willing to explain what worked and what didn’t. The solution to your agility issues is not to wish you had a better dog but instead make your dog be what you want! I will admit there were days I wished Penny would turn into a herder. It was especially hard as I run a Border Collie regularly. I compared them a lot. And it wasn’t fair because Penny isn’t a Border Collie AND she is two years younger. Poor girl had a lot of unfair expectations on her. When I learned to let go of all my insecurities, her enthusiasm increased majorly. Shocking, right? I struggled through all the hard days (and there were quite a few) with hopes of ending up with a dog that could trial. My hard work is paying off and we are currently counting our successes. All those Border Collie people will be Vizsla converts before Penny retires from the sport!
So all of this long, somewhat rambling post is to say you have the best agility partner at this very moment. The dog you own! Don’t be so quick to trust the hype about one breed being superior. Your dog deserves the chance to show that they can find success in the agility world and try not to give up too quickly on them either. Remember all the mistakes you’ve made with them and that they never seem to hold that against you. The least we can do as owners& running partners is return the favour when they are having a hard time with a certain concept. Ask& find other ways to teach it. Make an effort to find success in every training session! Sometimes we find big success and celebrate. Somedays just getting eye contact is reason enough to throw a celebration for them. Enjoy your dog and always remember 99% of failures are your fault. So go hug your dog for being kind enough to put up with you while you try to figure everything out!