Never Stop Improving Your Dog Agility Team
Complacency can be the destroyer of a potentially super team. Maybe you have done this or maybe you have seen this event from the sidelines, where a team starts out at the bottom of the pack, claws their way to the top only to stop improving once on top. The handler becomes complacent in their position because their focus has been on the wrong thing. Instead of focusing on their team, the handler has been focusing on the teams around them.
Case in point: When I started obedience class with my large collie mix, everyone laughed as they saw my dog literally bounding along beside me. He refused to walk, instead he bounced like a ball! It was pretty obvious to me that we were one of the worst teams there. However, I knew he had it in him, somewhere. I just needed him to apply his home learning in a class setting.
My goal had been to use this class for socialization and heeling in an active setting. Much to my satisfaction, by the third week people were commenting on how much better my dog was! Boy, did I feel great now that my dog was rapidly become one of the better dogs. He had become okay with applying what he’d learned at home in an active setting most of the time and I was proud of him.
Then that pride got in the way as I let myself rest on my laurels. Quick stopped improving and I failed to notice. It wasn’t his fault, he had stopped improving because I had stopped working with him at home. I was comparing his ability with the achievements of all the other dogs. I continued to be satisfied with telling myself “My dog is doing great! He’s one of the best here!”
He wasn’t doing his personal best, though. It got blasted in my face on graduation night when Quick completely refused to sit in heel position. He would only sit in front of me. You see, I hadn’t bothered to teach him placement. Did I chose not to because no one else could do it? What was I thinking? I didn’t actually chose not to teach him heel position, I just didn’t’ bother to practice.
It was a sobering lesson on the results of comparing your team to others instead of striving to be the best your team can be. When you fall into that trap, and many of us do, you will almost always lose. It isn’t bad to watch other teams and strive to become a better handler as long as you take your dog with you and you work together as a team and always strive to become a little better at something every time you practice.