I have competed in various dog sports for fast approaching 30yrs, and I am very aware that the premier purpose is for my pleasure, ego and personal gratification.
I am under no illusions that as much as I would like to believe that my dogs will the days away, waiting to attend a show, trial or competition… I am neither naive of foolish enough to believe anything of the sort. Dog sports is for me, and my pleasure.
So why do it? Surely, I could train my dogs to the standard I aim for, in the manner I choose to and go over the park and have as much pleasure and joy? Absolutely, I do and I will. However dog sports adds another dimension to my training that I would otherwise not have to address or deal with.
At your average competition, there are numerous factors to consider and challenges that will guaranteed to be presented.
To start with, there will be dogs. And most probably lots of them. Depending on the sport you do, you may have anything up to several hundred dogs all at a competition at the same time. This means male, female, little, large, hairy, pointy, squashed face dogs… all colours, shapes and sizes.
There will be people. Hundreds of people. All shapes, sizes and looks.
There will be strange noises, sights and sounds.
Tents, awnings, speakers, odd smells, maybe children, maybe wheelchairs, maybe dogs that lunge, or bark or whine…
And there may be even lycra… and in some cases, this can be terrifying!!
So why do it? Why put my dog through it. Well, yes you could say it is my ego. But on a deeper level, I believe that dog sports has attributed largely to my Dogs characters and disposition, because in preparing them for dog sports thoroughly, I have no choice but train and create a dog that can cope with the rigours of competition, and it doing do, I create a dog that can cope with life.
One of the questions I am asked frequently since becoming a father is how did I inter-grate my baby girl into my home when she was born. The simple answer is I walked into the house let the dogs investigate what I was holding in my arms, and that was it. Now considering that I have 8 dogs, in various breeds and most of which are what you would describe as high drive, and some of which have unknown histories, rescue dogs, initially were fearful and nervous of people, and have an extreme prey drive, this is no accident. Don’t misunderstand me, dogs and kids are always a combination to be treated respectfully, and with sense. But my involvement and preparation in Dogs sports can be attributed to the way in which my dogs act and behave.
As part of preparing my dog to ‘cope’ with the environmental challenges that they will most likely to encounter on attending even a small competition, I have to create a dog that has a robust temperament. With dogs, people and environments.
They have to have social skills, and I have to train them to cope with the unpredictable nature of having several hundred dogs and people in a relatively close proximity. I have had dogs that had dog aggression issues, that had to be taught to remain in a controlled position whilst I was out of sight and possibly some distance away, whilst having another dog less then 6ft away. I have had nervous and fearful dogs that have had to learn to cope with people in close proximity to them, even handling them or restraining them, I have had dogs with high chase drive that have had to learn to remain still and calm whilst another dog is running flat out in front of them.
These are just some of the challenges that dog sports has presented.
This is not to mention the challenges for me, as an owner.
I have had to step out of my comfort zone. I have had to develop patience, persistence and perseverance. I have learned discipline and structure, planning, effective use of time and dedication. I have had to dig deep, soul search and get up from being knocked down… these life lessons serve me far beyond the confines of an show ground, or trials field. I have had to learn to have reliance to criticism and develop a thick skin. I know what it is like to work for, strive towards and achieve goals. The mental composure needed to compete at the top level in any sport, requires attributes that can be carried through to life, business, relationships, society in general and many more walks of life.
And along the journey I have accumulated a people who I deem family. They are my daughters family as much as my blood. I have travelled the world, and followed my passion.
All this from doing something with my dogs at a weekend, in a muddy field, with a burger van and a cup of something hot…
So, in truth whilst it may be my ego that drives me to compete in dog sports, the ‘wins’ are far more then rosettes, certificates and accolades.
Success comes in many forms. I have been fortunate to be successful.