Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'll never be Susan Garrett

A bold statement you could say. Let me explain...

I have watched her dogs at a few Nationals, and it is ALWAYS impressive, without a doubt. This year was no different, really her dogs are amazing, and so is her training. There were alot of great trainers and dogs there, but I am using Susan Garrett as an example because she is one who gives us the tools to CREATE great dogs and handlers through her DVDs, Books etc. I don't care what you feel about Susan Garrett, she has done alot for the sport, that is undeniable people.

The more I learn and know Agility ... and all things dog, the more I can appreciate the training that goes into it. And like any sport, it is when people make it look easy that you know a TON of work has gone into training. How hard is it to hit a golf ball, really? Tiger Woods makes it look easy. But yet when I try to hit a golf ball it goes 40 feet, and I sprain something. I also feel I know so little at times about dog training, knowing how much work goes into making something look easy.

With each dog I have trained of my own, I get more and more confident in my abilities and understanding. And everyday, every minute, it seems methods change, they've probably changed while I wrote this, and what I am saying is now out of date. I like the science behind dog training, but I am not sure I'll ever be a "Doctor of Agility Sciences". I also tend to go with my gut instincts, and I keep things specific as I know them to be. I also try to be as consistent as possible, and try to stick to my own rules, and my dogs have learned to work within those parameters. I can't say I am 100% loyal to one "handling system", I am a believer that sometimes rules are meant to be broken, my many years of Art School, training me as a freethinker, taught me that.

I am overall really happy with my abilities and how I am able to train a dog and a person ... with the knowledge I have, and what I feel works for me. I would love to learn more about the mechanics of jumping for instance. I have had limited seminar instruction and read books, but like anything, I have the knowledge I have based on the access to information I have available to me, and my understanding of it.

I can build and train behaviours and I can train a dog to value reward, and I think I am pretty good a building drive and a good working relationship into my dogs, they sleep on my bed, on my couch and get free cuddles ... is that so bad?

Over the years I have broken many bad training habits due to my lack of understanding (flinging arms - well...) and trained many good habits, and with each dog, and student for that matter I have tried to instill good habits. But like a dog, I learn from mistakes, and try to repeat the good stuff so I can get a cookie, or a glass of wine.

I am still trying to break my pointy finger contacts habit - something I had to do with Jane (point and pray), less with Kaleb (point less, pray MORE!!), and not at all with Gyp (I trained her contacts), but I still tend to micromanage, I trained them independently dammit, trust it woman. Her contacts are great when I am more than 5' away from her, if I start crowding, she tends to start to creep, and why am I pointing, gawd.

One habit I DID break, is bad weaves. I wonder what Jane would have been like if I started training her now. She was a darn good dog in her time, but man, she would be really good if I knew now what I knew then. She is slow, but steady in the weaves, and has OK contacts at best. Goes to show the forgiveness in dogs. Dogs are amazing creatures and capable of so much in our hands.

Kaleb is a great weaver, and Gyp is even better. Again my understanding was better with K, and even better with Gyp, I use multiple methods when training weaves, and one day I'll understand the 2x2 method with 100% confidence (it'll change by then I am sure), but for now I use what I know of the method among others, and it works. Gyp can find a weave entrance with one eye closed and two feet tied together :)

I also feel I have a good eye for timing - my own, and watching others. Again, something that has developed again by training my own dogs, and training and watching others.

As wise man once told me to find my own style of training, and that Amanda and I will develop this over time. I have been thinking about this for the last few months, and I feel Amanda and I really have a style of our own, based again on what we know, the seminars we attend, the books we read, what our dogs have taught us, as well as what our students and their dogs have taught us.

Proof that crappy training with your first dog, can get you a 6th Place finish at Nationals ('05).

Gyp and one of her one-eyed, two legged weave pole entries.

The "Point and Prey" method, not to be confused with TRUE running contacts, in this instance I was unable to "Point", and had to rely on "Praying" alone - and he DID touch the yellow! Yay for Praying. And even with those questionable contacts, we have placed 7th at Nationals, two years in a row.

So I guess I'll never be Susan Garrett but as always, I will continue to admire her training. Now that I realize this, I can enjoy being me, enjoy the successes we have had, and most of all I can enjoy being bossed around by Amanda.

So if any of our students and friends read this, thank you for being on this crazy journey of learning with us, teaching US, and trusting us to teach you what we know.


Anonymous said...

i am glad you like my bossiness. :o)

great post.


fulltiltbcs said...

Great great post!! It is OK, I will never be Susan either :)

Sarah said...

Well I am glad you see my humour :)

Amanda ... I'm not sure I like it, but do I have a choice ??

Amanda and I talk alot about how intimidating it can be with all the training methods and the structure and rigidness of them, and like anything you have to find out who you are and what works for you, we are all individuals. :)

fulltiltbcs said...

I am more a bend the rules type of girl :)

Anonymous said...

Sarah, you make me smile:)

Thanks for writing this - I really enjoyed reading it.

(& Bellie & Dukie)