Finding your “why?”
When you’re a kid, “why?” is a question you feel the need to ask about everything. Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to clean my room? Why can’t I pet that dog over there? Sometimes it seems that everything you say they are asking “why?”
But as adults, I think we tend to lose our sense of why we are doing certain things and resume the autopilot routines that tend to be our lives. We no longer have that nagging sense of curiosity about why all things happen, or even why we do the things we do.
As an agility instructor I get faced with the question “why” all the time. Part of my job is to try to figure out why a handler is struggling with a particular handling maneuver, or why a dog routinely jumps over the contact zone after doing it 3 times successfully. If I left out the why, I’d be left with no means to solve the problem.
One of the important questions that I think we fail to ask ourselves is why we do agility in the first place. Yes, there are those of us who have dogs that love it, but those same dogs would likely love any fun dog sport that we devoted time to. My border collie loves agility but also loves playing ball or going swimming. If I started him in flyball or sheep herding I’m sure he would love those as well. On the other hand, my sheltie Dice has no particular attachment to agility at all. Many of you have probably heard me say “she wouldn’t care if she did agility another day in her life,” as I talk about motivation factors for different dogs.
So why agility?
I do agility because I enjoy it (yes…I admit that I do it for me and not my dogs). I have fun with my students and the people I train with. I love watching my dogs run fast and knowing that we are working as a team. And of course I love the competitive element where I know that I can continue to push myself to excel at higher and higher levels. I know some people feel this way about obedience, flyball, disc dog etc. My point is that we are doing these things for us…not for the dogs.
So when a frustrating training session isn’t going your way, or your dog just took a flying leap off of his a-frame and you’d like to throttle him, remember the “why” that started you on this path in the first place. Because likely it wasn’t to run clean in every run, or to win every major competition. It was to do something that both you and your dog enjoyed together.
My journey in agility started 13 years ago because I loved training with my dog. And today, even though my goals and aspirations may be higher than that, I’m reminding myself that’s still my main reason for training.
I hope you can relate to this post, and that it puts you back in touch with your own personal reason for training.
Until next time…
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training