poniedziałek, 9 października 2023

AWC 2023 - Liberec

Another AWC is over and I just wish I could relive it again. It was a stellar job from the organisers, the helpers were amazing - their respect for dogs and handlers' comfort was really remarkable and they created such friendly, relaxed atmosphere that again I just felt like home. 

I loved the courses - actually so much better when it comes to safety than last year! - and some of them were really masterpieces, for example Alex Beitl's medium team agility and Karel Havlicek medium individual agility, Petra Vyplelova's ballsy large individual agility with 2 dogwalks - those were all courses with multiple handling options and having great balance between speed and testing both dogs and handlers' skills! 

As usual the fun part was seeing friends from all over the world - sorry I couldn't have longer or more meaningful conversations with them, as I was half deaf because of ear infection, but it was awesome to meet them again anyway. We did the Pyrshep picture, which of course was crazy, because basically Pyrshep people are Pyrsheps themselves, so getting them to gather at one spot at one time and keeping them still long enough to take photos was not an easy task - we're easily distracted and not so good at following instructions as Barbara observed, so instead of taking it on Saturday in front of the hall we ended up doing it on Sunday in the large field behind and then we needed 4 takes, because more kept coming, but here it is: 

And here is Flaszek and his Japanese doppelganger Tono:

Now on to my runs - for the first time in my life I was running with three dogs in three different classes, Mojo both team and individual small, Pucek team medium and Brego team intermediate (and it was funny, because he was part of the winning team in large in 2017 and now he had to be measured at 10 years old for the new class, haha). It was quite emotional, because most probably it's Brego's last big competition and I'm just so grateful that we got to step on the green carpet together again, even if that time we were not as succesful.

Pucek did great and the only explanation I have that he knew both his first loving owner Frank and his daddy Evo were watching from whatever afterlife there is, because he really did his best and was brilliant and contributed to our medium team winning gold in team agility :D. That dog is both totally unpredictable and extremely great with his happiness and eagerness to run his heart out in whatever circumstances. What can I say, yellow doggies are the best and Pucek is my personal world champion.
Hugs to my best teammates Basia Członkowska and Dominika Klimkowska, you were the best team I could have hoped for! 

Mojo, as I said, is a large dog that happens to have a tiny wocker body, so we'd prefer a bit more spacious courses, but I feel like after corona break we're finally becoming the team and I can just hope we stil have time and more chances to prove it. She had two fantastic agility runs in both teams and individual, both placed in top 10, some silly mistakes from both of us in jumpings, but overall I'm very pleased with our runs. 

I loved every minute and every second of running each of them and I felt so privileged and grateful that it was possible. 

Big thanks to Roman for cheering and supporting and everything 💓, our team leader Michał Pieniak and his assistant Kara Zawistowska for ensuring we had everything we needed and could concentrate on our runs fully, Zuza Łada for the treatment of my leg on Friday (golden hands, as we got the gold after!) and all the warm messages and words of support I got last weeks (special mention to Kathrin, owner of Mojo's sister, who messaged me every day - I hope you know it mattered and made me smile each morning, thanks, sis!). 

And OMG, the beauty of agility will never cease to amaze me, how quickly things can change, how the mighty can fall and others rise to glory in a blink of an eye, how every split of a second and every step, every movement, every decision matters, I still feel the goosebumps just thinking of it. 

Huge congrats to all the winners - I'm so happy that I know many of you personally and I know you deserve it so much! Kjersti Jorgensen, Aneta Obrusnikova, Magdalena Gadomska, Gerda Zemaityte - I couldn't be happier for you all! 

As for a fly in the ointment, it's really time FCI ensures we get proper timers for the big events, seriously not every timer is equally reliable or accurate and seriously it's not something that you can construct in your garage, because every component of the system has to be top-notch, that's why in the other sports only certified equipment is being used and once you have some knowledge why, you can't unlearn it and accept something which is below these standards... ALL teams deserve to get their times measured with equal accuracy and with the same equipment. 

And since we're on technology topic, how about this video judging of the contacts? I don't want to blame the judges, it's huge pressure and huge responsibility on their shoulders and they have to make those decisions in a split of a second, knowing that it might make or break someone's dream, so why not make it easier and more fair to everybody?

Regarding the yearly discussion about people who don't reward their dog at the finish line - stop finding excuses for yourself and others, stop quoting iconic speeches that have no reference to this situation whatsoever because I don't suppose Theodore Roosevelt writing about "daring greatly" was thinking about making a blind after a straight 6-meters tunnel, stop being snowflakes about how people judge the relationship between dog and handler based on those couple of seconds seen on livestream - truly, noone is judging you as a human being or evaluating your whole relationship based on this, but if you ignore your dog after they did their job in a challenging environment - in THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT you are behaving like an ungrateful prick, so either ensure someone else gives your dog a freaking ball and a word of praise or, better, get your shit together and do it yourself before checking the scoreboard or falling into your teammates' arms. You can wait for your gratification a couple of seconds longer than a simple, loving and living in the moment animal. No, it won't ruin your whole relationship if you don't, but you'll spare your dog lots of confusion and disappointment and you'll also give good example to others, so just devote some of those 10K hours of training allegedly required to achieve mastery to drilling it into yourself to reward your dog first until it becomes a habit so ingrained that you'll never forget it again. 

(yes, I've made a meme, because 10K hours is like 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 5 years straight, so that's utterly ridiculous)

poniedziałek, 14 sierpnia 2023

B.A.S.E. 2023

B.A.S.E. (Berger Agility Sommer Event) is a very special annual competition for Pyrsheps, or more accurately, annual Pyrshep friends and family meeting. This year it took place in Austria and was very special for me for several reasons.

Some months ago I planned it would be Maupka's first competition and also Brego's last (that was in winter when I didn't even know if he would be able to compete again, as he was nearing 10 yo, is 44 cm at the withers and has started his agility career jumping first 65, then 60 cm. He is also prone to injuries, because he simply doesn't care and when he runs, he runs. If there is obstacle in his path, so much worse for the obstacle... he actually headbutted me unconscious once during walk when I crouched to tie my shoe. So at that stage I was just HOPING that he would be able to compete one more time on this very special event. Well, he not only went back to competing but actually qualified for AWC, so now I hope for a couple of more months at least 🤞 ). 

Anyway, I was sooooo looking forward to this and then just before the competition everything started to go wrong: money was tight, Reksio limped, Brego got some problem with the tail and when on top of that Zelda started coughing on Tuesday, we though we couldn't go, as we were afraid she has kennel cough. But I rushed her to the vets - no inflammation, the lymph glands were normal, no fever, no secretion... so it was probably some irritation after eating something scratchy (she tears the burs from her fur sometimes and it has happened before) and indeed, she stopped coughing right after this vet visit ;),  in the end we decided to go and I'm really happy about it. 

The competition itself was fantastic - the best welcome back (I really love the idea of getting some regional gift, like last year it was Belgian chocolate and this year Austrian white wine), super organisation, great judges (Lisa Frick and Wolfgang Tieber), air conditioned hall (and thanks for that, as it was 30 degrees C outside) with a nice bar with snacks and drinks (Austrian white wine spritzer rocks!), some decent options to walk the dogs (although I ended up walking them at night, it was so hot during the day). The only downside was the obstacles - like I said so many times before I hate metal jumps with all my heart and I think they should be forbidden and rust in hell. 

Well, anyway, Maupka's debut was awesome - it was not the easiest environment as the hall was quite crowded and the music was loud (ok, as someone who can be a bit oversensitive to certain sensory stimuli I mostly hated this as well, especially the sound that announced the end of coursewalkings and whatever happened after elimination, especially for some more sensitive dogs that was not the most considerate thing to do honestly) and she just totally ROCKED, was focused, happy, getting faster with every run and even got on a podium a couple of times. Suprisingly, she jumped ALL the A-frames and I have no idea why as she never did that in training and she also jumped most of the dogwalks (some of it was my fault as I was getting insecure and perhaps didn't cue what's next clearly enough), anyway, some more training is needed before we compete again, but see-saws were great (and actually lots of dogs struggled with that one), her searching for obstacles was also great, she did the weaves that she could do (some were a bit too difficult for a debutante ;)). She's an awesome little doggy and I'm just enjoying her so much 💚.

Our first A1 run ever: 

Brego was also absolutely freaking awesome, he is really one in a million dog with a heart of a lion <3 He had some great runs, including win in A3 and then had a super nasty crash on this horrible metal jump and came out on three legs... I was absolutely mortified as it was the leg in which he injured the knee before and I could just see all my dreams tumbling down for a moment and hated myself for even trying to run that run as he was already qualified to the final by then (but then on the other hand it was a cool course by Lisa and if you asked Brego, he is always up to rather running than not running). Fortunately as I had him checked first by Miriam and then next day by Laura (thank you both!) he was totally fine, apart from a little bruise and was allowed to run the final, although I pulled him out of the other run. In the final mommy was an idiot in a hurry (well, because obviously I'm not experienced in competing at all) who didn't notice jumps weren't lowered after the large dog, so poor little Brego jumped 55 cm instead of 50... but he didn't care and had a great clean run. I was offered a re-run, but since so many other great dogs ran clean I knew we couldn't beat their times anyway, so I decided not to. Little cherry on the top was that Brego's sister Babou has won the final <3 and Zelda came 3rd <3 

Pucuś was Pucuś ;). I honestly love this dog to bits, but he is totally unpredictable and either a genius or an idiot and there's no rhyme or reason why or when ;). Fortunately he is always enjoying himself a lot and giving his all and also, he's absolutely prettiest Pyrshep on the planet, so whatever :D. 

Mojo got to run a relay run on Sunday with super cool papillon from Mikulas Kocvara and out team got on the podium on 2nd place :D. Little aliens in a Pyrshep's world did great :D. 

As usual the best part of BASE was meeting all the friends again! To many to list them all - but it's amazing to see all the Pyrsheps lovers from all over the world and share our passion and enjoy some time together! 

Some family pictures below :). 

Brego can succesfully clone himself. (I actually saw a great photo of Brego's running contact and was like "yes, finally the photo I've been dreaming of" only to realise a moment later that it was not Brego but Shenzi on the photo). 

Not the best picture, but someone didn't want to sit stay anymore ;). 

The face rase gang or two black Pyrsheps and a golden retriever, who can at least hold a sit stay ;). 

Thank you Simone, Stefan, Sabrina and all the organising crew for this fantastic time! 


poniedziałek, 24 lipca 2023

European Open 2023 - Denmark

EO 2023 is over, we're back home and back to reality, so just to hold on a bit to great experiences, here's the report. 

I love those big events. I love meeting all the people,

The people, obviously. 

I love the challenge, I love the fact that you need an absolutely freaking perfect run to place on the podium, I love watching so many great runs, I love the talks, the little dramas, the laughs, everything. So this year was no different, and I actually loved so many things about this year's EO - the venue was cool (baring the super weird communication routes, walking the shortest way from camping 2 to the field sometimes felt like you were crossing barrens with knee high weeds and mud), nice spacious camping, lots of place to walk the dogs (we even managed a trip to a beach and the dogs swam a bit), showers with unlimited hot water :D, awesome judges and great courses  - I ran so many FANTASTIC courses during that weekend, courses that irrespective of the results just make you feel exhilarated to get through particular sequence and demand you really try your best - Stefanie, Kine, Esa, Morten - you were absolute stars! (we all know there was also the black sheep, but I'll get to it later), the weather mostly (well, apart from Sunday, but actually I take cold and even A BIT rain over smouldering heat any time), super nice ring helpers (or "officials" in the Danish-English, lol, sorry, couldn't help myself), the organisation and smooth schedule, my runs (haha), our Polish teams runs and successes, the cutest trophy ever that we've won and the list actually goes on.

Mojo with the cutest trophy ever. And I think it looks just like Pucek.

My dogs were truly amazing and I feel a bit guilty about not appreciating Pucek enough recently, because he really has his moments of brilliance and he is just so motivated and tries his best always (I mean, he is incredibly silly sometimes but I AM grateful for his enthusiasm and dedication). There were so many moments when he was just so awesome, did such difficult things and I feel a bit of an idiot for trying the RC in his agility run, because he had one of the best times with contact fault and actually if we qualified I could've nailed the stupid medium final course with 2o2o 😆😆😆. 

Pucek's jumping that was so brilliant until it wasn't ;)

Mojo was fantastic as always, she struggled a bit (aka: screamed at me) with short distances in some courses and was so offended (screamed at me more) with how much some tunnels were bent, but OMG, I've been dreaming of having a Ferrari of a dog like her and she is an incredible little fighter. We had the most hillarious elimination on Esa's individual jumping, when she didn't enter the weaves (in hindsight, I think I was too close, she works better at a distance), yelled at me and then decided to run along the whole length of the weaves and enter them from the other direction at which point both me and the judge were like WTF???!!! and I was close to tying her to the nearest tree and leaving her for the wolves.

Then the small individual agility course was published:

... and I really felt like I was gonna cry. I really had to summon all my mental resourses to try my best on this course, but then in the end managed: I even used the freaking turning command on the dogwalk literally first time ever in a competition and qualified to the individual final.

The individual final was this smashing course by Kine and I was so ready to attack it and nail it and then a momentary lapse of concentration caused us an elimination on no 2, which was heartbreaking, because after that we had such a great run and totally podium time, but oh, well, that's agility. I love that run anyway and I love Mojo for her skills. 

Our small team  qualified into team final and got to run Stefanie's crazy relay course. It was awesome, we had the same team as last year when we won and it just felt great to really know our strenghts and weaknesses. We could really match the different parts of the course to individual teams (that's kinda funny, because I didn't want to run course no 4, because I thought the straight line with the dogwalk is just too much running and then started to walk my sequence and Sandi Okanovic was walking it as well and he was like "so you're running the second course, huh?", and I was like "yeah, why?", 'Oh nothing, it's just it's the crazy straight line to the finish..." and seriously I've never ran so much on just 14 obstacles and I don't think I've ever done a rear cross on the A-frame in my entire life before that, but we all nailed it and got silver medal!!!! 

Some things I didn't like: 

  • the fact that live results were not really live and I got spoiled by the fact that they can be and got used to timing my arrival in the ring by checking them on my phone. Well, not this time. 
  • that timers failed so many times especially on Friday it was ridiculous - in the era when we're actually talking about  the times in agility needing to be super accurate and measured to three decimal places we had the best teams of the world timed with the stopwatch. I really feel that FCI must ensure that the big events like EO, AWC, JOAWC are timed with the best, certified equipment, same as for instance equestrian sports. 
  • ridiculous locking of the camping, and its opening hours,
  • the food, I mean seriously, let Italians take care of the food in the future. Or Spanish. Keep the Nordic countries away from the kitchen. 
  • that there was no real medical or veterinary assistance on the spot, 
  • the fact that despite the promises the competition was not moved to artificial turf at least for the finals (yeah, I realise it would be huge logistic problem, but I still feel it would be safer option),
  • no spectator stands, making it hard to watch the finals,
  • Regin's courses,
  • the shitstorm about Regin's courses. 
Okay, so here we go. No, I didn't like the courses, I didn't like his attitude (I've been doing this for 30 years and it's been FINE) either (although, if he was a better course designer I would actually admire his ability to stick to his guns and keep his promise to build exactly the courses he promised he'd build already a year before), but I also feel like people are blowing it totally out of proportion. I watched the runs, yes, the courses were not fluent, yes, the distances were much smaller that we got used to, yes, the dogs never got to run full speed, yes, lots of dogs had difficulties reading those lines (funny how USA dogs had no problems though) and it was somehow boring and at times painful to watch. On the other hand, people are lashing out that the courses were soooooo dangerous, that he is making dogs break their backs, that people should refuse to run them (oh, how easy it is to boycott something on someone's behalf and not actually being there...) and I'm like, well, how many dogs actually got injured on his courses? How many crashed jumps have we seen (may I just remind you Jan Egil's jumping course from last AWC when dog after dog after dog crashed the same jump? Hueppe's course when handlers crashed the dogwalk? Or the agility individual large in AWC in Zaragoza when Marie Piirjoja's dog actually got injured because of a stupid line and a metal jump? or so many other actually dangerous courses we've all ran without as much as a peep of complaint, some of them from the most renowned and famous judges?). I was never the person to advocate "less speed" in agility, but yes, there is food for thought in this, especially if you think of less advanced, less skilled dogs and handlers on an average competition. No, we don't want to get back on the training wheels on big competitions - we are actually the elite of the sport and can handle the speed and the challenges, but let's just skip the idea that every lead change is lethal and every turn is breaking your dog's body, and fuck, actually you CAN train both RC and 2o2o (the latter in just a few weeks) and I've done it with numerous dogs so far. Dogs are smart, they really can distinguish two different behaviours on the same obstacle on a different cue, same as they can differentiate multiple ways of taking a jump. 

And I'm really, really pissed off about how this is taking all the spotlight, overshadowing the other fantastic, absolutely top of the sport judges, that built SAFE, fast, interesting courses during this weekend. At worst, we all ran ONE course from Regin and three or four courses from the other judges - let's not forget that. I am also hoping that all this would bring some changes in how the judges are picked for those events and in the end, would lead to making the sport better.

wtorek, 28 lutego 2023

The podcast everybody is talking about

Okay, the discussion is actually ongoing for a while and tbh since I'm quite comfortable with where I am now as a trainer and with the methods I use at the moment, I haven't followed everything from the beginning, nevertheless when it comes to Ivan Balabanov interviewing Susan Garrett I think it's really worth listening to.

First of all, because both of them are awesome, accomplished dog trainers with lots of experience and self-awareness about what they are doing.

(although I do cringe a bit when Susan is referred to as multiple agility world champion... but that's because for me FCI AWC is THE agility world championship and she's never won that). 

Secondly, because both of them, but especially Ivan, are setting great example of how to have a great, argument based discussion, even when you are coming from different perspectives / methodology. He is a great listener, asks intelligent questions, keeps the conversation on track (and doesn't allow her to compare apples to oranges which she has a bit of tendency to do, frankly) and is able to disagree while clearly having and expressing a great respect for his opponent. That attitude alone is something worth learning from. 

Thirdly, I'm sure everybody will take something different from the conversation - because what we think filters what we hear ;) - and that again is a great starting point for another discussion and evaluating our values when it comes to dog training. 

I don't think that conversation is going to fundamentally change your approach to dog training if you have thought about the ethics of it before and you have defined for yourself what is acceptable / moral for you and what isn't. But if there is a chance you haven't, there is a lot of food for thought for you in it. 

Sadly, and not for the first time, I came to the conclusion that trainers who do use aversives or positive punishment now and then, usually have greater understanding of it, use it more consciously and in the long run, actually LESS than most people or even most trainers. At some point in the discussion for instance they talk about head halters and prong collars and Ivan argues that basically you can condition them in the same way and they work on the same principle - and I agree with him and Susan doesn't and honestly I think this is a point when she is a bit of a denial of what she is actually doing (but deep down she knows, because she repeats several times that when she uses it, it's in order not to have to use it again... well, that's the definition of punishment - you use it, so the behaviour never appears again). There is lots of false assumptions about both positive (reward based) training and about using positive punishment - for instance that reward based means only using food or that using aversive means you actually use it to teach behaviours, which I'm sure most good trainers don't. Another false assumption is that if you accept using things like e-collars, you would always use it instead of thinking of other solutions - and I think it's not true. Speaking from experience and listening to Ivan, I think most good trainers would always try to get the result they want in a reward-based manner and actually using aversives is always bought with lot of soul-searching and thinking whether it's justified in that case or not.

I also think that perhaps lots of those misconceptions are coming from old times - like how the aversives were used 30 or 40 years ago. Susan says for instance that when she was beginning to do agility in the '80, it would be totally normal to be told to punish the dog if they came out of the weave poles or knock a bar - and this is something that hardly anyone would advise now, regardless of whether they accept using punishment or not in general. I had a dog that was struggling with a startline and I remember being told by someone to actually grab him by the scruff of his neck, shake him and put him back and I was totally SHOCKED - like this was something that I wouldn't even think of doing even though I was coming from a trainer that was actually using aversives a lot (but not in agility and also not in such idiotic manner) - because when I started doing agility in 2003 that kind of punishment and training was already rare. I think the methods have evolved a lot when it comes to both reward-based training and using punishment - and actually understanding dog's emotions / behaviour. 

Last but not least - I think we too easily equal ethical with force free / reward based. 

The example that is mentioned in their conversation is the dog that would simply take off and run into the woods all of a sudden, even in the middle of reward-based, succesful training session. Susan admits she was considering using e-collar on that particular dog and she further admits that she didn't, even though "it might have been kinder to that dog, because he didn't enjoy that level of freedom (...) and in that sense he was a sacrificial lamb so I could learn more about those layers and layers of reinforcement". 

So what's it's actually telling us is that for one person the ethical choice would be to use an e-collar, condition it, teach the dog reliable recall with help of e-collar and allow the dog the freedom of off leash walks as quickly as possible. For another person it would be controlling the environment, keeping the dog on leash / long line while they figure out how to teach that dog equally reliable recall using only positive reinforcement. Both options can work. Both approaches can be effective. But there is always a bigger picture of what you consider better for the dog, what is possible in given set of circumstances, how much time, money and effort you or your student is able to invest in finding solution to this particular problem and so on. What is a right choice for you depends on your values and you have to answer that for yourself - never just blindly trust any kind of authority on that. You have to use the solution that you feel comfortable of using and that you feel is the best solution to your knowledge. I cannot stress this enough: I think we should be really self-aware of what we're doing and why and we should come back and reexamine our methods and our values periodically when it comes to training and our relationship with dogs in general. Interesting point could be how much the way we were raised ourselves (like did our parents even spank us? ground us? punish us?) influences what we find acceptable when it comes to animal training. 

Another interesting point in this conversation was whether you can tell if the dog was even subject to aversives - and Susan said only if it was a bad trainer. Because "what makes good trainers is not the tools, it's timing, criteria and reinforcement". I couldn't agree more. 

So anyway the awesome thing is that we can have those discussions, we can have all those great minds arguing about how to do things in a better, more effective way - and it's literally at your fingertips to listen to them and open your mind and develop and have all this food for thought. Enjoy :). 

Picture of Pucek because he is very cute. 

wtorek, 21 lutego 2023

Long walks, happy... owners

I've written numerous times how important walking the dogs is: for physical conditioning, for their well-being, for allowing them to be dogs and decompress and so on, but today I've realised - not for the first time - how good it is for me as well. I've lost a bit of joy of walking for a while, simply because I've been experiencing lots of physical pain in the previous months and sometimes walking has been exhausting. My pace and the mileage of our walks got smaller - but at least the fact that I'm walking slowly doesn't mean that my dogs are slower :P. 

I've let some petty, useless malice to get to me today. I needed to vent - which I did to my friends - but still felt it was festering somewhere in my mind.

The weather was horrible in the morning, I had to wait till afternoon for it to clear up a bit. 

But then finally I packed my dogs in the car and went to the woods and after half an hour there I became more grounded, calmer, happier. The dogs were extra good today and at some point I also realised that Maupka is growing up, I think? She spent most of the walk offleash - she recalled from a jogger and she recalled from another person with a dog, she stayed on path rather than venturing somewhere far away, she checked in with me regularly... and that made me so happy to see the progress we've made. I know we'll have setbacks in the future, but all the same that felt so good :). For months I was either keeping her on leash (I even started using flexi) which I generally hate, or just letting her off leash for short periods of time, because the longer she was free the further away from me she tended to run. We had our moments of shame, when she actually totally ignored me calling her to chase something - my bad, I normally tried to prevent that by above mentioned means. For months I was searching all the neighbourhood for places to let her off leash safely -  huge, open fields, where I could see every chasing potential such as bikers, joggers, wildlife, birds, dogs, cats, cattle etc. sooner than her and where I could see her at all times, not giving her an option to disappear among bushes etc. For months we practiced recalls everywhere, for months I was building the value of being close to me, working with me etc. Honestly, I've never had another dog that I had to work on recall so hard and it wasn't something I was expecting with a Pyrshep, as most of them (well, except for puppy Zelda) are velcro dogs - I literally couldn't take proper picture of Brava for weeks when she was a puppy, because I only had zoom lense and she was always under my feet :D. So, here's the adult little lady, who is bringing me so much joy in general, but today especially: 

niedziela, 8 stycznia 2023

Beware of the breeder...

Years ago my friend, who had a very cool boxer mix that she was doing agility with, was searching for a purebred boxer puppy that she also intended to compete in agility with - so she was looking for a line with lighter built, a bit longer muzzle and lots of health tests. When she was searching, she wrote an e-mail to one breeder, who was also happened to breed English bulldogs and that person somehow misunderstood what my friend was searching for and thought she wanted a bulldog for agility. Rather than answering "errr, I don't know if that's the best idea", she proceeded to tell my friend that her bulldog was super agile, keeping pace with her boxers running in the woods and of course her puppies would make perfect agility prospects. 

Also years ago someone wrote me asking about Pyrsheps - potentially a very responsible owner, trying to get as much info as possible. That person had particular criteria he'd like his potential dog to meet, he was considering several breeds and contacting breeders and owners to see what would be the best match. I wrote him that in my humble opinion, the breed was not a good choice for him and explained why. He wrote me back saying that I was the very first person who wrote him "that breed is not for you", everybody else was just short of forcing their breed (whatever it happened to be) on him. 

Someone writes in a FB group that they are looking for a dog suited for apartment living, medium energy as an adult, low prey drive and relatively "easy" companion for jogging, perhaps canicross and Pyrshep is one of the breeds on their list. Majority of people answer: Pyrshep is not your breed, they are wonderful but also loud, high energy, slow to mature and definitely not easy. Majority but - in each case - a breeder, usually a breeder who has been breeding for decades, owns a lot of dogs and says it's all in how you train them and of course they are easy and not barking at all. 

It could be, of course, that the breeder has more experience, is a better trainer, and knows something the average owners don't. 

Could also be that they simply want to sell their puppies. 

Before I got Vigo, I was also searching for a breed for myself and one of the breeds I considered at the time was Manchester terrier - I found a breeder relatively close, called her and scheduled an appointment to meet (MT were and still are, quite rare). The breeder answered my questions, showed me her dogs, we talked... but literally at no point she said "I think they are the breed for you, get one". You can guess that I never got a Manchester terrier and most probably never will, but I actually keep quite fond memories of that meeting - she was a breeder who was perfectly willing to educate about her dogs and her breeding, someone who had nothing to hide - but also didn't feel the need to sell her puppies to just about anyone showing up on her doorstep. She probably realised as much as I did that there was no chemistry and it wouldn't be the best choice. 

Laika puppy for cuteness and because post with photos are better :D

Beware of the breeder who doesn't cross-examine you but says "I've got exactly what you need & want". I'm saying that both as a puppy buyer and as a very occasional breeder - the puppy buyer should be the one trying to convince the breeder to sell them a puppy, not the other way round. Be very wary of a breeder who claims the puppy will be a certain size, will be successful in dog shows or dog sports - other that saying the puppy might have that potential.

What I'm saying is - good breeder knows their value and the value of their dogs. They don't need to convince anyone to buy puppies from them and they would never claim their dogs are something else that they actually are, because that wouldn't be in the best interest of these dogs in the first place. 

środa, 4 stycznia 2023

Musings on rehoming dogs

I've read a discussion where two visions of dog ownership clashed. 

You are responsible for what you have tamed / A dog is for life  - is one of them.

The other is that sometimes things don't work out. Sometimes the dog and the human are not a match, for whatever reason. Dogs actually take rehomings pretty well, in most cases, provided it's a good change. 

I have seen dogs being misunderstood and not loved in their homes. 

I have seen dogs that were labelled as weird, autistic and not capable of forming a bond becoming the most willing to please and affectionate creatures after changing the owner. 

I have also seen people sticking to their guns, learning, adapting, searching for the right way to communicate with a particular dog despite initial disappointment - sometimes succeeding in objective terms (like qualifying to world championship event), sometimes succeeding in subjective terms (being able to form a bond with a difficult dog, being able to enjoy everyday life with that dog or just meeting whatever goal they have set for themselves). 

I feel that it is good to admit that disappointment at least to yourself - but perhaps even better, publicly, simply because the social media pressure of perfection is becoming unbearable. Sometimes you feel everybody has it better, easier, more natural and you are just the one that is constantly struggling. It's good to let others know that you're struggling - to show them they're not alone, to reach out for help or even just to vent and regroup.

In very human terms, I can relate to that disappointment and I also think that sometimes it gets more difficult to deal with it as you get more successful and more experienced, simply because you expect more - from the dog and from yourself, if you have managed to succeed with numerous dogs before. You expect things to get easier, not more difficult. You meet defeat where you expected another triumph. You've done your research, you've met the puppy's parents, you've seen health results... and yet, something doesn't go as planned. Bad luck, cruel fate, toss of a genetic dice, whatever. 

I guess the decision whether to rehome the dog relies to a great extent both on your priorities (for instance everyday life vs. sport success) and also simply, how much joy you're still able to find in working or just being with that dog. Everybody has their limits. I expect it would be much more difficult for me to deal with a situation in which the dog was actually physically dangerous for myself, my other dogs or my family than to cope with lack of sport success, the dog not even liking the sport in the first place or having a major injury / illness. I was also thinking about the issue of "not liking" the dog or "not feeling the bond", but here is where things get a bit murky: I have experienced just taking one look at dog's picture and feeling that we belong together, but I have also experienced not liking some of my dogs at some point of our life together and because of that, I know that sometimes forging the bond takes time and effort, but the end result is no less (and perhaps more) satisfying and you learn tons in the process (but then, learning is a value FOR ME). I know the euphoria of working with a dog that seems to be made to measure for you: everything is easy, the mistakes seem funny rather than annoying and all is just unicorns and rainbows, but I also know first hand the puzzlement, the annoyance, the tears and frustration of training a difficult dog and being at your wits' end, where literally nothing goes as it should and you don't see any light in the well of despair. 

The perfect ones ;)

I don't know if those musings actually have any kind of conclusion. I'm coming back to the notion that we should examine and re-examine our relationship with dogs (and animals in general) in ethical terms every so often - what you find acceptable will inevitably vary as you gain more knowledge and experience. 

I'm also thinking that when you decide to open your heart and home to a new dog, you should do it with the assumption that it's for better or worse and that you will at least give an honest try to build lifelong relationship. My experience has always been that it's totally worth it if you're capable of more than just blaming the dog / the circumstances / the breeder / whatever and actually manage to focus on looking for solutions rather than problems and excuses. 

But everybody has their own journey.