Dog Show People Aren’t The Only Kind Of Dog People

The more I get involved in the dog world, the more people I meet who do some sort of competitive sport with their dogs, including flyball, agility, lure coursing, obedience. All of them seem to have a lot of fun doing it, so a couple of months ago I started looking into participating in one of these sports. One trainer I went to told me that Pearl had a lot of potential for agility. Another talked up rally (the “fun” version of obedience, she called it). We did one agility lesson, but the trainer used a pinch collar and recommended an e-collar, so instead I signed up for a rally class with Pearl and in the meantime tried to figure out how I could make the time with my busy schedule to do the required volunteer hours to join a different agility club in my area. And somewhere along the way I started thinking that to be a “real” dog person, Pearl and I needed to participate in the dog show/dog sport community in some way.

Yesterday was my second rally obedience class. We talked a lot about what to do and not do at a show, what the judge is looking for, and how to prepare for the dog show atmosphere in and out of the ring. Now, I am enjoying learning about rally and I think Pearl benefits from almost any kind of (positive-method) training class for a variety of reasons. However, last night I realized that I have absolutely no desire to take Pearl to a show. The idea of it alone is stressing me out. First, my reactive, highly energetic dog would hate lying quietly in a crate surrounded by other dogs and the bustle of a show. Second, I am the least competitive person ever and while I enjoy teaching my dog new things and celebrating the lessons we have learned and the progress we have made together, the idea of getting judged against others after performing in a ring is terrifying to me. Plus, its expensive and time-consuming. These sports may be really fun for some, but maybe that doesn’t include Pearl and I. And that’s okay.

Competitive Couch Potato?

After this rally class, Pearl and I are going to take a step back from the show-prep type classes. I want to do a canine good citizen class, because I think that would help us work on the behaviors and skills we need to improve on just for everyday life with Pearl to go more smoothly and a CGC is more of a challenge for yourself and your dog rather than a competition. I want to do a tricks class with her too, because Pearl loves learning fun tricks and I really enjoy teaching them to her (and showing them off to my friends later). Maybe if Pearl ever settles down enough I can get her certified as a therapy dog, which is something I have always wanted to do. Maybe someday we will take an agility class or another rally class. Maybe one day we will even participate in a show. But I am taking the pressure off for now. I’ve realized that dog show people aren’t the only “real” dog people the same way that purebred dogs aren’t the only “real” dogs. In my mind, real dog people are people who love their dogs, who are informed and responsible pet owners, and who enjoy sharing their love of dogs with other dog lovers in whatever way makes them and their dogs happy, whether that be through dog shows, dog walking groups, or even dog blogs 🙂

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About Pearl the Puppy

Pearl is just over 40 lbs of energy mixed with a pinch of crazy. We adopted her in March 2011 from a St. Louis rescue organization called Impact for Animals (now Pet Rescue Network). We are unsure about her age, but we are guessing she was born in Fall 2010. Her background is anybody's guess, but we are pretty sure that she has at least some sighthound in her. She's a whole lot of trouble but a whole lot of fun.

18 thoughts on “Dog Show People Aren’t The Only Kind Of Dog People

  1. I found an agility coach who gives private lessons (actually cheaper than taking a group class) and we’ve been going for about a year now. It’s a lot to learn, but Sage is following my lead now and we are doing pretty good! I don’t know if I’d ever enter her in an agility match, but either way, it’s been good for her growth and learning to follow my lead.

    • This may not be true overall, but I have found that agility people are more likely to participate just to build skills and have fun and may not show, versus obedience people who seem much more show focused. I do think almost any kind of training is helpful at building the bond and helping Pearl learn to focus. She definitely likes to work.

  2. We have Bella in an agility class for reactive dogs. I have no intention of going the ‘show’ route – she would LOATHE being crated with so much activity and canine-inity nearby. What she does love, however, (once she gets over her fear) is running up and over the A-frame, doing the jumps – expending her energy in a controlled situation while at the same time learning to rely on us and trust herself. It has done so much to improve her confidence and she goes absolutely nut-so when she figures out it’s Wednesday night and time to go.

    But I never did anything like this with my Lab – he didn’t need it. He was a good and happy boy no matter what we did together. Bella is smarter (sorry, Beau) and needs more stimulation both physically and mentally. That’s the only reason we’re doing this – it was not in the plans, believe me, as neither Jan nor I are particularly well-coordinated. 😉

    Do what you love with your dog. Watch to see what it is Pearl loves and do some of that. Her life is short – just enjoy it. 🙂

  3. I just wanted to say I totally LOVE this post, and agree with your 100%. Thank you for looking at the entire picture and at what is best for you and your particular dog, rather than just feeling you have to do something. It took me a much longer time to learn that lesson myself, and it makes me so happy to hear others who feel the same way (and learn much quicker than me!)

    • Thank you! It’s sometimes hard to know what is best for our dogs. I think I learn my lessons fast with Pearl because she makes you pay when you try to make her do something she does’t want (she has my husband and I wrapped around her little paw)

  4. I think it’s awesome that you’re actively involved in Pearl’s life, period. I started off thinking agility would be just for fun, haha — look how well that turned out.

  5. We tried doing an agility class with Cali, but she was so overstimulated by all of the dogs (& treats!) that we decided it was too stressful. We hike and do other things that she enjoys – I always thought that a nose-work class would be fun for her – but she doesn’t really enjoy being around groups of dogs in a classroom environment. I think dogs are happy doing anything fun with their humans – it’s the quality time together that matters, not the activity! Great, thoughtful post – and Pearl is an excellent couch potato!!

  6. We do competition with our dogs (hunt test). The important thing to remember is that the actual test is really just a way to measure progress. Training toward a goal (to earn a qualifying score at a particular level). Of course there are people out there who will tell you, “my dog accomplished xyz at 8 months old”. We resist falling into that trap because for us it is a hobby and not a race.

    In hunt tests the dog earns a qualifying score or not, (pass/fail). In Rally, although they score the dogs and award ribbons for the high placers, it is possible to earn a qualifying score without placing for a ribbon. If you do want to try your hand at it someday, it may be something worth considering. Also, sometimes these competitions are held outside and if you have a nervous dog, it can be a better atmosphere than a loud building.

    • It sounds like you go into everything with a good attitude about it. I think I have definitely met enough “my dog accomplished xyz” people! It can be hard to avoid that, because we all love bragging about our dogs, right? We may end up going to a show one day. If we do, it will be for fun. If we don’t, we will have fun doing other things. The fun is the key thing.

  7. So glad that I found your blog! Is it just me, or does it seem like the dog world is getting about like having kids? So many parents are competitive with their children, and the friends I have with kids always say that it feels as if your kid isn’t doing as many things or things as well as other kids that they’re aren’t measuring up to the social expectations. I love that you’re approaching what you do with Pearl solely based on your and Pearl’s personalities. You’re doing what fits you and what fits your life, and that’s perfect.

    I’ve been wanting to get into some classes with Arie. I’m saving up for them now and looking through which ones to try. Your post gives me some good ideas!

  8. thank you for posting this! it’s so easy to feel inadequate when you’re a witness to so many folks doing so many things with their dogs–who are well-behaved and under control. we’re nowhere near being able to do any of this stuff with desmond, although we have an agility starter kit for the yard and we’ve taken him to an outdoor agility park that’s open to the public. he seems receptive to it, but i still don’t think i’d ever want to compete. doing it for fun as a family is enough for me–and probably for Captain Reactive as well. or not doing it at all is OK, too. or not doing much at all besides your average playtime and trips to the dog run. you mentioned how time-consuming that stuff is, and that’s probably my next biggest deterrent. i think about that in regards to human children, too–when they get old enough to have activities and whatnot, your entire life becomes taking them places. this does not sound appealing to me. lol. desmond’s takeover of our existing freedom has ruined me.

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