Dealing with Failures

Today's Agility Blog Action Day is on success. I'm sure most people reading this agree that success is not purely defined by the all mighty Q. We all love our dogs and we typically play in our sports because we enjoy the time spent developing a working relationship. Trialing and qualifying is such a small part of our lives.  But if you are trialing with your dog than you're clearing hoping for success on course.  Most of us aren't relying on the Miracle Method!  For some of our dogs, success in any traditional manner is hard. Whether you're dealing with anxiety concerns or over arousal issues, trialing can be very difficult.


We learn how to measure success with the little things.  Things like happy start lines.  Trials where Vito didn't go around any jumps filled me with hope.  And a faster than usual YPS can send me over the moon.  But then there are the trials where it seemed there was no improvement and little things were harder to find.  Sad Toller appearances on many courses.  There was a period where I wasn't sure if trialing with Vito in agility would continue for much longer.  We never got to that point where I felt Vito was saying No, but we were close.

Trial Toller.  This is 1 year ago and was pretty typical.  Not bad.  But not anywhere near the confident and sassy dog I have in practice.  Success in that our start line bark routine made a big difference from the sometimes sniffy and judge/steward visiting dog of 2011-2012.

And then there's this run a few months ago which could be a huge failure for some as he took a few "off courses" from my plan and didn't get the gamble.  But this run is one of my favorites of all time.

What helped during those "failure" stretches was to just look at everything as feedback.  As long as we were having fun in practice then I was motivated to make it work in a trial.  Trials had to be just another yard stick and nothing more.  It wasn't easy but I can be stubborn.  Learning to relax and accept Trial Vito as long as it looked like he was still happy.  And then work really hard in practice to try and improve.

For some dogs, trialing in different organizations can be a huge help.  Some organizations allow training in the ring and if you can find a UKI trial in your area you can even bring in a toy. Different styles of courses from wide open and flowy to tight and collected might help build confidence or work on handler focus.

We're still on this long journey.  These days we have many more successful runs than not.  Maybe not if you look at our Q rate, but lots more Happy Toller moments.  My advice is to breathe, have lots of chocolate, and patiently stick with your work in practice.  Just tell yourself that this dog still has more to teach you.

Mufaasa's Mum  – (June 5, 2014 at 2:58 PM)  

Great work, Vito looks very happy in that recent run, and on an unrelated note in both runs he at the very least moves in such a nice, smooth way that is a lot different than a lot of the local Tollers I see. Really great to watch!

rubythewhippet  – (June 8, 2014 at 12:36 PM)  

Look at Vito go!!! It can be hard sometimes when you have no other choice but to count very small things as success and when this goes on for years... but it makes us stronger and helps us grow into who we were meant to be.

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