Posted by: jility | September 14, 2011

Square Pegs and Rounds Holes

Lately I have been thinking about training different types of dogs (well, I do that a lot anyway but more so recently). I love training high drive dogs. I find them a ton of fun and you don’t have to worry about hurting their feelings. I have been blessed to have had the pleasure and good fortune to train many different types of dogs and horses over my long lifetime but agility training is so much more! So far I have trained for agility (all standard Poodles but two):

1. SUPER high prey drive dog (I learned that prey drive has nothing to do with work drive BTW!), didn’t know about tugging or toy use at the time. A lot of fun to train but had to figure out how I could compete with squirrels, kitties, moles and gophers. Became an agility champion.

2. A feral dog (she didn’t see the point in any of it but was in it for the treats). In the end, stress got the better of her but I think it might be different now that I know more. Competed through Masters (USDAA) and Elite (NADAC) and won the Columbia Cup (the agility CC not the boat one) one year with Sir Cussalot!

3. The social butterfly. Loved to tug and retrieve but visiting strangers (well, she really never met a stranger) and checking out fluff on the ground was WAY more interesting than agility training! To this day we must pick up all fluff when walking a course or that nose will go to the ground even as she is going full speed ahead! She can put on the brakes faster than anything on the planet! You can hear the screech! Is now trained and run by and working on MACH 8 with Sir C.

4. Moderate drive, no tugging desire but super retrieve drive, fearful with zero prey drive. Worked through anything for the ball but took months to overcome fear of the teeter (HELL! It took weeks just to get her within 20 feet of the dang thing!). In the beginning, if a ball or any body of water was within 30 miles of the ring, she left me to go play. Learned to tug eventually but the ball was always number one value. MACH 2 and the mother of our puppies.

5. Crachhead drive Border Collie, VERY independent (something I hated before training this one), barker/screamer extraordinaire! Had to tie her to me just to do circle work in the beginning or she was off to find more interesting things. Wouldn’t touch treats and had to learn to take them and like them. Had to teach her to be quiet ringside or when watching any kind of movement at all. Couldn’t even BE in the same building as agility equipment right from the start or the screaming was nonstop! Aggressive with ZERO self-control! GO CRUSHIE GO! Sir C now runs and trains her and does a super job but I dealt with her foundation until she was over a year old.

6. ZERO drive, ZERO retrieve desire, ZERO tug interest, ZERO motivation, OVER THE TOP fight or flight response, intense fear, fear aggression, resource guarder, sulker extraordinaire. Right up until a month ago I was getting weary of the struggle and ready to say screw it. Turned the corner and is now my most favorite dog to train to date! It has been like giving birth. The pain was excruciating but now I have forgotten all about it and am loving the result of that pain.

I have had to learn not to judge this dog or be disappointed in any way shape or form! I have had to learn that sometimes, rules are for breaking and what might work great with one dog, won’t necessarily work with another and THAT IS OK!!!! That doesn’t make me a bad person! I have learned that it is also OK if I don’t have the training chops to make tugging a 10 instead of a 6 and to not beat myself OR THE DOG up over it (or let others beat me up for it) but, that I damn well better figure out just what that dog’s 10 reward is and go from there!

I want my next dog to be uncomplicated and high drive but I will train whatever the Universe sends me and try to do the best job I can do. I really really love training dogs, especially the early foundation stuff and balancing drive with self-control. I just love dogs! I love being around them and playing with them. I love all the different personalities and quirks and they make me laugh all the time. Each one is unique and each one was sent to me to teach me something different (just like the people in our lives).

Trying to put each dog into a cookie cutter mold is like trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Sure, you can make it happen but you are going to lose some of that peg in the process. Find the hole in which that peg comfortably fits and go from there. The same can be said for people. As a friend, I try to let my friends be who they are and not make them into what I think they should be. I don’t try to force them into MY round mold but allow them to freely be who they are and embrace our differences. I am learning not to be a control freak who wants everything to go the way I think it should go or as I have seen it in my mind. People deserve the same allowances as the dogs in my life and I hope my friends accept me (with ALL my warts) in the same way. I am certainly blessed with a man who accepts me for me with all my quirks.

Along those same lines, being accepting doesn’t mean we have to have friends who are judgmental, mean or nasty to us. We have the right to allow them to move on and find new people to terrorize. We deserve the same kind and loving relationships we have with our dogs.

Finally, in my 60s, I have gotten the message (I HOPE)! Go with the flow, stop trying to make things into something they are not, only have nice friends in my life, quit my bitchin (the hardest one for me because it is just so much fun! 😉 and enjoy the ride because I know I will come out stronger, smarter and ready for the next challenge!



  1. love it 😀 I have a poodle, dragon, grasshopper cross xxx

    • woops, this comment was for your ‘origins of the dog’ post!

  2. Another great post on your blog! I also have learned that life is too short to bother with people who are mean. And in my 60’s I know that it’s about having the most fun you can have – and it’s so much more fun doing agility than anything else! Life is too short to be unhappy!

  3. And this is my correct website adress…

  4. Great blog post Helen! You do an awesome job with the dogs.

    • Thank you Fanny! So do you!!!

  5. Your blog always gives me a good chuckle but today you touched on something so true that I think few of us find. My life has been so much happier since I started accepting people for who they are and enjoying our differences. In doing that I also learned to accept myself.

  6. Gosh I love this blog post. I am going to put you in my Google Reader feed and hope that you post often.

  7. Wait…You have WARTS??? Well, I still love you, Helen! ( I have lots of moles…but the cats keep killing them & bringing them home to me!)

    • I had a bunch of moles removed too but they keep coming back and Mel keeps trying to get rid of them before they ruin our agility field 😉

  8. Thoughtful and insightful.

  9. I love that picture of Charisse!!! Cute!

  10. Thanks Helen; I am in full agreement with you on this!!!! Do what works and don’t forget the ending goal – to have fun with your dog 🙂

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