Dog Agility Blog Action Day; Attitude

I missed the last DAB day, so I am glad to be catching up this time around.

“Attitude” is a pretty wide open topic, but I have some thoughts from recent goings on that center around this loosely.

Recently I signed up for Susan Garrett’s online Contacts course. I talked to quite a few people before I did it as I wanted to get feedback from others who may have either taken online classes from her or just to get their general opinion. Honestly, most people were less-than-enthusiastic about it. Which is more than fine and everyone whom I asked directly I wanted a genuine opinion from. Many, if not most of them, had valid reasons why they wouldn’t do it, and a few made very valiant cases on why I shouldn’t do it either. 🙂 I appreciated the effort with which some people discussed this with me and that they didn’t want me to spend a bunch of cash only to be disappointed. Regardless, I went with my own gut and based upon what I felt I was lacking in the knowledge department and signed up for the course.

Since then, one person in particular has vehemently been on my case about it. This is someone I definitely respect and whom I have a pretty solid relationship with. She has helped me with Phin and I respect her opinion though I don’t always agree. She has been in agility for quite some time and has quite a bit of trialing as well as teaching experience. What really got her to unleash on me about it was me asking to borrow Susan Garrett’s “Ruff Love” book. I am curious to read it for myself as it seems to advise some fairly outrageous, not to mention outdated, methods for training “unruly” dogs. Some people on the course’s online forums had mentioned some things here and there and I wanted to read them for myself instead of rely on third hand info to make a decision.

She handed me the book last week, and then just went off on me. Raising her voice—borderline screaming—and telling me that SG is a horrible person, that her methods were abhorrent and that there was nothing in this online contacts course that I couldnt learn on my own. I was fairly shocked at her level of anger. I truly do believe that her anger is not at me, but I was still taken aback. All I could say to her was that I just wanted to read the book to be able to make an educated decision on my own. She stormed off and we left it at that.

How this all relates to attitude? I guess mainly my gist is that I am (slowly) learning not to be so judgmental with other people’s methods, assuming they don’t physically or psychologically hurt the dog (which in specific regards to some of the Ruff Love advice I do believe some things go above and beyond what can be considered “humane”). In general, I like to educate myself about as many ideas and ways of training as possible so that I can have a wide range of ideas to pull from. That doesn’t mean I am going to use it all, on the contrary the more educated I am about something I don’t agree with, the better I may able to argue against it. But, I want to remain open to why someone else may do something differently, and hear their reasons, instead of just instantly shutting a person or idea down immediately. We all have reasons for what we do, and we all do what we, at least at that time, think is best. And, if we choose the wrong path and make mistakes, we learn from them. As long as no one gets damaged in the process, we still come out ahead by progressing thanks to our mistakes.

On another tangent/note; remaining open to ideas means I will not say “I can’t do that,” “my dog won’t do that,” or “he always does this/that/the other thing and that’s just not going to work for us.” I watch people bang their heads against the wall over and over and over on the same problems because they aren’t really willing to try something different. And I dont mean just “different”, I mean if its really NOT working, maybe you really need to go outside of the box and/or just completely start over. Start lines come to mind immediately on this one. We all have issues to work through, I have plenty. And I get stuck in my own myopic feedback loop as well. But I am willing to try and I want to learn more and do better. That’s why I signed up for the Say Yes course; it was a risk, but it was an option that appeared at the right time, and I took the leap. If it ends up being a massive failure, I still will have gotten something out of it. Like a hole in the my bank account… Kidding.

Honestly, so far I am thrilled with the course and already am sure a few weeks into it that I will be getting my money’s worth. I hope that it can help me have spectacular contacts, but more importantly it already has given me a ton of fun things to work on with my dogs—and we havent even touched the equipment yet. Forest has been loving the shaping work and it has helped him and I find new motivation for working together, even if its away from the agility field. Phin and I are uncovering some big foundational holes that I was oblivious to, so that has been great to have a set of guidelines to help me along. With both dogs honestly, I have been doing a lot of this stuff blind, and having somewhere to ask questions and get pretty immediate and succinct answers has been pretty awesome.

At the end of the course, at the end of the day, I have learned to do what I believe is right for me and my dogs, right now. And I will keep doing that, over and over, as we all grow and evolve.

We will be carrying on, with more updates and chatter on the online course sometime soon.

The Beast’s first official trial is next weekend—I am so excited I can barely contain myself. Hope to have lots of pics and updates this time next week.

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20 thoughts on “Dog Agility Blog Action Day; Attitude

  1. Huh, I have not read “Ruff Love” but I didn’t know that sort of stuff creeped in there. I think it’s one of her older books, though, isn’t it? And she’s readily admitted to using less positive methods in days of yore.

    You know, I’ll never get people who think that shouting louder will make their argument more effective. My dad used to do it all the time, and I’ve made sure all my friends know that if I start doing that, they should smack me up the back of the head!

    http://mufaasa.thescruffysite.com

    • Yup, Ruff Love was written about 10 years ago. I have just skimmed it so far, but the biggest thing I disagree with is her recommendation of leaving a head halter on a dog for 3 days straight, even while sleeping. That is very taboo these days and I have to honest I am a bit surprised she hasn’t released an updated edition (at least to my knowledge).

      Even though I didn’t enjoy being yelled at, I know that my friend was trying to communicate her perspective and frustration to me. So… all I can do I guess is be understanding and keep on keepin’ on, learning as I go. That’s all we all can do, right? 🙂

      • She does train the head halter differently now. She had a few videos on “Puppy Peaks” where she shapes the dog to put his nose thru the loop and makes the whole thing fun. It worked beautifully for my fearful dog who needds it for vet visits. He actually is much calmer with it on. I’ve never read Ruff Love either, but I’ve learned a lot from her on line courses. They’ve taught me about how to engage my dog in the learnin process and figure out solutions to challenges.

      • Hi Brenda, thanks for your comment. To clarify, I have ZERO issues with head halters when used appropriately–i.e. for taking your dog to the vet. I actually use them on a daily basis with training dogs and, much to some people’s chagrin I am sure, I used one on my very young screaming puppy to help manage his issues from a young age. I do however have a big problem with leaving a head halter on a dog for 72 hours straight which is what she recommends in her book. I have seen the videos on Puppy Peaks and I appreciate the conditioning she now does. However, the level of acclimating and counter-conditioning you’d have to logically do to get a dog to “comfortably” wear a head halter for days at a time would make the tool obsolete.

        That said, I enjoy a lot of what she has to offer and am finding a ton of value in her current course. I guess I am the type of person who can see shades of grey, while others may make more rigid decisions based on their own ethics, which I respect.

  2. Congratulations on looking at any and all ideas. You will find what is right for you and your dogs. Gook luck at your trial and hope you have a wonderful time.

  3. I do think we all have to be accepting and let our friends find their own way 🙂 we each have our own journey and something that might be magical for one person might be really bad for another but if it is magical for a friend then we should celebrate what our friend is getting from something even if it is not our cup of tea. Hope your friend comes around 🙂 but glad you are being true to yourself, good job!

  4. I took Susan Garrett’s Recallers course a couple times and I actually definitely think I got my money’s worth. The games and ideas she came up with not only helped immensely with our training but they also encourage me to come up with new ideas on my own. I hope you find the contacts class just as helpful. The thing with any class is that perhaps you are not going to find everything works for you perfectly, but the point is to learn how to tailor things to you and your dog.

    There are many people who don’t believe in other trainers’ methods. That’s fine. But there is no need to yell at someone else for giving them a try.

    Good luck with your training!

    • Thanks Kristine. I think the best tactic is to take what works for you out of the whole course and then run with it. Obviously there is a method to following the madness, but as you say, following the guidelines exactly probably isnt realistic for most people. I have already found a few parts of the course that Phin isnt really digging, ie. tugging on the table, collar grabs, etc., but it makes me be creative to figure out how to get the end results she wants in a different way. I enjoy your blog as well, I think you’re ready for a trial! 🙂

  5. I totally agree with you, I want to learn as many methods as possible because not all dogs respond to the same thing. Actually what works today may not work tomorrow with the same dog.

    • I agree. I am open to all ideas and suggestions being quite new to this sport but I also believe there is not just one method. I think being too faithful to one system and not exploring what else is out there limits your training scope. I am largely trained in the SG system but I wanted running contacts and went online to research Sivia Trkman then I took her online course and loved it. I also liked the cik cap for turns and got the DVD….. Loved that as well. I am all for exploring ……so yes do what feels right for you and your dog. Happy training!

      Ilonka and Fly

      • Ilonka, are you doing the SG running contacts course? I am dying to know if the SG course and Silvia’s course have much overlap… My brief experience with Silvia’s course left me lacking in the details department, but my experience may have not been the norm… would love to be able to compare the two (along with any of the other online running courses that are out there…).

  6. SG is a lightening rod. She has her proponents and detractors. As you said, everyone needs to make their own decision.

    • Amy, that is the perfect term, lightening rod. She does get people fired up, one way or the other. I have to say I was a detractor, until I took the risk of getting involved and now I can understand why she has such faithful followers. I may not ever be a hard core SG groupie, but I have lots more respect for her now, seeing the depth of info and detail she is sharing.

  7. Very glad that you are happy with the course. You know how I feel about her, like the product, HATE the marketing.:-)

    • I still feel the same way… It seems the email barrage has lightened lately–doesn’t it? Maybe she got enough complaints…? Or maybe she and her staff are just too busy right now, gearing up for the next onslaught? 😉 Hope to see you soon!

  8. If you want to read the original version of “Ruff Love”, read “Jelly Bean versus Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde”, written by C.W. Meisterfeld and published in 1989. I had read it not long after it was published but when my DWI (Dog With Issues) dog came along in 2000 had forgotten all about it. As a result I ruined a very good dog by following some instructors bad instructions to correct my young pup when she was going through a second fear period. I bought “Ruff Love” but by that time it was too late, there is such a thing as a dog that is TOO smart! That book didn’t give me all the resources Meisterfelds’ would have had I referred to it when the issues first started. I’ve since bought a new copy of it (it’s still in print, I’d checked it out of the library) and will be referring to THAT book in the future. SG IS a marketing genius, but I sense that many of the things she is marketing are “knock-offs”, tweaked and shined up to make a “new” product. As far as head halters go, this little girl is a ACDxBC mix and I feared for her neck. She NEVER accepted it, and I was afraid if I continued to use it she was going to permanently injure herself.

  9. Good luck this weekend; hope you have a lot of fun! I’ve learned tons and tons from SG, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with everything she says or does, either. Good for you for giving it a try.

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