Too many times lately I have heard people express disappointment with their dog and it makes me sad. This sentiment almost always centers on the dog’s performance in a dog sport that we ask them to play with us.
Have we become so competitive that we accept no responsibility for what it is that the dog is doing (or not doing) that conflicts with what we expect? Have we lost sight of the fact that if the dog isn’t doing what we want, then maybe we didn’t train it clearly? Or maybe we are putting the dog in such a stressful situation that even though they appear normal with no obvious signs of stress, the solid behavior we had before that suddenly disappeared IS the sign of stress?
Dogs play these sports with us because they love us for who we are and they are willing to join in. I am pretty sure most of our dogs would rather be out romping through the woods, jumping over fallen logs and rolling in animal carcasses than being indoors with crowded, noisy conditions waiting for their 30 second turn in the ring with all of its rules and structure. And then they spend all of their down time in a crate amidst all of that noise.
So the next time you think your dog disappointed you, imagine how disappointed they must feel. They tried their best and poured their heart and soul into a performance only to have you huff, drop your shoulders, slink away and ignore them. I really urge you to look at the whole picture and understand why things weren’t perfect during a particular performance and do your best to rectify it before you ask your dog to play your human game again. If your dog continues to disappoint you, it is only a matter of time before they won’t want to play with you anymore and then you would be missing out on a wonderful feeling – a feeling of true teamwork.