Its been an interesting week, especially observing and taking notice of how different all our dogs are. I don't mean to look at, but their different attitudes to work and the relationships we have.
Lily I have always felt a magical bond with. She wasn't an easy dog to train, purely because she was nervous.....no petrified of other dogs anywhere near her, and she didn't start training until she was 18 months old. Purely by chance, a poster in our local country store caught my eye and so we started agility. Although I had played at agility with our old sprollie and collie 10 years previous, I never took it very seriously, and we only did a few shows, and stayed in Elementary! Working with Lily and her guts and determination to please me, was addictive, hence the position we are in now, 7 dogs, a kitted out van, caravan and our whole summer travelling around the country competing, and a very sad bank balance!
Lily wants to learn, and wants to do right by me, so after a slow start she learnt everything methodically and with such trust in me she has been, and always will be a joy. The most genuine dog I have ever known.
Olli spaniel came along, bred on the farm by our neighbours, and after weeks of watching them grow, and deciding which bitch I was going to have, the noisy chubby boy, was determined to be mine, so he chose me. Originally I had no thoughts of him doing agility, he was going to be my gundog, and would take over from my ageing gundog Becki, but then I thought it would be more worthwhile travelling with 2 dogs to compete, so his training started around 6 months. His attitude and ability to learn, was noticeably different to Lils.
Olli is a very devoted loyal dog, but he almost worked for fun and for his own pleasure, not quite so much purely for me. He also learnt by the "light bulb" method. I could try different ways, different approaches to training him certain things, and appear to be getting nowhere when suddenly he would say "Oh I get it now!! You want me to do this!" and from that day on, he would get it!!
Then there,s Twiggy. Rescue collie, scared of everything, unsocialised, and 9 months old when I got her. So I found myself again with a young adult rather than a puppy to start training, and this one with a lot of issues to cope with. 8 months on and she is a challenge, but an exciting one. Her confidence is growing daily, and she has learnt very quickly most of the basics of agility. She has bonded with me from the start, and is the most loving, cuddly mad collie, but her attitude to work is more difficult to assess. Yes she will jump full height, at full speed, and her contacts are coming on very well, but she still almost gives the impression that she is doing it cos its fun, but not 100% sure why, and can easily be distracted as she is still a worrier, so needs a lot of encouragement.
I am waffling, but what I am trying to say is how every dog needs a different approach to training. Although I tend to follow the method I like, which is taken from 3 or 4 good trainers, you cant look at all dogs the same, especially if they are not bred purely for agility, from real agility lines.
Lily is intelligent, but a working sheep dog, so none of it came naturally to her it just happened because of her need to please me.
Olli is bred from a line of proven gundogs, so again agility was not in his blood, but as long as he is having fun, he will learn things.....eventually!
Twiggy is from unknown breeding, and had a rubbish start before the Mitchells rescued her, so her training is challenging and delicate in some ways, as she is still easily upset.
Not 1 of my dogs has been bred for, or started training from a pup for agility, yet Lily is Grade 6, Olli is Grade 5 and Twiggy I am sure is going to be pretty damn good, even if it takes a year or so.
Which brings me to Cove. Not mine but Ferns, and he is bred for agility. His lines are pretty impressive, and Fern had him from 6 weeks old. From the day he arrived training started, and from just a few months old he was starting to focus on other dogs doing courses, and squealing with excitement. There has never been a doubt he will be good. Its in his genes and it shows. His whole approach to it is different to any of the others, being focused, clever and learning every new thing within a very short time scale. He looks the part.
Lily will work sheep at the drop of a hat, she was bred to.
Olli will retrieve game birds or rabbits without hesitation, he was bred to.
Twiggy will.........chase most things, amuse herself for hours, god knows what she was bred to do!
Cove will run an agility course with style, and could go all the way to the top, he was bred to.They are all so different to handle, but are and will be top agility dogs.
I love and enjoy my relationship with all my dogs. They all have so much to offer, and there is never a dull moment. And although I might 1 day actually have a puppy, from agility lines, that I chose myself, I actually think in some ways that wouldn't give me such a sense of achievement. It would be easy, and I am not one to take the easy route, if there's an interesting challenge offered. Someone once laughed in my face "You cant teach Olli to do agility, he's a gundog!" Mmmmmm, touche my friend touche.