A Winning Team
I wanted to title this opinion piece, “How To Be Successful In Spite Of Your Partner” but Dawson was adamant that I stay positive and kind. I’m always kind but as you all know, it can be difficult to stay positive when your partner (who has thumbs so therefore has all the power), doesn’t do their job. Not doing their job correctly is something I can deal with but when your partner thinks that they’re doing their job when they are not and also thinks that you’re not doing your job when you are… well, I get a little bothered. Dawson believes that I am persnickety with my training but I disagree. It’s just that I notice where my partner has room for improvement.
Admit it. We’ve all been there. Obedience classes, agility, basically anytime your human wants you to do something but gets frustrated with you for not complying when half the time we are doing exactly what is being asked. Mom is generally pretty good about explaining what she wants from me (and the clicker and treat combination really helps!) but there are times when she completely misses it. It’s astonishing. I mean, what am I to do with bad information?
Nowhere was this more obvious than in our initial Nose Work training. Nose Work is a dog sport in which a scent is hidden so Mom and I don’t know where it is. I find the scent, tell her, and I get a treat. The faster I work and find it, the faster I get a treat (Dawson sometimes takes a long time to find a treat so he can stay out of his crate longer. He thinks he’s fooling everyone but I’m not so sure).
Nose Work is a lot of fun and I love it but it does take concentration and focus. I have to take into account the weather conditions, wind velocity, competing smells and any other possible interference while I’m searching for the scent. I simply cannot tolerate being distracted while I’m working. And, like most dogs, I’m very, very aware of my Mom’s energy level. If she’s calm I don’t worry about her and can get on with my job. If she’s uptight and being crazy weird about me finding the scent quickly, I can’t do my job effectively. Heck, there have been occasions in which I just gave up and wandered around just to get her to stop pressuring me. Of course, that led to being crated and not getting any treats. Not an ideal situation but sometimes one is between a rock and a hard place so you do the best you can.
To be fair, (and after a long, long, long time), Mom eventually began to understand her job in Nose Work which is to relax, let me work and really watch my reaction. If I completely stop moving, start sniffing to beat the band, and refuse to move away, that means I’ve found what we are looking for. Bingo! Time for a treat!
Mom was able get her act together for the Nose Work 1 trial several weeks ago. I found Mom to be very helpful because, one, she was calm and two, she decided to trust me to do my job. That freed up all my energy to be able to work on finding the scent in record time and we earned our very first title in Nose Work! More importantly, I got lots and lots of treats!
Friends, I tell you this story to encourage you to never give up on your partner. If my Mom can figure out most of this stuff, then so can your human. I can’t promise it will be easy, waiting on them to “get with the program,” but there’s a very good chance they will and then it will be worth the wait. If waiting for your human to catch on isn’t your thing, you can always wander around like you don’t have a clue until they give up and leave you alone. But then you won’t get a treat and everyone loses.
My advice? Hang in there while your partner figures out their job and stay focused on getting your treat. That’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Now go on out there and earn some treats!
Grady Buford Huntley, AX, MX
Spiritual Advisor, Abolish the Crate Federation