This was originally posted as a comment on Denise Fenzi’s blog post “Dog shows are for… who?” (You can read her excellent commentary here. https://denisefenzi.com/2019/02/dogs-shows-are-for-who/ ) After writing it all out, I had the thought that maybe I should post it here, as well. I’m finally getting around to it…
This is long, so you might want to get comfy before you start reading.
In April of 2010, while walking my late Rat Terrier, Lucky, we were followed by a loose puppy. After she nearly got hit by three cars in as many minutes, I threw my spare leash on her, and took her back to the house she had followed us from. The people there claimed she wasn’t theirs, so I brought her home with me. After nobody answered my “found dog” add, well, she had a home with me.
In late 2010, I found out about the AKC’s recently launched Canine Partners Listing program, that allowed mixed breed dogs to compete in certain AKC events, like obedience and rally. Hmmm… one spayed mutt, check. One Canine Partners Listing certificate in hand, check. One insane quest to put obedience and rally titles on a dog patently unsuited to be a competition obedience and rally dog, check.
Ilka earned her RN, RA, RE, and BN titles. And she hated pretty much every single second of it. We had two legs of her CD, and I really, REALLY wanted that title. However, already somewhat reactive before we started competing,, she became worse and worse as I kept asking her to do things that she simply couldn’t cope with. I finally realized just how miserable my dog was, and made her a promise. One more weekend of trials, and that would be it. Whether we got that last CD leg or not, she would never have to set foot in an AKC obedience ring again. We blew both runs, one of which would have otherwise been a Q. I cried. Right there beside the ring. After pulling myself together and cheering for the rest of the classes and the HIT and HC winners, we packed up and went home.
For over a year, I did nothing with her except take her for walks and throw training dummies for her to chase. She played with Lucky and Leo, the young GSD I had rescued. That was it, though. No training whatsoever. There wasn’t any point in it, since I had promised her no more obedience or rally trials. Then, on a dog forum, I asked someone what the letters ETD after their dog’s name meant. For those who don’t know, it means Expert Trick Dog, a title offered by the organization Do More With Your Dog.
Titles that you earned by submitting videos? It was like a whole new world of opportunity opened up for us. I found other organizations besides DMWYD. Organizations that offered rally titles, or obedience titles. We could try the brand new sport of dog parkour. She could DO things. Things that she liked doing, in an environment where she felt safe, and where her reactivity wouldn’t endanger other dogs of people. Oh, and I got lots of pretty ribbons and certificates to hang on my walls. I lost Ilka in late 2017, but our outings to record videos for online titles were some of the best times we spent together. Way more fun than going to trials had ever been.
Recently, I realized that Leo just wasn’t enjoying parkour like she’d been before. Happy to go places with me, yes. But as soon as I put her parkour harness on and asked her to do anything, she started acting miserable. Head low, tail low, responding slowly or else acting like she had no idea what I was asking her to do. Nearly halfway to an All Dogs Parkour Premier Championship, and with about half a dozen more entries only partially completed, she is taking a break. We’ll try other things for a while, and see if she wants to do parkour later on. Will I be disappointed if she never finishes that title? Yes. However, her being happy is more important than her earning a title. Even if it’s a title that I proposed with her in mind.
And that’s my novel. Do I ever want to give AKC events another try? For sure. One of these days. But it won’t be with either Leo or Lily, my little pit bull. Both of them would be beyond miserable if I asked that of them. They like training, so we train. The ribbons and certificates on the wall that are the result of that training are purely for me.