08 July 2015

New Homes.

Obviously I am not really blogging anymore, and I'm enjoying having some private offline time, since much of my agility life is lived fairly publicly via the interwebs. But today I have something to say.

There is a stigma in the dog agility world. It falls on those competitors who choose, for one reason or another (or multiple reasons), to give their dog a new home. 

In some dog sports, buying and selling dogs all the way through adulthood and even into senior years is normal. In agility, the accepted view is that when a competitor purchases (or rescues) a puppy, they are obligated to love and keep that dog for its entire life, no matter what, or they are a bad person who "goes through dogs" looking for the perfect winner. 

But lets talk about the dogs. Dogs are individuals. They have individual personalities. They have likes, and wants, and loves, and quirks, and good habits and bad habits just like people. Sure, as trainers, we can train and mold them to behave as we like, in a general sense. But they will always remain individuals. 

A silly dog will be silly a lot of the time (unless you don't allow him to be). A serious dog will take his work seriously. A dog who is in a rush will move quickly and have trouble slowing down and maybe forget to think first. A dog who likes to stare at motion will always want to watch other dogs when they run. Sure, you can counter some of these things with training, but my point is: individual dogs are different. This means that as a handler and trainer who has many dogs over many years, you will encounter some dogs that you get along with OK, and maybe do well with, and you happily keep them by your side and feel no regrets.

And you will, rarely, have those amazing heart dogs who you can't believe you ever lived without, and wish you never would have to do so again. 

And the converse is also true. Sometimes you will get a dog, and that dog may have all the talent in the world, but on some level you just don't get along. Maybe the dog is too pushy, or not pushy enough. Maybe the dog barks at just the wrong time every morning, or stares at your other dog in a way that makes both you and the other dog uncomfortable. Maybe you can't even pinpoint exactly what it is about your dog or the bond between you two that went wrong, but for some reason there is more aggravation on either side than ease. 

And in this case, I think it's perfectly fine to give the dog a new home. Maybe the dog is over a year old, maybe he has some training, maybe he is already competing. Or maybe he is half-grown but you can already see you are lacking some spark. If a home comes along that seems just perfect, and the dog will be happy, there is nothing wrong with sending him along to give it a shot. This dog could be THAT person's amazing heart dog who she hopes to never be without. And while I hope that even a dog who ISN'T your favorite would have a good home with any agility competitor, he will have a BETTER home with someone who appreciates and loves his quirks and habits and tendencies and forgives him his faults and loves him for who he is.

I have recently made this decision with my young dog. He is a talented, athletic, teenager of a dog with super star potential. And I just don't get along with him as well as I should. Is it because I currently have Strafe in my life? Probably, at least in part. He shares a mother with Strafe but other than size and color they couldn't be more different. Their learning styles, the way they just hang out in the house, their reactions to new things; they are just very different dogs. There is nothing wrong with Ven but I find that more often than not, I have little to no motivation to go out and actually train him. And many times his individual little personality quirks irrationally irk me. I don't have a great explanation for that other than "we aren't a great match". So I am allowing him to move on, hopefully to a home that will love him for who he is, and work with him every day, and squeeze him and snuggle him and shower him with the individual attention he deserves. I hope that she does well with him in agility but even if she doesn't, it doesn't really matter, because I hope that the DOG will be happy, and he doesn't care about ribbons and titles at all.

And then I will wait a few years before trying again. I hope that having an amazing heart dog in my life will not ruin me forever... I don't think it will but I have learned that for now I should just sit back and enjoy my time with Strafe while it lasts, and not rush into another dog. I may wait and then not get another border collie. I may get a puppy from Strafe. I may not. I am not sure, but "waiting" is definitely the right choice for now.


Amy Siegel said...

Good for you. It's not the easiest thing to do but it can definitely be the right thing to do, despite what people will say. When I realized that despite her totally happiness, Merry was not a dog for me, I can't even express how delighted I was to find the perfect home for her. One where she will get the attention and training she deserves and be with someone for whom her happy all the time disposition is a tonic, not an annoyance.

You and Strafe have so much to accomplish in the years to come. You'll be able to focus on him and travel, teach, and compete without worrying that you are neglecting Ven. And one less dog for your mom to watch when you are on the road. :-D

Unknown said...

Good for you. And thanks for going public. It is ridiculous that such a stigma still persists, but I see it all the time. Perhaps -- I hope -- your example will help to open minds.

Unknown said...

I have come across quite a few dogs I would rather not own. Thankfully the 2 I do own are not in that category. I am not sure what I would do if I were in your situation as I have yet to experience it. Just like dogs, we are all individuals, and we all cope differently. I hope Ven finds whatever you felt you two were missing in his new home.