The secret to my success

First lets define “success”,  everyone has a different idea of what success means to them. For some it may be earning a title, winning a championship, running a course clean or just getting past obstacle two. Just because one’s person’s idea of success may be to win the championships doesn’t mean that the other person’s “successful” run of getting past obstacle four is any less of an achievement.


Sometimes in agility we lost sight of what this sport is, having fun with our dogs.  But lets get real, its nice to win, its fun to Q. That doesn’t mean that we should all go hardcore and push our dog past their limits for the sake of a qualifying run.  In my perfect world people would have fun with their dogs in every run and Q every now and then too.


Sometimes it seems in the agility world there are two groups of people those who “just want to have fun with their dogs”  and “those who what X, Y or Z title”


The “i just wanna have fun group” will at times attack the “title group”,  and then the “title group” will come back at the “fun” group.


Why can’t we all just get along?!


I just wanna have fun, and I would like to Q every now and then as well. I think we should combine the groups, I don’t think there is anything wrong with someone wanting to Q, and i think the whole point of this sport is to have fun. So i say, let get together people!


So then the other side of this is if we wanna have fun with each run then we need to Q with each run.  As awesome as this sounds, i honestly think it would get pretty boring, for me part of the fun of training dogs for agility is fine tuning our skills. If i got a Q every time i ran then i would have nothing to work on at home, i like going to a trial and seeing a couple things that i need to work on either for myself or with my dog, then testing out that skill in the next trial.


A criteria has to be in place in order to set goals for yourself, and yes sometimes that criteria can be difficult and some handlers and dogs may have a harder time then others reaching it.


My dog Mardi was a fun dog to run and to train, she was born with one eye so there were things i did differently with her then what i did with my other dogs. Mardi had a terrible time with weave poles, she wasn’t to bad as long as she could see me, but if i was on her blind side more then likely she would pop out and then go really slow the second time through.  So some courses were very hard for us if there wasn’t a nice way for me to switch sides for her in the weave poles.


My goal with Mardi was to earn her NATCH, we earned that and i set my next goal of a Versatility NATCH.  That meant having to do Weavers, lots of Weavers…..   And it was a long road and a hard one, but i didn’t want the criteria for Weavers to change,  Was it difficult? Yes.  Was it an amazing accomplishment when she finally earned it? Oh heck yes.


During my time trying to earn Mardi’s Versatility NATCH, i did realize that we may not get it. Did it make my runs with Mardi any less special or fun? Nope.  I would keep plugging away at it and maybe modify my goals to earning 50 points in Weavers instead of the Versatility NATCH and when she got that; then adjust my goals again.


So i didn’t set goals for Mardi i knew she had no hope of meeting, I didn’t set out to earn Top Weavers Dog of the Year,  could i set my goal for Top Tunnelers Dog or maybe Jumpers?  Sure! We were pretty good at those two classes!



To me it is no different then the high school track star,  just because they are awesome in high school doesn’t mean they will be able to win the Olympics.


So my idea of success is different for each dog i run.  Some may not have the same “success” as other dogs, some may never earn the titles that other dogs of mine have earned. That doesn’t change my view of what the criteria should be and it doesn’t change how much i love running with my dogs and how special each and every Q i get is.


Mardi would never have been able to do the bonus line stuff that Try is doing. That doesn’t make Try a “better” dog, it doesn’t make the titles that Try earns any bigger or better then what Mardi earned. Try just has a different set of goals and different successes then what Mardi had.


My overall goal for all of my dogs each and every run is to walk in the ring and handle the best i can and go out there and defeat that course.


Oh, and to not tip and fall……. that would be my other goal………

Published by Amanda Nelson

Amanda Nelson is well known for her distance handling skills, and she has been traveling the country and teaching seminars for 20+ years. She has traveled around the world to Australia, Japan, Netherlands, England, Switzerland and the Philippines teaching all levels of agility, with nearly all dog breeds. Amanda focuses on teaching teamwork as well as how to create a strong connection between dog and handler. She works with all styles of handling, from running with your dog to distance handling. Amanda tailors each training session, large or small, to the dog and handler to help bring out the best in the team. Her training techniques consist of a large amounts of targeting, food rewards, and toy rewards. Creating a fun learning environment for the dog encourages a fast, fun, and motivated dog in the agility ring. Amanda uses a combination of Upper Body Cues, Lower Body Cues, and Verbal Cues. This system was derived from the natural cues that most dogs read and pick up quickly. Handlers are taught how to use all of these cues, together, to create a customized handling system that can be tailored to their unique dog. All of these techniques have resulted in Amanda earning numerous titles with her dogs including the MOD SQUAD award, Purple Achievement Cup, and over 40 NADAC Championship titles. She has won the NADAC Championships multiple times, including winning the Super Stakes and Starter Stakes division. She has also been Top Bonus Dog, Top Purple Dog, and Top Dog of the Year several times in NADAC.

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