Different Connections

A conversation between myself and a student today started with what the definition of “connection” was between a handler and dog. Eventually it moved towards “Heart Dogs” and what that means to the two of us. 

The term Heart Dog is used pretty commonly in the agility world, and I am sure in other sports as well. It is hard to define, and even harder to try and put into words. Heart Dogs are the ones that touch us different, the connection between the handler and heart dog can be on a whole different level. 

So as the conversation grew into heart dogs, what about the dogs who aren’t? 

I have four dogs in my house currently, Nargles, Ally, Trip (he is technically Jimmy’s dog) and Wall-E.  I love each and every one of these dogs, they are an integral part of my life and bring happiness that I can’t put into words. 

Nargles is long retired from her agility career, and she achieved much more than I ever thought possible. She was an amazing distance dog and put her entire soul on the line every time she ran. And I love this little dog more than I can put into words. But is she a heart dog? No. 

Ally is my tough dog, she came into my life to teach me things and to make me a better trainer. Her mission in life is to make me better, and I am, because of her. I love her “take no crap” attitude and the fact she wants to be a lap dog, but doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Is she a heart dog? No. 

And before I get to Wall-E, we have to go into the past and talk about the last heart dog I had. Try. 

Try literally showed up at my doorstep, I wasn’t expecting a puppy and a good friend brought her to me and said “this is a good pup”.  I never looked back from that day forward. From the time she was an 8 week old puppy, something was different with her. We connected in ways that were far different from any previous dog.  Her and I just knew what the other needed. 

Years go by and Try won everything there was to win for a Stakes dog in NADAC. She did things and took me places I had no idea I could reach.  But that dog could have never left Novice and I would have been just as happy. 

Walking into the ring with her was different, it was amazing, it was connection beyond what I could explain to anyone. 

So does that make Ally and Nargles “less”? Or that I don’t love them as much? Absolutely not. 

I connect with them, I ran courses with Nargles where I was sure we missed something because the connection was so amazing that the run just flew by.  

Heart Dogs connect on a different level, I personally don’t think that means that they are more loved, or a better dog. Just different. 

Sometimes I see people struggling, as my student today was. That they may not have that connection that they have heard people talk about with their dogs. Or maybe they had it with a previous dog, but not their current one, so something must be wrong. 

Connection is different for every person and for every dog. I do believe everyone will have a heart dog in their life, and you may have dogs who are not. But that does not mean you are a bad owner or trainer, its just a different connection. 

So this brings me to Wall-E. 

I watched videos of his litter, always drawn to this little pup that had unique and pretty markings.  And then this one video happened, the breeder was letting them hear and see a vacuum cleaner. And all the puppies were checking it out, or staying back. And then there was Wall-E who was just trying to get the breeder to pet him.  

I started watching that little brown puppy more and more, and falling in love with him. When we got there and she said he was the one that was left, it was like a hole in my heart started to repair. 

When I held him that first day, it was different. It was the same feeling I had when I held baby Try.  And again, I have never looked back. 

Everything happens for a reason. My heart had been broken after losing Try, and I lost so much of my passion for agility after her loss and then feeling like I was failing Ally.  I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to have that same passion for agility again. 

Wall-E is my heart dog. Him and I connect on a different level and when we run agility, even though he is still learning, I feel that connection.  

We love every dog in our life, and connect on different levels with each one. 

Cherish, learn, and love every connection you have with each dog, they are all magic.

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.

One thought on “Different Connections

  1. Love the article and know just what you mean. Do you remember Mikie 3rd? My first really connected dog, she was pretty crazy but she was the one! I now have Annie, such a sweet , smart, loveable dog, she is about perfect and I love her to bits but times with Mikie still ring in my ears.

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