I Stopped Training

I have stopped training agility skills with Ally. I don’t practice in the yard, I don’t work her on courses, or sequences. Ally and I haven’t done any real agility training  since probably around March. 

I am going to be very honest in this blog, and it may not sit well with some people, and I understand that. But I also firmly believe that I am not the only dog person who deals with this, and this blog is for you. 

 

Ally is a difficult dog, I love her to death, at the same time she drives me insane. All you have to do is search back through this blog and my Youtube channel to listen to me talk about how hard she is and my constant struggles with her. 

Her and I are oil and water, and in the early days of our relationship I thought very long and hard about placing her in a herding home, (she loves herding more than just about anything)  a home I approved of never came up, and I am very glad for it. Ally at the Copper Paws Agility Trial

I consulted with many people on what to do with her, from agility trainers to behavior specialists. 

She has big feelings (most people would call her very reactive), she wants to micro manage everything, all the time, to the point that she will almost pass out exhausted, just from being in the house watching the other dogs lay around. 

All her movements are fast, she can never just do something, she has to do it FAST and with full force. She gets frustrated very easy and expresses her frustrations with barking and squealing. 

She is exhausting to live with, and lately I have been putting her in the bedroom so she will just sleep. She will just be awake ALL day just in case someone moves and she works herself into intense panting. 

Training her is also hard, she does everything like a bull in a china shop, full force, ALL THE TIME. And she is frustrated almost immediately, a lot of it due to the fact her and I are oil and water. 

I have done all the positive training techniques, took multiple classes to build on my knowledge of shaping and micro shaping for her. 

But we still end with the same result. 

Ally and I at the Copper Paws Agility Trial Her and I both frustrated. 

I had big goals for her, she is the niece of Try who was the most amazing dog to ever walk to the line with me. And I suppose that is where a lot of our issues started, too many goals, too small of a puppy. 

I realized she was never going to be Try and changed my goals for her, but we still just didn’t click. 

I took her to Starter Stakes at the NADAC Championships in WY in Sept of 2018. We didn’t place, but I was beyond proud of her, she did that distance work like she was born for it. 

She qualified for Silver Stakes (the next level from Starter Stakes) for the NADAC Championships in Ohio for 2019. 

And we crashed and burned. Epic Fail. Epic Embarrassment. 

I couldn’t get her to do a jump 5 feet from me, let alone the Silver Stakes distance of 40-50.  We walked off of two courses, we were frustrated, we cried, it was the worst event of my life. 

I walked into it with a goal of just doing courses and trying to have one clean run, no podium goals, I knew this level would be hard for her. But I had no idea it would be such an epic failure. 

So now it is June. And I am looking at the NADAC Champs in WY (if they are held) and trying to assess what I should do with her and what I should enter her in. 

We can go in Starter Stakes, and that level of distance is her comfort zone. 

So after some months off to lick my wounds after the 2019 Champs, I start training her in January. 

With goals like: 

(these are taken straight out of my training notes) 

“Increase confidence on Switches from a distance” 

“Build send away distance to 20 feet” 

“Build discrimination distance to 20 feet” 

And each training session, while we worked on those things, Ally and I always have tension between us. We are both annoyed with the other, but we love each other. We have a complicated relationship. 

And because of this all my training sessions felt very frustrating, I would work my young dog Wall-E, less and less. Not wanting to carry that emotion over to him. So while trying to fix Ally, Wall-E was not getting the training he deserved. 

So one day, while working on our send away goals, she is barking and annoyed, I am trying to tone her out and setting a target down. 

I look at her, she sits; looks at me, and I just sit on the ground and say:  

“lets be done.” 

And so we stopped training. She has the skills, she knows Starter Stakes level distance, do I wish I could be in Super Stakes again, like I was with Try? Yes. All the time, it is my passion, I love it. But she is not that dog. 

And I am probably not that trainer for her. Do I think she could do Superstakes? Maybe, with someone else. But not with me,  her and I don’t mesh like that. 

All training is doing for the two of us is building frustration. She isn’t learning with me, and that is my fault, I don’t have the skills for a dog like her, or maybe we are just oil and water. 

So here is the “what I learned today” part of this post. 

I know there are people out there like me, people who have dogs like Ally and while they love them and wouldn’t trade them for the world, they are frustrated. 

So I stopped training her in agility. 

She has been learning tricks (her new “flop” is adorable) and we have been working on her disc dog skills. (we can only do rollers, but we are masters at that now) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NvezWufYZVo

So I am not “done” in the sense I don’t do things with her. She is my best hiking dog, and we still train fun tricks, but I don’t want to continue to increase our frustration by training agility skills. 

Ally and I do well in trials together, she hones in more and I think for her trials feel “real” where training is just pointless and annoying.    

While our 2019 Championships was a failure, I was finally able to watch our videos the other day. And she didn’t have the skills for the distance I was asking, I thought the distance that was required was at the top of our limit, but it was not, it was over it. I would have never entered her if I had known that, and I will not forgive myself for a long time for that oversight, as her trainer, and handler, I should have known that. 

So to the person who is reading this, who loves their dog, but is so frustrated. 

Its okay. I wish someone would have told me years ago. Its okay. 

Its okay to be annoyed. 

Its okay to be frustrated. 

Its okay to cry mad tears, sad tears, and frustrated tears. 

What matters is where you go from here.  How do you address it? 

What is the main source of your frustration? Can you avoid it? Work around it? 

I like competing with Ally, now that is not to say that I still don’t get frustrated, I do. But I know its not her fault. If something happens on course it is probably due to my handling that isn’t what she needs, or a skill she doesn’t have. 

I know where her skills are, I know where her confidence is and I make sure I do not ask for more than what she can give me from this point on. 

Does this mean I will never train her again. I don’t know. Maybe the lack of training and the increase of us just playing frisbee together will help us be able to train again. 

But right now, I don’t care, she is seven years old. I want to have fun with my dog. I want to enjoy running agility with her, and I want to be less frustrated. 

So here is to all the people who are afraid to admit their dog frustrates them, annoys them, but you love them more than anything and you just want to have a good time doing a sport you love.

    

14 comments

  • Donna Dugger
    Donna Dugger Rapid City
    Amanda this made me cry. So much of what you said applied to Tucker and I. It went right to my soul. Love this little guy but he was very hard to run. My lack of skills and his eye problems. Rather he does agility or not he is my dog and I love him very much.

    Amanda this made me cry. So much of what you said applied to Tucker and I. It went right to my soul.
    Love this little guy but he was very hard to run. My lack of skills and his eye problems. Rather he does agility or not he is my dog and I love him very much.

  • Susan Suter
    Susan Suter Helena, MY
    Amanda Thank you for your generosity and honesty in sharing this with all of us. My Laddie is a brilliant, loving, enthusiastic, talented boy who loves just about any activity, and excels in agility.... at HOME. It is enough . The last few months have taken the pressure to train off of both of us and allowed us to love again whatever we are doing together. Laddie is going to be 7 and I don’t want to spend time with him frustrated, trying to achieve his brilliance in agility outside of home. I just want to spend time with him connected. So again, thank you Amanda for sharing your and Ally’s story and giving those of us who have similar frustrations and experiences your voice and the courage to say it out loud. ❤️

    Amanda
    Thank you for your generosity and honesty in sharing this with all of us.
    My Laddie is a brilliant, loving, enthusiastic, talented boy who loves just about any activity, and excels in agility.... at HOME.
    It is enough .
    The last few months have taken the pressure to train off of both of us and allowed us to love again whatever we are doing together.
    Laddie is going to be 7 and I don’t want to spend time with him frustrated, trying to achieve his brilliance in agility outside of home.
    I just want to spend time with him connected.

    So again, thank you Amanda for sharing your and Ally’s story and giving those of us who have similar frustrations and experiences your voice and the courage to say it out loud.
    ❤️

  • Susan Suter
    Susan Suter Helena, MY
    Amanda Thank you for your generosity and honesty in sharing this with all of us. My Laddie is a brilliant, loving, enthusiastic, talented boy who loves just about any activity, and excels in agility.... at HOME. It is enough . The last few months have taken the pressure to train off of both of us and allowed us to love again whatever we are doing together. Laddie is going to be 7 and I don’t want to spend time with him frustrated, trying to achieve his brilliance in agility outside of home. I just want to spend time with him connected. So again, thank you Amanda for sharing your and Ally’s story and giving those of us who have similar frustrations and experiences your voice and the courage to say it out loud. ❤️

    Amanda
    Thank you for your generosity and honesty in sharing this with all of us.
    My Laddie is a brilliant, loving, enthusiastic, talented boy who loves just about any activity, and excels in agility.... at HOME.
    It is enough .
    The last few months have taken the pressure to train off of both of us and allowed us to love again whatever we are doing together.
    Laddie is going to be 7 and I don’t want to spend time with him frustrated, trying to achieve his brilliance in agility outside of home.
    I just want to spend time with him connected.

    So again, thank you Amanda for sharing your and Ally’s story and giving those of us who have similar frustrations and experiences your voice and the courage to say it out loud.
    ❤️

  • Tammy
    Tammy NH
    Amanda, this post went straight to my heart. Thank you for the love and courage you put out there, raw, for all of us -- and for Ally. I don't have a dog like Ally and I'm not nearly the handler or trainer you are. But my dog has big feelings too, some of them are fear and anxiety, and I have worked so very hard to help her and be the right person for her. It has been hard, but there are days I think she's getting worse instead of better. We stopped agility one year just to play and reconnect without any other requirements or hopes. It helped a lot. But my dog will always have those big feelings and those big fears, I think, and I have been toying with giving up on the hope of a first NATCH and just being happy with being alive, with her being alive, and us playing together. Your post really drove home that for some of us, this is the right call, instead of the perpetual attempts to fix ourselves and our dogs.

    Amanda, this post went straight to my heart. Thank you for the love and courage you put out there, raw, for all of us -- and for Ally. I don't have a dog like Ally and I'm not nearly the handler or trainer you are. But my dog has big feelings too, some of them are fear and anxiety, and I have worked so very hard to help her and be the right person for her. It has been hard, but there are days I think she's getting worse instead of better. We stopped agility one year just to play and reconnect without any other requirements or hopes. It helped a lot. But my dog will always have those big feelings and those big fears, I think, and I have been toying with giving up on the hope of a first NATCH and just being happy with being alive, with her being alive, and us playing together. Your post really drove home that for some of us, this is the right call, instead of the perpetual attempts to fix ourselves and our dogs.

  • LeeAnn
    LeeAnn Kansas
    💕💕💕

    💕💕💕

  • joy
    joy florida
    oh boy...I can relate, like the others above. different reasons that I had to stop competing and it took me a year to just ACCEPT it. I fought...and fought...and...Buck would go in the ring and TROT...and roll in the grass (ain't this great? and ain't I cute?). oh...ring crew....you must need some visiting. this is my 7 year old dog who was getting Super Q's in USDAA.....my "dream" dog. who decided that he just couldn't do agility anymore. I know the reasons, it just took me a long time to accept his reasons. I'm stubborn like that. my friend Honey calls me the "iron fist in the velvet glove". so now we go for walks, we play (ALOT), we do his PT based exercises indoors where he is really happy and excited to do them. I had to rearrange my brain, my goals, and that was not easy. it still isn't. I still cry every now and then. it's OKAY. its disappointing. it's OKAY. "all the things" and you would say Amanda. it's OKAY. give yourself a hug. you deserve it, I deserve it, our dogs deserve it.

    oh boy...I can relate, like the others above. different reasons that I had to stop competing and it took me a year to just ACCEPT it. I fought...and fought...and...Buck would go in the ring and TROT...and roll in the grass (ain't this great? and ain't I cute?). oh...ring crew....you must need some visiting. this is my 7 year old dog who was getting Super Q's in USDAA.....my "dream" dog. who decided that he just couldn't do agility anymore. I know the reasons, it just took me a long time to accept his reasons. I'm stubborn like that. my friend Honey calls me the "iron fist in the velvet glove". so now we go for walks, we play (ALOT), we do his PT based exercises indoors where he is really happy and excited to do them. I had to rearrange my brain, my goals, and that was not easy. it still isn't. I still cry every now and then. it's OKAY. its disappointing. it's OKAY. "all the things" and you would say Amanda. it's OKAY. give yourself a hug. you deserve it, I deserve it, our dogs deserve it.

  • Karen Kingsley
    Karen Kingsley CT
    Years ago, I drove down to MD to do a four-day seminar with you, your mother, Paula and Lisa (?) after one of the more frustrating trial weekends I ever had. I, literally, got in the car crying from the trial and drove from CT to MD. I decided on the way down that, if you couldn't give me some answers, we were done. You did. We hung around and, when Case died he died with titles in five sports. HOWEVER, that weekend didn't solve things for me; it just helped. And it was one weekend. I was too far away to regularly train with any of you. I went through most of the CT trainers and could never find one to work with me and Case (in some cases it was me, some it was Case and, for some, it was probably both of us). It's not their fault; they had many more, much easier clients. And we were a weird challenge outside of most peoples' abilities. But I felt failed. At one trial, another exhibitor suggested Case might have ADHD. I researched that and, while, it seemed close, it wasn't quite right, but it opened me to see that there may be other issues at work. Case just wasn't wired like other dogs. 15-25% of all dogs, it turns out have ADHD or are on the spectrum. I met with someone from Tufts and Case was diagnosed with autism. WHO KNEW? I called one of my agility friends who worked with autistic kids and told her of Case's diagnosis. I'm still shocked she didn't kill herself slapping herself upside the head. In addition to all of the behaviors the Tufts person cited, she came up with several agility/training issues I had and described how they manifested being on the spectrum. She gave me a ton of coping skills and management techniques. It changed my world. He was still impossible, infuriating, difficult to live with, but I had tools. I could manage things better and even train things that I thought were beyond our abilities. Anyway, this is a long way to say, maybe it isn't your chemistry together. Maybe it is, literally, her internal chemistry. Maybe she has ADHD (there are meds). Maybe she's on the spectrum. It is probably worth having her evaluated. It might not be a training issue. It might be her.

    Years ago, I drove down to MD to do a four-day seminar with you, your mother, Paula and Lisa (?) after one of the more frustrating trial weekends I ever had. I, literally, got in the car crying from the trial and drove from CT to MD. I decided on the way down that, if you couldn't give me some answers, we were done.

    You did. We hung around and, when Case died he died with titles in five sports. HOWEVER, that weekend didn't solve things for me; it just helped. And it was one weekend. I was too far away to regularly train with any of you. I went through most of the CT trainers and could never find one to work with me and Case (in some cases it was me, some it was Case and, for some, it was probably both of us). It's not their fault; they had many more, much easier clients. And we were a weird challenge outside of most peoples' abilities. But I felt failed.

    At one trial, another exhibitor suggested Case might have ADHD. I researched that and, while, it seemed close, it wasn't quite right, but it opened me to see that there may be other issues at work. Case just wasn't wired like other dogs. 15-25% of all dogs, it turns out have ADHD or are on the spectrum. I met with someone from Tufts and Case was diagnosed with autism. WHO KNEW?

    I called one of my agility friends who worked with autistic kids and told her of Case's diagnosis. I'm still shocked she didn't kill herself slapping herself upside the head. In addition to all of the behaviors the Tufts person cited, she came up with several agility/training issues I had and described how they manifested being on the spectrum. She gave me a ton of coping skills and management techniques.

    It changed my world.

    He was still impossible, infuriating, difficult to live with, but I had tools. I could manage things better and even train things that I thought were beyond our abilities. Anyway, this is a long way to say, maybe it isn't your chemistry together. Maybe it is, literally, her internal chemistry. Maybe she has ADHD (there are meds). Maybe she's on the spectrum. It is probably worth having her evaluated. It might not be a training issue. It might be her.

  • Sherry Dodson
    Sherry Dodson California
    Thank you Amanda! You give all of us permission to re-evaluate our relationship with our dogs, and look to what's best for them. I stopped trialing Guinness because of his lymphoma but who knew he'd still be alive (3 years). What I realized was that trialing was extremely stressful for him, the travel, the motels, the other dogs, etc. All he knew to do was run fast and not very well. He sometimes did that at practice too. Since we have stopped trialing, he has calmed down, and is a much happier dog. His favorite thing to do is go on a walk with his person, my husband. I take him to practice occasionally, but only when there's few dogs, and it's quiet. We haven't trained agility in 3 years. We don't train when we run. Some days he can do one run, and sometimes maybe 3. I would have never even thought of this if he hadn't been diagnosed. But he's never as happy as when he walks with Jim. Thank you Amanda.

    Thank you Amanda! You give all of us permission to re-evaluate our relationship with our dogs, and look to what's best for them. I stopped trialing Guinness because of his lymphoma but who knew he'd still be alive (3 years). What I realized was that trialing was extremely stressful for him, the travel, the motels, the other dogs, etc. All he knew to do was run fast and not very well. He sometimes did that at practice too. Since we have stopped trialing, he has calmed down, and is a much happier dog. His favorite thing to do is go on a walk with his person, my husband. I take him to practice occasionally, but only when there's few dogs, and it's quiet. We haven't trained agility in 3 years. We don't train when we run. Some days he can do one run, and sometimes maybe 3. I would have never even thought of this if he hadn't been diagnosed. But he's never as happy as when he walks with Jim.
    Thank you Amanda.

  • Cheryl
    Cheryl Illinois
    This hits home, big time ,thank you Amanda. Aura is my Ally, I totally get it. Folks have told me they are so glad they don't have a dog like Aura. Sometimes she is totally ridiculous and she gets me frustrated and angry. But I believe I have her for a reason and l think you have Ally for a reason. Maybe it's to look deeper into the dogs we have, finding things we never thought we would ever have to deal with. Having you and your mom's help with Aura has made me see things I never thought could even exist, it totally opened my eyes and brought whole new challenges for me that I am bound and determined to overcome with her. Someday the knowledge we gain from dogs like Ally and Aura, help us to help others. So thank you for your honesty and generosity in sharing with us -

    This hits home, big time ,thank you Amanda. Aura is my Ally, I totally get it. Folks have told me they are so glad they don't have a dog like Aura. Sometimes she is totally ridiculous and she gets me frustrated and angry. But I believe I have her for a reason and l think you have Ally for a reason. Maybe it's to look deeper into the dogs we have, finding things we never thought we would ever have to deal with. Having you and your mom's help with Aura has made me see things I never thought could even exist, it totally opened my eyes and brought whole new challenges for me that I am bound and determined to overcome with her. Someday the knowledge we gain from dogs like Ally and Aura, help us to help others. So thank you for your honesty and generosity in sharing with us -

  • Rachelle
    Rachelle Rapid City
    Amanda, thank you for your words from your heart! I can relate to the different levels of tears. I am finding ways to work around them. I also am working on my hesitation, at times, of trust. I know the talent they have is there and I need to let go and put the “t” in my brain not the “h”. 🐾❤️🐾❤️🐾❤️

    Amanda, thank you for your words from your heart! I can relate to the different levels of tears. I am finding ways to work around them.
    I also am working on my hesitation, at times, of trust. I know the talent they have is there and I need to let go and put the “t” in my brain not the “h”. 🐾❤️🐾❤️🐾❤️

  • Lynn
    Lynn AZ
    The dog I have now needs something from me and I can’t figure it out. He’s very good, we are frustrating.

    The dog I have now needs something from me and I can’t figure it out. He’s very good, we are frustrating.

  • Kristen
    Kristen Colorado
    Thank you so much for your candor. I am only on sgility dog number 2, but he really isn't much of an agilith dog. Dakota loves agility. Although not a BC, she has a great wok ethic and has independence and confidence. I am the issue; we were learning at the same time, and she learned much faster than I did! (I will continue to learn new skills all the time.) Camo excels with tricks and is incredibly smart. He is AMAZING with the kids and loves everyone. He is almost 4, and we have only done a few trials. I don't trust him to run outdoors. I am not fun enough for him in the ring. We can be totally connected and doing tricks to focus while waiting our turn, then we lose it walking to the line. He knows it all, and he can do it all. Maybe it's his stress and my lack of trust, but we struggle in the ring. He loves lure coursing, and I think he is going to love barn hunt once I get him going on that. I am hopeful that as he matures a little more, we will connect on course. So, we get it, too, and it is helpful to know we are not alone with the frustration.

    Thank you so much for your candor. I am only on sgility dog number 2, but he really isn't much of an agilith dog. Dakota loves agility. Although not a BC, she has a great wok ethic and has independence and confidence. I am the issue; we were learning at the same time, and she learned much faster than I did! (I will continue to learn new skills all the time.) Camo excels with tricks and is incredibly smart. He is AMAZING with the kids and loves everyone. He is almost 4, and we have only done a few trials. I don't trust him to run outdoors. I am not fun enough for him in the ring. We can be totally connected and doing tricks to focus while waiting our turn, then we lose it walking to the line. He knows it all, and he can do it all. Maybe it's his stress and my lack of trust, but we struggle in the ring. He loves lure coursing, and I think he is going to love barn hunt once I get him going on that. I am hopeful that as he matures a little more, we will connect on course. So, we get it, too, and it is helpful to know we are not alone with the frustration.

  • Boo Rowdy
    Boo Rowdy Florida
    Oh my it's always uplifting for me to read honest words such as this! My dog Boo and I have been through so much - though if she was an easy dog I'd still be an idiot. Have you thought about allowing Ally to herd? Just a thought - allowing her to squelch that inner primal instinct could bring about changes for her away from the sheep. Worth a try.

    Oh my it's always uplifting for me to read honest words such as this! My dog Boo and I have been through so much - though if she was an easy dog I'd still be an idiot. Have you thought about allowing Ally to herd? Just a thought - allowing her to squelch that inner primal instinct could bring about changes for her away from the sheep. Worth a try.

  • Cathy
    Cathy Colorado
    Thank you Amanda so much for sharing! Thank you so much for sharing honestly and true about your feelings and emotions with you and Ally. I have my Suzy Q (Boston Terrier) now 9 years old, who you have seen run. We have struggled along our journey with much the same frustrations, stress and tears. If anything this little dog has shown and taught me agility. Oreo my first agility dog made things seem so easy, few things now and then, but stepping to the line with her and watching her work distance was a sight to behold. So much fun running her. Then Suzy came along and out of my stupidity and not knowing, she was trained in a negative way. Thought the instructor really knew. Changed instructors to a positive one and Suzy and I began to learn again. Her fears had set in of me and we had to rebuild our relationship. I just wanted to run her like I did with Oreo but little did I know our journey was going to be a lot different. Through years of training, seminars, tricks we have begun to come together. I love this sport and love her to pieces. Will we succeed like Oreo and I? Probably not but I have concluded also that it is OK!!! She and I have done other sports too and she does well, but deep down she has been scarred. On my third dog now, Cole (2 years old) still a Boston Terrier but again totally different. He is really loving this game.....but without my toolbox filled with Suzy tools, I now know so much more! Thank you again!!

    Thank you Amanda so much for sharing! Thank you so much for sharing honestly and true about your feelings and emotions with you and Ally. I have my Suzy Q (Boston Terrier) now 9 years old, who you have seen run. We have struggled along our journey with much the same frustrations, stress and tears. If anything this little dog has shown and taught me agility. Oreo my first agility dog made things seem so easy, few things now and then, but stepping to the line with her and watching her work distance was a sight to behold. So much fun running her. Then Suzy came along and out of my stupidity and not knowing, she was trained in a negative way. Thought the instructor really knew. Changed instructors to a positive one and Suzy and I began to learn again. Her fears had set in of me and we had to rebuild our relationship. I just wanted to run her like I did with Oreo but little did I know our journey was going to be a lot different. Through years of training, seminars, tricks we have begun to come together. I love this sport and love her to pieces. Will we succeed like Oreo and I? Probably not but I have concluded also that it is OK!!! She and I have done other sports too and she does well, but deep down she has been scarred. On my third dog now, Cole (2 years old) still a Boston Terrier but again totally different. He is really loving this game.....but without my toolbox filled with Suzy tools, I now know so much more! Thank you again!!

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