Reading Dogs

My first article in DogSport Magazine is about to be published, and pictures of Nora with Dash and Blue went to the magazine this morning for the article coming in the May 1 publication. I hope the magazine’s readers enjoy consuming my articles as much as I enjoyed writing them.

The process of sorting through 60+ photographs to find the ones which illustrated my “7 Natural Laws of a Rally Dog in Motion” was fascinating. Nearly every picture illustrated either good movement or bad movement, either intuitively understood by the dog or not.

The pictures I chose had the clearest presentation of the rule I attached it to, and my plan was to show that Dash (a 9-year-old trained and titled rally dog) responded to handler movement quite naturally and that Blue (a 3-year-old untrained and inexperienced dog) responded to handler movement just the same.

What actually was  illustrated by the pictures, however, was a surprise. Since Blue has less hair and a nice long tail, her responses to handler movement were even more dramatic than Dash’s (he’s an aussie with lots of hair and no tail).

I sat at my desk, with my mother looking over my shoulder, commenting on the responses I saw in the pictures. It was obvious to me, by the set of Blue’s tail or the crossing of her front feet, that she has a really clear picture of how handlers move even though Nora was a young girl, a novice handler, and someone new to Blue.

My mother, on the other hand, seemed to glaze over a little with my technical discussions of Blue’s reaction time and how she seemed to get better with each picture, educating herself in handler movement at lightning speed.

I guess Mom was just thinking how pretty her grand-dogs looked in the pictures, or how several pics showed the old washing machine (we use it as a beverage dispenser) sitting on the porch of our log home. My parents built this house so Mom has a vested interest in how it looks. She thought the washer was tacky — I think it’s comical and lovely. <g>

The role of an instructor, by the way, is to be an educated and attentive EYE on your performance. To note where performance falls on the broad spectrum from “spectacular and perfect” to “absolute failure to communicate with the dog.”

I often worry that, with my obligations to old dogs, students, and family, that my trialing career in rally and agility have been put on hold. I also worry that Red, my 5-year-old, needs more training and trialing time. I need to pack her butt in my truck and travel to shows, just getting her out without putting undue pressure on her, but all of that is on hold for now.

Because I don’t trial much right now, I worry that my instructing skills will get rusty, or will be unappreciated. There’s not much I can do about that, so I’m going to stop worrying. It’s wasted energy.

In the meantime, I was really pleased to spend time with Nora and her mom, Lori, and practice my instructing skills. And I was really pleased to know my eye for performance and the dog’s reaction is as sharp as ever, even if I only get to show it to my mother who can’t stop thinking, “I sure wish they’d move that washer off the front porch!”

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One Response to “Reading Dogs”

  1. Suzzie Says:

    look forward to reading your article!

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