Perfection is overrated a.k.a. 8 Simple Rules for Keeping it in Perspective by Fang

28 Jul

This morning I came across this blog post a friend had shared. I’ve read it repeatedly now and it’s still resonating in my head as strongly as it did the first time.

Different ringing but close enough.

There’s been a rash of fairly low-level competitor acquaintances dumping (Not always literally but returning to breeder or finding them a pet home) dogs for reasons that I can best describe as asinine. I’m not talking permanent injuries or congenital defects that make training impossible in a situation with limited time for a limited number of dogs where the dog in question would be left out or not given the attention needed. Nor am I talking about major dog v dog conflicts where management is not an option. I’m talking about the person with no titles complaining about the lack of drive in her eight week old puppy. I’m talking about the person bitching about how her 10 month old just wants food when their tug game is lackluster at best. I’m talking about that dog you seen in class who just sparkles with how gifted they are and all their owner can see is how easily distracted they are by “Everything!” and all that they do wrong. This is of course a vicious cycle of stupid and only leads to more dissatisfaction down the road. It’s not an easy cycle to break out of either (I would know since I’ve been there) so I wrote down my own personal mantra and I’ve decided to share it because I am generous and loving and pretty. You’re welcome.


Yes, yes I am.


1. There is no perfect dog

An example of the perfect do…Damn it! Where’s that damn Cattle Dog? Put her back!

This seems kind of obvious but you’d be surprised what a trap it is to fall into. Fun exercise for you, think of your perfect dog and the traits it would have… Now how many of those do you think you have control over? How many of those traits are fluid? Are you really confident you know what it is you have at 8 weeks old, or fresh from the shelter or rescue? A puppy out of two ideal parents is not necessarily going to be a carbon copy of them, though the chance is slightly higher. Personalities are as changeable from one puppy in a litter to the next as the weather is in Maine and trust me when I say sometimes personality clashes between dog and owner do occur.  Good breeders can direct you to ameliorate this issue but you’re SOL if your breeder is stupid/incompetent or just Craigslist garbage. If you get exactly what you want in temperament, skill-set and drive, what are the odds they’d be sound too? What are the odds that with that perfect dog who is sound too, that your training and relationship won’t ruin it before it has a chance to reach the top? Even people who espouse owning their perfect dogs are doing a major disservice to the rest of us. Kennel Blindness isn’t just for breeders. Glossing over the journey and difficulties you had getting there insults not only your work ethic and the meaning of the title. It also propagates the myth of certain breeds being the lone victors in specific sporting areas. No dog comes pre-trained. No dog is born bonded to their owner. The sooner that ridiculousness is dissolved the better.


2. Train the dog you have

Probably won’t work for that either.

So your dog isn’t perfect, sorry about that. I’m sure it was a major blow. In the spirit of that, no two dogs are the same. While you can use frameworks of the same ideas for training etc. it will rarely progress in an identical way. Things go faster or slower according to handler skill and dog aptitude and how many times you have to start over or try something new. As an example, after nearly two years of dubious success I went to a new trainer and started my bitch functionally from scratch on her heeling. She had been trained by me sans much assistance to heel off-leash with no leash ever really having been used. It was pretty swiftly pointed out to me in our first session that she didn’t seem to know where heel position was and would drift in and out to get her snacks and then go back to doing her submissive wife impression six feet behind me. On leash we go, back to the beginning, and what do you know in two weeks I have better heeling that we had in literally months upon months of effort. What had worked for the gander did not in fact work for the goose and being willing to change the approach patched a giant leaking hole in the big picture. Unwillingness to be flexible in your training is a road to ruin. There is always another option and just because your dog doesn’t fit in your normal sequence of events, doesn’t mean there is even a problem.


3. Until you get there, you don’t know what it is that you need for the ride


Toolbox, suitcase, same thing

Why is it always the people who’ve never been there who know best what it is that their dog is lacking and therefore preventing that success? I know more handlers with RNs who have never even stepped into the Obedience ring who “know” that their dog can’t do that because of some perceived flaw; More in fact than I know people who train for success… For my training purposes  Z is an OTCh quality dog. She has truly terrible ring stress and she is not a speedy working border collie nor will she ever be a flashy retriever and not what many would select off-hand as a competition dog. She is however well-trained, tidy, precise, a naturally gifted training dog  and while I’m not holding my breath for many HIT they’re within reach if we work for them. I train her like I’m training a dog who is going to be the National Obedience Champion. Is it realistic? Probably not. While I could realistically envision a UDX with much tribulation, an OTCH is unlikely. My dog however doesn’t know that. For all she knows and anyone watching would know, I have a world class dog and I’m training her to be world class. I won’t know how far we go until we get there and neither does anyone else.


4) The dog probably isn’t the problem


And you, don’t forget you.

Dogs are rarely the problem. Pretty much all problems come down to training and/or relationship. If you neglect one, or both you won’t succeed.


5. If the dog is the problem, you learn to work through it


I could have danced all nig…. Shit no, it’s that mountain one again…. Ford every stream

Okay sometimes it is the dog, so what? Very few issues are insurmountable if you’re serious about your goals.


6. If you can’t find the good in it, it’s time to stop


Any time, Ryan. Any time.

There are days when nothing is working or going right and usually when those hit it’s time to call it for the day. When those days turn into weeks or months and you find the joy sucked out of your training, it’s time to give yourself and your dog a mental holiday maybe even a change in venue to find the joy again.


7.  Expectations should be fluid

It’s not that I’m unhappy, I’m just not pleased with that…

I may train my dog like a world champion, but I’m not going to leave her tied to a tree if she’s not one. While we all have hopes and dreams, tempering those with a healthy dose of reality is a good thing. I know what my dog is; I choose to see her how she can be and where she can go once ‘x, y. z” are fixed. I’m not the kind of person who is happy with just a “Q”. Our highest score, or our fastest clean run is worth very little to me if I feel something lacking in bond or effort. I’ve won decently sized classes (Rally, don’t judge) where I was disappointed in my performance more so than the dog. While there is nothing inherently wrong with being pleased with a “Q”, as a highly competitive person (I know. It’s not a trait I’m proud of.) I know myself well enough to know what it takes to make me happy after a competition. While I work to improve scores etc and my goal of a HIT at our national is still very real to me, I know that if I’m getting something resembling effort in a new place from a tired dog in a crazy venue, my expectations will have been met.


8. At the end of the day I have my dog


They are literally at every dog show. It’s ridiculous.

And she still loves me even if I made her prance around a ring and didn’t buy her the hotdog she was eyeballing over in concessions.


I’m not out trying to be a motivational speaker (If you knew me, you know I’d be really really bad at it. I’m too practical to disagree when people point out the bad) but this is the list I keep when I feel myself wishing my monsters were anything other than who they are.


And though she be but little, she is fierce

And though she be but little, she is fierce


So is this one... The Malinois not so much.

So is this one… The Malinois not so much.


Many thanks to Sarah Stremming for her thought-provoking blog post. Great stuff and great points. Good luck and TDS wishes for your success in the future.

And… in case you missed it, we’re having a mini-contest on the Facebook page. Share the link for the ACDCA Team Rally group raising funds for our mini-snob in training, Carlin from our Facebook page, and you can win a new TDS t-shirt design. Donations, well-wishes and Dog-in-Tutu photos also appreciated We’re almost halfway there and only a few days into fundraising. It’s a good cause kids. Break out your change purse.

14 Responses to “Perfection is overrated a.k.a. 8 Simple Rules for Keeping it in Perspective by Fang”

  1. Karen Cattledog Cox July 28, 2014 at 9:32 pm #

    Goose! You said GOOSE! LOL
    “….some of the best teams our sport has ever seen were just people who loved a dog more than the game.”

  2. Nevaeh with Charlie July 28, 2014 at 10:21 pm #

    Thank you thank you thank you for this. I’ll be showing my parents when they get home. I bought my Chessie, Charlie, off someone rehoming him. We’ve had him only around 3 months and my parents are constantly frustrated by the fact that my dog “isn’t trained”. He’s only 17 months old and I can see the potential for /so many/ things in him but he has a few issues to work through first. My parents, however, just expect my dog to be perfect right off the bat and get mad when he barks if he gets over excited on a walk, or pulls on the leash a little bit, or jumps on the furniture.

  3. Guest July 28, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    Grow up. Seriously. I realize high school is the highlight of many sad people’s lives, but it’s time to step past that.

    • TheDogSnobs July 28, 2014 at 11:27 pm #

      How sweet, a troll. Firstly “Guest” (Who I think I could identify by snippiness alone) this wasn’t actually about you. If you read the post I’m sure you’d see the link at the top linking to an incredibly well-written article by someone who isn’t you.

      Secondly, this was started before the totally unsurprising news of your ebay whoops even crossed the radar. Surprisingly, every single one of those examples a to being the only direct thing that could even remotely apply to you, is a client or someone in my training club (You know where people train dogs instead of just buy and dump them)

      Thirdly, we get it. You don’t like us. The feeling is entirely mutual but once again, not everything is about you. Please return back to whatever section of the Craigslist Pet section you crawled out of. We don’t troll your blog, please retain the same courtesy.

    • namastedogs July 28, 2014 at 11:40 pm #

      Well, bless your wee heart. Actually no, this post wasn’t about you, but if the shoe fits, feel free to lace that bitch up and wear it.

  4. Amy Crawford July 29, 2014 at 1:27 am #

    All I can say is *my* dog IS perfect. I, however, am flawed, and that’s not his fault. 🙂

  5. Cindy July 29, 2014 at 2:25 am #

    Great Blog. When I started training a friend took me to the Gaines regional so I could see the type of performance I should aspire to. It was well drummed into me, enough that it was louder than the voice of the people who thought a basenji was almost not trainable.
    MY dogs have far exceeded my goals when I started. Now we have new goals to go on with.

  6. donnasoderstrom July 29, 2014 at 5:42 am #

    Wonderful blog! I want all of my students to read it, and keep it handy, to read again, and again. My nervous, wanna be dog aggressive dog just earned her first AKC agility title yesterday, in 3 trials. A Sussex Spaniel. Heading for CD and RA this fall as her confidence and poise steadily improves. She is passing for normal outside the ring. Enjoy the journey!

  7. Anne July 29, 2014 at 6:20 am #

    This was a nice read. I’m an enthusiastic agility person with three dogs and I empathize with how tempting it might seem to just discard your dog and get a new one. Two of my dogs have health issues, the healthy one has major fear/temperament issues (and isn’t driven enough for that to be useful in overcoming the fear) and I’ve had to work through a major conflict situation between two of my dogs earlier this year. Major conflict as in trips to the Dr’s office after a fight followed by separation and management and dedicated training for months until we could get the boys to tolerate each other again. I’ve had my lows working through all this.

    However, I live by the mantra “Train the dog you have today”. My healthy dog will never win major competitions, if he wins smaller ones it’s because all the fast dogs NQ’d. He’s just not fast enough and I’m lucky if I can get a title on him in the win-out system of our venue. My little guy is too worried to go all-in in competitions, so he ends up being slower than his true potential. When we started out, he’d run from the ring for the safety of his crate, so we’ve come a long way. We compete at a level where we qualify for the Nationals, but that doesn’t get us any titles over here.

    In the bad moments I vow to quit the sport and never try to train anything ever again, only to find myself in agility class the next day trying to figure out ways to be a better trainer so I can help my dog overcome his issues. Though it’s cliché to say so, I really feel that having all that work finally start to pay off and seeing my dog increasingly have confidence to work with me is such a joy and something I cannot get out of training my temperamentally sound, fast BC. Working with a promising young BC only gets me what “everyone else has”, but after training my fearful little dog it feels very easy to do. A “difficult dog” can give you training skills you’d never even think of having if you had a dog that you could work in your comfort zone.

    I’m a competitive person, so I understand the wish to win and do well. Right now I’m still dreaming of a dog that’s both healthy and temperamentally sound. If I ever get one, I can’t imagine caring how tall s/he ends up being or if it has “good” toy drive at an early age or whatever. Just give me a dog with no issues that can cut its career short or take years to overcome so I can enjoy the easy, smooth ride of just having to train the behaviors.

    Reading through the comments, I’d really like to see Guest’s blog.

    • aerial1313 July 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm #

      LOL you sure you want to see that blog? It cannot be unseen! 😉

      • Merciel July 30, 2014 at 4:32 am #

        Of course!

        Anybody who says they don’t want to rubberneck at a good old-fashioned trainwreck drama is just trying to keep other people from blocking the view.

  8. Julia Bentley July 29, 2014 at 11:25 am #

    Well said! If I kept dogs based on their competition potential, I would have missed so many great lessons from Xena (first bitch who busted get CCL at 6mos and was sound sensitive her whole life) and Dash (Amish-bred genetic train wreck with a solid temperament but serious socialization issues). Now I have a great dog that is pretty much exactly what I “ordered” from my breeder, but I haven’t reached any of my original goals. I’ve had to relearn a lot, because Delta operates in a totally different way than my first two Boxers. I’m happy to say I’m pretty good with most of your rules, but struggling with frustration on 3 &7. I wrote about it back in April and I have already changed some of my thoughts/expectations again:

  9. Kitten July 29, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

    I don’t understand people who dump their dogs

    My favorite of my dogs is exactly what I would design if I sat down with a pencil to design the perfect dog. I love her more every day and I can’t imagine life without her. She was a little more dog than I was ready for as a novice A handler, yet she has taught me so much. I have always loved training with her despite her willingness to embarrass me in every way… she exposes every mistake I make in training and handling. LOL It’s tough to have a dog that routinely outsmarts you.

    We still train. Despite her age, she wants to keep going. We will until SHE does not want to do it any more, even though she has retired from competition.

    Kind of off topic, but I also don’t understand trainers who try to dial back the expectations of students who train their dog as if it were an OTCH/MACH/HC/CT/__________ (fill in blank with other championships) candidate. I’d love to see you guys roll on that topic.

  10. organictroll July 29, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    I loved reading this! My experience is kind of the opposite from the people who go looking for the perfect pup for X activity, but I’ve gotten some interesting feedback for my backwards from normal plunge into dog agility.

    We got a puppy from the shelter 4 years ago, she was this cute little black and white, speckle-legged girl who basically grew up to be a very high drive Border Collie. I got agility for her rather than the other way around, and we have both had a lot to learn. Now I can say at last that this is the most fun I’ve ever had doing anything, but boy I’ve had some comments like, “You got a dog like THAT dog for your first agility dog?” Ugh, yea, I didn’t think Susan Garrett was racing us to the local shelter for her or anything. And “She is such a great dog” and I’m like yea, I’m hoping my handling improves “mumble,mumble Maybe it will mumble…” Or “Wow, that was a great run, but you know you need to stop trialing her until …… is perfect.” Thanks for the input! I’ll take our ribbon back to our area now and try to squelch my joy in our improvement. Or my (former) Vet with “you shouldn’t run her unless she perfectly meets every agility “criteria” because if you do not get X, it means you have NO relationship with the dog. You should get another dog if you are serious about agility.” (The one I got into agility for is ruined unless I start over and end all our fun? The dog I got into this activity for? Well, isn’t that special. See ya again, like never, Doc.)

    IMO the people who get rid of their dogs because they don’t immediately match THEIR expectations don’t know that dog any better than the people who have had assumptions about me and my dog when they don’t know either of us. She was a FEAR MESS as a puppy, I have learned to train her by taking her to the best trainers I could find, she was just a bundle of fear and over-stimulation, no attention span. But she has come so far. And no I’m not a great handler, and I may never live up to her potential, but pups with amazing potential pop up in shelters and get adopted by schmucks like me too. (Sorry Susan, if you WERE on your way, you were too late). Sometimes the best dogs need the most work too.

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