ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Team Agility: One Handler's Struggle to Understand the Meaning of "Teamwork" in Dog Agility

Updated on April 23, 2013
agilitymach profile image

Kristin is a dog agility instructor and competitor with 20 years in the sport.

A dog's view of "team" and a human's view of "team" can be vastly different.
A dog's view of "team" and a human's view of "team" can be vastly different. | Source

This video shows both the ups and downs on the road to success in the exciting sport of dog agility.

You Are a Team

“You and your dog are a team. Run as a team.”

I’ve heard it over and over. Aslan and I are an agility team. We’re supposed to run like an agility team. Feel like a team. But the fact is, I’ve never felt equal to Aslan. Yes, we both run together, and we’ve had success. But a team?

Aslan is a fast little 12.5 inch, nine pound Sheltie. He’s mister personality, and his personality shines on the agility course. He loves agility. He throws his little body around the course with great abandon and joy. Because of his love of the sport, people love to watch him. And his speed and talent have been intimidating…at least to me.

I’ve always felt an unequal partner in our team. When we would go in the ring, I had the distinct feeling that it was the Aslan show, and that my part in the whole thing didn’t really count. Yes, I showed him, clumsily, where to go, but I was definitely not up to his quality. I knew if he had the ability to choose, he’d choose to run with other more talented handlers.

In short, I was bringing my dog down.

It’s depressing to be on the short end of a partnership – to know that no matter how hard you train, your physical obstacles would always keep you from being the handler your dog deserves. I'm not alone in this, I know. Whether in agility, other dog sports or dog training in general, one of the most popular sayings is, "Great dog. Shame about the handler." One of the first things an intuitive, new agility handler learns is that the mistakes are almost always the handler's, not the dog's.

Aslan and his owner celebrating after an agility run.
Aslan and his owner celebrating after an agility run. | Source

To learn more about the exciting sport of dog agility, click this article "What is Dog Agility? Agility Information for Newbies."

I can’t run fast. I’m no athlete, yet my dog is. I was bringing my dog down.

Aslan and I entered a three day show this last weekend. I wasn’t feeling very good a day before the show, and by the last day of the show, I was more than exhausted. I knew I had the choice of leaving for home and not running Aslan on that last day, or letting someone else handle him. I went to the show hoping to get the best handler in my area to agree to run Aslan in Masters for me, and knowing my physical limitations, the handler agreed.

Aslan has run for this handler before in practice, and they both clicked. The handler has a fast 12 inch dog as well, and Aslan has loved to run with him.

Even through my exhaustion, I was excited for Aslan. Here was my dog’s opportunity to really shine with an experienced, great handler. Finally, my Sheltie would be freed from his lesser partner and able to run using all his talents.

The first run was jumpers, and it went very well. Because of my physical limitations, I have trained Aslan to be comfortable working pretty far out from me. At one point in the course, Aslan took a wrong course because the handler went a little farther into the pocket between jumps than I would have. Still, all in all, a beautiful run.

It was hard sitting there on the sidelines watching my beautiful Sheltie run with someone else. I wanted to be out there having fun with my dog. But, this was best. This was Aslan’s chance to run with an equal. I was excited to watch them go in the Standard class.

From the beginning of the Standard run, it was obvious to even me that Aslan was wondering why I wasn’t on the course with him. Usually very focused on anyone who has treats or is willing to run him in agility, Aslan was at the start line looking for me instead of at his handler. Then the run began. The handler did his best, but Aslan was uncharatristically unfocused. He missed jumps. He missed an obstacle discrimination. He even went up to the judge and barked at her after she had raised her hand marking a mistake, bringing laughter from the crowd.

Aslan "herding" stuffed sheep he won for first place finishes at a recent agility trial.
Aslan "herding" stuffed sheep he won for first place finishes at a recent agility trial. | Source

And that’s when it hit me. Aslan missed me. He didn’t care that the person he was running with was more talented than I was. He missed me. He missed the way I handle him. He flat missed my presence.

Over the months and months of training, Aslan and I have formed to each other. My style has become his style. He understands my nuances, and I understand his. I know when he will be sucked in by a tunnel, and he knows what a slight turn of my shoulders means. I know by the look in his eyes when to call him back to attention, and he knows by the pitch in my voice when I really want static contact.

I knew then that I wasn’t bringing my dog down. Indeed, out of everyone in the world, I am best suited to run Aslan. No one knows him like me, and he doesn’t know anyone else like me. Yes, it probably wouldn’t take long for a talented handler like the man who ran Aslan last weekend to develop a better handling relationship with him than I have, but the fact is, unless I have more physical difficulties, that won’t happen.

And Aslan, like all dogs, showed he doesn't care about success. He cares about love, loyalty and the "team" that we are. What is important to him is, in the end, far more meaningful than a blue ribbon or title. What is important to him is a simple moment in time playing agility with his best friend, and I'm so blessed to be that best friend.

Aslan and I are stuck with each other. I’d say that’s lucky for both of us.

Because, see, we’re a team.

A Tongue-in-Cheek Video of Aslan's Rock Star Life

Follow Agilitymach on Facebook

You can follow Agilitymach's most recent articles and blogs on Facebook by going to her Facebook page and clicking like. You can also follow her here on Hubpages by visiting her profile page and clicking follow.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • agilitymach profile imageAUTHOR

    Kristin Kaldahl 

    6 years ago

    Thank you Au Fait!!! All great advice there!! I decided to do the 30 in 30 Challenge, and when I'm done, I plan on going back and reworking my hubs. I will then examine links and groups and much more.

    I appreciate your comments and will re-read this in a few days when I go do my re-writes on my 30 hubs.

    Thanks for dropping by!!!

  • Au fait profile image

    C E Clark 

    6 years ago from North Texas

    This hub looks pretty good to me, and though I wouldn't normally have a lot of interest in dog competitions, like so many people I do love to watch the different animals and see their personalities shine through.

    IMO you made this hub very interesting and easy to read. It's well laid out with none of those huge block paragraphs that make a person's eyes glaze over as if they are about to embark on reading the the U.S. Tax code instead of a hub. ;) White space is important when writing for the Net so that people don't get discouraged even before they begin to read. You've done well with this concept.

    I recommend you read hubs from lots of different hubbers and before long you will see what is appealing and you will learn who is most successful and why. This hub looks good.

    The one thing I would suggest is using groups. Every little bit helps when you're looking for more readers. Check out my hub on groups. Also, learn about adding link capsules and how to work with capsules in general. You can learn more about this by seeing how other hubbers have utilized capsules and by reading all about capsules in the Learning Center.

    Link capsules are great ways to advertise your own hubs to your current reader and hopefully keep them on your subdomain reading more. Also, advertising other hubbers hubs that are related to the hub you place the ads in will help you, them, the site, and basically everyone is better off. Always link to hubs of your own or other hubbers that are relevant to the hub your linking from.

    By 'sharing the love' so to speak (promoting other hubbers great hubs) you benefit by bringing more traffic to this site, to yourself, as well as to other hubbers you admire. You also build a network, which is important in promoting your work and increasing your page rank, which in turn affects your page views, which in turn influences how many clicks you get.

    Learning to manipulate capsules is not hard, but when you're just starting out there's so much to learn. I'm still learning. There are a lot of hubbers here who can be really helpful. I'd name some here but I'm afraid I'd forget and leave someone out, and we are limited to some extent on space here as well . . . ;)

    Make good use of the Learning Center, use the search box at the top of every page to ask questions you may have if you're having trouble finding answers in the LC, and feel free to ask fellow hubbers for help.

    You can always ask me, and if I don't know the answer I will most likely know who does and be able to point you in their direction. Most people here are great people and very willing to help. Lots of them know way more about this than I do, but it takes time to learn who they are, so if you need some help with that, just ask.

    So far you seem to be off to a great start. Welcome to hubpages!

  • agilitymach profile imageAUTHOR

    Kristin Kaldahl 

    6 years ago

    Thank you Helena. I think you are absolutely right. Regardless, he does prefer running with me over everyone, and I prefer running with him too!! Thank you for dropping by.

  • agilitymach profile imageAUTHOR

    Kristin Kaldahl 

    6 years ago

    Thank you Ari!! I appreciate you dropping by.

  • agilitymach profile imageAUTHOR

    Kristin Kaldahl 

    6 years ago

    Thank you Mhatter99!! I'm so pleased you dropped by. :)

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    Heard about this. Thank you for the explanation.

  • agilitymach profile imageAUTHOR

    Kristin Kaldahl 

    6 years ago

    Thank you Dale!!! I appreciate the votes, and you dropping by to read. :)

  • Dale Hyde profile image

    Dale Hyde 

    6 years ago from Tropical Paradise on Planet X

    Most informative and insightful hub! Thanks for publishing. I do enjoy such hubs that educate the reader!

    Voted up, interesting and useful.

  • agilitymach profile imageAUTHOR

    Kristin Kaldahl 

    6 years ago

    I'm a big fan of the little guys too. My other sheltie, who will have his own columns posted later, is a bigger, faster guy. But the little ones are so cuddly!!!

  • Becky Katz profile image

    Becky Katz 

    6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

    Aslan is absolutely beautiful. The interest on his face reminds me of my dad's sheltie. She was small too but not quite that small. I think she would have enjoyed agility. I like the small ones better. They are so much more graceful.

  • Helena Ricketts profile image

    Helena Ricketts 

    6 years ago from Indiana

    It's funny how much they know us and we get to know them as time goes on. Aslan is a beautiful dog that obviously knows his stuff but he couldn't get there without you and my bet is that he knows it. :)

  • Ari Lamstein profile image

    Ari Lamstein 

    6 years ago from San Francisco, CA

    Great hub and great video!

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)