Starting With Who You Have

We are humans so we all have goals.

Some of us have simple goals, like getting out of bed when the alarm goes off instead of hitting snooze 20 times. And some of us have serious lofty goals, like cleaning up all of the plastic in the oceans. All valid, all worthy of personal attention, and a human thing.

Perhaps goals are what help to propel us forward, a little or a lot.

In the dog training world, whether you are a competitor or a family pet owner, or someone in-between (love those in-betweeners!), you have goals.

Believe it or not, while dog sport competitors train at a higher level, and with more understanding, family pet owners have the serious lofty goals, way more than elite handlers for sure. The difference seems to be that dog sport competitors are in it for the long haul, and find joy and inspiration in training, and know that greatness comes with a willing relationship, work, consistency, time and energy spent, understanding, and trust in the process. Family pet owners set huge expectations with little follow through.

Truth be told, if expectations were set lower, and goals brought back to reality, family pet owners would find more success in their work and not be so disappointed with the training process.

Sometimes, goals are set for some imaginary dog, that doesn’t really exist, and a vision forms, and then the dog sitting right in front gets hit broad side with everything that is immediately unachievable.

So. Stop. Look. Listen. And then set a realistic goal.

Because I currently have littermates, they seem to be a great example for a lot of topics, this one in particular. Keep in mind, same litter, same mom and dad, born one hour and fifteen minutes apart. These two have been raised in my home since their birth day. They couldn’t be more different in appearance, personality, and likes and dislikes. While one has a strength in one area, the other one fails, and visa versa.

Each one is an individual, and that is my starting point. Hello, how are you, lets see what you have brought to the table today. My goals and expectations must meet where my dog is on that day. Lofty would be pure sabotage.

MASSIMO – He is a soul that runs deep. He is thoughtful, loves his people, wants deep saturated touch, strong, physical prowess of a professional athlete, wants soft gentle eye contact with duration. He does not crave the company of other dogs, although he loves the ones he lives with.

Massimo has a powerful recall, more than any other young dog I have owned or worked with. He has given this to me for free. He wants to come to me. If he is across the pasture smelling the horses, I just have to call once and it sets him in flight with the look of total joy on his face as he piles into my personal space. He loves food rewards but is looking for deep touch, words of love. And then he is off again. He has never not come to me. Pause on that for a moment.

This young male, on the cusp of sexual maturity will try anything I ask of him. He is smooth in work, glides, can perch on small spaces and negotiate wobbly surfaces with the grace of an ice dancer.

He walks with me in practice like he was born with freestyle genes for sure. Attention, eye contact, butter smooth motion, and again this he has given to me for free. He loves working close in with me.

He is honest, has integrity, is gifted in work, and so loving.

Being Massimo.


MAMA BEETZ – She is feral plain and simple, and all that comes with it – sparky, independent, arrogant, smart as a whip, and spicy fun. She has no sense of her body in space and time, and while she is bullet fast and powerful, she is most of the time like an unguided missal. Her herding instincts are strong, stalk, hard eye, balance to handler, all of it, she has lots of herding mojo.

This big little lady is very dog oriented, she loves dogs, the ones she lives with and the ones out and about.

She doesn’t like to snuggle, she likes distance. If she does want to touch base she will put her head in your lap and you have seconds of loving touch, and then she is off again. She is curious about her environment, investigative, confident for her age, and a budding problem solver.

She has no recall at all, meaning she will not come when called. No matter what I have or what I do, she comes to me when it is her choice, not mine. She makes me work very hard even for one step forward.

She is great on leash until she is not.

She is sticky in work, not smooth, slightly untrusting of what I ask.

With Mama Beetz, nothing is for free, she has gifted me nothing in work, she instead is making me work for everything on her terms and her time line. Patience, consistency, moments of greatness, and lots of free choice training.

I feel that she is walking awesomeness, and with that comes a specific obligation of nurturing that, instead of insisting she ‘be like’ other dogs her age.

Our relationship will strengthen with time, and her desire to work with me will happen over time, but each day we do something, a little of this or that. And each day we learn something new about each other.

This is my start with Mama Beetz


So find your starting place and be honest. That is the best place to start.


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Katherine Howe says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I think Skye is somewhere between Massimo and Mama Beetz. She has great recall…except if she’s chasing deer….although getting better at that. She’s a quick learner in lots of ways but has a bit of a stubborn streak at times. She loves to get in my lap and cuddle and refuses to sleep in her own bed next to Layla cause she wants to sleep with Layla. She enjoys other dogs and people but is very attached to Layla and me. Loves to go in the car, good on the trail and readily runs our little agility course, but doesn’t seem to get weaving yet. She has some odd habits…the hose and it’s running water, terrified by the vacuum and lawn machines, sometimes won’t eat unless I stay with her and sometimes wants me to hand feed her. I talked to Barb about meat, her sheep grazing here and training Skye on sheep. She said she’d get back to me when she has more time. Skye is a strong herder as evidenced by her behavior with deer, which is definitely not a controlled effort. Boy she is fast…Rocket indeed! Sent from my iPad


  2. tippysmom2 says:

    I laughed at the paragraph that said, “She has no recall at all, meaning she will not come when called. No matter what I have or what I do, she comes to me when it is her choice, not mine. She makes me work very hard even for one step forward.” This is just like my Tippy.

    1. Nancy Tanner says:

      then we should say WELCOME TO THE CLUB!

  3. dayphoto says:

    As with anything…start with what you have, then proceed accordingly. How often we forget this!

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