My last blog post about Aoife’s first handling class generated unintentional consequences- I hurt kind, good people and I’m utterly dismayed. My goal in writing was to convey that showing a dog is far more complicated than it looks, and that I had overwhelmed my puppy. I learned something important from both experiences.
My intent was not to bash the instructor. Was she brusque? Yes, at times. But I have worked with curt people before and learned not to take it personally. By remaining kind, calm, and patient, I’m always better off. Which brings me to my next mantra: “Assume good intentions.” With that in mind, let’s revisit. If I assume good intentions, her shouting “NO treats!” was most likely because I was quickly moving away from her in a large place and she wanted to make sure I heard her. It’s also feasible that she did not see Aoife trotting politely beside me when I marked “YES!” Perhaps she only saw her launching for the treat. Aoife is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to marking behavior while at the same time rewarding in position. She’s lightening quick and HIGHLY food motivated. It’s a struggle at times for me to get the reward to her while she’s still in position.
Then, instead of ignoring the instructor’s comments, I
could have should have questioned what I didn’t understand or agree with– I know full well had I been training with either Helen or Dee, I wouldn’t have hesitated to ask questions. Because I trust my colleagues I automatically assume good intentions; there’s never any hesitation on my part to ask for clarification. How come I was unable to grant this instructor the same consideration? I could have easily said something along the lines of, “I use food to reward my puppy, do you not allow this in your ring?” a common courtesy that I neglected.
Next, and this was one of the hardest learnings for me… but important: when she began berating me for my ill-behaved puppy, I should not have taken it personally. Instead, I should have calmly replied, “Yes, she can be a pistol. *attempt grin here* I have a great deal of work ahead of me, but we’ll get there. She’s young, clever, and I adore her.” (My youngest daughter calls this dropping the rope.) Then, I should have thanked the instructor and sat with my friends, to learn more by watching the others.
In closing, I would like to thank Amy and Phil Jaspers of Notorious Bull Terriers for their support, kindness, laughter and love, Annie Glaser and Jane Messineo Lindquist of Madcap Tilaboo Bull Terriers for the same, as well as entrusting me with Aoife Rupee; she is everything I had hoped for and well worth the wait. And lastly, a shout-out to all the breeders, handlers, trainers, and dog aficionados who willingly share your love of what you do with those of who want to learn more. I am humbled by the absolute joy that radiates as you share your knowledge, years of experience, and expertise. I thank you.
With love, Cheryl and Aoife.