The first photo I ever saw of Barbie.
It seems like my friends have been divided into two groups - some understand what I'm trying to achieve with my dogs, and why, and others just don't 'get' it. This division does not correlate with dog ownership either. I understand that. I never really thought about doing dog sports or teaching tricks with my first dog, Lucy. The other dog in the household at the time was quite a damaged package, and I spent a lot of time trying to sort those things out. In the end all he needed was routine and a calm hand. Anyway, those first two dogs didn't get much past 'sit' 'down' and 'stay'.
When I got Bender I taught him those basic obedience commands very early (he was so cute doing 'sit' at 9 weeks old!) Nevermind that he pretended not to know them when he got to 18 months. For a while there though, we were just stuck with that. Basic, practical obedience, and his favorite games of fetch and tug.
Things for me changed a bit when I got Barbie. I think partially it is because we take the responsibility of representing Greyhounds as a breed seriously. The other reason was that she was quite shy and unsure of herself in this new situation of living in a house outside of a kennel environment. Everything was new to her. I discovered she was very food motivated, and with help in a class environment, I introduced her to a lot of new situations and environments. I was encouraged by her enthusiasm and increasing confidence. I don't think she will ever be bullet proof, but training and preparing for the Canine Good Citizen gave us a toolkit to get through most situations in life. I also realised that if you want a better bond with your pet, you have to work together towards a common goal. Sure, the dog doesn't necessarily understand the goal, but the person needs it to keep focussed and heading in a certain direction.
I got a classic the other day, when I explained the Canine Good Citizen Award is a nationally recognised title, and that the dog has to pass an exam on 'real world' type obedience, and then you get the right to put letters after their name, I got 'isn't that pretentious'? I guess if I'd taken ages to explain to this person I do not know (and who doesn't seem to be into dogs at all) maybe I would not have got the response that offended me so. I wonder if they think the BSc on the end of my name is pretentious? :)
I am so glad that I can always go back to my blog, or back to the tracking club, or to my doggie friends, and don't get called pretentious for wanting to achieve something with my dogs. I guess they don't want to understand the canine-human bond which comes out of working together for a common goal. It is the bond that led to the domestication of dogs in the first place. It is the bond that allows humans and dogs to continue to work together in everything from farm work, search and rescue to agility, obedience and canine freestyle.