Saturday, June 22, 2013

Agility Etiquette III. How we treat others

When watching fellow competitors, I often find myself thinking "Oh, if only she had turned harder."  Or "That was so her own fault, she didn't cue the tunnel."  It is much easier to prop ourselves on the bleachers and sit in judgement of other handlers.  What we sometimes forget is that there are many different levels of competitors in agility, and everyone has their own set of goals.  Some competitors compete for the glory of the win, some enjoy hanging out their fellow dog people, and some just want to keep an aging dog happy and getting exercise.

It can be instinct to want to "help" another handler by telling them what they did wrong and how they can fix it.  Just because it wasn't the performance we, as spectators, expect from our own dogs, doesn't mean it wasn't a huge victory for the team on the field.  Hemi didn't do the dogwalk and teeter in competition for almost 2 years.  He had MACH points before he had a single novice standard leg.  Hemi doing a contact was cause for a huge celebration, Q or no Q.  Isn't that what agility is supposed to be about?

As Hershey aged, she didn't have the oomph to do long courses at full height.  We were lucky enough to be competing in ASCA where she was able to play in an FEO status (For Exhibition Only, or in her case, For Entertainment Only).  My goal for Hershey at that time, was just for her to have fun.  We eventually dropped the bars to 4", and I enjoyed watching my girl's pep as she took a few jumps then went over the schmooze the judge.  Our goal was met each and every time we stepped to the line.

Because of my past experiences with Hershey and Hemi, and trying to get motivation from Boo, I have made a point to approach those with "not so stellar" runs with something positive.  Seeing the same handlers each week, it is apparent what their problem areas are.  I try to find a positive for their run and put that bug in their ear, especially a green handler.

Approaching someone right after their run with a laundry list of mistakes comes across as an attempt to tear them down.  Why not take a moment to build up a fellow competitor?  When I do, it puts me in a better frame of mind for my own run.

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