I’m Horrible

I’m an absolutely horrible handler. And and even worse trainer.

Today, I decided to practice jumps with Cessna and Canyon in an effort to be ready for our return to agility tomorrow. I cleared off the coffee table and flipped it upside down. Our coffee table has a piece of wood that goes between each of the legs, so it makes for a good jump. I first put Canyon into a down-stay and then got Cessna to sit about three feet from the first “jump”. As soon as I called her “over”, Canyon broke his stay and got into her way. I firmly told Canyon to go back to his spot, not realizing this action was the start of a rough session with Cessna – she had become unsure because of my tone. I then returned to Cessna and still did not notice her demeanor. I asked her to go “over” and she proceeded to walk around the legs instead of jumping over the wood between them. I immediately said “wrong” and called her to return to the spot where she’d started. I still hadn’t caught on to her nervous behaviour. I again asked her to come “over” and she again proceeded to walk around the “jump”. I’m terrible, I raised my voice. I didn’t realize she was already nervous. I lost sight of my goal and just wanted perfection. When I raised my voice, she walked away. I should have taken the clue and stopped everything for a cuddle session or game of tug, something she enjoys.

Instead, I proceeded to work on the “jumps” with Canyon. After he got the gist of what I wanted, he was a star. I should have checked in with Cessna. I shouldn’t have ignored her feelings. I just didn’t realize she was upset until I called her back for another try.

I finally clued in. I got all excited and did some easy commands for treats. She perked up and seemed eager to try something new. I then took her collar and showed her what I wanted. She did okay.

I should have noticed. I should have thought about how my actions would effect her. I should have remembered that she still has those underlying worries. I shouldn’t have raised my voice. I shouldn’t have been pushing for perfection.

I’m a terrible handler. And an even worse trainer…


  1. Brook sometimes it’s easy to forget about our dogs feelings. She probably thought you were shouting at her, so that made her a bit nervous. Plus she probably sensed your frustration too. While she probably was wondering what the craic was, i’m sure after you gave her treats, she realised that everything was okay.

    Have a cuddle with her and just reassure her. She’ll probably have forgotten about it, but it breaks your heart when you do shout at them. I just say sorry to Ushi if, for example I correct her when she’s doing something good, or if i have to give a really big correction. I’ll sit with her and just say why I had to do it. Or sometimes when we’re walking i’ll just appologise.

    Give her a big squeeze, and don’t be too hard on yourself.


  2. I wouldn’t say you’re a horrible handler or trainer. First of all, you’re human and really, aside from basic command training with the ADS puppies, how much of advanced work have you done? You’re going to make mistakes-we all do. Second of all, Cessna was trained to take you and herself around things. She’s been doing it for quite a while now. I would say she may have been just doing what her deeply entrenched training was telling her to do. *hug*

  3. Thank you Tori and Jess. It’s nice to know I have some support 🙂

    I have found today to be really frustrating in the dog department. I don’t know if it’s me, or if we’re all just having a rough day, but I’ve really just wanted to hide under a rock from Rogue, Canyon and Cessna. It just seems as though I am asking too much of them and they are disobeying me left, right and centre. I’m so thankful to have Caleb here, so I can just take a breather and let him deal with the beasts.

    Phoenix and Aspen are the only two not driving me nuttie today, which is funny because Aspen and I tend to have a love-hate relationship.

    Maybe I’m just subconsciously worrying about Phoenix and finding the antics of the others to be overwhelming…hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.lol!

  4. *hugs* There isn’t a trainer (well an honest one) who has not made this same mistake before. Multiple times! You are not bad. You made a mistake, like we all do. The great thing about dogs is that they are so forgiving. And think about it, your dogs have made mistakes before and it wasn’t the end of the world. You forgave them and life went on. I’m sure for her it’s already over. You have learned something– something that we all forget from time to time.
    Don’t be so hard on yourself.

  5. Hang in there Bella. *hug*

  6. Don’t be so hard on yourself, like Jes said your only human. Its not like Sesna is going to hold it against you and be annoyed for hours after, dogs just live in the moment, which is the great thing about them.
    Your post made me laugh, because I used to make my pet labrador jump over coffee tables when I was about ten. That was my poor attempt of training him

  7. I’m not a dog trainer or really even all that experienced with them, but I like to think I know people. You sound like you’re just in a position that everybody gets into for all kinds of reasons. If only I had, woulda coulda shoulda. It happens. Not everything is going to go perfectly every time, but I’m sure you know that it’s not going to go terribly every time either. this was what it was, and tomorrow is another day. You’ll be ok.

  8. Oh you are not horrible. You made a mistake. I have done it plenty of times and I only have one dog!
    We learn from these occurrences or at least I like to believe I do. Try and forgive yourself as readily as Cessna does smile
    Thane does not like raised voices either- heck he is my stability thermometer telling me when I am not being settled as we work LOL
    Hope agility went well today.

  9. Hi All, Thank you so much for your wise words. It was so great to know I was not alone and not as terrible as I felt.

    Our agility lesson ended up being canceled by the border collie lady, so hopefully we’ll have one this week. Instead of agility, I left Rogue at home and just did some work with Cessna in town. She was amazing and it was so great to see her confidence returning. For a bit, I was thinking her work was going down hill, but I’ve really made a conscious effort lately to ask Huib to drive into town almost every other day or so, and just let Cessna guide and make all the decisions as to where we walk. We used to do it a lot when living in guelph, so I think she really misses those days and the fact that she used to be asked to work even short amounts of time every day or so. I really can’t wait for us to move back south, living here really isn’t great for my independence or Cessna’s work.

  10. Such things can happen to anybody. The important thing is that you DID notice eventually.

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