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How to make Lemonade

13/11/2018 - Dog Training

I still remember the moment the vet told me my first dog would never be able to compete in agility or even obedience again. Not only was I concerned about managing my dog’s newly diagnosed spinal condition, my hopes and all we had been working for were truly crushed.

I had recently gotten the “bug”.  I was so enjoying agility training, it was a new (almost obsessive) hobby –  I’d made some great friends at training sessions and my dog and I were building such a great relationship. We had just finally reached trialling level. After considerable training, success was just within our finger and paw tips when, all of a sudden, it was over. I was crushed. I loved my dog, I would never dream of replacing my best mate – but all my hopes and dreams of what we would accomplish together were over. Agility wasn’t a sport you could compete in without a dog!

So many of us face this during our dog’s lives. Maybe when you first envisaged your life with a dog it included café outings and days at the beach – but the reality was your dog developed reactivity and couldn’t cope with those activities. Did you research so well into getting the perfect family dog – and your dog has shown he isn’t really keen in developing a relationship with your children? Or perhaps you dreamt of having a therapy dog, but your dog is quite fearful. Your expectations and your reality are different.

And it is okay to feel crappy about that. Take the time to grieve for your lost dreams.

But then realise, there might be more to life with your dog than what you had envisaged. I have never returned to agility, despite having loved the activity so much. However, my dog’s reactivity and my discovery that it was likely linked to the pain from his spinal condition, led me to a different path. One where I delved into the world of training and canine behaviour and – scent detection! My path may have been very different had I been able to continue with agility. I certainly wouldn’t have been the trainer I am today. Often, if we look back at a change we were upset with at the time, we can see that that change was the catalyst to some pretty awesome stuff.

By all means, grieve your dashed dreams and expectations, but get busy building new ones. Remember, you need lemons to make lemonade!