In the Star Trek universe, all of the main character’s actions are guided by the Prime Directive, which is their highest law. Basically, the Prime Directive states that, "allowing cultures to develop on their own is an important right and therefore [the characters] must make any sacrifice to protect cultures from contamination."
What does that have to do with dog training? Well, it’s that time of year: time to make resolutions and set goals and dream about the future. As I’ve contemplated my goals for the coming year, I realized that almost every one had a qualifier: if Maisy is comfortable. As a result, I’ve come up with my own dog training Prime Directive: I recognize that Maisy has the right to grow at her own pace, and that I will not interfere in that by pushing her beyond what she can handle.
Or, perhaps a bit less geeky: I will work with the dog I have. I will honor who she is. I will never force her to be someone she is not.
One of the things I adore about Maisy is that she has a heart of gold. She will work her little heart out. She will try her best. She will do everything I ask of her… even if she’s stressed beyond belief. I have been at trials with her where she was clearly stressed out, and she still placed in the ribbons.
In fact, I have only one regret from 2009: there was a trial where I should have excused ourselves, and I didn’t. Ironically, that run was the one that earned us our RL1X, the single-level championship in APDT rally. It was a very hollow victory, and on that day, I learned that high scores, fancy ribbons, and new titles are all well and good, but the victories I really savored were the ones where we were really working together as a team, as friends. For me, dog training and trialing is all about one thing: relationship.
This year, and for the rest of her life, I will do my level best to honor who Maisy is. If I need to excuse ourselves from the ring, I will. If I need to take an NQ in order to make the experience better for her, I will. If she needs a break from training for a day or a month or even a year, I’ll give it to her.
With that in mind, I present my list of goals for 2010. I’ve tried to make these as objective as possible, with specific criteria for what needs to happen in order to consider the goal met. Some goals are more measurable than others, but overall, I’m excited about what I’ve come up with.
1. Complete Dr. Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol. More importantly, work on it consistently, at least once or twice a week.
2. Increase Maisy’s physical exercise, specifically by taking her on more walks, and by doing so more consistently. This is a hard goal to start in January since the temp with windchill is below zero right now...
3. Improve her stays. By the end of the year, I would like for Maisy to have a novice-level sit and down stay. This means that she should be able to do sit and down stays with distractions, and while I am 20-30 feet away, for 1 minute and 3 minutes respectively.
4. Improve her heeling. Specifically, I’d like for her to maintain heel position through pace and direction changes without verbal cues. In other words: I’d like her to be able to do a novice-level, off-leash heeling pattern.
5. Improve her fronts. I would like for Maisy to be able to go from heel position to the front position on the first try. Right now she can get there, but she does need to shift around a bit to do so. And, perhaps more importantly, I’d like her to get front and then hold that position until I ask for something else.
6. Improve her jumping ability. I’d like for her to be able to a recall over a (high or bar) jump, and for her to go out to a specified jump, without hesitation or "popping" over the jump. I’d love if she got to her full jump height, but I’ll settle for 2 inches on this one.
7. I will work on reducing my ring nerves and performance anxiety. I will consider this successfully met if I can perform in a trial without dependence on stomach medication!
8. I’m really, really hoping to obtain Maisy’s ARCH this year. It is completely doable, but also completely at the whim of the Prime Directive.
9. I’d also really like to get at least one leg towards a CD of some sort (either the U-CD or the CD-H). Again, completely at the whim of the Prime Directive.
So, there it is- all the things I want to work on this year. I can’t wait to report back on our progress next January. I really, really hope that, regardless of how many of my goals we do or do not reach, I can tell you I honored that Prime Directive. In the process, I’m sure Maisy and I will boldly go places I had never dreamed. But, even if we end the year in exactly the same place, at least I will know that I honored who Maisy is.