That’s a little Personal isn’t it?

Yes, yes it is. It is personal, and it should be.

I’ve been approached with a question a multiple times in the last couple days; is it worth it to train this dog? That is one of the hardest questions to answer. It is hard to answer because it is a personal question.

Why is it personal? Truth is, it can be nothing but. We all have selected our dogs for a reason. What will be required of your dog will not be the same as the next person; even if your purpose for your dogs are the same. Things that I am willing to put up with others will not be and vice versa.

The reason there are so many  different types of dogs is we all like different things in our dogs. Preferences can be as simple as the size of a dog for example or as complex as genetics can make it.

Now with that being said, good work is good work. No matter what your preference in a dog, if you are working livestock, the work must be appropriate.  This is not a style, style is a preference. Appropriate work is a matter of how the dog is communicating with the livestock no matter the style it uses.

This is where things become difficult to answer the question.  Every dog has strengths as well as weaknesses. When we are training we are working to develop weakness into strengths. What your dogs strengths or weaknesses are will determine what is required to make a dog appropriate.

Now things have to get personal. Only you can decide if you are willing to put the time and effort in that is required to turn your dogs weaknesses into strengths. You can make up for a dogs weakness by selecting livestock or situations that will only show your dogs strengths. We see this all the time in the sport dog world when people will only run at certain types of trials or on specific types of stock. You can make a dog that will not pressure livestock look really good on flighty stock. A dog that insists on being too pushy can be made to look decent on very dull stock. Some dogs are hindered by fences some rely on them.

If you are working only in specific situations you may be well off to select the dog that is going to have strengths that lend themselves to that type of work, i.e. pushy dog for dull stock sensitive dog for light stock. This does not mean you have the dog everyone else would want but everyone else does not have to live with, and therefore, like your dog. There are very few people that will sell your dog above their own. You are the only true advocate for your dog.

In the end it is a very personal decision. Only you know the situations you are, or are planning to be, in. Only you know the time and effort you are willing to put in to turn a  dogs weaknesses on stock into strengths. Only you know what you are or are not willing to deal with. If you like the dog you have and are willing to help the dog be appropriate with the stock and situations you will be in; you have the right dog.

Don’t let what anyone else would do with a dog make the decision of what you would do with your dog. Don’t let the work that I am willing to put in to make a dog make your decision for you. Don’t let what myself or someone else is able to get out of a dog make your decision for you. Be honest with yourself. Know your strengths and weaknesses; know if they will fit with the strengths and weaknesses of your dog for the work you want to do with your dog.

In the end; it is personal.

12 thoughts on “That’s a little Personal isn’t it?”

  1. Exactly. If we as clients/practitioners can leave our ego’s at the gate during a clinic we can come away as a true team member.

    1. And letting go of the ego is not an easy thing to do. When we do we are able to see and work with what we have. Sometimes what we then have is more them we ever thought.

  2. Really good post and challenging. If I were to expand on it, the question would be: do you want to win with your dog, and what does winning mean to you? We all want to win, of course, but winning means different things. Seeing our dog do something well is a win, even if others don’t see it. Seeing our dog amend those weaknesses and become stronger over all, is a win, if we notice. And I will add that Dave, as a trainer and mentor, is the master at amending canine weaknesses–it is his focus from the very start. Sometimes people find it daunting as Dave wishes to point these things out to the owners–but he only does so to show how best to win with your dog.

      1. Many beginners already have a dog and their goal is to have some fun with their dog regardless of it’s abilities or weaknesses. That is fine, but as professionals, trainers should ask their prospective students what their goals are and be completely honest with them as to that possibility with the dog they have. Fun is a goal, but if they are more competitive or enthusiastic about being a top competitor it is vital that they hear the unvarnished truth (in a diplomatic manner). They may still want to start with the dog they have, maybe get a better dog, or amend their goals, but that is a personal decision. It’s our job to help them make an informed decision without insulting them or the dog they love. That’s the hard part.

        1. You are correct. We have to be honest with our evaluations. The key, in my opinion, then goes to helping them to develop the best dog they can without forcing our own expectations or goals on them (other then honest effective work). This encompasses both dogs that would not suit the trainer as well as dogs the trainer might wish they owned.

  3. The dog I currently have is one that I wasn’t able to keep up with physically. And I appreciated the candor when you pointed this out. And as much as I miss herding my dog isn’t going anywhere. I’m content to have him live as a companion dog and I’ll have to see if my health improved enough to get back into the herding arena. If not then I’ll see what lies in store for my future.

    1. I hope your health improves. We would love to see you out herding again. I am glad you are still able to enjoy your dogs in other way.

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