Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's All in the Win...

I recently saw a poll on a dog forum. The poll asked dog owners why they got their dog. The possible answers were:

- I want a friend and companion.
- I need a dog for assistance, hunting, herding…
- I want to compete and win against other dogs and trainers.
- For protection.
- The dog just showed up one day and adopted me.

Anyone see a problem with at least one of those answers. Well, I did, and so I didn't bother to reply. This morning however, I noticed that someone else had the same thought as me and did bother to air their view on the subject. Their answer prompted me to air my thoughts on the subject in my own blog, as the last thing anyone needs is to read yet another protracted and verbose debate in yet another forum. Life is too short.

The problem is with the "I want to compete and win against other dogs and trainers." answer.

Are you too seeing what I saw and the other poster saw? Yes, it's flawed and ignorant in just about every way.

First and foremost, we see that age-old assumption that anyone who competes with their dog is utterly selfish, and interested only in winning.

Secondly, it infers that you can't have a dog for competition AND companionship!

Frankly, whenever I see this sort of ancient belief about competition, I know I'm talking to an arse and try to find an excuse to find someone more enlightened to talk with.

Look at all of the best competitors and you will see a common theme: they don't compete to win, and they're not interested in the results. The fact that they do win is incidental to the real point - the participation and the fun that the dog has.

The fact is that competition is now at such a high level that anyone who is in it just to win, will end up so regularly disappointed that they will lose heart in a very short period of time.

So, am I one who wants to compete and win? I'd certainly like Ellie to enter into competitive obedience, and Jan likes the idea of Ellie competing in agility. However, both of those mean absolutely nothing if Ellie herself shows no passion or skill in either area. She's only seven months at the moment and we're in no hurry to get into competition. It's far more important for us to give her basic obedience and life-skills at this stage.

It might turn out that she just doesn't like any area of competition, and if that turned out to be the case, it would be no problem whatsoever. And if she turns out to be a competitor but never wins a single ribbon? She'd still be our favourite dog who spends the evening tucked in between us on the sofa.

Isn't it time that this ancient misconception about dog competition, and those who own dogs that compete, was put to bed? I certainly think it is.

Do you compete with your dog? Are you often accused of caring more about the winning than the taking part? Do you constantly never place and still attend the competions? Why not share your views...

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