Friday, July 30, 2010


Ready... Set...

I love the picture on the left.

It's a "still" from a video I made for a contest on the Training Levels Group: How quickly can you click/treat 15 treats?

(To see more: Zachary - Quick Flick: Simone's Contest)

You'll note I'm hunched over, clicker in mouth (to free up my hands), mere inches from Zachary so as to reduce delays and/or flicking errors. And while the contest was fun and I learned a lot about speed of delivery, smoothness of flicking, consumability vs. flickability, the tackiness of dog slobber, palm friction, weight  and thickness and bounce height and many other properties of treats I have never considered before, and so forth... the thing I will really take away is much more basic.

As I posted to the Training Level's group, the thing that really made an impression on me was that:

"...there was something very... connecting... about being so close (physically) to Zachary while working on this. There were times our heads were inches apart and I could actually see his focus and concentration.

And when I whispered if he was ready (no need to shout, he was right there) I could almost see him thinking "Yes! We are a team!)

(Beau just drooled more and tried to snuffle the treats out of my hand!)

I guess I hadn't thought in the past about the distance that usually exists between us when we are working. In this case, close was nice. Close fostered teamwork."


I don't normally think of training like that. I view myself as a teacher, my dogs as my students, and where I lead I kind of expect them to follow (or at least give it the old college try.) Some performance sports (for people as well as dogs) speak of teamwork, but it often looks more like "me glorious leader, you faithful follower" than Merriam-Webster's definition: "each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole."

I realize the picture quality isn't that great, and I'm sure I'm biased because it's my dog and I was there when it was taken, but I think the image above shows teamwork. Zachary is the epitome of concentration. He knows his part of the job (eat treats as fast as possible) and he is waiting patiently for the signal to go.

Note that at that moment he is still. Perfectly still. How often have you seen Zachary perfectly still? He is still because he knows exactly what is going to happen, and what his role will be.

I am also still. I am waiting for the perfect moment, when hands and eyes and mind are all aligned and hopefully will all be working together.

And then we begin, and for 8.3 glorious seconds, Zachary and I are a team...

... and it is awesome.

Now this is the game for me!
Beau and I were never a true team on this exercise as he was always too focused on the treats.

In fact, Beau I were a true team only once, that I can recall, on a Rally course long ago. But for those few dozen seconds, as we wove our way amongst the cones, the world seemed to melt away and there were just the two of us, each focused intently on the other, both moving together as one.

Isn't that what teamwork is all about?

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