Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Heart Dog - Norton

Norton and I have been on a rocky journey for 8 years.  He is my Novice A dog.  When he was 3 years old and I was getting scores in Novice that were < 180 I did what any intelligent and analytical person would do.  I went to trials and I talked to the people who were doing well.  I talked to people who placed, whose dogs were animated, who had the same breed of dog that I had (Keeshond).  And I tried to follow their advice. 

They told me who they trained with.  And I drove 12 hours (each way) to take lessons with these people.  I read the books they told me to read and I watched the DVDs they told me to watch.  In fact I read them over and over again and played the DVDs hundreds of times.  I took vidoes of my lessons and I studied them.  I tried to do what my trainers were telling me to do even though sometimes it just seemed wrong.

Norton's performances in training and in the ring deteriorated..  He earned one UD leg in 2008 and now is unable to pass even one exercise in Utility.  He completely panics in any ring situation.  Everyone who watches continues to tell me "he is blowing me off" and needs to be corrected.  Even the best trainers.

One year ago, in desperation I called Diane Bauman on the phone (because she had been successful in training Keeshonden).  I had read her book "Beyond Basic Obedience" because my friend Sandy Schmidt spoke so highly of it.  Diane was extremely generous in watching videos of my training sessions, meeting with me (another 15 hour drive!) emailing back and forth and talking to me on the phone.  She told me that Norton was not "blowing me off", that he was confused, frustrated and wanted to be right.  It has taken me a year to realize the truth of this statement. 

My other three dogs are benefiting greatly from what Norton has taught me.  Sadly, I doubt that Norton will ever earn the other 2 legs that he needs to finish his Utility title.  But I am so blessed to have time to continue to train him and learn from him.  He is my heart dog and my greatest teacher.

Here is a video of Norton staring at himself in the mirror...

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