Do dog sports ever make you cry?

bouncing back resilience Jun 20, 2023

Of course they do! And with good reason, right?

I mean, we cry because our hearts are broken, or we're disappointed, or we're so happy that only tears will do.

Just this past weekend, while walking my dog at an agility trial, I cried out of frustration. I wasn't mad at my dog or even at myself, I was just at my wit's end, unable to solve my ongoing issue.

In my tears, I had all of the usual thoughts. Should I stop doing agility with this dog? Did I ruin her, and now I can't fix it? Are either of us having any fun? How can my favorite dog sport make me cry? So much for my goals this year. Why can't I figure this out?

You get the idea. And I know I'm not alone. We can all add our own defeated self-talk to this list, along with a Santa's-long-list of reasons our dogs make us cry. But that same dog, that same weekend, also made me beam with pride. Such is the roller coaster of dog sports.

The thing is, I wouldn't have cried if I didn't care. I've never, not one day, cried over being bad at math. Not once. Because I don't care. But I care deeply about my dogs, and while I have a growth mindset, having the same issue for two years is tough. We can be surrounded by the best advice and instruction yet still struggle.

So what do we do?

First, I let myself have my moment and get it all out. Call it a pity party, a tantrum, or 10 minutes in the Bitch Barn (TY, Morgan for that one), but I let myself feel the feelings. Next, I got real with what wasn't true: I don't want to stop doing agility; she's not ruined; I have other goals ... We say and think things at the moment that, once released, we realize it's just our emotions venting. We're entitled to vent.

Next comes something a little more awkward: forgiveness and apologies. My dog isn't doing (or not doing) anything "on purpose" - that's a human concept. Rather, she's stuck in her own head with her own issues. So I apologize to her, and I forgive myself. We're both doing the best we can - mistakes and all.

I came out of the weekend with a few ideas to try, so next comes the planning - what can I do differently? What am I willing to do to try to solve our problem? Notice I said "willing to do" - it's not about "shoulds" but about being honest with ourselves.

Finally, I revisited my WHY. At the end of the day, I am still challenging myself to become a better dog handler, and I get to spend the weekend playing a sport I love with dogs I love. It's really not all bad, then, is it?

Dog sports are a roller coaster - one I choose to ride again and again. I imagine those coasters where someone takes your photo right at the "big moment." The images are always ridiculous, usually laughable, but never quite capture the whole ride - just a moment in time. If someone had taken the absurd picture of me crying at the end of a leash this weekend, it for sure would not represent how I feel about this wonderful, joyful, crazy, sad, proud, dizzying roller coaster that I love.

Remember, your tears only reflect your passion for the sport, your dogs, and the fantastic ride it all is!

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