Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


I Don’t Get It . . .

Saturday, June 6, 2009

So I am looking over my registrations for the upcoming Novice camp this week and I don’t quite get it. Why do people trip over themselves to get into a masters camp (we have been full for some time for our July Masters camp) but do not want to make the investment in their novice dog? (as I write this we still have 3 spots open for camp this week).  I won’t give you another one of my foundation, foundation, foundation rants (ok I just did:)) but to me it is a head scratcher.

My “novice” dog Feature just debuted at her first “big event.” Her only fault was one knocked bar in her last class (4th to last obstacle). In the three classes where I didn’t have to hold her contacts; Jumpers1, Jumpers2 and Steeplechase Finals, no dog in any height class beat her time except Encore (but only by a few hundreds of a second). She didn’t just beat your run-of-the-mill-dogs’ times here either, as there were more than a half a dozen current and former Canadian and US World Team dogs in that group.

I am not writing this just to boast about how great my young dog is. My point is that this “novice” dog of mine has a career that is exactly four months old.  She just turned two this month and is already performing like a pro. She still has lots to learn, but the start has been an impressive one, even by my standards. 

Now here is the kicker. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Feature is actually my seventh agility dog I have owned throughout my lifetime and every single one of them have been great. Every single won of them has won National or World championships events or both. When I won my first US Nationals with “Stoni” back in 1996 people said it was  “fluke.” After more than a decade of winning with my dogs, doing it in every jump height (7 jump heights in all) I am going to go out on a limb and state I am pretty confident it is more than luck that is behind the success.

I know I can help those of you struggling with dogs making novice mistakes. Why is it then that  you wait until your dog is in Masters before you seek out help? By then a lot of bad habits have been set for you and your dog and change becomes more difficult. Life is so much easier if you start with a solid foundation of understanding in your novice dog.

This past January, Greg and Laura Derrett and I ran 2 camps in Florida. The first one was a novice-advanced level 3 day event. The 2nd was a 3 day masters. Guess what, the masters camp was full in a matter of days, the novice one never even approached half full. In the end, I had Greg and Laura teach the camp on their own and I changed my role to that of student where got to work Feature for the 3 days. It worked out awesome for me, that is for certain! It was amazing to get in 3 solid days of work with my “green” dog just before she was about to start her agility career.

This week marks the first summer in 5 years we have offered a novice camp here at Say Yes. I did it because I really believe it is where the focus should be, but now I realize why I stopped offering them in the past. So what gives? Do you want to come to a masters workshop because you think you may be missing out on some ninja secrets if you only do the Novice camp?  Honesty it would be more the opposite. We teach more concepts in a Novice camp and only work the finesse of those concepts at the Masters level.

So what’s up, how do I (we) motivate those of your with novice dogs or even masters dogs that are still struggling with fundamentals to sign up for a novice handling camp? It is so important but how do I convince all of you out there of it’s importance?

Today I am grateful for a weekend at home. The next three weeks are going to be a whirlwind for me but I promise all of you I will not forget you, the blog will be up and running.


An Attitude of Gratitude

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

There is tons of documentation all over the internet about how adopting an outlook of gratitude improves your life, your health and most importantly your happiness. Regardless of who you are, there are so many opportunities everyday to look at your glass half full but each of these opportunities also give you the chance to look at reverse should you choose. At at recent trial I attended it struck me how negative people can easily become. Here are a few comments I that I overheard all before 8 AM on the first day!

One person asked the judge “can I walk the course with my daughter, she is new to the sport and needs my help.” To which our soft-spoken judge replied, “no, I am sorry the CKC will not allow that.”  To which the woman said “so what can I do, she is a new handler.”  I was nearby and said, “you know I am in the novice classes all weekend (with Feature) and I wouldn’t mind walking with your daughter.” I was given only a polite glance as the woman continued at the judge questioning how unfair the system was rather than taking Susan Garrett up on her offer to coach her young daughter at her first trial. Next, during the judges briefing someone asked if there would be a second judge to step in for those who get 2 qualifying scores in the same class (since you need 3 legs under 2 different judges to move up to the next class). Sure two judges would have been nice but there was only 175 runs per day, hardly warranting a second judge at the one ring trial. Again the judge said, “no, I am your only judge for the weekend.”  The woman snapped, “well if I had known that I never would have entered.” Even though it was clearly printed on the entry form that there would only be one judge for your 8 runs that weekend she continued on “what a waste of a long drive up here, not to mention the money”. Ouch!  Can you imagine the welcome for that judge that flew over 2000 miles to be there must have felt, and it still wasn’t even 8 AM yet! I offered up a solution to the woman that if  she where fortunate enough to get her 2 qualifying scores under the judge today she could drive home and have an unexpected Sunday off, how great would that be? She turned to me and said, “aah, I have another dog I am running in the Excellent class so I HAVE to stay!” Great I said, if you are fortunate to get those 2 Q’s you will have 2 more runs to try out new handling moves, or turn your run into a training session (testing independence on the table or weave poles or contacts). No response from her at that time, but I did over hear her call her dog an “idiot” and a “jerk” during her non qualifying runs over the weekend. Wow, I was just happy to get a chance to run my dogs and then head home after almost 3 weeks on the road.

No one is perfect, and I am far from it, we all have our bad days but luckily life and our friends forgive us. But really you create your own misery or happiness. I got home yesterday at 2 AM to discover I had no internet connection at home and no one could come out to look at the problem until Wednesday at the earliest.  I packed up my laptop this morning and headed off to Starbucks, feeling gratitude for their free internet service and their new location just minutes from our home. I arrived, said good morning to everyone and ordered my herbal tea. Just before she opened the tea bag I realized I didn’t have my wallet with me, oops!  Crap, I told her to forget it and she told me to forget it that this tea was on the house! How cool is that! I promised I would be back later to pay for the tea but was grateful for the generous start to my day.

I am not writing this to be preachy or condescending, I just know how upbeat my life is and I love it! I haven’t always been the person I am today but I am grateful for the path that life has taken me on. Recently someone forwarded me a blog from the UK where someone dedicated her entire blog entry that day trash talking about me and this blog (and yet as far as I know I have never met her). She claimed to be a clicker trainer, but I know better. A true clicker trainer looks for the good to reward, and ignores the things they don’t like. Looking for the best in people and in life makes your life better, it is all about energy. So stop watching CNN, and how many got gunned down at the local 7-11 store today. Spend your time listening to things like The Peaceful Warrior by Dan Milliman and you will look at yourself and others (and perhaps even this blog:)) differently and good things will come to you,  the law of attraction can not be denied!

Today, in addition to my Starbuck’s tea,  I am grateful that Encore and I have been named to the CKC World Team representing Canada at the FCI World Championships in Austria this fall.


Ain’t No Flying Monkeys Here!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Whoops!  It seems all my honesty about people’s varied reactions at my seminars has some people in Vancouver a little nervous about working with me. I have gotten a couple stressed out emails from people worrying that I am going to be too hard on them. So just to make it clear, I have no flying monkeys, (little Wizard of Oz humor for you) I actually am a very empathic instructor and I promise we are going to have a blast at all of the workshops I am doing in British Columbia over the next couple of weeks. I for one can not wait, got lots of great stuff planned for all of you.

As long as I am on the subject of people emailing me I have a confession to make. When people email me and have a “quick question”  I only read the ones that do not have an active scroll bar. Anything else I am more than likely going to forward on to my staff. So if you have a quick question, I honestly will try to answer it or possibly put the answer on my blog. However if you have written enough to cause me to have to scroll, the likelihood of me reading it is inversely related to the amount of scrolling you have sent.  Now that is not always the case. Some nights I have extra time and if it is a student that has been here to Say Yes, I also will try to get through to the end.  Just a heads up for you, posting to the blog here has a better chance of me answering than emailing me at home (those emails are too easy to get lost with all the others that come in that day).

I took the girls for a big muddy walk yesterday afternoon and then got Encore and Feature all bathed up for their big west coast adventure. Poor DeCaff, I just hate leaving her behind for such a long time, Buzzy seems to have gotten used to the idea, but D-dog never will. She is a mama’s girl for sure. Breaks my heart to leave her really, but I know she is better off staying here with John where he will take her to the building every day for a “big adventure” rather than sitting in a crate for 12 days while I teach:(.

I am grateful for the fact that I didn’t have any late night packing frenzies last night.  All ready to take to the skies at 7:25 this morning!


This Just In; Bob Bailey is On the Mend!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hi guys, thank you for all your prayers for Bob. I heard from his daughter yesterday that Bob was out of surgery but she asked that I not post anything until I heard from her today. So he is up and at ’em today, all his tubes removed, in a bit of pain, but that is to be expected.  Keep on with the positive thoughts!


On Being a Champion

Friday, February 27, 2009

When I was 18 years old I went to work on a dairy farm. Now I was born and raised in a city of 300,000 people. I had no idea what to expect or what cows were all about. I applied to over 50 jobs that summer, most of them in a government program for finding students work. The only one that offered me a job was the Junior Agriculturist Program. I was a Jr Ag. The farmer I was sent to work for (Morely) and his wife (Thelma) used to poke fun at me because I dragged my heels and walked with my head down all the time. Then, after being at the farm for 6 days we had a Sunday afternoon off. Morely got out a baseball bat and some balls  and two of his kids, a couple of the hired hands and I went to the field where Morely hit out fly balls to us. I rarely missed one. I was bowling people over, sprinting half way across the farm and skidding through cow paddies in order to get to a ball before it hit the ground. When it was all over Morely said to me. “You  need to find a job that you can turn into a game for yourself and then you will be great at it!”  It was such an innocent comment. One that you would make to someone just in passing, half mocking them and then never give it a second thought. However I have never forgotten it. I returned to that farm to milk cows for many summers after that, and yes I became great at it. I still remember that Sunday afternoon like it was yesterday and not all of those 11 years ago. . . okay you can stop laughing now.  

I once read this quote “Champions in any field make a habit of doing things others find boring or uncomfortable.” I thought to myself, I really like the quote but it isn’t me. I would lose interest in things that were boring or uncomfortable, just like anyone else I would imagine. So how have I have managed to do alot of winning, even before I ever started in dog agility.  I was on championship hockey and basketball teams starting when I was a kid. I won events in horse Dressage and did an incredible amount of winning in flyball and obedience prior to coming to agility. Here is how I changed the quote to better describe my thoughts on becoming a champion  “Champions in any field make a habit of taking things that other people find boring or uncomfortable and turning them into a game for themselves.”  It is all about the game for me, always has been, always will be.  

 I still drive up to that farm to visit from time to time, and I am still very grateful for all of the varied experiences that I enjoyed there (I have more cow stories then you can imagine!)


Free Stuff for You

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Catchy title for a blog post eh? But really I have some good stuff for all of you and it is f-r-e-e! I have decided to give away 31 dog training tips during the month of March, but there is catch. It is a perk I am only extending to those of you that are signed up to my newsletter. If you sign up half way through the month you will not have access to any newsletter I may have already sent out (mostly because I don’t know how to access them once I have sent them:)). If you are already a newsletter subscriber (you would have received a newsletter yesterday or today) do nothing and these tips will start appearing March 1st. If you are not a subscriber sign up now at our website, on the front page under Susan’s Newsletter or Sign up for Our Newsletter or something like that. So get the word out to all of your friends as I will not be posting these tips anywhere else. If you think this blog has been helpful to you, then you WILL want to be on the list to receive the free dog training tips that I have planned–everything from how I pick a puppy to how I walk an agility course.  Stayed tuned, March will be action packed for all of us, I for one have 16 seminars days to teach throughout the month of March, can’t get more action-packed then that (unless of course you have 17, in which case I would have to have 18 because that is just the kind of person that I am:)).

Today I am grateful for all of the new trick training ideas everyone sent me yesterday. My dogs won’t know what hit them!


And the Winner Is:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thank you all for the wonderful posts you have written in response to my question from two weeks ago. I can tell many of you put a great deal of thought into your answer, I have enjoyed reading them all.  The last night of camp here in Florida I sat down and read aloud each of the 100+ responses. Greg Derrett, Laura Derrett, Lynda Orton-Hill all weighed in on which was the best answer. The three of them came up with criteria to narrow down the field of responses. First to be rejected were any responses that contained an excuse such as lack of time, money, equipment, athleticism etc. To quote football great Lou Holtz “Don’t let what you don’t have, prevent you from using what you do have.” Yes I am blessed to have 28 acres of property with 3 full sets of agility equipment and an indoor training facility. However,  John and I only moved to our current location in 1998. By 1998 I had already won 5 National Championships (including 3 USDAA Grand Prix Championships) and, at the time, I lived in the city with a tiny backyard. The only equipment I owned back then was 12 stick-in-the-ground weave poles, seven jumps and one tunnel. That is it. I did not own any other agility equipment until 1999. I have stuck to my roots and still today most of my agility foundation is done without any ‘true’ equipment. Those that labeled a lack of time as a reason for not being amoungst the best were also eliminated. The truth is I had far more time to train my dogs when I was a pharmaceutical sales rep then I ever have now. Greg (Derrett) has been out of the country away from his dogs for 4 months of a year for every year of GT’s life. I remember him once being on the road for 12 straight weeks, getting home, picking up his dog and one day later winning Crufts, so clearly a lack of time can not be considered a reason to not be the best. Several of you stated desire as a key difference, and I think that may be a critical point. Many years ago I made a decision not to have children. It has nothing to do with my love for kids, as I am crazy about them. I think I would have made a great mom (especially since I had such an awesome role model) but I made that decision because I felt my life’s journey was meant to go in a different direction. Some people can balance being at the top in their field with being a great parent, but I know I am way too obsessive and would have to choose. So those of you that have made your choice and have no desire to be the best at agility because you would rather be a better parent and an average dog trainer, I respect that decision. However I would like to caution you all, do not allow your choice of priorities to become a vessel to facilitate your failure.  Be the best dog trainer you can be while being the best parent you can be–but let go of excuses and crutches of one impeding the other. Make your choices and don’t look back, regrets can never fuel a progressive fire in anyone’s life.

Many of you wrote inspiring comments comparing brilliance in others sports, the importance of mental preparation, watching greatness in people you admire in agility or being inspired by your own family. I think what we have is an amazing collection of thoughts that should be put into a booklet of some sort. Not just the ‘winners’ because you all have contributed to those that read this blog and I thank you for that.  We now have a resource that people can refer back to when they need inspiration for pushing forward or balancing their family life or for just appreciating why we all have a dog in the first place!

So in the end, we narrowed our choice down to 12 finalists and couldn’t come up with only one winner so we have three winners within two “categories”.  The first category is: “The post that entertained while answering the question well”– we have runners up Marianne Montague and Lynne Fitzpatrick with the winner being Laughing Boy who wrote that what separates him from the best in agility is “a strong craving for Stella (thinking about it , any larger will do), an absolute addiction to 60 roll up cigarettes a day and my wife not training my dogs enough!!!!!”  Yes, I have to admit, there are few at the top of any sport that can match that list of vices!  So Laughing Boy earns a Crunch’N Tug bungee toy.  Next the more serious entries were considered and honarble mention has to go to (about 35 of them in my opinion) but we narrowed it down to:  MitchMike, Gabreille Blackburn, Myrna, Deb, Patricio Calderon, Barb and Paige (sorry I don’t have everyone’s last name, just what you wrote on your posts).  And we have 2 winners who will be sent an autographed hard-cover copy of Shaping Success, they are JoAnna (& Nemo) from New York and  Sally (who wrote on January 6th.)  Sally acknowledged all of the potential challenges such as a lack or resources or time but went on to point out that they are but excuses because if you really want something you will find ways around your stumbling blocks. Sure some people have more access to ‘great instructors’ then others (due to finances) but everyone can purchase DVDs and books and from them will come brilliance (provided you are selective with what DVDs you invest your money). But as Sally points out, PASSION is often what divides the good from great in anything in life.  I also loved JoAnna post where she spoke about reinforcement and record keeping. I believe most of your dog training challenges can be turned around with more focus on those two keys and, not surprisingly, I often observe that these are two of the most neglected areas in people that are currently struggling with their own dog training. 

So to the three winners, please contact me at with you mailing address so we can send you your prize.

Today I am grateful to the 109 of you that took the time to write such thoughtful, inspiring comments on my blog while I have been away.  I think I have visited my quota of Starbucks for the next little while, but am also grateful to have  an opportunity to get caught up on my email!