Just this past week I had the opportunity to visit and teach in Sweden at the Nynäshamns Brukshundklubb. It was an incredible experience that I will not easily forget. What impressed upon me was the kindness that was abundant, from people to each other, my hosts to me, and probably most importantly, the handlers to their dogs. The camaraderie between the handlers was strong and after each search they all clapped for each other. I was sad to leave. On my departure, my new friends gave me a gift. They gave me a traditional wooden horse called a Dalahäst. I was deeply touched.
What this trip served to remind me of was the friendships that develop through this and other dog sports, and how we need to make sure that we remain kind to each other and new competitors.
Kindness is the hallmark of good sportsmanship, kindness to others, and kindness to the dog. I believe that sometimes this can be forgotten in the quest for the next title or ribbon. At the same time it’s also important to be kind to ourselves and remember that we are only human. We will sometimes make mistakes!
Kindness to Each Other
Remember that this is a game. Your success does not hinge on being better than someone else. Yes, you might earn a second place ribbon instead of a first, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is how we treat each other. Respect goes a long way. Respect for training choices comes to mind. I often get questions about how I train and why I do or don’t do certain things. As long as there is kindness to the dog, does it really matter? I think if people kept respect and kindness as a pillar of their behavior, the drama that we often see on social media would all but disappear.
How we treat new competitors is also of critical importance. New competitors are the future of our sport. It’s up to more seasoned competitors to regard new folks with empathy and understanding rather than with criticism. Be respectful as you don’t know their background or experience. Offering advice might be well meant but it may not be welcome regardless of how good your advice might be. Tread carefully while remaining supportive. Give advice when asked but be respectful.
There is also a matter of being kind to your fellow competitors. If you catch yourself being secretly happy that someone you dislike (or perhaps are jealous of) has a bad day, try to change your outlook. Remember that it might be you who has the bad day next time! Stay sincere. Sincerity and humility are qualities we should all strive for. Don’t gloat with a win. Be proud of yourself and your dog, but recognize that it probably doesn’t make you “better” than your competition. It just means you had a better day.
Be kind to each other.
Kindness to Our Dogs
I can’t write this blog and leave the dog unmentioned! Remember that this is a game and you aren’t saving lives. That said, even if you ARE saving lives, kindness still matters!
Your dog sees this as a game. He will oblige you with with countless ribbon shots where he wears his ribbon around his neck, or in some cases, cutely holds the ribbon in his teeth. How patient our dogs are!
All your dog cares about is playing the game with you. He doesn’t know the rules and has no idea what a “Q” is. He doesn’t understand that there are such things as passes and failures, or even that you spent several hundred dollars to play the game with him that day. He knows nothing of waitlists. He only knows that he loves you and that he loves pleasing you.
All of our dogs are Superhunds! Superhunden translates to “A Super Dog”. Isn’t that accurate?
Be kind to your dog.
Kindness to Yourself
Sometimes this is the hardest thing to do. Many of us can be beautifully kind to each other and our dogs, but we fall down when being kind and supportive to ourselves! We put pressure on ourselves to perform. We think about the waitlists that we have endured to be able to compete on that day. That pressure can be huge! You HAVE to let yourself be.
If you aren’t successful, don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes the starts align and conditions are perfect for our success, and sometimes it seems like Fate is conspiring against us. In the end, there WILL be another time, and you ARE human.
Be kind to yourself.
Kindness is a Virtue
Kindness is one of the best of all virtues. It’s a virtue that builds and grows the more that we show it. When you give kindness away you will be rewarded 100 times over. That’s just how things work!