Today is a Dog Agility Bloggers Event and our topic of conversation is called "Outside the Ring".
I lamented quite a bit about what to write on this, because for the better part of the last 3 years I haven't even had a life inside the agility ring; for multiple reasons, we've only attended 4 agility trials in the last 2 years (feel free to read some older posts of mine to find out why).
I play agility, or some other game with my dogs, at least 4-5 times a week...it's only at home or maybe at a friends house. My whole life revolves around life far, far outside the agility ring...and far away from the Dog World. I have a full time job with irregular hours, my work is busiest in the spring, summer and fall, and I live in a small town where doing something with your dog means you toss it in the back of your pickup, find the nearest dirt road on public land, let it out and drive while it chases your truck for exercise. Um, yeah. Needless to say canine sports are the furthest thing from peoples minds around here, so I'm on my own for training, equipment and pretty much everything else dog-wise.
While agility is the only canine sport I choose to compete in, it is not the only sport we play. I am a dabbler...treibball, tricks, agility, retrieving, musical freestyle, nosework, etc. The result is that Holly is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. This is important to me. The bond we create with each other through playing these games together is more important than anything we can accomplish inside the ring. But I won't lie, I like ribbons and I like that feeling of accomplishing something tangible with our bond, training and experience...it's validating. So I chose to compete, when I can, in agility. I also like being able to immerse myself in the Dog World once in a while and enjoy the fun social atmosphere I find at agility trials.
Holly and I have a bond that has taken time to grow and build, just like any relationship. I love that she likes to learn new things as fast as I can figure out how to teach them to her.
I love that she's a fabulous hiking partner.
It's important to me that with all that we do together, she gets to just be a dog as often as possible...and all our training allows her to just be a dog, off leash, in lot of places. To be able to run free in a field or forest, off leash, sniff millions of things, pee on millions of things is important in a dogs life...it's priceless.
Our relationship was built outside the agility ring, and that relationship helps us succeed whenever we enter the ring. I hope that no matter how competitive you are, no matter how much or how little your life revolves around the Dog World, that you give quality time to building your relationship with your dog outside the ring too. 99.9% of our lives are spent outside the agility ring...make it count.
To read other dog bloggers views on what Outside the Ring means to them, please visit the great list of dog blogs here.