When they asked Michelangelo how he made his statue of David he is reported to have said, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.”
Thanks to Ruby I view dog training in a similar way that Michelangelo viewed sculpting, which is quite fitting because his registered name is Karstia Michelangelo.
The way I see it the puppy doesn’t come to me as a blank slate. It has preferences, passions and potential which shape what kind of dog it is capable of becoming. My task is to downplay all the traits that don’t look like “David” and emphasize and nurture those that do. Perhaps Michelangelo saw the whole David when he looked at that block of marble for the first time, but my guess is he didn’t. My guess is that he discovered David layer by layer. In this process I only see a little bit ahead at any time, but that’s enough. As I work though that layer another one will present itself, more beautiful than the one before.
Of course this also means that I don’t have a big detailed plan of what Java will need to know by when (even though I am quite a fan of big detailed plans myself). I want to work with whatever she’s got in each moment and try to preserve as much craziness as possible. If I had to choose between Java weaving slowly but surely or her sprinting right past the weaves because she would be so excited to be on agility course, I would choose the later. I don’t think I will have to make that choice, though 🙂
She is not an overall crazy puppy, but there are a few things that get her overly excited. She has a fondness for grabbing my clothing if I tease her with a toy just a little too much for her taste. My desired outcome is even more intensity, but less biting of inappropriate items 😉
For me it is more important that Java gets excited, even a bit crazy, than that she does everything correctly. I value excitement more than that she finds the correct agility obstacle. I value craziness more than obedience. I only ask that she will stay safe (as much as that is possible at whippet speeds), the rest we can figure out with time.
Of course, when it comes to recall I want obedience, but that is a different story 🙂
EDIT: Please also read Chipping Away Explained
Once again thanks to Mateja for the photos on this blog post. They are beautiful! I’ve got more to share, but they will have to wait for another time.