Dock Dogs: To jump or not to jump

This morning, bright and early on a Saturday, Shizuka and I ventured off to Dock Dogs Orientation. Though I had a feeling she wouldn’t jump, we went anyway in order to devote ourselves to the challenge we made with friends over dinner one night. 365 days committed to just one dog sport (instead of our usually willy-nilly approach to dog sporting). An interesting array of dog breeds showed up: Rhodesian Ridgeback, English Bulldog, Fox Terrier (ish?), Pit Bull, Black Lab– and that mystery breed known as Shizuka. It was super hot and it looked like all the dogs wanted to be in the water. Here we go. Begin 3 hours of Intro to Getting Your Dog to Jump of a Dock Into Water as a Sport.

We were second in line. The Rhodesian Ridgeback before us almost took the plunge, but in the end, it was a struggle for them to get her to swim even from the ramp. Shizuka, on the other hand, waddled right in from the ramp and paddled around in her usual casual crocodile style. The Dock Dogs club had a trainer there who’s apparently known for getting stubborn dogs off the dock. Shizuka walked to the edge, looked down, yawned. We tried different toys…we tried squeaking toys. The President of the Club, standing chest-deep in the pool, irritatingly squeaked her toy right in front of her face over and over. Squeaky Squeaky SQUEAKY!!!! Shizuka looked away. Boring. “I’ve never seen anything like it!” he mutters. I explain that while she’s got a very high prey drive, she’s not got much of a play drive. Toys only occasionally interest her…but not predictably.

As we were collected around the end of the dock encouraging Shizuka to jump in, and she peered around us to see the other dogs playing in the yard, the trainer sat down and started with “I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I don’t see a dock dog here.” They were really nice about it as they explained that without toy drive, she’ll never jump and that most non-jumpers have a confidence problem and that’s why they will eventually take the plunge, but Shizuka has total confidence around the water, she just chooses not to jump. They offered to fit me in free of charge to another orientation in the event I ever find a toy that she loves (probably not going to happen). And they offered to let me stay and watch the others practice (which, for some reason, at that point sounded more like torture for both of us). The three-hour orientation began at 9:06 and we were back in the car, tears in my eyes, by 9:30.

Why am I so upset that we basically got kicked out of a dog sport orientation? Maybe I’m projecting my own insecurities. The ones that echo in my head that I could be a better dog-companion, or that I personally don’t like to be told that I can’t do things so I don’t want my dog to be told the same, or some other voice that haunts me. I know she doesn’t really care. And I know that nothing they said about her was incorrect or new information. It really stung though, and I’m just disappointed.

Driving around in tears (yes, for most people this is an overreaction), I rewind in my mind all the things we’ve crossed off the list of doggy activities. When she was a puppy, I wanted her to grow up to be a therapy dog- she does not have the personality for that. Obedience class- full of yawns and walking slowly towards me when the other dogs run at the sound of “come!” Rally– more yawns and a bit of irritation. Agility- and the instructor pondering that perhaps my dog has some sort of psychological disorder (she doesn’t, I’m sure, but she’s just not your typical dog- my fault, maybe?). Here we are at Dock Dogs. She loves water. Water is the only medium in which she will fetch something. I thought we were on our way. I keep reminding myself that she did well on her one run last week at Lure Coursing, but I have a feeling that once she realizes that she’ll never catch the bag, she’ll lose interest. I really wanted a dog that wanted to hang out with me and do fun things. I think of all those border collies locked up in the prison of suburban American that are on prozac because no one wants to play with them. And then there’s Shizuka who wants almost nothing to do with me and possess all of the physical and intellectual traits required to do any dog sport I could want to play- minus desire to please. I’m spiraling- this happens- when I look back and think about how I maybe picked out the wrong dog for me, as so many first time dog owners do…

So, here’s my conclusion. Shizuka is the dog for me. I don’t want a dumb dog, or an overly people-pleasing dog that won’t leave me alone–ever. My dog keeps the yard free of things that eat the precious fruits of my garden and things that might be dangerous for the chihuahuas. Shizuka and I do like the same things: gardening and hiking. Yes, most dogs like to hike, but Shizuka loves to hike because it’s mobile backyard hunting. She may seem bipolar to some trainers, but we can rock an indoor agility course like nobody’s business. Also, though she hates it, we can really rock an obedience class. Bring it. Patty was right when she started training us three years ago, Shizuka is a “neat” dog. She’s funny and super smart (this is why we suck at alot of things, I think)- she climbs trees and talks to me (and can communicate her desires). Like Cesar Milan says, you don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. I guess that’s us. Without me, she probably wouldn’t have survived puppyhood. Without her, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to work through my control-freak issues!

So, after the tears and judging of her and cursing my dog choice 5 years ago, I’ve resolved to push forward. I will watch and re-watch the borrowed Michael Ellis videos on top of my DVR and find a way to channel her prey drive into play drive. We may never compete, but we’ll keep going on the quest to pursue one sport for 365 days and see how it turns out in the end. Also, eventually I’ll probably give in and try dog sporting with Chilly because she does have the desire to please me- most of the time- and would make a great agility dog. To ten more months of Dock Dogs!


5 thoughts on “Dock Dogs: To jump or not to jump

  1. I can’t believe it went so terribly. She was so close to jumping last time we all went. I’m sorry it was so bad. I’m also really sorry that the Tidewater dock dogs staff made you feel so unwelcome. You can totally switch sports if you want to. Besides the cold season is right around the corner and there will be no practicing in the cold so we might as well find a nice warm dog sport we can do. Maybe some nose work? 🙂 There is a place in norfolk that is doing seminars now for nose work. If you do still want to try dock dogs you are more than welcome to come out with me and Charlie and keep on trying. If it makes you feel any better we can’t get Pablo to jump either without a little push (the physical kind not the encouragement kind). I promise you get to pick the next dog sport.

  2. We’re still going to keep going to Dock Dogs practice with you. Maybe she’ll change her mind 😉 I guess we’re just not allowed to be in the actual club til she decides to like toys! Noseworks during the cold season sounds fun. I saw that thing on your Fb page about the seminar. We should do one. I think I’m out of town for the flyer I saw on your page though… And cold-weather lure coursing might be fun too, if we eventually gain trust that our dogs won’t run away, that is. On the plus side, the park is surrounded on 2.5 sides by a creek, so they’d have to swim away…Hope you’re having fun in Italy!!

  3. So I was just checking out Thee dog house in virginia beach because they also have a dock. I might not be able to practice at Shipps corner anymore because they started requiring some vaccines that I don’t want to give Charlie and I’m kinda pissed they just sprung that stuff on us. Anyway Thee dog house can adjust the height from the dock to the water and I was thinking that if Shizuka didn’t have to jump as far from the dock to the water she might be more willing to get in and once she gets used to jumping from the dock you could gradually change the difference in height. I haven’t talked to the actually people that work there yet but I think it’s worth a try.

    • I had no idea they had their own dock dogs team– I never see anyone out there. It does sound like the perfect practice ground for Shizuka. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t rent it out though. I know he’s had enough business that last I talked to him, he was limiting even daycare just to the dogs who had been through at least one of his training programs. He’s the one that trained Shizuka on her prong collar when she was a puppy…
      Anyway, if he does rent it, that sounds like a plan! What are the vaccines that Shipp’s Corner is requiring? It’s hard for me to believe there aren’t other docks around.

  4. The website didn’t say anything about renting the dock but I figured it can’t hurt to call and find out. Of course being a daycare i’m sure they are probably going to require vaccines also. As far as I know those are the only docks you can rent and the Shipps corner was is the only one I get a discount on. I guess we will just have to practice at the lake. They are requiring rabies, DAPP, and bordatella, they also want negative fecal results. I only give rabies because it is required by law. Charlie had her DAPP when she was a puppy and doesn’t need anymore from what studies show. She has never had bordatella and never will. The fecal is no big deal it’s just the vaccinations I have a problem with.

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