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Finding Success with Failure

Finding Success with Failure

This post is not about nosework but I think one can extrapolate something from it for all dog sports venues.

“The Trophy”

See this pretty trophy? It’s ours but we didn’t “earn” it, we failed to receive the required points but got it by default by being the only dog in the class. I debated whether to take it but I decided I would keep it as a reminder for this event and as a goal and motivation to do better for the next event. A symbol of aspiration, if you will.

This French Ring trial was probably in the top 5 worst performances I’ve ever done, in any sport over the past two decades. Great trial and great venue but we just didn’t bring our A-game to the table. Or our B-game, or our C-game…. I feel badly that we scored so poorly but worse because I set my dog up for failure. My fault. Bad trainer.

Story has been training for French Ring since the time she arrived from France six years ago so it’s not that we’ve not trained at all. She can be naughty but passed her Brevet and FR1 with decent scores. She’s a good dog with great potential. But our training has been inconsistent and non-existent for the critical parts for about 3-1/2 months leading up to this trial. I’m not available for most events but with enough notice I changed my plans so I could be at this one. Despite the fact that our trainer moved I threw my hat in the ring thinking we’d “wing it.” Ha! Not in the protection sports you don’t! Lesson learned.

Some things I am reminded of:

  • Prepare for all situations you can envision that could happen at competition – the find blind next to the trial secretary tent? Yeah, that’ll happen…
  • Food WILL be placed next to the retrieve object landing zone, the down circle, landing side of the hurdle, etc. – make sure you proof against all types of edibles
  • Get your dog to new fields that look different than your own – open field with just snow fencing makes a HUGE difference
  • Train with people who are thoughtful about who your dog is and don’t be afraid to try something new if it will be helpful for YOUR dog
  • Create consistent patterns for your handling that you can fall back upon instinctively – don’t give away points for sloppy handling – oops!

  • Practice makes perfect! How many times have we heard that?
  • Be forgiving – if your dog makes a mistake, move on and put it in the past
  • Remember the good parts – and there always is – it’s too easy to fall into the negative
  • Stepping onto the field is more than most will do
  • If you KNOW you are not prepared don’t be afraid to pull your entry

Other thoughts:

  • My dog is resilient and had a blast!
  • I found out she won’t bite a stranger who pulls a half pound chunk of hamburger out of her mouth when she seizes the opportunity
  • She will do her best to find that decoy, even outside of the fenced in field – my dogs ALWAYS seem to find that opening in the fence
  • Everyone thinks their faults are the worst thing that can happen but everyone has bad days and bad trials, this one will fade in memory too
  • Be supportive of your fellow competitors – say something nice if you can – I felt supported and it made it a bit easier
  • You can fail the event and still have a good dog
  • Stay to the end and help out the sponsoring club if you can’t help set up – it’s hard to put on a trial and a few extra hands can make a difference!

So I will keep this trophy, staring at us every day, as a reminder that I need to keep up my end of the bargain in this most difficult sport. We will regroup and we will be back.

Until next time!

This is what Story thinks about the whole thing!
By Kimberly Buchanan

Kimberly Buchanan CNWI


  • Leah Gangelhoff

    OMG, Kimberly! I LOVE this entry! I was just reminded of ALL of this when I didn’t drop my entry for Zephyr’s NW2 before ready. I have trained in protection sport and know how MUCH training and work is involved to be “ready” – even more for Ringsport than IPO imo. Thank you for this post!! I have my video as my reminder, LOL.

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