Your Dog’s Need and Your Want

brown retriever on a green and yellow teeter totter

Agility (or any competitive dog sport) is generally considered a want.  A human want.  The competition piece of it at least.  Enriched environments and mental activity is a need and want for many dogs, and agility training in generally can be one such activity to fulfill that need but competition itself is a human want.

Zora the corgi running through weave poles

Today I’m going to define want as something that when fulfilled enhances an experience or enjoyment, when not fulfilled doesn’t cause harm, inability to access, or significant decrease to an experience or enjoyment.  A need as something that when fulfilled provides access to base needs (health, food, safety, etc), experience, and/or enjoyment, and when not fulfilled causes harm, inability to access, and/or significantly decreases an experience or enjoyment.

Agility competition: enhances human experience or enjoyment of the practice of dog agility.  Want.

Training and Mental enrichment: provides dog access to experience, enjoyment, optimal health, and safety skills.  Need. 

Now if we humans want one of our wants to be fulfilled by or with our dogs, we have to ensure our dog’s need is first being fulfilled.  Otherwise our want can potentially cause harm to our dogs, and realistically our want has a significantly lower chance of being fulfilled.

If we want our dog to focus on us in the competition ring, our dog’s need for feeling safe must first be met.

If we want our dog to run the course as fast as possible, our dog’s need for physical health and structural soundness must first be met.

If we want our dog to weave reliably and with confidence, our dog’s needs for training, physical health and structural soundness must first be met.

if we want our dog to run courses consistently over 2-3 days of competition, our dog’s needs for physical health, rest, nutrition must first be met.

And so on.

If we are finding that our want is not being met, a positive starting point is to look at what our dog needs and if we are meeting those needs or not.  If our dog’s need in that scenario isn’t being met, our want is but a pipe dream.  Meet the needs, get a higher chance of what you want.


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