Kids and Competition

I’ve been preparing for this weekend’s flyball tournament with team Pawdemonium. As I pack up my van and my gear, I remember how easy it was when all I had were the dogs. Each time I added a new dog to my pack, I would get a bag just a little bit bigger, adding another bowl, another crate fan, another collapsible crate, and maybe a bit more food and treats. Then I had a kid…

With my daughter, I instantly had to triple the equipment that I took to tournaments and competitions. With four dogs, I took 2 bags of gear and three crates. Adding Shelby meant two more bags of gear plus another chair, plus a cooler full of food and milk, plus the stroller, plus plenty of toys and books… Just going to grandma’s house feels like I’m going away for the weekend, and so a tourney becomes a huge production. But, I would not trade it for the world.

Learning to load the flyball box for our smaller team dogs.

Shelby is becoming a natural around the dogs. Under our very close guidance, she is learning not to approach any dog without asking first us, then the dog’s owners. I know the dogs on our team well, and so I know which are OK for her to pet, and which she must steer clear of, and she is getting very good about heeding my requests. Yet, it’s not all about relaxing and having fun. There is also the chasing.

Not surprisingly, like me and my dogs, Shelby also likes to run… correction… she loves to run. Thus, going to flyball tournaments or agility trials or any dog event with her involves chasing her around, making sure that she does not run up to or past other people’s dogs. It can be exhausting, particularly for my husband, who gets to do most of the chasing while I am competing. Eventually, she will get to run her own dog in competitions, but until then, we get to chase her around to keep her safe.

Yet I still would not trade it for anything. Shelby is learning so many valuable lessons at the competitions. In addition to shagging balls and holding our dogs’ leashes, she is getting good outdoor exercise while learning patience, politeness, sportsmanship, social skills, asking permission, helping out around camp …  More significantly, she gets to see firsthand how beautiful working relationships can be between people and dogs. So even if she chooses not to participate in dog sports when she gets older, she will understand good human-dog relationships, and hopefully seek to have them herself.

Nap time with Daddy at a flyball tournament

Yes, it is a different upbringing than the average “soccer kid”, but it offers a nice balance that will hopefully have long-term, positive effects on her, and on all of the “junior handlers” that we cheer on in the lanes. Did I mention that I would not trade it for the world?

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