My promise to my dogs for the next however-long-it-takes is to let them be who they are, love what they love, and enjoy life how they choose.
This has all stemmed from Psyche's trial issues. She's a soft dog. She always will be. She may never be a hardcore dog who gets so amped up she's stupid and that's not a bad thing, because I love Psyche how she is. For the first while I had her I tried so desperately to get her to like toys. More specific, tug toys. I bought anything I could that I thought she might like, made new ones, tried combining things, and never gave up. But really, it was there in plain sight. Psyche liked toys. She liked balls. And sticks. It wasn't hard. She'd do anything for a stick and just as much for a tennis ball. Added to that select few was a rubber chicken ball thing. Even when I realized her love for the chicken ball thing, I still wanted her to tug, so I built a tug (chicken + holee roller + braided fleece tug = Chicken in a Cage) and don't get me wrong, she likes it a lot, but more often than not, she wants me to throw it, not drop it for her to tug with... And that's okay.
It has taken me way too long to figure this out. Way too long. Zoey will never be a toy dog. Psyche doesn't love to tug. The verdict is still out on Crash. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to try tugs with my dogs, but if that's not what they love, that doesn't have to be their training toy.
And so I've decided that this summer, if Psyche wants to chase a ball instead of tug, we'll do that. How can I expect her to love the sport like I know she does if her reward is only her second favorite thing? So if we use a chicken ball instead of the caged chicken, so be it. It won't make or break our agility career if she tugs or doesn't. And heck, at this point, maybe I've even been holding her agility career back by insisting she tug?
So with Crash, as training starts and goes on, if he likes balls, okay. If he likes treats, okay. If he likes verbal praise, okay. And the same goes to Simi (though I think it's pretty clear there that that brat likes tugs!). I can't make my dogs like things if they don't. And it's not fair to try, just because I've fallen under the illusion that you have to like tugs to be a good agility competitor.
And ultimately, this decision will stand if it comes to agility. If I truly begin to feel that Psyche doesn't enjoy the sport, or she tells me so, we'll stop. Because my dogs are my loved ones and I want nothing more than for them to be happy.