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A month ago, I started running again for the first time in fifteen years.  As I ran along the trail today, I wondered how far I had run.  I wondered how fast.  And then I wondered what I might weigh, since it’s been ages since I’ve checked.  I wondered, because I didn’t know.

How was it possible that I, queen of goals, could have been running for close to a month without ever having measured out the distances or hopping on a scale? When had this change come about?  Once the question entered my head, it became something of an obsession

For most people, recognizing that you’ve changed with time might not be such an earth shattering moment.  But for me, a person who had lived life from goal to goal, it was extraordinary. You have to understand, I wasn’t just a little goal oriented; I went through life setting goals to be the strongest, fastest, smartest, and most productive individual in any sphere.  How I felt about myself at any given time was to a large extent a function of how successful I was at achieving those goals

This strategy worked well for me.  I went to college so I could start a career.  I purchased a puppy, specifically with the intention of returning to the dog sports where I had earned titles and minor awards as a teenager.  I focused on exercise and physical fitness with the goal of competing in events.   As I moved forward in life, I chose to return to school to earn an advanced degree.  Eventually I completed school, started a new career, got married and had my first baby.

By good luck, I was offered a chance to train dogs a few hours a week (for money!).  Making money to pay the babysitter gave me a few hours to work with my own dogs.  For my self-esteem, I needed that; to earn titles and maybe even get some accolades for what they were accomplishing.

For the next couple of years I trained dogs professionally, and eventually became good enough that I had more work than I could handle in my part time working hours.  When my husband found himself unemployed after Sept., 11, 2001, he jumped at the chance to become a stay at home dad – he had missed watching his son’s first years of life.   I was now free to pursue life as a dog trainer or to return to my original career. I chose dogs.

I trained more dogs and started teaching seminars to help other people train their dogs.  My work gave me the opportunity to observe training methods and the results achieved.  I developed a picture in my mind of beautiful obedience; a picture based on the joy of working as a team rather than scores, titles or externally measured goals.

As the picture became all consuming, reaching that picture became the goal – a goal tightly intertwined with the training method and philosophy.  Training for partnership and mutual joy created endless possibility for new and more thoughtful training; it took over my heart and soul.  I began thinking in terms of helping each team I coached develop a strong relationship with their dog while at the same time providing the needed technical skills required for high scores.

My learning curve accelerated as I contemplated new solutions to common problems, and my love of training, as opposed to competition, escalated along with it.  I had landed in the most fortunate of positions; my passion for dogs, creative thought, problem solving, and teaching had merged my working career and my personal life.  The goal of training became the journey; each title earned with a willing and engaged partner became a validation of the method. When I earned my Obedience trial Championship and Schutzhund titles using motivational training, I found myself celebrating the success of the methods rather than the title.

As I ran on the trail today, I realized that my changed beliefs about what I value in dog training has also changed what I value in life.  I’m less interested in concrete external goals, and more interested in how I’m feeling about what I’m doing.  I’m finding myself endlessly excited by the opportunities to learn, teach, and explore, working through the journey rather than reaching a destination.  And on it goes, through my parenting style to the choices I’m making in daily life.  Somehow it’s just not so important anymore to know how fast or how far I’ve run.   In the end I’ll reach my destination; I have a picture in my head of what I want to achieve.

I’m about to start a new adventure in my own life – I’ll bring home a puppy in a few weeks.  This will be my first new puppy in seven years; I’m both terrified about integrating a new puppy and overwhelmingly excited about trying out some new ideas on a fresh slate.  Lord knows I’ve made mistakes on the dogs I have now, and I’m ready to try and do better.

What is it that I want now?  To learn.  To improve my skills and to explore new ideas.  To train better and smarter. To develop the strongest relationship I’ve ever had with a dog.  To create the most beautiful picture of teamwork, precision and joy in the work that I can master.  Seven years is a long time to think about “what I would do if I could do it over”.

I hope I’ll have company.  I look forward to your thoughts, comments, and support.  What I ask of you…remember it’s the journey rather than the destination.  Let’s learn what is possible, what matters, and gather information from each training session.   Cheer for our good days and accept the bad ones –  it’s a journey, and in the end it’s going to turn out fine.

Welcome to my blog.  I look forward to meeting you.

About dfenzi

I'm a professional dog trainer who specializes in building relationship in dog handler teams who compete in dog sports. My personal passions are Competitive Obedience and no force (motivational) dog training. I travel throughout the world teaching seminars on topics related to Dog Obedience and Building Drives and Motivation. I own Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, a comprehensive online school for motivational training of performance sport dogs.

39 responses »

  1. Hooray! You’re here!

    It is such a fun journey we take with our dogs… I can’t wait to read about yours!

  2. Barbara, Brio, and Touche

    Thank you for doing this Denise, I’m looking forward to hearing about your puppy. Does she have a name yet?

  3. Looking forward to following your adventures – is the new puppy going to be an “L” girl?

  4. Welcome to the blogging world! I think you’ll have a good time with this. I think it is great when you can get to a point of realizing is it more about the destination of journey than the end result.

    As someone who has always had a bit of a competitive streak and felt success defined me, it’s taken a number of years to find that balance. I’ve learned a lot through each chapter of my life and only continue to learn more. I’ve found my dogs have helped me so much in figuring it all out.

    I think this next puppy has a lot to look forward to!

  5. Looking forward to following you on your journey and perhaps be inspired to set some new goals for myself and my dogs.

  6. You are an inspiration to me, thank you. Keep on truckin’!

  7. Looking forward to learning and maybe participating. My first foray into obedience. My sport of choice is agility.

  8. Good luck and have fun :))

  9. I’ve been on a training hiatus due to dog physical injury. After your seminar in MN, I’ve been more and more dedicated to continued training. I can’t wait to continue reading your blog, I’m sure I’ll be learning even more wonderful things to apply!

  10. As the owner of a high-drive, bounce-off-the-walls kind of obedience dog, I look forward to your insights. 🙂 Also… puppy pictures!

  11. Just got a new puppy myself 3 weeks ago. Story over 18 months unfolds @Raising Valor. Hope you will be sharing lots with the raising of your pup and can’t wait to see pictures etc.

    My mother used to say to me “When you complete one goal, always set another. That’s what keeps you alive.” So I too had a life of one goal after another and can relate to what you are saying!

    Looking forward to reading more blogs!

  12. I’m looking forward to your insights as you start your pup. I have a baby pup right now too, and all input is welcomed.

  13. What inspiring thoughts! I can’t wait to hear all about your new puppy!

  14. It makes me happy and excited that someone besides me gets so much out of dogs! I look forward to hearing all about your adventures with new puppy!

  15. Excellent Denise! I look forward to “more to come”. Makes a lot of sense what you have said and look how young you are to be so full of great wisdom. Just Me, Vineta, the Bouviers and the Terv…smile…..

  16. I also want to do better with my next dog. That won’t be for a few years, but I’m gathering information to use now and later with my second pup.

    I’m excited to hear about your journey.

  17. I am so excited over this blog. You are such a giver of yourself.
    Every time I get a puppy, I get terrified. After it comes, I wonder what all the fuss was about; and I find I have forgotten how much time they take.
    I am seventy seven and a half years old. My goals have really changed. My finances make it impossible for me to go and show, plus some handicapping physical ailments.
    My goal now is to keep training; and to have a remarkable relationship with my dogs. They are my life, since I live alone; and we are very close.
    Keep up the positive work. Animals are here such a short time, and deserve the best.
    You give that to them. I appreciate that.
    It is all about learning, and learning and more learning. That is what makes life exciting.
    Your blog makes my life exciting.

  18. My friend Deb M. speaks highly of you so I easily recognized your name when I saw a link to your blog come across Facebook. Our family is adding a puppy in the next six months and I look forward to reading your adventures!

  19. Can’t wait to read your puppy adventures! I’ve gotten so much good info from your posts and videos on clickcompobed. They’re really making a difference to my new (19 months) dog; maybe we’ll even venture back into the obedience ring together.

  20. I bring my dogs jogging with me and it is my primary activity with them. We currently go about four to six miles each morning. I have a plan of getting to ten miles once per week, but I don’t care when that happens. It’s all very casual. I let my dogs stop and sniff, poke their noses down gopher holes, and track critters for a bit when they want to. Obedience and Rally competitions are secondary to that. If it were the reverse and the competitive training and showing were more important than just enjoying the exercise and simply being outdoors with my dogs, I would go nuts.

    Looking forward to reading about your new puppy and all the fun and bratsky puppy stuff she does!

  21. So excited to follow your journies! Might just inspire me to set some new goals with my dogs I have now. I’ve got 2 senior GSD’s and a handicapped one…should be interesting;o)
    Keep up the running as well! Me, as of 3 months ago I just put myself back into the gym life. At almost 40 in a few months I don’t think I’ve felt this good in a long time. Funny how our goals are constantly evolving as we age.

  22. Terrific blog post!

  23. Krissy (In Alaska)

    I couldn’t agree with you more Denise!!! Very excited to hear all about this new puppy!

  24. So excited for you Denise and I hope to see you with your new puppy sometime soon! If you’re still interested in that photoshoot, I can do one of the new puppy (along with any of your other dogs too!)! Let me know 😀

  25. I noticed that you started this blog on Sept.11th and also that your husband’s work (or resulting lack of) was a result of the Sept. 11th attacks which prompted family changes. It seems this date has some personal significance for you. Or perhaps it’s just a coincidence.

  26. I’m quite excited to get the chance to follow you and your puppy’s journey! I know that I’ll be learning lots from you. Thank you for putting so much of yourself out there — I know that it can be draining in terms of both time and energy.

    What you wrote about goals struck a chord with me. I’m also the kind of person that lives to complete goals I’ve set for myself. I do have to remind myself sometimes that often the process is the product!

    Joanna and Dragon the papillon

  27. Barbara Wirkowski

    Love the blog! I am also VERY goal orientated and have to constantly remind myslef to “enjory the ride”, but it is very hard to change.

    As I get older, I am getting somewhat lazy so that does help. 🙂

    Best of luck with the new puppy! Looking forward to your fabulous insights in dog training.

    Barb and Gracie

  28. Denise – you’ve been helpful and supportive of me and Phoenix as we’ve gone through a parallel journey, not quite the same as yours but with many of the same elements of goals, discovery and the quest for a rich and joyful partnership. Looking forward to your insights.

  29. Love your post. I am on a similar journey and can’t wait to hear more about yours!


  30. I was just commenting on Facebook that people who keep thinking of doing a blog should just start. Congratulations of a great beginning.

  31. So glad to be able to follow you and your new puppy on your blog. It was a pleasure for my daughter and I to meet you this past weekend . You are an amazing person and an excellent dog trainer.

  32. I love your blog , thanks for all the help , now days a lot of people want help you .

    “There is meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveler.” 
    ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    Roz Welting Merryman


  33. Denise , thanks for signing me on that R group !

  34. Reblogged this on Denise Fenzi and commented:

    361 days ago I started a blog. I had no agenda, except to create a “diary” of the process of raising my new puppy, Lyra. I had no intention of posting every week. I had no intention of using my blog as a soapbox. I had no intention of bringing up controversial subjects. I was simply going to train my dog. Publicly.

    Yet, in the process of watching dogs, people and training, I found myself unable to hold back – so much unhappiness in people or dogs that did not need to be there. I began to write…and I was amazed to see that by far and away the most popular blog posts were the ones where I simply expressed my thoughts.

    It appears that trainers want to evaluate what they are doing, why they are doing it, and whether other options exist. In my mind, it doesn’t get much better than that.

    In one year, this blog logged 175,000 views; that is staggering in my mind. People are reading, thinking and maybe talking to each other about some rather important topics in dog training.

    Starting on Sept 11th, the one year anniversary of this blog, I will repost the most read blogs from the past year. To give you an idea of where I came from and who I am, I am also reprinting my introductory blog from one year ago.

    Thank you for your support; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this journey into writing.


  35. Pingback: Let’s get a NEW party started! | denisefenzipetdogs

  36. Pingback: Five Years | Denise Fenzi

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