what I know now and wish I knew then…

At 4- That my passion for dogs would turn into a career.

At 18- How I wish I had taken a path to an advanced degree in animal behavior, I would surely love to have that piece of paper now!

In my 20’s- To train every behavior long before you ever need to use it. It took me some time to discover that you don’t train door/gate behaviors when you want to go out the door with four dogs crowding you to go for a walk. That you don’t train stays when it is imperative that your dog do so. That you don’t teach recalls when you really need your dog to come to save his life. You don’t wait to train your dog to tolerate physical exams while you are at the vet during an emergency. Train it BEFORE you need it.

30’s- That training with compulsion will take you three times as long as training with rewards.

  • First you lose the time you took while trying to force your animal to do something
  • Next you lose the time it takes to rebuild your relationship and reestablish the trust you destroyed
  • And now it still takes the time to teach the behavior the right way using reinforcement, right after you extinguish all the bad behavior and start back at zero


  • That teaching my students to play with their dogs would be way more important than teaching them to weave
  • The importance of goal setting and record keeping. I wish I had a better paper trail of where I have been and what I have done to teach skills to my dogs and what I was thinking at any given day, month or year in my career. I’d have started keeping better training logs and diaries.
  • Don’t bother to teach the dog what you don’t want him to do, just teach him what you DO want him to do. It takes twice as long to teach while moving in two directions at the same time.
  • I wish I had been able to look into the future and see where one short trip to Europe with Scud in 1996 on the AKC World Team would change my entire life!

Mid forties- I would have jumped on the first plane to Arkansas to train with Bob Bailey, instead of waiting 10 years

Late forties- That foundation and groundwork is the most important part of agility training, obstacles are easy.


  • That standing still would be one of the most important lessons I would take away from my first week of training with Bob Bailey.
  • That Chicken Camp and Bob Bailey would be the most valuable of ALL my animal training lessons!
  • That training is a mechanical skill. (Bob Bailey)

Mid 50’s- That any dog can learn to retrieve if you understand how to use a clicker and some cookies.

Late Late fifties- How important massage is to my dogs’ and my own health

Last year – That my youngster Scoop would seem to be recovered from all his health issues and look as good as he did in training today.

Two months ago- That a sure fire way to insure that he stays sound would be to get a new puppy that I really was not quite ready for!

Last month- That focusing a little too much on food training and tricks can set back your game of tug with your puppy.

A puppy?

Last week-That even though I didn’t give her 100% of my heart for the first month for a variety of reasons, that it would be inevitable if I brought a puppy into my life that she would be mine and I would not be able to give her back.

Yesterday- That I might as well introduce her to everyone since she’s here to stay!

Meet Pie.

Photos of Pie by Lali Miramon

This post was inspired by blog action day on the subject of “If I knew then what I know now”.


I hope your career with your dog mostly has you looking forward not back, but sometimes it is fun to dream……


50 responses

  1. This is a great post. This is the first time I’ve come to this website and it is great. I’m in my fifties and getting close to the big 6-0. We just got a new Golden Retriever puppy so I know just how you feel with your new puppy…who is absolutely adorable. Congrats on the new member of the family!

  2. Great post Nancy. So nice to be reminded of our forward motion, that learning really IS the key, and that it’s never too late to learn, love, and RUN. Have a great time playing with Ms. Pa-Pie-ya, Scoop and the gang. Glad she made it fully in your heart 🙂

  3. Hi Nancy,

    I`m writing on behalf of my aunt in Japan. She absolutely loves running the courses that you`ve designed and we`ve been trying to figure out how she can get a copy of your alphabet drills book. Are you going to be releasing it as an ebook by any chance? The shipping to Japan is 1.5 times the amount of the book and she`s been throwing the idea around for a few weeks now so I thought I`d get in touch and see if I could help at all.

    Thanks so much for your time!

    Leela Morimoto

  4. Hey Nancy,
    Congrats on bringing Pie into your life and I’m so happy Scoop is doing well.

    Morgan & I are doing well – my feet & his shoulder are improving – thanks again for all your help.

    Loving this journey – thanks for steering us back on a really fun track.

    Say hi to Jim and the rest of the clan.

    Margo & Morgan

  5. I connect with your post in that I too am getting a new puppy becuase my 2 1/2 year old border collie Mojo has epilepsy. I hope I too have the problem of having too much to deal with becuase my Mojo stays healthy. I put in motion the idea of getting another dog to take the pressure of my epilptic back in December. And since then he has had many healthy times, and I have wondered if I was doing the right thing. But now I fear again medication increases and perhaps the end of his agility career. The sad thing is although I still think it is the right thing to do, as I have always wanted another dog to play agility with, there is still a huge loss i am dealing with.
    Congrats on 2 healthy dogs !!!!

  6. Loved your post, Nancy. To learn from the past is a gift that some people embrace, and clearly you have! What makes it even better is that you are willing to share that gift with so many!

    Congratulations on bringing Pie into the fold. I look forward to reading about your journey together!

  7. I read your blog very frequently, and I find your experience and thoughts invaluable.. but this post is .. awesome! Of course I don’t believe there’s a single human that can look back and truthfully say there’s nothing they would’ve done differently, but such is life.

    Thanks for this post, made me think a lot.. in a good way!

    Buenos Aires, Argentina

  8. A truly memorable post Nancy. I am already a sexagenerian and while there are many lessons I wish I had learned earlier in my life, I just enjoy each day I have with each of my dogs and appreciate that it is never too late to learn. Yes I also wish I had met Bob Bailey years ago, but at least I did it only recently and a chicken camp is still to come in a few months time. May my learning never stop, for my sake and my dogs..

    • Have a great time at Chicken Camp! I am considering doing a teaching Camp with Bob in Europe this year as I am thinking it will be my last time to get to work with him in that setting. Don’t want to write in ten years that I should have done it…..

  9. Thanks Nancy, your teachings always inspire our lives too. Wish you all the fun with Pie!!!!!
    Greetings from Switzerland

    • Juan,

      Thanks so much for writing! I hope your life in Switzerland is great, but do you miss your rooftop agility field????? NJG

  10. What a brilliant post – haven’t got to my fifties yet but I was nodding my head the whole way through this, hindsight is definitely a wonderful thing ! (The puppy is adorable)

  11. I really liked these words of wisdom and certainly have enjoyed every chance I have had to work with you. Thanks for coming east. Pie is so adorable.

  12. Thank you for sharing your beautiful desciption of your journey with dogs. Made me tear up too. We are all so lucky to be learning so much from each other and from our dogs. Totally adorable puppy!

  13. Thank you and enjoy Pie!! For she too shall have you still learning tomorrow and for many more days to come:-) She is just lovely!!


  14. What a beautiful post! It was so great to meet you and work with you last week. Pie is just too cute, and so happy that Scoop is doing better!

    • Karey, It was great to meet you TOO!! This year was really one of the nicest trips East I have had, and that was because of all the nice new people I got meet as well as getting to see friends I only work with once a year! NJG

    • Celeste, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, but could not figure it out, duh:)
      Wanted to tell you that my first dog (on the trike) was named Tuffy. I am sure my Tuffy and your Taffy would have been good buds!


  15. I met up with Maureen here in Florida and met Pie’s littermate. They are both really cute. I think it is very wonderful and fitting that you are so connected to North Carolina now through your pups. It will be fun to watch the grow up. And super good news about Scoop. Gail Waller

  16. I’ve read three blogs today and this is hands down the best one (and the others were great!) It is clear that you are still learning–and having fun with your dogs. Thanks for being willing to share with us.

  17. Pie is adorable. And you are awesome, Nancy Gyes. You continue to encourage, educate and inspire and you will always be my mentor.

  18. Pie is adorable. And your post made me cry. You are awesome, Nancy Gyes. You encourage and inspire and you will always be my mentor.

  19. Glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one who found this post so moving that a tear was shed! Thanks for posting Nancy and congrats on little Miss Pie!

    • Ok, now you guys are all going to make ME cry:)
      You know Pie is my third tri bitch, and my boys have all been B & W. Fitting!


  20. Congratulations on your new puppy! I love her eyes in the middle photo! Thanks for sharing all your stories of Scoop. I hope we continue to hear more about him and Pie, too!

  21. Wonderful post! Beautiful pup!
    Your post reminds us of what we all tend to overlook; to enjoy the journey. Not knowing where the journey will lead is what it is all about. Keep moving forward, learn from your past, put your eyes on the future with your head firmly in the present moment. And if you can share what you have learned, then your heart will be full!
    Thanks for sharing.

  22. And thank you, Nancy, for sharing these lessons with us! I really appreciate your openness on your blog. Thanks to you, I can really run again! And my dogs are now getting their bodywork done too. Congrats on the new puppy, she is adorable! My heart always goes pitter patter over a pretty tri dog. 🙂

  23. Great blog post Nancy! It made me tear up – but in a good way. And what a sweety Pie 🙂 Welcome Pie – Glad to hear that Scoop is doing so much better.

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