Joy is in the smile of a dog
"Do. Or do not. There is no try." Frank Oz as Yoda, Empire Strikes Back
I never saw the movie, but I can appreciate the quote. And in contemplating the words, I find within them, many thoughts springing to my mind. For instance, to try is not to succeed but to not at all try is a guarantee to not at all succeed. When is the last time you went to a performance evaluation at work with your record showing you are trying to do your job with each attempt ending in failure and still you were told to keep up the good work? Your boss doesn't pay you to try. You will probably be given another chance with the goal of succeeding and if that doesn't happen you may be given a different job or be encouraged to seek other employment. For people, success doesn't end with simply trying, but it begins there.
Dogs don't have that kinda pressure. It doesn't matter to dogs wether they win or loose, they are not looking for success or failure. You may think because a dog walks back to the car with his head down after he went into a room to find 3 odors and only found two that the dog is disappointed. Your dog may appear dejected lying in his crate after you called "alert" before he found the strongest source of odor and the judge said "no". In this case, I believe humans' observation of a dog's mood is accurate, but I think what is causing the behavior is actually the dog reading and mirroring his human's disappointment. That's how badly dogs just want us to be happy.
We humans are burdened with the weight of Yoda's quote. In a world where perfection is regaled and rewarded we start to believe anything less is a waste of valuable time. In our pursuit of success, we ruin the enjoyment of the trying. Think about Yoda's quote. It doesn't consider one's desire to succeed vs. one's ability and that is where dogs come in.
A dog desires nothing more than to try. They will do the impossible when asked with no fear of disappointing us. They will try to do things that might bring them harm if it means it might make us happy. For them the try is the success because they apply the best of their ability. They don't have to worry about the next performance evaluation or loosing their job.
This is a theme I have heard spoken at Nose Work Trials. From the hosts and judges we hear "have fun" and celebrate with your dog, wether you get a Qualifying score or not. How better than that to reward and regal our dogs' achievement?
"Do, or do not. There is no try." What I think that means is there is no trying, there is only doing or not doing. And doing or not doing cancel each other out. All that's left is easy for people and dogs to be joyful no matter what we do. If we visualize a happy dog before us and see if that's what you see, we won't be disappointed. We will enjoy things with a smile and so our dogs will smile. Rejoice in being with our dogs as much and as often as is prudent then add a pinch more.
Allow me to paraphrase a much better Zen quote that I will choose to live by: "If you are sitting, sit. If you are walking, walk. But for gosh sakes don't wobble."