Archive for October, 2011
As part of mindfulness exercise to help deal with frustrating training sessions, I decided that I was going to write down things that each of my individual dogs does that makes me smile or feel happier during a training session. Like all dogs, my four all have widely different personalities and traits that make them unique. Part of the exercise was to acknowledge those individual traits and focus on them. It is very easy to focus on the negative attributes and not the positive. I am not suggesting that you ignore failures or areas that need improvement, but instead try to focus on seeing them in a positive way. I remember Susan Garrett saying to “embrace your holes” during a training session. How many of us really do so with enthusiasm and a light hearted manner? What holds us back? Is it the fear that we won’t be able to fix the issue? Fear of making a mistake? Maybe it’s the frustration of your dog or yourself not being able to get something you feel you should be. Whatever the reason, relax. Here is some advice for keeping things in perspective during a frustrating training session.
When you find yourself frustrated with how your training session is going for whatever reason; take a moment and think of a trait that your dog has that makes you feel happy. Focus on that thought for a moment. If you find yourself smiling as you are thinking about this then you are on the right track! What expression does your dog have when they are chasing a ball, playing with a tug, or simply cuddling up for a belly rub? These are some of the things we take for granted when working with our dogs and yet they are the reason why most of us have dogs in the first place. Our dogs are not “agility machines” with only that purpose in mind. They are our pets and companions as well.
When I think back to what got me involved in the sport of dog agility in the first place, it was the idea that I could learn some new ways to have fun with my dog. 12 years later, the part of agility that I appreciate the most is that it has deepened my relationship with my dogs. When I find myself getting too caught up in creating perfection on the agility field, my dogs let me know that it isn’t fun for them anymore. Dice does this by looking stressed and attempting to climb into my lap, and my puppy Heist does it by leaving to go find his own fun (see the video clip below). This could make me more frustrated, but instead I choose to focus on lightening up and truly enjoying the training. Both are great dogs to work with as long as I keep “connection” with them during the session. I find if I’m into the training then so are they, and if I’m not staying in the moment while training they don’t either. There have been good training sessions and bad training sessions, but no matter what happens my dogs are still part of my family and if I’m happy with their training then so are they.
Here’s a video clip of Heist disconnecting with me when I was in a frustrated mood during a training session. His response to my stress is to have a good time by himself. Later in the clip we reconnect and he makes improvements in bringing back his toy in a happy manner. He is just over 6 months old in this clip and shows his exuberant, always happy attitude that I love most about him.
Jess Martin from Agile Dog Training