Building confidence in your performance dog
Confidence is a key factor in motivation. If the dog and handler are not confident, then the motivation level tends to reflect this. Lack of confidence is not only an issue that affects the dog, it is a common problem for the trainer as well!
A trainer who lacks confidence can transfer their feelings to the dog. Even a confident trainer can have their own confidence affected by a dog that lacking confidence of their own.
So how do we increase confidence levels?
Here are some tips for boosting confidence in yourself or your dog:
- Beware Being Too Ambitious
Challenges are excellent ways to progress your skills, however failing the challenge does not provide much confidence towards the dog or the handler. If your or the dog routinely fail a task then the confidence level will be decreased. To prevent this, start with challenges that you know you will be successful at and then add in a few that are more difficult. If you are expecting your dog to run full agility courses two weeks after learning the equipment just to see if they “can” do it, then you are setting yourself up for frustration and disappointment. Setting up a training session that is do-able will help bring both you and your dog’s confidence to new heights!
2. Don’t Compare
Comparisons can be very useful in many situations, however, comparing yourself or your dog to another can often result in placing high or even unrealistic expectations on yourself or your dog. This is an easy trap to fall into especially when you are surrounded with other dog’s and handlers that may seem to be getting farther along than you are. I recently fell into this trap when I saw a video of a young dog the same age as my border collie doing phenomenal full running contacts when I hadn’t even started mine yet! I felt like I was so behind and needed to catch up so I went into my next contact training session putting even more pressure on myself and my dog. And guess what? I had the worst training session to date! Comparing your dog to others often sucks the confidence right out of your training. Keep comparisons for buying a new car, not for training your dog.
3. Find a Supportive Instructor
There are many different instructors out there for pretty much any dog sport imaginable and often they are chosen based on location or affordability rather than compatibility for the dog or handler. This can be a very costly mistake. Ask most high level trainers if they still train with the same person they began with and you’ll likely get a NO! Most likely you’ll also get a story about all the crazy things their first instructor had them do or all the mistakes they made. Finding the right training partner or group is important to keep you motivated and build your confidence. A supportive learning environment where you feel comfortable and the instructor gives you and your dog equal amount of attention to other dogs in the class is key. It may take some time and searching to find the best instructor for you and your dog but it will help transform your training sessions into confidence builders instead of coming out wondering why you train dogs in the firs place.
Using these tips will help you on your way to becoming a confident team with your dog so that you can be successful in your training sessions. Confidence is a key part in being successful in any dog sport. By working through challenges with your dog and building upon success you can bring both your own and your dog’s confidence to new heights
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training