Is it time to drop your emotional baggage?
Yesterday I was fortunate enough to teach two workshops on areas that tend to have emotional baggage associated with them: Start lines and contacts. The purpose of these workshops was to help people deal with these common problem areas.
We’ve probably all had a reoccurring training issue at some point. I know I’ve had my fair share of training problems over the years! The key is overcoming them. So what happens when you hit a major block in your training? I’m talking about something that doesn’t just happen once or twice…but happens over and over again. Maybe your dog has decided that leaping off the contacts like they should have a Superman cape on is a better way to go. Or that 10 poles is much better than doing 12. Or perhaps that staying on the start line is overrated.
Whatever the issue, the problem just seems to get worse doesn’t it?
Frustrated, you ask multiple people for advice, you attend the workshops, you read the books or watch the DVD’s and nothing seems to break through the problem.
So what’s stopping you from fixing it?
You’re likely hanging on tight to your own emotional baggage that’s been creating around this problem!
Here’s an example for you. Imagine for a moment that you are running your dog and they jump off the dogwalk clearly missing the contact!
What’s your reaction?
Now armed with those feelings, you enter the next run and head for the dogwalk. What kind of thoughts go through your mind? Are you thinking that there is now a chance that your dog will miss their contact? Maybe you even feel a bit of anxiety or determination that they had BETTER get it this time.
Now imagine they miss it again. Can you feel those feelings becoming stronger? The anxiety level starting to make your chest tighten, and the doubt starting to cloud your mind? Soon you may even be walking your next course trying to prevent this perceived problem!
These events create your own emotional baggage, creating anxiety for both you and your dog while preventing you from really solving the issue!
Some people will even carry over these feelings from one dog to the next creating the same problem in multiple dogs. For example, if your previous dog really struggled with their start line performance you may put extra effort into making sure that they have a solid stay on the start…or you may feel anxiety towards even teaching the behaviour! If you use this as fuel to create change you will likely create a strength in your current dog. If you focus on the failure from the past, you will likely create the same problem yet again!
We even verbally re-affirm this concept in our own mind by saying things like, “I just want him to get his contacts in this run,” or “he always misses that weave entry”. Both statements completely lack confidence. I’m not saying that your dog won’t make those mistakes…but if you’ve already decided what the outcome is going to be, you’re not leaving any room for change!
Too often we drag our past experiences along with us like the proverbial ball and chain.
So if you’re tired of lugging around the extra weight and being tied to all those negative feelings holding you back, I want you to try something right now. Imagine stepping free of that weight. Imagine what it would feel like to have the start line, contacts, weave poles or anything else of your dreams. How would it feel?
Those emotions are your power to create the change you’re looking to create. Without a clear picture, we have nothing to go by to create results. With that knowledge, you can now create a plan where you use the resources around you (be it books, lessons, videos etc.) to start building up the success you want.
Here are some tips for successfully changing something you’ve been blocked by in the past:
- Spend time each day visualizing your ideal performance and associating it with those feelings of confidence!
- Get your dog to make mistakes on purpose! If your intention is to replicate the mistake, then you are patterning how to turn failure into success. If you are confident that you can fix the problem, then if it happens in competition you won’t get sucked into the dreaded downward spiral.
- Create an interruption pattern for yourself and your dog. This means that when you feel yourself starting to slip back into the negative pattern (hopefully before this happens!) you can do something silly or fun to break yourself of the pattern. I use tricks that make me smile with my dogs, because it’s hard to be upset or frustrated when your dog is doing a hilarious trick!
- Recognize that you have to be completely committed to get a consistent result. Just “trying it” or “I’ll see what happens” won’t get you anywhere! Do you want the result? If your answer is along the line of “maybe…” or “yes, but…” then imagine once again remember all the anger, frustration, and disappointment the issue has caused and how amazing it will be to have all of that disappear!
We are all capable of making these changes if we want them bad enough. So harness the power of your own emotions, ditch the baggage, and move confidently into the future!
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training