Posts tagged ‘dog agility’

Are You Capable of Achieving Greatness?

With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games quickly approaching, I’ve found myself inspired to reflect on how people really get to the top in their sports.  What really brings people to the level of greatness? And possibly more importantly, what stops people from achieving this?

Of course agility is not an Olympic sport, but I believe the same factors propel us to be successful in any area of our lives. Everyone is capable of greatness, but not everyone is willing to do what’s necessary to achieve it. Instead, we often credit some other factor such as “talent” or “luck”; circumstances that conveniently we feel we have no control over.  By doing this, we trap ourselves into feeling that we lack the resources to achieve our version of greatness.  We find ourselves saying things like, “if only I had his/her talent!” or “if only I had the time,” or my personal favourite “If I had started younger…”  I could have that success too!

These are excuses.

Success comes from focus, determination, and hard work; not talent and luck.

 I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told I’m naturally co-ordinated by people that have only known me through agility. Anyone who has spent any time with me knows I’m a total klutz! The first time I tried to do a front cross, I tripped and fell. It took me months to learn how to do a threadle back in the day. My coach at the time used to joke that he could hear my feet stomping from the other room because I was so lead footed! This is a big difference from how people describe me now. I’m often told how graceful, fast, and coordinated I am. This did not come from some inborn talent. This came from sheer hard work and determination.  

When everyone else was done, I kept going.  When I had no access to equipment, I made it out of things I found in my garage. When my dog was kicked out of class for being dog aggressive, I moved on and found a trainer that could help give us both the confidence we needed to break through our barriers. I remember being a part of a dog training club that had access to a facility once a week for a few hours. Most of the club spent their time split between obedience, agility, and basic socializing. I would spend the whole time in the agility room practicing my skills without my dog. This meant hours of rehearsing footwork and memorization.  This has not changed. To this day I still practice my skills daily, often without my dogs.

I don’t consider myself talented or gifted in some way. These results are possible for ANYONE. The question is how much do you want it? Get focused on the result you want, and don’t let anything hold you back. If you are already making excuses in your head stop and think them through for a moment. If you really wanted to, could you find the time to train? If you were completely dedicated, could you fix your start line or contact issues? If you did 100 front crosses every day for a month, would you look smooth and fluid doing them? If you were creative enough, could you find a way to practice in the winter without having access to a training facility?

Of course you could!

You are your own greatest asset or liability. People who are consistently at the top have worked their butts off to get there and continue to do so because it matters to them.

 Does it matter to you?

Here’s a  link to a Nike commercial that I feel really puts greatness into perspective.

 “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”

Wilma Rudolph

We are all capable, but we are not all willing. So the next time you see someone accomplishing something you admire think past the obvious to HOW they got to where they are. Model their actions and get their results.

Happy Training,






January 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm 6 comments

Focus Outside the agility ring: Is it necessary?

Hello Everyone! Today’s question inquires about creating focus outside the agility ring.

First of all, is it necessary for your dog to pay 100% attention to you before you go into the ring?

For me, I approach this question by asking are you getting the results you want inside the ring? If you’re not, then this may be an area you want to adjust to help your dog start in the right mindset for success. If you not currently having any problems with your dog’s performance, however, there is no rule that your dog has to have absolute focus on you outside the ring.

In this video I share some ideas to help your dog focus more on you before you go into the ring in competition.

Until next time,

Happy Training!

Jess Martin

October 13, 2013 at 1:05 am 1 comment

Training Questions Answered: Reckless Jumping

The training questions have been pouring in and I’m so excited to get a chance to directly answer them! I’ll be answering a question a day for the next two weeks…maybe more if I don’t get through them all! I have to admit that for me, the most rewarding thing about teaching is seeing people overcome problems that they have really been struggling with.

Check out today’s great question about a dog who is jumping recklessly and knocking bars when the handler accelerates. This is a problem my border collie Heist has struggled with at times (although unlike our malinois subject, he has never gotten a jump wing stuck around him!). Here are some tips that I have found made a big difference to his self awareness and sensitivities to my acceleration.

I hope this video helps give some insight for those of you struggling with dogs that are jumping recklessly.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the next segment in the Your Agility Questions Answered! series.

Do you have a question you’d like me to answer? I’d love to hear from you! Submit your question at

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

October 9, 2013 at 3:20 am 2 comments

Harnessing the Power of Music

I recently heard some comments about the number of people that walk courses wearing headphones and listening to music.
I admit to routinely being one of these people, although it is definitely NOT because I want to be left alone or not have people ask me questions.

Instead, I use music to help me adjust my mood and mindset to the dog that I am running. For me, my music is carefully selected because of the feelings that it produces.

Do I need to feel hyped up to run as fast as I can?
Do I need to feel powerful?
Do I need to calm myself and focus?

Getting yourself into the correct headspace is absolutely essential to performing at your best. I don’t just mean at competitions either. I often take the time to get myself in the “right mood” for training. Mostly because if I’m not, Dice will usually decide she’d rather sleep on the couch than go outside to play agility. I have to be pretty hyped up to convince her that it’s worthwhile to come out and play.

In fact, two weeks before we left to compete at the 2010 FCI World Championships, due to some bad attitude on my part Dice decided that agility was evil and she didn’t want to do it anymore. I’d head outside and she would bark and jump at me until she realized we were going to the agility field…then she’d run back to the house! I was in tears wondering what I possibly could have done to upset my sweet little girl so much. The more she would refuse, the more stressed I became. Then I was getting home from work one day, and a song came on that is played at the world championships every year. I started to get the same excited, pumped up feeling that I get when I compete at that level. So I held onto that feeling and pictured the crowds of people cheering, the electric energy in the building, and before I could get out of that headspace I grabbed Dice and headed out to the agility field. Guess what? She was fast, driven and didn’t show any signs of the stress I had been struggling with! As some of you know, that was the year that she won the gold medal at the FCI World Championships.
So what did that experience teach me? Music is a very powerful mood changing tool. And mood is very importance to performance.

To demonstrate what I mean, take a look at this video of Heist and Hijack running in the woods this morning.

How does the different music make you feel? Does it change the feeling of what you’re seeing?

So next time you’re gearing up for a big competition or find that you’re not really in the mood to train, try busting out the tunes!

Happy Training!

Jess Martin

August 13, 2013 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

How’d I get Here?

It honestly blows me away just how much support I’ve gotten from the people in my life, and how my agility journey has unfolded.

As some of you know, I got my first dog Mikki when I was 13 years old after begging my parents for years to get a dog. They told me that if I wrote them a proposal on the breed, what I would do to take care of it, and prove that I could be responsible for at least a year, they would THINK about letting me get a dog. I’m sure the initial ploy was that I’d lose interest. Instead, I rode my bike down to the local pet store for weeks to systematically read all of their breed books one at a time and write up costs for everything my puppy might need.

In the end I got my puppy…which has since turned into 5 dogs sharing my household.

Taking Mikki to local obedience classes led to my introduction to the sport of agility.

Needless to say I was hooked!

I remember my parents driving me to club training nights and waiting patiently (okay sometimes not so patiently) in the car as I always stayed later than I was supposed to.

I remember when my instructor at the time, Adrian Rooyakkers, suggested I help instruct one of his classes. I was so nervous I think I barely said anything to the students the whole night!

Over time I’ve grown as an instructor, competitor, and dog trainer. Many of you have seen this progression as you’ve been in the sport along with me. Some have even become students or taken some of my seminars along the way.

To all of those students, friends, and family that have supported me over the years and continue to do so, I want to take this oppourtunity to say thank you. I know that without your support I would not be the handler, instructor, or trainer that I am today.

I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your own agility journey, and those who have influenced you positively throughout your own agility journey.

Why not take a few minutes to send them a quick email or Facebook message letting them know that you appreciate their support and help along the way?

Take this chance to show your appreciation on by liking this page on Facebook.

“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” – Margaret Cousins

Happy Training!

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 12, 2013 at 3:56 am 4 comments

Common Myths About Motivating your Agility Dog

Hi everyone! Today I decided to blog about one of my favourite and most heart-felt topics: Motivation.

People seem to think that my dogs come out of the box driven to do agility, but the truth is that my border collie Heist is the only dog that I have not had to put serious work into motivating behind the scenes.   

So today I’ve decided to write debunk some common myths about motivation.  Ready? Here we go!

Myth #1: Your dog MUST tug in order to run fast.

I know people that have spent incredible amounts of time and shed endless tears over trying to get their dogs to tug. Is your dog destined to be an agility failure because they won’t tug with you? Absolutely not! This is a total MYTH! Yes you want your dog to interact with you, but this can take many forms. Many people have actually decreased their dog’s motivation for agility by trying to force them to tug.  Remember…agility is supposed to be fun for you and the dog! So if you find yourself falling into the “tug or else” category…give yourself a reminder of why you’re in this sport in the first place.

Myth #2: The faster you run the faster your dog will run:

There is definitely an element of truth in this, because most dogs are motivated to chase you. The issue is that if you get too far ahead of your dog they will usually slow down because you’re not within reach. I myself actually did this a lot when I did track and field as a kid. If the other kids got too far ahead of me in the race and I knew that I would not place then I didn’t even try to beat them. Most dogs with run faster when you are just far enough ahead that they might actually catch you!

Myth #3: Rewarding everything will make your dog run faster

Many people I see attempt to fix their motivation problem by rewarding their dogs more often. I’m not saying that rewarding is a negative thing…but over rewarding actually tends to disconnect the dog from the joys of running. To make matters worse, many people reward the dog when they get something wrong to prevent them from shutting down. This actually perpetuates the problem as the dog is getting mixed signals about what is right and wrong.

These common motivational myths can distract you from the real keys to motivation.

The biggest key of all to motivating your dog is to GENUINELY have fun!

I don’t mean running around PRETENDING you are having a great time while inwardly cursing your dog for not running fast for you.  


“ A Champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning” –Pat Riley.

Happy Training,

Jess Martin

August 11, 2013 at 1:59 am 1 comment

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