Posts tagged ‘mental prep’

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?

Embarrassment?

Anger?

 Frustration perhaps?

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:

  1. Spend time each day visualizing your ideal performance and associating it with those feelings of confidence!
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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!

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

September 23, 2013 at 3:15 am 2 comments

Lessons in success from the Canadian Open

The idea for this blog post was actually inspired while I was away in Edmonton last weekend competing with my dogs at the Canadian Open. I went into the competition hoping for some medals with my sheltie Dice, but although she did win two bronze medals at the event, it was actually my young dog Heist that I felt was most successful over the weekend.

Did he get on the podium?

No. He actually didn’t have a single clean run all weekend.

So where did this feeling of success come from?

I realized that real success isn’t always measured by gold medals.

What made his runs so successful was that he was working with me better than he ever had. He was thoughtful, balanced, and overall we had brilliant teamwork. That is what truly mattered to me.

Not winning events.

Not beating out my competitors.

Simply improving on a personal level as a team.

We’ve all had clean runs that we’ve somehow managed to get through. You know…the ones where you get out of the ring and you have no idea how the dog actually managed to make it through clean! Then we’ve had amazing runs that had one little bauble…maybe a knocked bar or even an off course, but you recognize that the almost clean run was actually better in many ways than the clean run.

Here’s one of Heist’s Canadian Open runs that despite errors was one of my favourite runs with him. He handled many skills that he has struggled with in the past as well as stopping on this dogwalk after only 6 days of re-training from a running contact.

When it comes down to it, agility isn’t just about competing against other people. It’s about competing against yourself, and pushing to be just a little bit better every time.

If you are competing strictly with others, you lose momentum very quickly as soon as something doesn’t go to plan. If you expect to win a class and you don’t, you immediately feel defeated or even more pressure to do better in the next round.

But what would happen if you were most concerned about making every run the best one possible?

Focusing on every run as an individual event that had no relation to any previous performance?

I often tell my students to “etch-a-sketch” their previous run. Just like the etch-a-sketch toy…you created something, now it’s time to shake it clear and start from a blank slate.

Many people count themselves out of the race as soon as they reach an obstacle in their path. True… a bar down may take you out of the gold medal position, but it doesn’t mean that your next run can’t be one of the best you’ve ever had. Many of us give up on a subconscious level once a run doesn’t go to plan because we can’t let it go.

Just because your dog missed a weave entry or knocked a bar in the previous run, doesn’t mean that you will get the same result in the next round. Past runs good or bad are in the past.

As an example of this, this past weekend one of my students came from having no clean runs to running clean and winning the Canadian Open Final. Had she held on to the mistakes in her past runs, they likely would have haunted her into the finals. Instead she assessed the issues at the end of each run before moving past them with confidence. When I talked to her before the finals, she was in a great headspace mentally. She recognized that her major mistakes in previous rounds were all in areas that she had hesitated about making handling decisions. In response, she vowed to make confident handling choices.

In the end she made two great handling choices for her dog that allowed her not only to run clean, but to win by a narrow margin.

She wasn’t competing against everyone else…she was competing against herself. Your own mind can be your greatest advantage in competition or your biggest handicap.

Imagine if she had gone into the finals thinking about how she was having bad luck this weekend and feeling that she didn’t stand a chance in the finals against “so and so”.

Do you think the results would be the same?

So next time you’re training or competing with your dog, think of what success means to you…not to everyone else.

Remember, if you think you can or you think you can’t you’re probably right!

This weekend was a great reminder for me of how it’s not always about the final placement.

Sometimes it’s about the personal success along the way.

Happy Training,
Jess Martin

September 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm 1 comment

Are you sabotaging your own sucess?

Have you ever felt that you just weren’t good a something? For whatever reason you try it anyways, get the exact result you were expecting, then justify it by saying, “See? I told you I’m not good at that!”
You then go on avoiding that skill in the future because hey, who wants to do something we’re not good at?

I’ve struggled with this concept for my entire life. If I’m not good at a game, then I don’t play it. I wasn’t good at math so I avoided it like the plague. I remember as a kid in track and field if I was too far off the leader in a race, I would actually convince myself that I was hurt and that was why I couldn’t win! Miraculously though, I’d be completely healed by the events that I thought I’d stand a chance in….go figure!

Why am I sharing these stories with you?

Because over the past few days I’ve realized something very important.

What we believe to be true will likely become our reality.

As I’ve mentioned in some for my previous blog posts, I’ve recently been going through a bit of a tough time with my young dog Heist. Not because he hasn’t been doing well, but because I find myself very frustrated while training or competing with him. Now I know that I could list more than a dozen things that he does well or that I do we’ll as a trainer. But to be completely honest it’s shaken my confidence in myself and my training ability.

Doubts started to come into my head…toxic thoughts that poisoned my self-image and concept of my reality. Thoughts like:

“Maybe people were right when they said I was just a small dog handler”.

“If “so and so” were training him, then maybe he’d be running differently”

Even things along the line of, “is he really the right dog for me?”

I dismiss these thoughts as soon as they come but they have still lingered. It has poisoned my attitude and my thought process. I started going into runs just hoping he left the bars up or hit his contacts. I was walking the course thinking of all the places he might turn wide or mistakes that might happen.

I’ve been sabotaging myself before I even began.

Have you ever had an experience like this? Maybe you’ve gone into the run hoping your dog gets their weave poles or contacts. Maybe it’s an important run and you figure that you’re outclassed by whatever big names are entered. Even something as simple as telling yourself that your going to forget this course.

Whatever your own situation is, there is a common denominator here. You’ve already decided you’re going to fail before you’ve even gotten started.

In doing so, our subconscious mind searches and twists reality to fulfill our own views about our performance, sinking us deeper into the spiral of negativity.

“Fear and self doubt have always been the enemies of human potential. “

My own fear has been keeping me chained to these ideas of failure.

So I’ve decided that this is a moment to embrace a new perspective and greet my shortcomings as a chance to help those around me.

So I’m coming into the Canadian Open this weekend with a strong attitude, believing in myself, my dogs, and my students.

To be a bit cliched, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and I realized that all my frustrations, failures, and successes have had the purpose of brining me to this point of change where I can grow from the experience and become a stronger trainer, coach, and competitor.

For once for me its not about the win. It’s about the confidence that makes the win possible.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, only when we are confident and believe we are going to win out” —Orison Swett Marden

Canadian Open here we come!

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training.


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August 31, 2013 at 7:10 am 5 comments


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