Posts tagged ‘motivation’

A Lesson in Adaptability

Hello there agility fans! I’ve just arrived in Vancouver to teach a 3 day seminar and as always am very excited to work with different people and their dogs.

I’ve already had some great agility conversations within hours of arriving,and one comment has really stuck in my mind. As usual, I was talking about the differences between my dogs, and I was complimented on my tendency to work with them instead of trying to make them adapt to my particular training style.

This made me think for a moment.

How many of us are trying to push the proverbial boulder uphill when we could go downhill instead?

Now I’m not talking about giving up all sense of teamwork and letting your dog do whatever they want, but through my recent dogs I’ve found adaptability is a powerful tool.

When I got my sheltie Dice, I knew that I had to be creative when dealing with her fears. I didn’t want to see her stressed or “make” her deal with things. The most reinforcing thing for me was my dog to be excited and happy to play with me. I could have tried to fit her into the mould of training that had worked for me in the past, but it left both of us frustrated. Instead I decided to experiment and find the ways that she and I could both have fun. As many of you know, despite being labelled by some as a “shut down” dog she is a highly successful agility competitor.

So with my next dog (my border collie Heist) I figured I was unstoppable. I mean if I could bring out the best in Dice then surely this drivey little border collie puppy would be a breeze. Hmm…well I may have gotten a bit of a reality check on that one! As it turns out, he had his own ideas of just how things should be done. It took me quite some time to recognize that I was fighting to make him conform to my ideas and it simply wasn’t working. I then started to experiment with different handling and training. I accepted that it worked best for us both if I didn’t try to obsess on small details but instead focused on our connection. With this mindset change, we connected as a team and I love running him!

So my question is, are you trying to force your dog to fit into a mould that your perception has created? Are you trying to cram them into that ideal regardless of their true personality?

I truly believe there is no “right” way to do things…there’s simply effective and ineffective. And what might be effective for one dog/handler team may not be for another.

It’s up to you to accept your dog for who they are and find how your training or handling can work for you both. Don’t fall into the same trap that I did in feeling like your way is the ONLY way to do things. Often what works for one style of dog or handler will not work for another.

If the connection is there, then great! You have an amazing agility partnership. But if it’s not, and part of this blog has resonated with you in some way, then embrace the lesson of adaptability. Accept the lessons that your dog can teach you and begin your path to a compromise in which you both can be happy.

In the end I feel that I may not have gotten the dogs I initially WANTED to have…but I’ve definitely gotten the dogs I’ve NEEDED to have.

For those of you who have submitted questions, I will still be answering them…just got a little sidetracked for the moment so thought I’d share what’s on my mind!

Until next time,

Happy Training!

Jess Martin

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October 18, 2013 at 2:08 am 6 comments

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

Lead By Example: The Dog Training Double Standard

For this blog post, I’m addressing an issue that I see in my agility classes every week…the dog training double standard. I’m talking more specifically about situations where people expect certain behaviours of their dogs, but can’t replicate those behaviours themselves.

It’s my opinion that for a dog to truly reach their potential, the hander attached to the leash has to be willing to give as much as they want to get back. Way too often, this doesn’t happen, and we are left frustrated wondering why our dogs aren’t living up to our expectations.

Here are a few common examples of the double standards that I see in training:

  1.  Focus: We often expect 100% focus from our dogs even when we aren’t focused on the task ourselves. Is it really fair to expect your dog to stare adoringly at you while you talk to your friends or instructor and pay them no attention? How about while you focus on the course trying to figure out which jumps you are supposed to do, but not noticing what your dog is doing? If you want your dog to be confident and focused, make sure that you are leading by example. I know that I myself cannot stay completely focused on my dog for an hour class, so I make sure that my dog is either crated or tied to something. That way we both reserve our focus for when it matters most!

 

  1. Consistency: We tend to expect consistency on our start lines, contact behaviours, etc. but are WE really being consistent as trainers/handlers? If you make your dog stop on the contacts in practice but not in a trial, why shouldn’t your dog follow your example and figure that that leaping off the contact is the new expectation in a competition? If you decide that running the course is more important than reinforcing your start line then it stands to reason that is exactly what you are telling your dog. If this is okay with you by all means continue to do it. But is it fair to  blame the dog for doing what you have taught them to do? Afterall, if the environment is too exciting for you to maintain your own criteria as a handler, then does the dog really stand a chance?

 

  1. The Right Attitude: We’ve all had moments where we didn’t feel like training. I’ve learned the hard way that there is very little point to training when I’m in a bad mood, since it usually ends with both myself and my dogs being very frustrated. If you’re not in a positive headspace to train, then most likely your dog isn’t going to be either. Keep in mind that a high stressing dog like my border collie always wants to do agility, so he will gladly do equipment. He will, however, show his stress towards my mood by moving away from me on course…usually taking the back of jumps when the lines seem obvious to the front side. My sheltie Dice on the other hand, will usually just refuse to even enter the agility field if I’m in a bad mood. Of course this tends to lead to instant frustration for me (talk about a negative cycle!).  My suggestion? Take some extra time before you train to work on getting yourself in the right mood.

 

Here’s a scenario some of you might be familiar with… you get stuck in a traffic jam on the way to class and arrive late to find everyone already walking the course! In a rush you grab your dog and try to run the sequence flustered and unprepared. You forget the course numerous times, and your dog goes off sniffing in between. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Here’s an alternative scenario…instead of rushing to run the sequence you take your turn just playing with your dog and doing some one jump work where you know both you and your dog will be successful. You opt out of that particular sequence and join in on the next one feeling relaxed and confident in your ability to remember the course. Now which scenario do you think you and your dog will enjoy more?

Now I can honestly tell you I’ve fallen victim to all of these double standards at one time or another. It took a dog like Dice who absolutely would not work through them to teach me these valuable lessons. And I haven’t gotten it perfect yet…I still get frustrated with my dogs when they don’t focus or when a training session doesn’t go well. It usually hits me later on just how unfair I was being at the time.

I’m only human afterall.

 But our dogs are just that.

 They are DOGS.

 NOT agility robots.

They react to stress, make mistakes, and get distracted. We aren’t perfect and neither are they. Don’t they deserve to be able to have the same expectations of us that we have of them?

So next time you go into a training session or competition, ask yourself if you’re truly leading by example.

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 25, 2013 at 4:33 am 2 comments

Inspiration can come when you least expect it

My mom actually recommended that I watch this video and I am very glad that I listened to her advice. If you haven’t yet seen Ashton Kutcher’s inspiring acceptance speech from the 2013 Teen Choice Awards make sure you watch it now. Although the speech begins in a way you’d think typical of an acceptance speech, it very quickly transforms into something profound.

My mom actually recommended that I watch this video and I am very glad that I listened to her advice. If you haven’t yet seen Ashton Kutcher’s inspiring acceptance speech from the 2013 Teen Choice Awards make sure you watch it now. Although the speech begins in a way you’d think typical of an acceptance speech, it very quickly transforms into something profound.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FNXwKGZHmDc

The main message from this speech that I’d like to focus on is to truly appreciate the opportunities in your life and where it has led you. Every job, every failure, every experience has shaped who you are as a person. It has given your life relevance and allowed others to relate to those experiences.

.My mind always goes back to my little sheltie Dice, who has made me realize that I didn’t know half of what I thought I knew about dog training. Working through her fears and building up her motivation has given me a rare oppourtunity. It has allowed me to relate to others struggling with the same issues on a personal level. It enables me to reach out to people all over the world and help them reach for their full potential. As many of you know, Dice has gone on to accomplish great things thus far in her career. I will be forever thankful that I had the opportunity to build up her confidence so she could inspire others to do the same.

“We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work”
― Thomas A. Edison

So the next time opportunity knocks, make sure you answer the door.

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 19, 2013 at 3:43 am Leave a comment

How to Play with your dog THEIR way

One of the first things I ask students to do in my foundation classes is play with their dogs so that I can see the interaction between the dog and the handler. Playing with your dog sounds easy right? I thought so too at first, but after teaching dog training classes for over 10 years I have seen first hand how much people struggle to get their dog to interact with them.

It doesn’t take long to see that the dogs would often rather play with the other dogs than play with the humans. Often I see people trying to convince their dog to play with them while the little puppy over there in the corner seems like a much more suitable playmate in dog’s mind.

This can be very frustrating for the humans who then pull on the leash and push a toy into the dog’s face while looking to the instructor for help. This frustration often leads to excuses like “oh well he doesn’t really like this toy,” or “He just doesn’t have much attention today.” Therefore most people have given up even before they’ve even begun and all I’ve asked is for them to play with their dog!

Does this situation sound familiar?

After having this situation happen frequently in my classes I realized that people don’t know HOW to be exciting to their dogs. Why? Because they are trying to get their dogs to play like humans, not play like dogs themselves.

Brilliant! We’ll play more like dogs…umm but wait. How do we do that?

The first step in playing like a dog is knowing what type of play your dog enjoys. Yes, there are different types of play. Not every dog likes to play the same way. To be the best playmate possible you need to know your dog’s play style.

Throughout my years working in doggy daycares and boarding kennels I learned that there were two main play styles for dogs. The rough players and the chasers.

Rough players do just that. They love to rough house, push each other around, tug, etc. Think of a rambunctious labrador retriever puppy that bounds over to another dog and wants to mouth and wrestle with them. This is dog that has a rough playing style. When combined with other rough players it’s a match made in heaven!

Some dogs are not interested in physical play at all. They don’t match well with a rough playing style and are often intimidated by it. If that same lab puppy approaches them they will likely be scared and not want to play at all. Instead, they love to chase or be chased!

Dogs with a chasing playing style often use slow deliberate movements to create anticipation or convince other dogs to chase them or run to be chased. These dogs often get eye contact with another dog before slowing stalking towards them, hesitating in a ready to pounce pose until one of them takes off running!

Although your dog may exhibit traits from both of these play styles, they likely will have one that they prefer. You can use this dominant style to help you play with them their way.

So how do we play like a chaser or rough player dog?

My sheltie is an example of a chaser. She loves to run and bark but does not like physical contact at all. If I try to be in her face making her play (like the lab puppy) she will act nervous and uninterested. If I move slowly towards her building anticipation before running away I’ve instigated a chase game just like another dog would!

My border collie on the other hand is more of a rough player. Although he likes to chase he gets more excited about physical games. Pushing a toy at him and doing things like grabbing his paws, pushing him with my hands or feet, and just general rough housing makes for a game he really gets into!

Ready to start your play session? Great! But lets try to set you and your dog up for success for their first session!

When you are first trying to engage the dog in their type of preferred play, start at home where there are minimal distractions. This will help you both get comfortable (and you won’t be worrying about how silly you look playing like a dog!). I even get down on my hands and knees with my dogs and play with them that way! You not be comfortable doing this in a class full of people so it’s a good idea to start somewhere where you can be as silly as you want. Afterall, it’s about playing the way they want you to!

By learning to play with your dog THEIR way you are much more likely to genuinely have fun, and your dog will realize that you are just as good of a playmate as their doggy friends!

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 18, 2013 at 4:32 am 4 comments

A lesson in perseverance

Today I was competing at the first day of the USDAA Eastern Canada Regional Championships. There were many people desperately hoping to get their final qualifiers for Cynosport. There were many relieved people…and a lot very disappointed people where one thing or another seemed to go wrong. Today I got to experience both as my sheltie Dice earned both her final steeplechase and grand prix qualifiers. Unfortunately my young border collie Heist didn’t even make it through most of the courses as I chose to excuse myself from the ring with him several times.

Which brings me to the topic of my post; dealing with disappointment.
It doesn’t matter how experienced you are, how well your dog is trained, or how prepared you are for the competition, sometimes you just screw up. That’s just the way it is when you are working on a team. Both you and your dog need to be “on” to have a good run, and since they are dogs and not agility robots there is always an element of unpredictability to any run. And hey, let’s be honest here…we make our fair share of mistakes as handlers as well!

Of course that doesn’t mean that we don’t feel disappointed, frustrated, or even angry at the time. All of which I admit to feeling today!

Our thoughts go to things like, “why did it have to be this run that he [insert screw up here]!” And “Is it ever going to come together?”
Many times we start to doubt ourselves in response to feelings of disappointment. We feel that we aren’t a good enough trainer or that our dog would be better handled by “so and so.” But guess what? They screw up sometimes too!

On my way to the trial this morning, I decided to listen to an inspirational podcast to help lighten my mood (part of Your Do Over podcast by Matt Theriault). He told a story that really hit home for me. He said one of his mentors once showed him a $20 bill and asked if he wanted it. He said yes. Then she crumpled it up and asked him again if he wanted it. He said of course…it’s still $20. Then she dropped it on the ground and stepped on it, and once again asked if he wanted it. Of course he said yes. Why did he say yes? The value of the $20 bill hadn’t changed. Even though it was a little worse for wear it was still worth the same as it originally was.

The morale of the story is why do we feel that we lose value as handlers/trainers etc. when we experience some failure? Just because we screw up sometimes doesn’t change our value. It doesn’t erase all the success we have or determine how much we will have in the future.

You can deal with disappointment by internally attacking your own value, making excuses, or giving up all together. I spent the early years of my agility career going off and sulking when I was disappointed while how my run went. Over the years I’ve learned to be much better about keeping disappointment in perspective but that’s not to say it doesn’t still affect me.

So today when the agility gods weren’t favouring me, I reminded myself of the story I heard in the podcast. I push myself past what happened today to move on to better things tomorrow.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

Today I’m focusing on that little voice and by doing so I’m ready to start a new day with a fresh positive attitude! Bring on day two!

Happy Training,
Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 17, 2013 at 4:28 am Leave a comment

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:

  1. 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

Happy Training, 

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

 

August 16, 2013 at 3:39 am 1 comment

Finding your “why?”

When you’re a kid, “why?” is a question you feel the need to ask about everything. Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to clean my room? Why can’t I pet that dog over there? Sometimes it seems that everything you say they are asking “why?”

But as adults, I think we tend to lose our sense of why we are doing certain things and resume the autopilot routines that tend to be our lives. We no longer have that nagging sense of curiosity about why all things happen, or even why we do the things we do.

As an agility instructor I get faced with the question “why” all the time. Part of my job is to try to figure out why a handler is struggling with a particular handling maneuver, or why a dog routinely jumps over the contact zone after doing it 3 times successfully. If I left out the why, I’d be left with no means to solve the problem.

One of the important questions that I think we fail to ask ourselves is why we do agility in the first place. Yes, there are those of us who have dogs that love it, but those same dogs would likely love any fun dog sport that we devoted time to. My border collie loves agility but also loves playing ball or going swimming. If I started him in flyball or sheep herding I’m sure he would love those as well. On the other hand, my sheltie Dice has no particular attachment to agility at all. Many of you have probably heard me say “she wouldn’t care if she did agility another day in her life,” as I talk about motivation factors for different dogs.

So why agility?

I do agility because I enjoy it (yes…I admit that I do it for me and not my dogs). I have fun with my students and the people I train with. I love watching my dogs run fast and knowing that we are working as a team. And of course I love the competitive element where I know that I can continue to push myself to excel at higher and higher levels. I know some people feel this way about obedience, flyball, disc dog etc. My point is that we are doing these things for us…not for the dogs.

So when a frustrating training session isn’t going your way, or your dog just took a flying leap off of his a-frame and you’d like to throttle him, remember the “why” that started you on this path in the first place. Because likely it wasn’t to run clean in every run, or to win every major competition. It was to do something that both you and your dog enjoyed together.

My journey in agility started 13 years ago because I loved training with my dog. And today, even though my goals and aspirations may be higher than that, I’m reminding myself that’s still my main reason for training.

I hope you can relate to this post, and that it puts you back in touch with your own personal reason for training.

Until next time…

Happy Training,

Jess Martin of Agile Dog Training

August 14, 2013 at 4:56 am Leave a comment

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

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.  

Remember…

“ 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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