I can honestly say that I wish I had gotten into reading blogs earlier than I did in my agility career. I have only been competing for 4 years but man oh man could I have used some more advice about managing your mental game.
When I first started competing I started with my first border collie Max, who may I remind you is a let’s do everything 100 mph and think about it later kind of dog. I am a very competitive person and it didn’t really mesh together. I worried every time we went to the ring because I never knew what kind of dog I would have when we went in to run. Sometimes he was very good other times we couldn’t do 5 obstacles. I felt so embarrassed to have a dog just run around the ring barking and circling around me like a fool. I got myself so psyched up before going in the ring that every time before I went in to run I would have to run to the bathroom first to puke my guts out (gross I know but stick with me here it’s part of the story), which only added more anxiety because then I thought I would be late to my run. I thought to myself if only these people could see him practice they’d know he wasn’t so bad. I got to the point where I didn’t even want to run.
Max and I at our first competition.
After a completed weekend. I was a little frustrated, but doesn't he look so HAPPY :-)
People told me it’ll change he’ll get it, he’ll start to understand. Well he didn’t but had I just learned how to have a little fun before I gave up on him it might have changed his career. I got a puppy shortly after our 2nd year in competition and shortly after that acquired another young dog. I started going to seminars with those two dogs and started realizing that even people who were as serious as I was made mistakes too. I asked someone what their secret was to be so happy and still make mistakes. She told me “who cares”. It’s you and your dog and you know how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished as a team. She was right. I knew what I had trained my dogs so why did I doubt it every time we approached the ring entrance and why every time when I walked a course did I get so nervous about really hard parts on the course. I knew I had to change something in my head to give my dogs a boost and help us out of a hole.
Max with his first title ribbons. "ugh this is stupid mom hurry up"
I knew that if we needed to change as a team, I would be the biggest part of that and the dogs would follow. I was always worried what people thought about our runs and my dogs. After I changed my mindset a little things started falling into place a little more and more. We started Q’ing and I was actually enjoying running my dogs again. My competitive nature told me it was wrong but man did it show in our performances that we actually were working hard. I quit looking at times and who Q’d and who didn’t Q. It didn’t matter to me anymore. We were Q’ing and that’s all that mattered to me anymore. I could care less if we placed 1st or 100th. Now we just run!! All or nothing! My dogs give it to me all the time and now I can give it to them!
My whole routine before runs changed. I started just having fun with my dogs outside the ring instead of focusing on the little things I truly thought mattered to my dogs. Yes we still do a sit stay to make sure we have our start line but in general we just do silly little games to get “connected” and stay connected till we walk to the line. I make sure that I’m focused and in a zone with my dog before we run and stay connected to my dog through the whole run. If I don’t have a plan how can my dog run a course? If we expect our dogs to be connected to us, we should only do ours dogs the same in return. Don’t be rude to your dog! I still always look at my checkbook after a weekend that hasn’t gone so well and wonder why I do this but then I remember it’s a better, healthier habit than a lot of other habits I could have. J
Now I enjoy going to competition and enjoy making mistakes (every now and then :P). Most importantly HAVE FUN with your dog. Make some mistakes; it might even feel kind of good. J We all have our issues whether it is on the course or off the course. Yes I still have Max but he’s a well retired gentleman who just plays in agility now here and there and would rather sit on the couch and cuddle anyway.
Max today. Relaxing on the tunnel bags while I set course.
For more articles on “the mental game” go to
http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/the-mental-game/ http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/the-mental-game/ http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/the-mental-game/ http://dogagilityblogevents.wordpress.com/the-mental-game/