Problems at Trial
It's hard and painful sometimes to smile when others are winning around you and you don't have any tangible proof that you've achieved anything. This is when it's time to figure out why you're doing this. Is it to win or to have fun with your dogs and try your best at shows. Sometimes you have both, but what is more lasting? Wins or having fun with your dog? As you look at the ribbons on your wall you can smile and try to remember the moment, but the fun is so much more real, you can have that any time you're willing to spend time with your dogs. For different people it's different. Each person has their own goals and standards. You know what works for you and your dog - go for it! Just don't forget to leave room for the joy of working as a tuned-in team that is the real thrill of agility. (Penny Winegartner)
Starters especially should keep a record of how you did at a show and specifically should note down one thing that you have learned from the show and one thing that you need to work on. BUT, it is also important that you should make a note of what you (the team) have done well at the show - you can do it on a per run basis but it could also be for the entire show. Think about it - there must be something at each show that is good in your performance? Think about that more than the poorer bits, sure, work on the poorer bits and try and improve but remember that it is not all doom and gloom and you will feel better for it, your dog will feel better, your training will be better and who knows next time out your results may be better! (Tony Dickinson)
It can be a problem keeping agility fun. One thing to note is your tone of voice. Sometimes we are all happy and upbeat with one dog but very stern with a second, especially if the second one wants to leave the ring and not run! If you get into a bad pattern you might take a long break from agility and then start again, training a whole new way.
One way of doing this would be to have the dog do one jump, jump up and down and tell the dog she is wonderful, and give her a treat. Over time the dog might change and love agility again. Even if the dog is not dependable in the ring she will have fun! Decide that getting legs is no longer going to be a priority and play the games. You might be surprised to find that the dog gets legs while also having fun.
In re-training dogs that are no longer having fun, reward little things- one jump, one obstacle, and not whole long sequences. Too many times we feel running long sequences in training is the thing to do. Clean Run publishes exercises that use 2 jumps or three pieces of equipment, because that is where the fine tunning and fun comes in. Beginning agility people can't wait to run a course and once their dogs do all the obstacles that's what they seem to want to do all the time. This can be very boring for the non-working breeds or non-motivated dogs.
Remember that who we are as people doesn't change because of what our dog does in the ring. They don't tattoo on our chest.... "this woman has failed to get a title on her dog".... for all the world to see.
Since we all manage competition dogs, we should be aware of the relationship between our mood and how they perform. There is an old saying in the U.K. that the handler's mood travels down the lead. This is very true!
For example: You're at training and you've had a bad afternoon. You're in a foul mood and you know it, sadly so do your dogs!
So how can we ensure that we are in a good mood?
- Get to sleep! You know how irritable you are when you don't have enough sleep - especially if you have a 3 hour drive to the show starting at 5 am? So make sure that you get to bed early enough. The night before a competition try to relax. Don't go out and get smashed! Try and have a gentle run with the dogs, a warm bath and an early night. Some handlers say that aromotherapy can also be very helpful.
- Funny business! Humour is the best medicine - try watching a few minutes of a favorite comedy tape or listen to a comedy tape in the car. At the show don't hang around with people who are congenitally depressing, find some people who are 'up' to talk to.
- Music to your ears? Music is a very good mood inducing medium - listen to something that help you to relax and get into a good mood - different things help different folks.
- Talk to yourself and the dog. While it used to be considered a sign of impending madness, most people will now admit that it is possible to talk yourself 'up' - most dogs are very good listeners!
- Get excited or stay calm? Which does your dog need? Of course on the surface you need to show your dog what he needs to see - underneath YOU need to be excited - excitement gives you an enhanced adrenaline flow and that is a good thing! Of course you don't need too much adrenaline and it may take you some time to get the balance right. Also the natural level of adrenaline will vary according to the 'level' of show that you are competing in - if you are at the 'Nationals' you may need to take some extra measures to calm yourself down to a 'normal' level. Whatever you do don't relax too much - you NEED to care what you do out there!
- A heart rate monitor can help you find the fine line where you will perform at your best - you don't need anything fancy, you can get some simple heart rate monitors that double as watches and don't cost a small fortune.
Remember if you are performing at your best it travels down that lead - even when you leave the lead at the start line!
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