Spring is a season of promise, and hope. About time eh?

It’s the time all our best laid plans start to come to fruition  – or so we hope …

Use this time wisely though in order to maximize the opportunities  … pick shows /events’/trials that build on previous experience . Add slowly to the pressure you face – perhaps start close to home, or only with 1-2 runs. Leaping into a three day event, a long way from home with 8 events a day that are at the top end of your current training can be a recipe for disaster. And unlike in other cases because we have animal partners to consider the damage done can be significant and take a great deal of work to repair!

It’s much easier to set our sights on successive progressive events to ensure our goals are met. One step at a time gets us to the top faster, and feeling better about ourselves than leaping up five steps at once and falling. The expression in dog training “be a splitter not a lumper”  has applications that reach far beyond our individual training sessions.

Let’s for a moment imagine that you are reading this a little too late. That you DID ALL THE THINGS and it wasn’t pretty.  Do not beat yourself up. It’s OK. You are human and you can, and will recover.

How? Through planning, and thinking and regrouping. Here are some strategies to help you recover

  1. Record keep – note what went wrong … in order to help you avoid it in the future not to beat yourself up
  2. Note what worked, if you are fortunate enough to have video make yourself identify at least two things that were good … because after watching hundreds of hours of video I can assure you there is always something good to note
  3. break down small steps to get you back on the path to success. For example:  If there were too many distractions for you  or your dog at the event  how can you build  graduated distractions into your training plan? The backyard? front yard? driveway? quiet park? outside a school yard?
  4. be deliberate –  choose what to work on each session – you cannot, and should not, attempt to fix it all at once!
  5. test ping ponging your training – by that I mean alternate something that you want to polish and already do well with something that takes more effort on both your parts.  Do  not drill drill drill – it will ore your dog and potentially frustrate you both!
  6. Give yourself credit for what you do well. If you need to stop and focus on the things that are working well that’s fine.
  7. Calculate what you have learned from the experience. Every experience good, or not as good, has value, Determining how to use what you have gained can e tricky sometimes but is well worth it.
  8. Cut yourself some slack You are human, your dog is canine – it is simply not possible to always make the right choices for  you both. You still love your dog, your dog still loves you – that’s truly the most important piece!

The journey is part of the joy – work to not lose sight of that!


Categories: Mentaltraining


I've been lucky enough to work with animal sports people (dog and horse) improving their mental game, planning and goal setting and accomplishment. I work with dogs and their people in all sports though my personal passions are agility and scent work. I live on a farm in Ontario, Canada with 5 dogs, 10 horses and various other critters.


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