Get your head back in the game.

dog training Nov 06, 2019
Photo by Marie Acosta

In our day-to-day life with dogs – living with them, training, and competing – it’s easy to forget about the bigger picture. We focus on the goal or activity that’s right in front of us instead of taking the longer view. We easily misplace our reason for working with dogs in the first place – are we doing it for the Q or because we love partnering with our canine bestie? 

This is especially true when things go “wrong.” In my coaching, we spend a lot of time talking about bouncing back from disappointment and setbacks. Nearly every conversation includes an arc about reconnecting to our WHY so we can fully put into perspective the real meaning of an NQ within a dog’s life with us.

The question becomes: Are we playing a long game or just in it for immediate satisfaction?

In a recent FB Live session with my masterclass, I shared my recent disappointment during a draft test. It was Sunday and Moxie needed just one more “Pass” for a fancy title. She passed the day before and I was feeling settled and confident that a goal I’d set in the beginning of the year was attainable.

When it came time to do the back up, she forgot how. Seriously. And she even got a little weird about it, looking over her shoulder and avoiding both the exercise and me. 58, 59, 60 seconds passed and we had run out of time. No Pass, no fun title.

To make matters “worse,” this was our last chance in the draft ring for the year as she was due to come into season (bitches!). Assuming she gets pregnant, her next chance in the ring would be … April. Anyone else have a similar story? Of course, you do!! We all go through this – it’s sport!

Your ego on a tantrum

After finishing the rest of the course flawlessly, I exited the ring and my ego roared to the forefront. I was disappointed, I was perplexed, I was even a little mad. Now before I (or you, dear reader) judge my emotions, let me say this: We need to be honest with ourselves and give our true feelings a little airtime before we start redirecting them or glossing over them altogether. 

So I took Mox back to my setup, rewarded her, and faced my thoughts and my ego about our performance. Thankfully, no one came up to me with advice or questions so I could give myself the space to reflect. Also thankfully, we had a couple dogs before the stays and freight haul so I could get my head together.

In part, because I now have the tools, and partly because it was so weird, I moved quickly into curiosity. Curiosity is good because it opens you to possibilities and makes you look at a situation with openness instead of judgement; with a growth mindset instead of a fixed one. In this mindset, I’m already beginning to look forward to what I can do differently, what I can learn from this moment. No dwelling, only forward.

Love ya, mean it

Next, I went to appreciation and gratitude for my hard-working girl. I firmly believe that being grateful can turn pretty much any situation around. It shifts your focus and thoughts to something positive. It uses a different part of your brain and has proven neurological benefits. I connected with her and told her I was grateful for how hard she worked, how much she tried. I told her I was sorry she got freaked out and that I know for certain she can do perfect back ups. And I meant all of it.

I was able to see myself away from my ego and back to the connection I have with my dog. I felt myself becoming more grounded and my ego had no more fight left in her. We did our group stays for practice and the freight haul for conditioning and I let go and enjoyed the time with my dog. I had two more runs in the day to go and I owed my dogs my complete presence. 

  • Give yourself a little space to look at your emotions honestly.
  • Move to curiosity, openness, and a growth mindset.
  • Jump into appreciation and gratitude for what went right.
  • Reconnect to your dog and the reasons you play the game.

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