Sometimes the right thing is the uncomfortable thing.

confidence mindset May 23, 2023

I did something I never do. I entered an agility trial where I only entered one games class each day for all four days. No standard or jumpers classes, just FAST and T2B.


(For those of you who don't do agility, stick with me for a minute.)


If you know me, you know I enjoy competing; I would enter all the classes and walk into the ring as much as possible! But in this case, NOT entering is the best way to help my dog.


If you've listened to the podcast, you know Moxie and I are working through her ring nerves and her ability to do her weave poles "in public." To better support her, I've elected to treat this trial as a match and do just one class each of the four days.


For even more detail (and self-accountability), I'm entered in FAST Thursday and Friday and plan to skip the (optional) weave poles completely. Thursday will be a "fun run" where I don't even try to Q, and I may take a toy in. Friday, I will try to Q so she can feel the difference in my energy because that's part of the equation too. I'm trying to build her confidence under all sorts of circumstances.


I am entered in Time 2 Beat (T2B) on Saturday and Sunday, where the course will include weaves, but I can take a toy in the ring. On both days, I will ask for the weaves and gauge her resilience to see if I should or should not make her try again. If she does them, out comes the toy, and the party will begin! (Note to self: buy yummy jackpot treats!)


Why am I telling you my personal plan in such detail? Several reasons. Sometimes we need "permission" to do the non-conforming thing because it's best for our dogs. If you've ever had a training issue that shows up in the ring, then you know it's tough (some argue impossible) to recreate that environment in training. We have to get more comfortable excusing ourselves from rings of all sorts to support our long-term goals and our dog's needs.


Second, I want you to know that everyone struggles with something eventually! Every dog is a teacher, and each requires us to take a different uncomfortable path. The longer we fight the lesson, the longer the lesson persists. It's not giving up; it's listening to our dogs.


Next, I'm reminding all of us - including myself - of the power of our process goals, training plans, and even energetic goals. Not only does Moxie need (and deserve) this level of planning, but I do too! I'm a little surprised at how hard it was to commit to and create this plan with zero guarantees of "success."


Which leads me to my last reason for sharing. What is "success" anyway? When we create process goals or even training goals, it forces us to get clear on what success looks like. For me, success is sticking to my plan and not pushing her. For Moxie, success will be having fun and showing me glimpses of confidence. It's my job to create an environment where she can be successful.


I don't think of this coming trial as a "sacrifice." Instead, I see it as an investment in "Future-Moxie" (and "Future-Julie"). This is a shift in perspective for me, and I may wonder if the experiment will pay off for a while. But I've decided I want to figure this out, and I'm aligning my actions to support that decision.

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