Time off pays off.

dog care dog training May 01, 2023

Back when I rode horses, it was common to take longer breaks - sometimes six weeks of horses just being horses in a field. When I started competing with my dogs, I was surprised that handlers and dogs just seemed to compete all year in addition to taking classes. Where was the break?

With my first Berner, I quickly learned that hot Virginia summers were not for us, even in air-conditioned buildings (no surprise!). I started taking all of July (and parts of June and August) away from competition and headed into the woods for hiking, camping, swimming, and other fun. When we returned to classes that first September, I saw a renewed enjoyment in my dog - he was fresh and happy to be back.

As you might guess, I'm a big fan of taking breaks. Scheduling time off is essential for us as much as it is for our dogs. In my goal-setting methodology, reflected in my online course as well as the dogged planner and workbook, I devote a section to ensuring we are looking at our breaks as we set the trial calendar. It's important. Our bodies need a break from repetition, and our mindset needs rest too.

When we give our dogs a break, we know they heal physically and continue to learn and process information. It's not uncommon for a dog to take time off something only to return and "magically" know what to do.

We handlers also need "integration" time when it comes to learning. Continuing to take on new information or have new experiences (aka, constantly going to trials and classes) leaves little space for us to truly consider these lessons. When was the last time you spent even an hour thinking about how to solve a challenge? Stepping away can provide new perspectives and help us return to our dogs fresher and more motivated.

Looking at your calendar, where can you take some time off? A weekend here and there is excellent, but what about a month? I'm not suggesting you and your dogs spend the month on the couch with Netflix, but shifting to hiking, swimming, or a different sport can go a long way to keeping bodies and minds fresh upon your return.

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