Where oh where did the stamina go?

dog training mental skills Feb 04, 2021

I get hung up on words or concepts periodically. “Curiosity” was my word pre-2020. I was trying to get myself and others to look at training challenges with openness and wonder instead of judgment and failure. I still love curiosity and it has shifted my training and feedback habit, but now the word I’m hung up on is “stamina.”

I think we’ve all lost a LOT of stamina in these Covid times. My handy Mac dictionary app defines stamina as follows:
stam·i·na | ˈstamənə |
The ability to sustain prolonged physical or mental effort.

For me, the keyword is “prolonged.” I don’t know about you, but even running a couple of hours of errands leaves me exhausted these days. Shopping of any sort used to energize me - the rush of checking things off the list with the added bonus of having a new “thing” or food in the house. But now, if Amazon can’t deliver it, I resign to go without.

I’m not alone, of course. But what has surprised me is how much mental stamina my dogs have lost since last March.

Back to work

I was fortunate to be able to go back to limited training classes in June then fully in September. Anxious to get back to training, I also added some private obedience lessons. Physically, my dogs hadn’t lost too much as we were able to go for walks and do some home conditioning. And boy, did they ever want to jump into the van and go somewhere - anywhere! Confinement made Moxie visibly grumpy and both Indie and Trip were just plain bored.

So it came as a surprise to me that only about 15 minutes into their lessons, each dog started to “melt.” Their focus was going, they seemed suddenly exhausted, and all their previous enthusiasm fizzled. Once home, they slept as if we had hiked for miles.

At first, I didn’t get it. Here I was, excited to be working the dogs again, and they fade on me within minutes - Whaaa?! Then it clicked. Although they were happy to be working and love where we train, they had lost a LOT of stamina.

Thankfully, their stamina returned quickly for training, yet we had to work up to agility days once trials restarted. I noticed that by the end of a single day, Moxie was exhausted. Again, it wasn’t her body that couldn’t handle three runs in a day, it was her mental stamina.

In our area, trials have started and stopped and started again so increasing mental stamina in my dogs is not exactly a straight line. They are bored and want to work, but I’m still consciously trying to extend their focus - and my own!

It’s been surprising to me how much mental stamina all of us have lost as a result of restricted activities. I know it’s going to be a minute before a run to Target doesn’t require a nap when I get home, and another minute before we can all do a three-day trial!!

{Photo of Mox and Trip looking for their lost stamina by Kim Perry}

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