Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Mental Aspect of Agility: Get Outside of Your Mind

Today's post is brought to you by the Dog Agility Blog Action Day group. Every once in a while, a group of dog agility bloggers all write on a particular subject/theme and then share the other blog links with you so you can learn more about that subject.

This month's topic is on the mental aspect of agility. This can be taken just about any way possible--your mental game, your dog's…ring stress, focus, "the zone," etc.

I've always been a very mental person--some times my mind is running on overdrive and I get way too much in my head. I've been known to be a very intense person, in and out of the ring. When I showed horses, it was a running joke that perhaps I needed a little liquid refreshment before I showed or ran barrels because I was so intense. That carried on to competing in agility when I first started six years ago.

Training-wise, I soaked in everything I could and enjoyed my time training Dally. But when it got to actual trials, I'd get so nervous prior to my class. I'd obsessively walk the course over and over until the whistle blew. I'd obsessively stare at the course maps up until it was our turn. I'd put so much pressure on myself to run the course perfectly and will Dally to run fast, it did just the opposite--I'd mess up on a cross, Dally would feel the pressure I had and move slow… I'd have to cheerlead Dally through the course, praying and hoping to come in under standard course time. It wasn't much fun.

I tried the "liquid refreshment" at a couple of trials. I couldn't tell you if it helped or not, but I did have a little more fun (I think). I chomped on peppermints left and right, in hopes of masking my nerves around Dally. None of it seemed to help much.

I couldn't tell you when exactly everything clicked. It might have been after I moved Dally down to Preferred 4". We had to start back in Novice, which meant easier and more laid-back courses. When we got back in Excellent B (now Masters), we were still having fun, but not being consistent enough to QQ….

Or maybe it was bringing LaMesa along and training her--I had to focus my energy on her, and I knew I could rely on Dally to be my steady eddy...

Or maybe it was when we earned our first QQ…Finally, that one thing that had eluded us for so long, and it finally happened. After that, we finally got the ball rolling with QQs...

I couldn't tell you what made a change, but finally Dally and I started running together like a team who enjoyed being out there. Now I walk the courses a few times (maybe obsess a little, but when you're walking for two different dogs, you tend to do that), I barely look at the course maps, and I just go out there planning to enjoy the run with Dally. Yes, I do get a little intense and nervous before I run LaMesa, but it's so much better than when I first started agility.

A friend has ben having troubles running her dog--she's so intense! She asked me what made me change my running style and I told her it was basically because I wanted to enjoy every run with Dally. She's 8 years old now and has done everything I've ever asked her (well, except for herding, but that's another story). No one ever thought she'd be an agility champion. No one ever thought she'd qualify for the AKC National Agility Championships…

But guess what… She is an agility champion--she earned her PACH last November and is so close to earning her PACH2 in the next few months. Plus, Dally's qualified for the AKC NAC not once, not twice, but three years in a row! The AKC continually tries to make qualification harder, and she still comes through.

She's relaxed so much because I have. Because I know that I'm lucky to get to run one of the prettiest Corgis you'll see. I know that she has my back and loves me, no matter what. So why not enjoy those runs? I know there will come a time when we have to hang up her hot pink zebra print agility collar, but for right now I want to relish each and every run. If I'm stressed myself and start to stress her out, it's not going to be a fun, worthwhile run.

Yes, agility is a mental sport. But you can't be too mental because you'll forget all about the fun and the whole purpose of running agility--running with your best friend, your heart, your soul.

Read more great blog posts on the official site of the Dog Agility Blog Action Day.


  1. Have fun, don't worry about the Q. That's the real "Secrete"!

  2. You've come a long way!
    And Dally too :)

    1. Haha Thanks. Now if only we will be able to say that about LaMesa some time soon...

  3. I know she has my back and loves me, no matter what.
    Perfectly said!

    1. Thank you! Corgis always have your back! ;-)

  4. Great post! It describes me pretty well, too. I had started to relax until I got to needing QQs and the stress came back. I tried liquid refreshment as well and it definitely did not help, it made it worse (not the stress, but my handling)! I just sort of accepted that I'm an uptight person, and that actually helped a bit. Now that I am so close, I'll probably just drop dead from an adrenaline overdose! LOL!

    1. LOL Just take it all in. When I finally PACHed, I cried right there in the ring. I started crying as I pushed Dally towards the last two obstacles (chute to a jump). Boy I would have felt like poo if she ran by the last jump! LOL I've learned to relish every run with my girls.