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