MAKING PROGRESS, ONE STEP AT A TIME
Hit the wall? You’re not alone!
Super dogs and the unrealistic goal…
There is one thing I remember when I first started cani-sports…that was how good everyone else’s dogs were! Here were these amazing dogs, who stood ahead waiting to be told to hike/run, who passed beautifully and under control – they almost seemed unreal compared to my pets who were basically teenage ASBOs waiting to happen at any given moment!
I was so frustrated that Alan wanted to hug every dog, that Maggie didn’t want to do much more than roll over every time she saw a big fluffy husky or malamute! Yes they enjoyed the chase, but other than that, we were pretty rubbish!
I would often leave social runs feeling a bit down that my dogs weren’t doing what other peoples’ seemed to do so effortlessly!
For every iceberg tip above the water…there is a base you can’t see beneath
Absolutely! We only see a very small snippet of peoples’ dog’s behaviour in classes or at races. You are seeing that dog literally for less than three minutes at some points, but we allow ourselves to be compared to this? We didn’t see the dog who has perhaps whined all the way there in the car, or the dog who has already lunged at their human because they are impatient. We may not have seen the giant poop stop they made because the dog didn’t toilet… Nope, what we see is the good stuff and once again in true self sabotage style – we compare our dogs and our events… It is easy to forget that you might be attending a class with someone who is able to train their dog four days a week. It is equally easy to forget that the dog who runs with your coach, has been training for four years… or perhaps in the case of the older dogs, nine! Behind every great cani-sport dog, is hours of consistent training and repetitions of behaviours. So stop worrying about how great someone else’s dog is and start re-focusing on your own improvements.
Dogs do doggy things!
Dogs are animals. Yup, I know you probably know this, but they are actual animals. Not furry babies, not little
child substitutes, but animals. Animals without logic or predetermined plans for human domination or trying to deliberately ruin your afternoon. This means that if you leave food out and go out of the house, the chances are it won’t be there when you get back!
It also means that sometimes on a trail, the excitement might be a lot and your dog can’t quite focus properly while running. This doesn’t mean you have a rubbish trail dog. It means they have had a challenging day and just didn’t quite get it right.
So how do we make progress?
Every day you run your dog and work with them – they are making progress. Sometimes it might be a bit slower, or other times you might not think they have done anything at all, but you have in fact cemented their skills and knowledge just by repeating it.
In each session, there are times when your dog might feel tired or unfocused – so the best advice I take from these sessions is to stop – re-set and ensure that I finish my dog with something they can do well. This means they finish strong, and I finish feeling good as well. An example is when the dog is being easily distracted by others on the trail, or perhaps has tried to offer a little light smooch on the last pass. In this instance, I then will keep my dog back from their love interest and wait until they switch into forward mode. This is where their attention is focused on just going forward. When the dog is focused, I slowly close the gap so they end up running on one side of the other dog, but just behind (with their head level with the other dog’s hips / waist).
I add in praise and then slowly move forward so both dogs are next to each other. I praise my dog. At this point, I have two choices; 1 – keep moving forward and pass cleanly, or 2 – stay side by side and finish with my ‘buddy’.
Other times may include your dog not pulling – or staying focused going forward. In these cases, I slow to a walk and let my dog pull out front. I will head to a narrow trail and then start a slight jog telling my dog to go for it… we run for a short while with the pull and praise this before I then choose to slow my dog back to a walk. I ensure that it is my command which initiates the slow down rather than my dog choosing not to pull any more. In this instance it is important to not run too far. Many athletes will try to run their dogs too far in the beginning and let the dog slow when they are tired. This way runs the risk of a dog who won’t pull consistently.
In a nutshell
Keep it really simple – short fun sessions
Finish on something the dog can do well
Don’t judge yourself and your dog against others, there will always be someone we think is better.