During my travels giving seminars and trialing, I encounter lots of novice teams. Being a novice is NOT easy, I remember it well...the nerves, the mistakes, the "what ifs". BUT...if I could write a letter to myself, it would contain some advice that pertains to agility as well as life :)
So here goes: Self,
Here are 20 things (I am sure I could think of 100 but lets start with 20) that I wish I could have told you (and you were probably told, but you were not in the right place on your journey to actually hear and understand).
1--You have MANY years of competing with your dog, many trials, many Q's, many mistakes...don't treat each run as it is the most important one of your life. Ace won't like it, Zip will bite you and well...it's not worth the torment :)
Photo by Ami Sheffield
2--Novice is important...not as your first trial, not as your first Q, but as that starting place for all the training you have done to continue into the dogs later career. No matter how much you want to Q, you need to really focus on handling and testing the skills you have.
3--If you fail at a course, instead of obsessing about it. Realize that trials are a test of our skills as a team..take it as a learning opportunity. It's not a personal failure...
4--Sometimes dogs make mistakes...it isn't a "training issue" it could just be that the dog isn't quite there for that run. Learning when to let go is a skill you will really need.
5--Plans don't always happen...you slip, the dog slips, you get lost, whatever. Course recovery is a great skill. Practice it if something bad happens. Get your head back in the game.
6--IT'S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD, NO ONE WILL DIE if you handle the threadle incorrectly, or don't have perfect timing, or your dog misses a contact, ...promise. It's just a dog trial :)
7--You are the only constant to your dog at a trial. Different footing, different people, different dogs, different equipment. Loretta--please focus on being as normal as you possibly can. See #6
8--Surround yourself with people that are more talented than you, people that are going to lift you up, help you succeed and be there to congratulate you when you reach a milestone. In return act the same to others.
9--BE HAPPY WITH YOUR DOG--you trained him. If they know their job, once they get over the whole "trial atmosphere" you will have the dog that you trained. Don't get upset, be patient, enjoy this journey. Remember that time Ace pooped on the teeter and you were mortified...yeah...that wasn't as big of a deal as you thought it was :) Or that time you got nailed in the boob after a great run?? Yeah...that was just a stepping stone for Lynn :)
10--If you go to a seminar, and there is a person working a dog that "you don't have"...realize you WILL someday have that dog :) It's called karma honey :)
11--People do weird stuff when they are stressed. Don't take it personally...it's their thing. Just as when you are wigging out because you forgot to walk your novice JWW course and you were PRETTY FREAKY...tis life. Accept and move on.
12--The less you try for Q's...the more you will get them. GOSH I WISH I KNEW THIS A LOT EARLIER
13--Lead out, take a DEEP BREATH and smile at your dog...they love you, they adore you, be the person that is deserving of that love (I've fallen on my face so much on this one...wish I had a million do overs!!!)
14--If a person is mad at you...and they won't tell you, there's nothing you can do about it. If they choose to tell you, then the lines of communication are open. Same with dogs...keep that line of communication open...if there is something your dog is doing wrong...SHOW them how to do it right...works great for dogs and people :)
15--KNOW WHAT YOUR CRITERIA IS FOR EACH AND EVERY OBSTACLE...know it, own it, DO IT. If you are not clear with criteria (Ace and his contacts Miss Loretta) you create confusion and worry and someone (you or the dog) will get upset. Probably both!
16--There is only room for ONE CRAZY on the course...work hard to let it just be the dog. REMEMBER THIS WHEN YOU GET KLINK :)
17--When you are getting ready to run, it's just you and the dog...not your friends, or your trainer, or your spouse. When you are done with the run, play with your dog, reward and go on a walk...don't ask what happened, don't talk about it, just enjoy that moment with your dog. This has really changed the way I see every run...
18--DON'T GIVE UP ON YOUR DOG---don't stop handling because you NQ'd...keep running. It was probably your fault anyway...just assume it so you can enjoy the run.
19--TAKE chances. You will never know what you can do until you do it. Start with runs you have NQ'd on...try something you wouldn't do at a trial but would do in training...be a bit of a risk taker :) Start small and work up to bigger challenges :)
20--REPEAT AFTER ME...IT'S THE JOURNEY, IT'S THE JOURNEY...ENJOY THE JOURNEY.
JOURNEY JOURNEY JOURNEY JOURNEY....
This post is dedicated to you Acer pup...you were the first, the one that I did all my learning on. Special, special boy. Thank you for sticking with me :) The Cheetos I am sure helped sometimes in that regard :)