You know ... like the old saying .. "putting the cart before the horse".
Amanda and I have been working on developing some new classes for our group after observing them for the past few months - the prep we do for classes is alot of work, we spend time of the phone, dinners and any other time we can trying to come up with clever ways to get our points across and have people be successful - and we look for ideas for US too!! And our jobs as coaches and instructors is to do that. We can't sit back and watch things fall apart and have people plateau and not know what to do. We don't do it with our own dogs - and our students are ultimately a reflection of us - to some extent ... we can't take all the glory, nor can we take responsibility for dogs blowing contacts, sniffing, getting bored - the handlers are responsible for maintaining criteria keeping it FUN and the rules they instill out side of class for the other 23 hours of the day.
We gave everyone a Goal sheet last night and wanted to see what people's goals were in the next 6 months. It was interesting to hear ... some people wanted to make sure their dog continues to have fun (and were looking for ways to do that), others wanted to speed up their dogs and themselves, and there were a couple who talked about a specific title they want. From a dog's point of view - I'm pretty sure I would want to be with the person who is more concerned about having fun (I'm a dog afterall, fun is my middle name), rather than being with the person who is mostly worried about the Q (what the hell is a Q anyway, I want my damn hotdog and I want to play with my mama!).
If we worry and obsess too much about the end result (the title or the Q) without putting in as much thought, effort, obsession and worry about how we want to actually get there - we are losing out on a big opportunity. If you do the work, train the dog, have fun with dog, and the dog has fun with YOU, be confident and put in 100% effort in all of the steps to get there - the Q's will come, they will come quicker than they did before, it's true, I've been there.
We asked about what motivates the dogs last night, and everyone brought out HUGE amounts of toys, treats etc... we got everyone to explain why and how they use their motivator. We told everyone to put away the low value motivators and only use the highest value one for the night. Only ONE person said "Are we supposed to be the biggest motivator?" OMG DING DING DING!!!!
If the dog isn't motivated to be with you ... they aren't going to be motivated to take the said "motivator" ... and they certainly aren't going to be motivated to run agility - and even less likely to be motivated to get that all important Q for "YOU"!!! Or on the flipside - the equipment itself becomes the main motivator - and that is a recipe for doom also. We had everyone play with their dog with only having the person being the motivator - it was hard for some people (and these are people who compete) - and others it was easier. If you can't keep you dog engaged with you for one minute with no Agility equipment and no treats - how are you going to keep them engaged on course?
I want my dogs to see running agility as a fun thing we do where mama runs around like an idiot. Here is a look inside Kaleb's head for a minute .. "Oh goodie, I'm out of my crate, which means it is MY time to play with MY mama!!! HAH Gyp, you are left behind!! Now I get to do my favourite obstacles and if I run really fast SQUIRREL ... oh right, it means mama gives me the reward I worked so hard for ... I get it even quicker - if I do it REALLY, REALLY fast!! Gimme, gimme mama - I'm gonna get you, run faster woman! SQUIRREL!! Oh right, I am chasing Mama!!"
And in the mind of Gyp "Mama, I hope you have your knee brace tightened and your shoe laces tied up, because I am going to do my best for you, because you always do your best for me. BARK BARK BARK. OMG Weaves ... Mama I love this, thanks for teaching me how to go really fast ... BARK BARK BARK .... OMG Jumps .... hurry up mama this is so much fun WEEEE! What?? We are done already? I want more!!! I want more mama and me time!!!"
So ... have you made your dog think Agility Obstacles are actually "Obstacles" ... or are they "Opportunities" for fun??
Here is an awesome article about "Finding the Joy" ...
if you haven't read this already PLEASE DO!