Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Why is Attitude Important?

There have been so many things written and spoken about attitude and how it affects your performance in sports.  There has been less written about your dog's attitude and how it affects their performance!

I believe that the same principals apply.
  • A positive attitude can give you a higher level of performance
  • Negative emotions (such as worry) adversely affect your performance
  • The act of laughing and play relaxes you and increases your level of performance
  • Hanging around positive people (or dogs) can give you a more optimistic perspective


    (Chasing Prairie Dogs)
I have been focusing on my dogs attitude lately.  I will be the first to admit, I have great material to work with (my dogs that is).  Yes, they are border collies, yes they love to work, but my boys are also very concerned with doing it right.  The concerns with doing it right often affect how well they can perform.

Split, for instance will not send to a tunnel unless he has confirmed twice that it is the right obstacle to do.  Tangle won't run at full speed if he doesn't have all the information two days in advance.  (Tip, well she really doesn't have a confidence problem and is FULL of attitude.)

So, with the two boys I am working very hard at PLAY.  The more they play, the happier they are, the more confidence they are building.  This increases their drive, speed and desire to play with me.  It is a win/win for all involved.

So, tips to improve your dogs attitude or excitement level.  Use these right before you go into the ring or start your agility practice.
  1. Put behaviors such as jumping on command.  Any activity where the dog has to get some feet off the ground , raises the heart beat and gets them excited.  Spinning is another great one.
  2. Dogs bark when they are excited.  Put it on command, use it to your advance.
  3. Put a a word to an explosive start.  My dogs LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it when I open the agility gate in the morning.  When I release them I am amazed at how fast they can go from 0 - 60mph.  I am put a word on that so I can evoke that same behavior when needed.  When do you get an explosive start?  Chasing a squirrel, another dog, restrained recalls. 
  4. Tug, tug, tug!  I use to have a "drop it" command as a part of my tug with my dogs, but I noticed that Tangle wouldn't put all his effort into a tug.  So, I put different rules on the game for him.  He has a command to "get it" (I get an explosive run to me) and that is it.  Once I stopped asking for a release, started trying to pry the toy from his mouth, played keep away when he released it I got a tugging fool!  Those little things made all the difference.  I believe that Susan Garrett has a YouTube about building drive as a bad dog trainer. :)
  5. Play chase with your dog, increases their prey drive and heart rate.  They will go to the start line very excited and ready to chase.
  6. Race your dog to toys
  7. Observe your dog, anything they get excited about in everyday life can be used to get them excited and focused before they go into the ring.  For instance, Split loves to catch dirt when I flick it.  This gets him going, and it is a great warm up for his hind end.
Think about it.  A controlled and calm dog is great (when you are eating dinner), but a happy, confident, and excited dog is gonna be an awesome partner in the agility ring. 

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony - Gandhi