Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Today's blog in a part of the Dog Agility Bloggers Event on Mental Management!  Here is the first article, The How To Guide for Multiple Personalities.  Here is the link to my dog's mental management, Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde - How my dog and I get ready for our run!

The mental game is a journey.  It helps to know that you may never arrive at the perfect destination!

I am always trying to improve my mental game at trials.  I have made a lot of progress, but there is always more work to be done.  I don't really get nervous anymore at local trials and find that I enjoy myself most of the time (there are exceptions).  But at really, really big events nerves play more of a factor.  I am not going to talk about how to control nerves (see list in the "How To" guide for multiple personalities).  What I want to focus on is "focus".  The mental game of rehearsing my run, and writing this is yet another way for me to improve upon this.

I find that visualizing my run is intensely helpful.   It does a number of things for me.  It helps me relax, it reduces my handler errors, increases my confidence on parts of the course that would otherwise be 'iffy in my mind, and helps me plan better cues for my dog. 

Cynosport 2012 - "In the hole"

When I pick up the course maps in the morning I try to look at all the runs quickly, prioritize which I need to review first.  When I am looking at the course map for the first time I am trying to make some preliminary handling decisions.  There might be a section or two where there are a couple of options.  I will decide those in the walk-through.  If I have some down time after this I will begin to mentally walk through the course as if I am running it with my dog.  Yep, I look like the crazy person on the side lines "air" rehearsing my run!  My objectives are to build muscle memory, picture exactly where my dog and I are on course at all times, and to rehearse the verbal cues that I will be giving.  I try to get very detailed, down to exact where the dog's feet are when I start my cues.

When I walk the course the first time I walk my dog's path.  It is amazingly helpful for me.  I can spot what the dog sees (off courses), pay attention to how my weight shifts, it tells me how big of a lead change my dog will need.  Also, walking his/her path tells me if my dog needs to be in extension/relative extension/collection.  This all confirms my handling decisions.  Then I switch quickly to rehearsing my actual run on course.  I get in as many reps as possible in the time allowed.

Assuming that I have time between the walk-through and my run I do more rehearsing of my run.   I pay attention to how I am breathing.  I pay attention to how relaxed I am.  I must rehearse the relaxation as well!

When I am about ready to enter the ring, I try to smile and feel the love of the game!

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