I have developed a split personality disorder on purpose. To learn how, read on....
I have done a TON of work on this front. I didn't start out with this in mind, but it was really brought about by self preservation.
The journey started with Tip, my first agility dog. She would arrive ring side (no doubt way too early) and begin her wind up routine. She would watch the dogs on course, get more and more wound until it was finally our turn. I would walk out of course and release the wound up spring. As you can imagine, we hit every obstacle on course, probably twice and would end up with high points in trial. Only served me well in USDAA Gamblers where her random obstacles would gain us "good" points!!
|Conductor of the Crazy Train|
I began my journey with myself, determined that this routine wouldn't get me upset and wound just like her. It took me a couple of years, finally realizing the calmer I was, the more calm she was. Our runs began to come together. Also realizing (way too slowly) that I should only get her to ring side about 3 seconds before our run so she couldn't continue her wind up routine.
Tip is an extraordinary agility dog, she is the only one of my dogs that can be truly handler focused and obstacle focused depending on what I need. I began to incorporate some of this into my warm up routine with her. So, if we were doing Gamblers (of which she was already an expert) I would warm her up with some distance work. If we were doing Snooker I would warm her up with "come to hand" and tight flat work. She slowly began to understand that this translated to what I was about to ask of her on our runs.
Don't get me wrong, we have not arrived. Tip is still the conductor of the "Crazy Train", but we do manage to pull it together more often to win our share of races.
I will contrast this with Tangle. Tangle is the opposite of Tip and my third agility dog. The closer Tangle would get to the ring the more stressed he would get. Sniffing, calming signals, never playing, and slowing his pace. We would go into the ring and he would be very careful, never wanting to be wrong. Always doing a great job, but never having fun. This is just who Tangle was (yes, I said "was").
Holy cow, now I had a dog that I needed to figure out how to "wing up"! This journey also took a couple of years. I needed to learn how to be happy, relaxed and playful around Tangle. I am these things in real life, but running Tip had taught me to be more meditative when going into the ring to run.
So, I had to teach Tangle that it was OK to play no matter where he was. We had to play in the backyard, at starbucks, ring side, every where. I actually had to teach this! He had to learn to bark and be wild on command. We had to learn to take that behavior to the ring (the gate steward hates me now, but I am OK with that). So, with Tangle I broke all the "Tip" rules. We stayed ring side, I let him get wound watching dogs, I asked him to bark and spin, and finally he agreed to tug ring side!
I documented some of this journey in the blog -- IYC, and Training in Crazy Places
|Cynosport 2012 - Playing before a run|
Tangle and I still have some work to accomplish at really big events, but we are setting patterns of success which is important. He is having fun, running fast, and relaxing!
Then there is Split, not to be minimized, but he is somewhere in between. He would stay calm ring side, yes, excited to run but not really showing it. I honestly don't think the excitement hits Split until he is about 3 obstacles into the course. Then he realizes again why he loves the game and looses all connection to me (joining Tip on the crazy train). So, with Split I had to bring his excitement level up BEFORE the run so that he could begin to level out before we hit the startline. Split (thanking the universe as I say this) is fairly easy to deal with mentally. We have begun to tug ring side (which I also had to teach him to do) and our runs are beginning to level out and be fairly nice.
|Split's Crazy AF|
All three dogs get the same treatment at the end of our runs and I am religious about this! We never stop to talk to anyone, we run to their reward, I smother them with praise and we play!
So, no story is the same in terms of mental management of your dog. But hopefully, you take away the bits and pieces that make sense for your team and learn to get your dog "in the zone" and become the person that they need you to be!