2-minute dog trainer – environment and attitude

Today’s topic is attitude, and I’d like to take aim on the effect stress, pressure, and environment have on attitude.

Let me start by saying I don’t think anyone in our chosen sport of dog agility, or any other activity for that matter, sets out to have a negative attitude and to inflict said negative attitude on others.

At agility trials or classes I want to be a great leader to my dog, a great friend to my trial buddies, a great customer to the trial committee,and a great mentor to my students.

I offer treats to my dogs, I offer to videotape friends’ runs, I offer to work classes, and I tell my students “just come find me if you have any questions!” All with a smile and a happy attitude.

And then the tight schedule starts shoving me around. I’m conflicted between two rings, my dog drops a bar, the gate steward questions why I showed up late-she’s-been-calling-for-me, the volunteer coordinator asks me to bar-set in the other ring while I’m waiting to run my dog, and all that lovely, positive attitude can go up in a puff of smoke.

My attitude affects others, starting with my dog and ending with everyone around me, so I strive to stay upbeat. So does everyone else, and sometimes you can see the strain on their faces from the effort. <g>

It’s not enough to say I’ll work hard to keep that positive attitude. Sometimes I have to put mechanisms in place to maintain it.

First, on trial weekends, I must make sure to get enough sleep and water. If I’m tired or thirsty, outside influences have an opportunity to ruin my day. I get to bed several hours earlier than usual, and set the coffee pot to turn itself on before I awake so I can get my first cup without delay.

Second, whenever possible, I make a flattering or complimentary comment to a friend or student. It doesn’t have to be “you’ve got the best dog ever, and you’re the most amazing agility handler.” Just something little that I notice about them, their dog, or their performance, is often enough to help brighten my attitude (maybe theirs as well).

Third, I attempt to get quiet time. I’ll take my dog for a potty trip and hang out somewhere quiet. I’ll pick up my copy of the premium or running order, and pretend to study it. I’ll study course maps and visualize flow.

Fourth, when I’m working for the trial committee I focus on the job and exist in the moment. If my distraction, fidgeting, clock-watching, or irritation ruin a dog’s performance (or put undue stress on a handler) I feel terrible. And there’s nothing that ruins a happy attitude like guilt.

Fifth, I share with my dog the positive, excited, feelings we practice at each mealtime training session. Even when circumstances influence me to be stressed or upset, my training practice helps me spend 5 minutes being happy.

A positive attitude isn’t something that comes naturally to all of us.

But I have practiced the journey to that happy place often enough that I can easily find my way. I just have to want to make it so, and I do.

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3 Responses to “2-minute dog trainer – environment and attitude”

  1. Barb Says:

    Great, gave me some things to remember to practice during a trial. I sometimes am not as positive and upbeat as I should be.

  2. Kathy with Liz/breeze/cricket Says:

    Love the good tips that take into account all the things that are really going on- after all if things were going perfectly I guess most of us would be perfect maintaining our good attitudes :-). Great post- thanks!

  3. Michele Says:

    I like your practical advice and caring concern for others. Thanks.

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