How’s Your Confidence Running Dog Agility

Dog runningWe all know the amazing effects dog agility has on a dog’s confidence.  With each newly learned ability our dog’s can literally go from a sulky, timid and shy dog to a confident, zealous trial winner.  But what about the handler?  We spend so much time focusing on teaching and training our dogs that we forget we are the other half of the team.

I have seen it in numerous videos where one handler flows through the course with their dog in an almost intimate dance routine and then another team gets in and the dog appears to know what it should be doing but the handler fumbles around and gives confused and, how should we say it, constipated cues.

It looks almost as if they are subconscious about the way they look on the course to the point it completely interferes with their handling.  You know they have been practicing because their dogs are performing the obstacles well, just in a broken and confused pattern.

So what do you do?  You find yourself at ease at home running courses with your dog smooth, controlled and in sync, but at a trial it all falls apart.  The real question is, “What would you do for your dog if it was him that seemed lost and confused?”  You would go back to a place where he is confident and take smaller steps toward your goal.

If you are falling to pieces at a trial then chances are pretty good you have gone too far too fast.  If you practice alone it would be a great idea to get involved with a group or start one yourself so you can have fun matches or even just practice together. Running with your peers is a great way to increase your emotions in a friendly and helpful atmosphere.

Take your equipment to a park, grassy area or even a friends yard and practice away from home where you could get some by standers.  Really focus on you, your dog and doing what your team needs to communicate.  Whether that be getting silly with your dog or getting “big” with your body movements. Just be sure your dog is under control and you are not near a busy street where your dog could get hurt if he decides to get a case of the zoomies.

Work on your handling and focus under those circumstances until you become fluid with your dog before adding more distractions like a fun match or small trial.  Stretch yourself with challenges that you are pretty sure you can meet with practice.  Grow your own confidence by setting yourself up for success.

Soon enough you will be confident enough to hit a trial, not that you will be perfect, but that you will be able to walk into the ring with confidence that you and your dog are a team.  Able to get lost in your dance with your dog on the agility field.