The Value of Video of Your Dog Agility Runs
I am sometimes amazed when I ask people if they are video taping their runs and they get self conscious and say things like, “I hate watching myself on TV!,” or “Are you kidding, I don’t want to see all the mistakes I made!” Yet, that is exactly what you need to see. When you are on the field two things happen, you run differently because of the pressure and things feel much worse than they really are. What may have felt like a three ring circus may have really only been a couple of small mistakes. But how will you know if you can never step back and take it in from a broader perspective.
It is also good to see how big or little your cues really are when you are in the ring. Many times I have heard people say things like, “My hands were quiet at my sides unless I gave a cue, then I brought them right back.” It is impossible to make them realize they were giving all kinds of unintended cues or too tiny of cues unless they can see it on tape. Once you get over the fact that you are not being video taped so that it can be sent in to Funniest Home Videos, you will really grow as a handler. Learning how to use those videos to strengthen your skills and also learn of you and your dog’s weaknesses will become gold to you and you will start searching out strangers to hold you camera if need be.
For starters you will be able to watch the video as the judge or better, the audience. You can let go and just let your emotions run wild as you cheer, dodge and weave, and maybe even groan at yourself as you would another team. You can see the fluid parts of your run as well as the spots that get sticky. You can then dissect the “bad” spots and see the interaction between you, your dog and the course from a distance. What you may, or in some cases may not, have been thinking at that moment could be completely off base to what was really taking place. Did you send the wrong message to your dog, was your dog getting ahead of you and anticipating your moves instead of taking direction. Were your cues late and thus confusing your dog or was your dog distracted and not looking to you for your cues.
When you can sit back and watch your runs with a clear head and steady heart, then you can really start to see where you and your dog shine and where you need work. I stand with the rest when I feel a run was just horrid only to have someone else say it looked really good. Or when I have a run that just plain goes to pot only to find out with a video it was me who didn’t even know I was blocking movement or sending the wrong cue. There is so much to learn from the videos of your runs that it is almost impossible to name them all.
Soon you will understand that not only are competition runs important to tape, but your practices are as well. Then you can really compare what happens at home to what happens in the ring. You can see if maybe indeed you have been practicing wrong at home and it just becomes more vivid under stress. It will also help you see progress on a more daily basis and allow you to see the strengths and weakness of you and your dog and how to address them and exploit them.
And what is even more fun is being able to look back and see how far you and your dog have come over the weeks, months and even years. Sometimes it becomes even better than gold if one day you find you and your dog had your last run. In that off chance one of you becomes injured or unable to run, you will be ever grateful you swallowed your pride and took videos of as many of your runs as possible.
So go out there with confidence and an eagerness to learn from yourself with the help of a video tape. Remember, we are all on a journey and we all had to start from the beginning. Dog agility is one of the friendliest sports I know and we all want to see each other succeed.