When I compete I have trained my brain to focus on being the best my dog and I can be - using OUR personal strengths and skills to best effect around the judge's set course.
But here's the bit I want to focus on in today's post - how to improve those personal strengths and skills. Because even with a killer mental game plan, if you and your dog don't have skills then agility competitions will be challenging to say the least!
First off we need to start with some objectives. And these will be different according to each agility dog and handler team.
Let's look at my objectives with Jade, my G6 agility dog as an example. I'd like to finish the season at G7 and have entered our first champ classes together.
Now I can't control how well anyone else will do in the G6 classes we enter this year, the only bit I have control over is showing up with a well-prepared dog and then going into each class with a good attitude.
So what skills does your average G6 dog need in order to be well-prepared? Here's just a few to give you an idea:
- Difficult independent weave entries e.g. from challenging angles on both the left and right hand side
- Independence in completing weave poles e.g. whilst I'm hanging back or running off in another direction ready for then next part of the course
- Fast, confident contacts e.g. driving right to the end at top speed regardless of where I am
These are good objectives for anyone competing in G6-7. And there are many different training methods for accomplishing those skills, which a good trainer should be able to tailor to your particular partnership.
But here's the next important bit in becoming the best you and your dog can be. You need to know if what you're doing is working or not. And that means you'll need to do some record keeping. Before you sigh and stop reading, don't panic - it's wasn't my idea of fun not so long ago either! But there are some useful bits of technology which helped me and I think will probably help you, find record keeping that bit easier.
Use Your Mobile Phone
If like most of the world, your mobile phone is seemingly permanently attached to you - why not use it to record keep your training sessions? It's dead easy when you use this clever little stand, just pop your phone in, set it in an appropriate place and voila! Look at you record keeping!
Pack A Training/ Competition Bag
You may need two training bags, or at least one which has a separate compartment that you can keep stuff dry in. Because you'll need to pack your Joby stand and just a simple notebook with some pens/ pencils so that you can jot stuff down after you've done a training session. The sort of thing that can be helpful is something your trainer pointed out to you, or else something you noticed about how your dog did a particular sequence.
Oh and please, please, please - note down good stuff as well as stuff you need to work on okay? It should be a record of how well you're doing as well as things you still want to achieve.
And it doesn't need to be an essay either - come up with some shorthand such as I do for my own training. Here's some code from Vodka's training records:
- LLW practice into venue (LLW = Loose lead walking)
- Worked RZ off lead (RZ = Reinforcement zone)
- BA Exercise: Side paws (BA = Body Awareness)
This is just basic record keeping - if you find you're enjoying it then you can make it more complex and create folders etc. to help you. But start simple and make it into a habit - it'll pay dividends for you when you step onto your next startline :)
Today I'm grateful for my Joby Gorilla Pod which has revolutionised my record keeping, and meant that I have a library of clips charting Vodka's improvement. It's a LOT of fun looking back over how far we've come :)