Saturday, October 29, 2011

Handler Motivation

Recently, I've heard a few handlers talk about how discouraged they feel.  These are handlers who've been playing the game for more than five (or ten, or fifteen) years.  Most of them have competed with several dogs and they've all made good progress.  Their dogs earned multiple titles, from multiple venues.  Some of these handlers have won so many ribbons, they long ago stopped picking them up.  And yet....they're feeling de-motivated. 

        "Why am I doing this?!"

I get like that, too.

For one thing, it seems difficult to be both highly competitive and totally satisfied.  You often want more.  Thanks to "Livestream Video / FaceBook / YouTube," you can watch more super runs than ever.   You want to be able to run your dog like THAT. 

Your agility instructor has watched many of the same videos, or he's heard his students talk about them, or his students have flat-out asked him to work the more challenging aspects of agility.  He builds trickier courses.  International style!  He asks more of his students.  He wants to turn out some winning dogs, too.   

But what if you're not making visible progress toward your goals?    *Sigh*    Back to work you go...

Practice, practice, practice, train, train, train, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

.....and if you're still not getting there????

Practice, practice, practice, train, train, train, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.

.....and if many months (or years) have passed, and you still don't feel much closer.... spite of workshops, seminars, instruction videos, etc etc....

What then????

Little things, like 'changing economy,' 'aging,' 'bad knees' and/or 'inherent clumsiness' (in both you and your dogs) may start catching up to you, chipping away at your resolve.  You begin to think....'well crap, maybe I can't do this'....or.....'maybe I'll look for something else'....  

So you take a few weeks off, to just run and play or go on hikes with your dogs.  And, after your big break??   ..................your motivation is still at an all-time low.

So you look at your dogs.  After all, they are the end-all, be-all of your agility life.  Are they having fun?  

They are!  So you find motivation through your dogs.  There's nothing quite as wonderful as working through an agility course in sync with a happy dog. 

You can ride the dog-happiness-motivation train for quite a don't even have to compete or attend class to feel it.  You can rent some field time, and just enjoy being with your dog.   

But...if you're like may miss the feedback from your agility friends.  

It feels great when people clap for your run.  Recognition helps! 

When we get recognition, we realize that all the workshops, the spiral notebooks filled with training plans, the early classes, the private lessons....the practice, practice, practice, train, train, train, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.... worth it. 

How do you know?  Your agility friends told you so.

So here's how I see it: 

Agility is getting more competitive.   The standards are higher and the dogs are faster, and the training is more challenging. 

We can help one another stay motivated, by making an effort to watch each other's runs during practice and trials.  Clap!  Holler! Say YAY!  Offer positive feedback!  (Even if all you can think of is "What a beautiful dog!")

It works for our dogs....can it work for us?

[And, if all else fails....bake a few cookies?]


Channan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Channan said...

You have the most AMAZNG BLOG EVER! You always post about the most relevant topics and while sometimes introspective, they are often inspiring (like this one!) I always enjoy reading them but don't always have the time to reply. I have pending replies to your last 3 or 4… I'll reply soon!. Btw, you also have the best drawings on your blog too :).

Celeste, I'm clapping for you!

Celeste said...

Wow, totally didn't see that one coming... Thanks! Thank you!
Looking forward to watching you run at UKI Nationals next weekend.
(You'll be there? We did not enter, but Riff definitely wants to play in the field...)

Anonymous said...

Ok, maybe I was a bit over the top on my response, but it's true!

I won't be at UKI next weekend, my Dad and his girlfriend are coming into town so I have family obligations. It would have been fun though!


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