One of the most difficult things for me to remember is, keeping your focus on the goal. WHen we loose sight of that, then we start messing up and everything falls to pieces. Forget about criticizing yourself. Go back to your focus on the goal. That solves the problem.
Today I went to a Show 'N Go. I was encouraged to enter Mickey by a few friends. When I first got there I did shy away, and watched the ring for a little bit. I also asked some questions. Then I brought Mickey out. Still didn't want to enter. Of course I could criticizing myself for my not wanting to enter at that moment. But this day wasn't a breaking point or a pivital moment in my life. It was just another step in my journey.
When I brought Mickey out, I realized I haven't had him at a park in a long time. He was highly distracted, wanting to smell every marking from dogs that have passed by the various bushes. Mickey was leaning and pulling towards the plants with some good tension, hoping to reach to get a more intimate sniff of what was left behind. Ok, we have some work to do.
I walked over to the area where they were having the event, Mickey was still distracted and not really wanting to stay with reasonable loose lead walking. Hmmm, again, it has been awhile and we are rusty. We had a good workshop session a few weeks ago but only one dog was brought out at one time. Less distraction. We did some nice heeling.
I watched, but was distracted myself. I decided that I should drop the criteria and work on him looking at me without trying to cue him. Cuing can sometimes turn into nagging if they are too distracted. That's not goo, so I let him look to me and when he did, he got the reinforcements. This will make of a low stress day. In fact, get him condition that obedience trials are no big deal. Since I realized he was distracted and if I went into that ring and gave a cue, there was a high probability he wouldn't take it. Not good, let's not entry, we can do this slow. Do this right, do this reasonable. Let's start hitting as many fun trials and parks as possible and then enter a Show 'N Go.
I actually saw some stressed people there tense from their dog not taking the command. I saw the tension in the person and it went right to the dog that then responded by sulking, sniffing becoming a statue. Be careful Christy not to get into that trap. Remember your journey. Make this fun for Mickey, make this low stress for Mickey. That's the goal more than getting ribbons, and titles. Focus on reinforcements and that is what I did. I get lost in the relationship with Mickey. I get lost in the science of the training. Its not emotional. With a Belgian, they feel emotions and I need good emotions while trialing.
I also have to keep positive thoughts for myself as well. I don't have to criticize myself and say, "I wimped out today! I should have entered to get myself going!" So I didn't enter today, so what. It wasn't a crucial pivitol moment. The appropriate thing is pat myself on the back and know that I was smart. I knew I would get tense because Mickey was distracted and I cannot afford that for the first time in the ring wtih Mickey. We do not want to develop a bad association. We work on dog's behaviors and humans behavior in sync and tandem. Push yourself too fast and that is like tripping on a bunch of scattered boxes. You have to pick yourself up and put the boxes back.
What to work on now? More sessions with shaping heeling. Think of my criteria and break it down carefully. Change criteria at the right increment, pace and momentum. Remember my goal, is to make this a non-stress environment. Allow for positive associations. It isn't about the ribbon or the title, although that is a goal. Getting mentally lost in the science keeps stress level down. It allows for problem solving with no emotions and a better path in moving forward. No room on the criteria page for criticizing myself. Also don't forget your shoulders and keep them straight and level.
We are moving forward. Planning the next park to practice!