Don't Get Mad, Quit!

25 Mar 2013Steve Schwarz

I met a handler at a Seminar Thoughts On Choosing Seminar PresentersSteve's Seminars a couple years ago whose dog would sniff on course when they disconnected. We were working on a sequence when his dog started sniffing and walked off. I asked him to calmly collect his dog and work on some simple, fun tricks his dog likes to get reconnected and then retry the sequence.

Then he said something unexpected to me: “No I need to stop”. I asked “Why?” and he responded: “When he starts sniffing I get so frustrated that I start getting angry. I don’t want to be angry at my dog”.

Wow! It was so cool that he was aware of his emotions and the potential for a negative effect on his dog. That was the right decision for him and his dog. So they took a break and tried again after the other dogs had run and were much happier and more successful.

Call it what you will: “self awareness”, “inner voice”, “conscience”. We know the kind of person we want to be (or our dog needs us to be). Hopefully, as we get older we also learn our short comings. Inside we know when it is too much, too frustrating, or when we or the dog are too tired.

Try to listen to that inner-voice.

It can be tempting in a class, seminar, or trial situation to go past the “right” point. To take that extra run, “make” the dog do it again. The social pressure of wanting to be successful or completing the course can cause us to ignore our inner voice or ignore our team mate. The “authority figure” of the instructor/coach/judge asking to “just do it again” can convince us to keep going when we should probably take a break.

I try to make a point of telling anyone I’m training with that they have to do what is right for themselves and their dog. Don’t worry about the sequence, I don’t care if we end up only working one obstacle in a long obstacle sequence. Or taking a break after the first attempt. We have to do what is right for the handler and the dog. Some days we are not at our best and our dogs have bad days too.

As an instructor I feel it is my duty to challenge handlers, even push them to try new things. But if they tell me they really can’t or shouldn’t I respect that.

I admit that it can be hard to stop; but I try to step back and “make the call”. Sometimes the best decision is to just: Call It Quits. Tomorrow is another day!

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