With 2013 in the books, winter in full swing and crazy cold temperatures everywhere, it's time to consider and plan for 2014. What are your goals? Aspirations? Have you already scrapped your New Years' Resolution? Personally we think about losing a bit of weight, eating better, spending more time with friends, saving a bit of money for something special or even giving up a vice that's not healthy. Where our dog training is concerned we think about a faster sit in motion, a smoother jump or transition between obstacles, a more straight finish, a cleaner hold of the dumbbell, more attentive heeling or getting the title we've been chasing, but consider less how our mental state impacts our training.
Nearly 10 months ago, I joined a CrossFit affiliate in Columbia, MO, CrossFit Fringe. You may or may not have heard about CrossFit but it's "constantly varied, functional movements, performed at high intensity". In short, it's an intense workout that focuses on strength and conditioning for everyday tasks. It's not just weight lifting or cardio, but a combination, often using just body weight to elicit a positive neural adaptation. Huh? What's this have to do with dog training or a blog on the Canine Training Systems website? Interesting you should ask. It took a little time to circle around to it myself. After barely being able to finish the free Saturday morning workout last April, I realized I needed to make a change.
I started IPO (Schutzhund) way back in 1989 with a Rotweiller pup, then worked GSD's and then got involved with police K9 training, earth work with terriers and have been involved with dogs back and forth between venues of some type in one way or another ever since. I have lots of shiny production trophies made of expensive plastic and metal for video production and have seen some amazing dog work. Really. Cool. Stuff. The bulk of my time with my own dogs (maybe like yours) has been spent in consideration of training, the fitness and capabilities of my dogs, a training/conditioning plan for moving forward and how to best achieve my next short term goal. Little dedicated time and attention was consciously given to my mental and physical preparation; MY physical conditioning and MY mental approach to the work.
So little in fact that in my 40's I'm paying a relatively heavy physical price. I've compression fractured and herniated discs catching dogs, have arthritis in both thumbs, a surgical repair for torn labrum and rotator cuff in my catching arm, have a bulge at T10/11 and facet sydrome here and there along with arthritis in both knees. I am currently having some tingling/numbness down my left arm into my thumb when I sit too long. Gotta get that checked out soon. I caught a fair few dogs and played hard- I regret none of it. I wish I'd been in a bit better shape though!
A Tough Mudder later, I realize all this working out has pushed me to where I am. Where am I? Hmmmmm. I'm mentally stronger. I'm also physically fit but more importantly, I'm looking at things differently. It took me really pushing my body to see where my mind was at. I'm happier, healthier and feel more complete. I'm better for my work, family, dogs and my outlook is bright and resolute. It's really quite bizarre to think that my mental game hasn't been 100% all this time. It's been a culmination of things for me. My food, exercise and attention to detail. Details. Anyone that reads this may think what a useless blog post, he's slipped, why post this. Point being, what role does your mental game play in YOUR training, YOUR everyday, YOUR outlook. Are you achieving your goals? Goals? How do you face difficulty, failure, accept success? What details are pertinent to you to make you best at your game? It's about the details. What we do daily, reward and reinforce. The baby steps toward success. Approximations to finished behaviors. What routines and behaviors are you filling your days with?
We consider all of the aspects of character, temperament, drive, endurance and trainability we want in our dogs and do our best to isolate, shape and strengthen what we can to get optimal performance through good training. It's why we do this- it's fun for us and our dogs. What are you bringing or, more importantly, NOT bringing to the training equation? Beyond the relationship and sense of teamwork we gain through working with animals, your ability to be sharp, orderly, track progression and identify the moments we want to reward are what training is about. You need to be in the moment. The more that you are, the more precisely your ability to isolate behaviors is. If you're not 100%, your training won't be. Consider what it would take to get there and stay there. What would you need to do today, tomorrow and by the weekend? Is 2014 your year? What are your goals for 2014? 2015? Beyond? For you and your training, family, career and future? With your dog, you're half of the picture, are you the best half you can be?