Sunday, May 22, 2011

Self Confidence = Dog Confidence

We practiced Agility yesterday for about an hour working on short sequences and the blasted Jungle Gym Teeter (JGT).
We didn't have a high completion rate on sequences and made minimal progress on the JGT and yet, it was a very valuable practice session...

{Tunnel Cuteness}
I have been aware for awhile that my negative expressions have a negative effect on Gilda: If I drop my shoulders, stomp my foot, mutter 'dang' (the clean version) etc, she instantly stresses down as evidenced by her slowing down, hanging her head, running off. (It took me a long time to make the connection between what I viewed as 'bad dog' behavior and my own actions.)

Today, I realized that the opposite is also true: if I am confident, energetic, and upbeat, then Gilda is more likely to follow the correct path, stay with me, and trust me more.

The problem that this poses for me is that I am not at all confident in my handling skills or my dog training skills! It's the old Catch-22 if you will.

This was very evident on the JGT. I have no idea why Gilda has regressed so far on this obstacle but I can only suppose that I am somehow at the center of it all! I know full well that Gilda is capable of getting onto the Teeter and walking the length of it however, the moment she hesitates or quivers, I have a tendency to stop pushing her and this hesitancy on my part apparently feeds right into her insecurities. Clearly, what Gilda needs is for me to be more a cheerleader and less of a coddler. (Agility is also part psycho-analysis apparently...) When I stopped hesitating and kept moving quickly forward with my shoulders up, she was able to move around on the Teeter. It was a subtle but powerful lesson for me.

Another area I need to really work on is having confidence that Gilda will run her line even if I stay on my line. This is an untested theory as I have an overwhelming tendency to be able to both define my line verbally and by demonstration when walking the line without my dog after which I proceed to run a completely different line (ie right up against the jumps and obstacles) thinking that this is what Gilda needs! It's as if there is a mystical, gravitational pull that compels me to fling my arms directly over the jump bars and run directly at the tunnel openings but I'm getting a sense that this is  my coddling nature overriding my lack of confidence in my own handling and is not a true psychic phenomenon...

At least I know that Gilda will still be here by my side as I sort through all of this bit by bit! Hang in there, Gilds... We can do this!

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