Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Handler's Matter!

I spent last weekend in Indianapolis, IN, at a Portuguese Water Dog Trial.  Saturday, I just hung out, visited with friends, and watched handlers and their dogs.  On Sunday I judged and finished up my 2nd provisional needed to become an official Portuguese Water Dog Water Trial Judge. 

One advantage of judging is you get a front row seat when it comes to observing not only the dog, but also the handler.  Amazingly enough, handling matters!  It can make or break a qualifying, or passing performance.  I’m not just talking about water trials here; handling is a requirement for almost every performance event. 

Probably the most common handling mistake is being inconsistent emotionally.

By emotionally, I mean that ‘you’ the handler becomes  so overly excited, and/or stressed, that your dog doesn’t even know who you are anymore.  Maybe your voice gets really high, loud, or both.  Maybe you start to beg, or plea with your dog to perform.  Meanwhile, your dog is searching for some way to get away from you.  Who can blame him?  This can result in dogs that start to leave the ring, slow down significantly (stress down) or get the stress rips (stress up). 

It seems like we spend so much time working on ‘ring stresses for our dogs that we forget about ourselves.  Handlers get stressed too!  Luckily, there are things you can do to help. 

There are several great speaking and book writers on improving your Mental Game.  A couple I really like are Jane Savoie, a horse trainer and Lanny Bassham, a formal Olympic Rifle shooter. 

Here’s a clip I found on You Tube.  Okay, so it has to do with Golf, but you get the general idea.  Not many of us enough money to golf, after agility has sucked us dry!  VBG

You can also look for fun matches.  Tell your friends that you need this to be like a trial.  Need to ensure your stress level?  Put some money where your mouth is.  Say for instance you’re working on keeping your tone and volume of voice.  Give a friend $20 to hold for you, if you do a good job, you get your money back.  If you fall into some old habits, she gets to keep the dough. 

At class, make it competitive with your group.  Try to get it to ‘trial’ level, where you want to out perform each other.  This might help you ‘replicate’ a trial situation. 

So, get to work on your MENTAL GAME! 
 Your dog will THANK YOU!

1 comment:

  1. Very good point! I feel like I really need to work on this. Even with a super difficult/new handling sequence in class I can get nervous enough that I mess my dog up.