Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude. -- Ralph Marson
Great effort springs naturally from great attitude. -- Pat Riley
Today's post is part of the Dog Agility Blog Events action day on the subject of attitude. Please take some time to read the other posts listed on the event page -- There are lots of great things being posted! <Click here to go to the page> Don't worry, clicking that will open up a new page for you so you can finish reading this one first. ;o)
I struggle with these "action day" events. I'm not very good at writing meaningful or witty posts on demand, it would seem. lol So instead of pre-writing my entry as a few did, I elected to wait and see what others were writing about to see if it would inspire me. Unfortunately after reading over a dozen blog posts, I still feel somewhat muddled about the whole idea.
Attitudes are pretty infectious that way. I wish more people would take that lead from their dog(s) because I think the agility world would be a happier place that way.
Agility trials are a very interesting place to observe how attitude can have a drastic effect on teams and their performance.
Negative Nancy: Nancy doesn't like the footing in the ring. She doesn't like how the course was laid out. She's upset with her spot in the run order. Negative Nancy finds fault in everything, including her dog, and the result is generally not pretty. But it's not Nancy's fault, the world is just out to get her.
Worrying Wanda: Wanda is worried. She's worried that she won't have enough time to walk the course properly. She's worried that she won't be able to get her dog to go potty before their run. She's worried that her dog will visit people in the ring and not run with her. As a result, Wanda's dog either shuts down or ignores her.
Stressful Stuart: Stuart exudes stress. Stuart's Q rate is not very high (for reasons obvious to many of us) and Stuart obsesses about this. Stuart expects free training from other competitors during walk-throughs. Stuart gets very frustrated and blames his dog and his chosen agility organization when he gets another NQ. These NQ's cause Stuart even more stress, but Stuart just continues on doing what he's always been doing.
Give-up Gabby: Gabby is interesting. Gabby has thrown her hands in the air and claims that her dog will never be able to do X. You would expect that Gabby would eventually stop showing since she claims her dog is incapable of something, but they keep showing up at every trial. They also keep lamenting that they will never be able to do X.
Apathetic Alan: Agility costs a lot of money. I have no idea why Alan keeps coming to trials when he seems to get so little joy from it.
Competitive Carly: Carly has one mission and that is to win. She plows into and through people during walk-throughs. She moves her (only) dog up or down in the run order to suit her needs. She argues with scribes and stewards. If she has a good run she makes a huge fuss over her dog, but if something goes wrong she throws the dog in the crate and ignores it until the next class.
Positive Pam: Pam is a pretty cool person. She always has something good to say about your run, even if you don't really want to hear it at that moment. ;o) Even when Pam's run doesn't go well, she finds the good parts and celebrates them.
Snarky Stan: Stan tries to be like Pam and is nice to your face, but quickly turns around to discuss how many ways you screwed up your run to his friends.
You get my drift. Sigmund Freud would have a field day at your average agility trial. The stress of competition makes many of us act a lot differently than usual. And honestly, at some point or another I'm sure we've all acted in one of the ways described above.
One of the reasons I elected to make the transition to USDAA was because I felt like I was feeling a little too much like Apathetic Alan up there. I didn't feel challenged at NADAC trials anymore and the Q's didn't even excite me -- with Secret they almost became expected. I used to be so proud of our ribbon pictures after each trial and after a time I started to almost be embarrassed by them. I enjoyed being around my agility friends, but I was finding no fun in the courses anymore.
I know this is a problem based in attitude. But it's also something I can easily adjust and I'm happy to say that making the change to a new organization did light that fire under me again. It's given us new things to work on in our training which has, in turn, made training more fun again. Although it's kind of scary being the new person in a sea of unknown faces at trials, it's also pretty cool to experience the thrill of being a "newbie" again.
If I were to have a goal concerning my own attitude, it would be to improve my mental management skills. I'm a very positive person where my dogs are concerned, but I can also be quite lazy. I tend to rush through course walks (a habit from having the first dog on the line for so many years) and as a result I often go into the ring without a concrete plan. This results in sloppy and reactive handling -- honestly, something that you can get away with in NADAC when you don't have lightening fast dogs. My goal as we move forward in USDAA is to improve my attitude with regard to proactive handling and to be better prepared. My dogs will run better for it!
Bottom line, always run with joy. This is a game we play with our dogs -- The world will not end tomorrow if we fail to earn that much-needed Q. There are always more trials and more chances to get that big title. And even if you don't make it to that big goal, is that really more important than the time you spent with your dog? Work hard, play harder. The rest will fall in line. Smile!