Dog Agility Blog Event Day, please visit all the blogs (http://dog-agility-blog-events.posterous.com/pages/2012-march-if-i-knew-then-what-i-know-now):
I would like to share one of the most important lessons I have learned in the past year; don't get discouraged, it may take time. I know everyone hears "this is supposed to be fun for you and your dog" when they are learning agility but hearing it and actual practice is often difficult when you are a beginner and have a beginner dog.
My Boxer Kiah is my first agility dog, she can do well in class situation but has a difficult time at a trial. I have some pretty awesome agility trainers and she knows her obstacles well. After 2 years of trialing and not doing well at trials due to zooms, refusing to do equipment and inattention, I was really getting discouraged. It showed in my confidence, my lack of confidence in her at trials and trialing was no longer fun for either of us. Kiah even got to a point where her head was hanging down, apparently with dread, when we went out to practice a run in class. I was afraid I was ruining her and was thinking about retiring her last March when my agility trainer suggested I take some private lessons from an obedience trainer.
I felt I knew my dog, things in theory I knew but really didn't know, if that makes sense. The trainer is awesome and I learned so much. I learned that Kiah is "soft", her feelings are hurt easily and she is "hard (lots of drive)" when she is obsessing with something and nothing penetrates that obsession. I had one obedience class with Kiah when I first got her and although we practiced some basic obedience at home it was not enough for the her. It is a continuing process and without continued training you backslide. With the help of the trainer, I began to learn more about controlling her, making her want to work with me and have fun doing it. We try to practice almost everyday, she gets excited when I tell her we are going to train. I keep it short and then we play for a while. My confidence is coming back; we are beginning to have fun again and are doing much better at trials. I am prepared to take baby steps with her and each step forward is a joy.
I heard somewhere you should start a journal and write in it every day. Mine will say; DON'T GET DISCOURAGED. KEEP IT FUN!!!! I also plan to post it on my refrigerator so I see it often :-)
So if you are having a similar experience, don't get discouraged. It may take some time to find the trigger that makes you and your dog a team but it will come. Just remember to smile, have fun and enjoy the experience with your dog.