Once again it's time for a Blog Action Day post (when lots of dog agility bloggers post about the same topic on one day). As always, thanks to Steve at agilitynerd.com for organizing.
One of the things I love most about agility is that I feel it is constantly pushing me to be a better, more selfless person. Thus, I was pleased to see that the topic for today's post was attitude. Of course, attitude is very broad. As I was thinking about it, my ideas were kind of scattered, so I figured I'd try doing a little acrostic of the word "Positive," which was of course, in true cliche form, what I first thought of. The acrostic was fun--I encourage you to try it. Which words would you use to describe your vision of a positive agility attitude? Would you use positive as your stem word, or something else?
Patient. For me, patience is one of the hardest and most enduring lessons of agility. I've had many moments of impatience--when our beginner classes went at a slow pace, when Jonah is nervous and runs slowly, when he's a little off or the weather's bad and all I want is to train-train-train, and more recently when I set my sights on Qs and titles and we don't earn them as quickly as I'd expected. Now that I know Jonah can run brilliantly in a trial, I want him to do so all the time, and I constantly need to remind myself to be patient and enjoy the journey even if it means some NQs along the way. (What do you think? Would you choose "patient" for your P word? Is it more important to be "prepared" for anything? "Proactive" about handling and looking out for your dog's safety/interests? Something else?)
Optimistic. I'm generally a pretty optimistic person, but Jonah keeps me on my toes sometimes! At our last trial when we came out of every run with something to be disappointed about, I knew that I had to put on a happy face and go have a party to make sure his confidence in the ring stays high. So it's all about spinning things around. Slow down on the table? Sounds like time for the table game! Nervous about people around the ring? In class, we can see how silly we can make our classmates/teacher act to try to distract us :). Jonah has his issues, but he's also very talented. There's so much to be optimistic about in our future together. (What's your O? Sometimes we have to be "outrageous" to motivate a less-than-confident dog. Or "outgoing" with peers to keep learning, or to find partners for pairs or DAM team. We have to be "organized" to keep track of lots of trial premiums, health schedules, training plans, etc.)
Supportive. This is one of my big current projects, and it has to do with people relationships, which are often harder than dog relationships. When I first started agility, I was of the mind that I should be learning as much as I could, but that I had little to offer. Now I know that everyone has valuable experience, and that we owe it to our peers to lend a hand, offer advice, rejoice together or simply be present with those having tough times. Two of the people who started trialing at the same time I did have lost talented, young and promising dogs. I felt at a loss at how to help them. Some members of our class have had trouble teaching running contacts, and I want to be more supportive of their hard work. I love agility because it allows us to all run for the Q and not as much against one another. We're all in it together, and we depend on one another for support. (What do you like for "S"?)
Innovative. This is the fun part! I love that agility, especially with a low-motivation dog, requires you to be creative. You don't want to be drilling the same things over and over, so we get to mix it up. I love handling in different ways, setting up wacky courses, doing short sequences, and then sometimes doing 'training' in a totally different atmosphere--like going to the beach and finding random obstacles to play with. It was truly freeing when I got to the point where I really believed that whatever was best for my dog was what I would do, even if it wasn't what everyone else was doing. What's your favorite innovation in training? Or in trialing? Do you prefer a different "I" word?
Thankful. We could never do it on our own, and so many things need to come together for agility to be successful. Around the world, most people would think our pampered pets are totally outrageous. I am thankful that I am able to feed my dog quality food, give him veterinary care, and spend leisure time with him, giving him exercise and mental stimulation. Sufficient food, health care and leisure time are luxuries that millions of people around the world lack, let alone dogs. So let's be exceedingly thankful for our situations, and let's think about how we can contribute to changing the systems of injustice in the world around us, too! (If not thankful, do you prefer "trusting," "trustworthy,""timely," "truthful," or something else?)
Insightful. For me, this is all about knowing your dog, reading the environment, and being perceptive about how to make the most of any situation. How can you make your dog have the most possible fun? It's been an amazing process for me to get to know Jonah more deeply. Now I can predict what he's thinking a lot of the time. I know when he's going to get a drink of water, when he's ready for bed, when he's about to jump from one side of the couch and onto my laptop if I'm not careful, or when he's uneasy about another dog. I still have lots to learn, but this insight is really very special. I'm often a little dense, but I like to think I'm getting to be more aware of my dog! (What about "intuitive," "interested"?)
Victorious. Jonah has made me redefine victory in every run we do. Basically, it's always a victory, and I just have to figure out a rationalization to make myself believe it :-). I'm lucky that we rarely have an entirely bad run. Yes, he had an off course, but he charged off that start line like lightning--victory! Sure, he missed a weave entry, but he ran that closing line better than anyone I watched--victory! Spectacular running contacts--another victory! Really any time I see his happy grin, his bouncing excitement and his sparkling eyes, it's a victory. (If you come up with a better V, let me know!)
Efficient. If V was hard to come up with a good adjective, E is just hard to choose. I went with efficient because it's a little different from what I've written so far, but things like "enthusiastic," "energetic," "entertaining," "engaging," or others are probably closer to the central theme of positive. Anyway, efficient has three main ideas for me. First, it's important to train in efficient, well-planned sessions so the energy stays high the whole time. Second, I really love handling courses with dog efficiency in mind--the shorter the path, the sooner you get to party at the end! Third, efficient training means less pounding on a dog, which is good for long term health.
I can't wait to hear any comments you might have, and I'm looking forward to reading all the other 'attitude' posts, too!