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Train Through Frustrations

Ideas from trainer Kari Massoth on how to work through training frustrations.


Something that I see often is the handler getting upset that their dog isn't "getting" it during training. It is easy as a bystander to point out that the dog is doing what the body language is saying. I also believe it goes a little deeper than movement and commands. How you trained your dog up until this point could be affecting agility training. Why? If you have a dog that is SUPER eager to please, they will offer anything in order to make you happy. But if you also trained your dog with submission tactics, they may be hesitant to try something in case they get it wrong, trying not to upset you. Fear not though, because there are ways to help get through training frustrations, without frustration.

So how do we go about working through frustrations and help what isn't working, while being positive? Four of the best steps that have been learned the hard way are below:

1. Go to a lesson with your trainer. They will be able to see things that might be over looked by you when training at home alone. It also provides a new space and excitement to work through with your dog. Don't have a trainer? The USDAA website has a group finder that you can find a club that should* have listings of trainers in your area.

2. Video EVERYTHING! Being able to review your videos to learn from is the easiest way to see what "went wrong" during a certain run. I do this often, because even though I have a *consistent* dog, we make mistakes, and I like to not disappoint him. It is worth it to work on minute details, and it's fun to see what is going really well. If you're worried about space on your phone or tablet, upload to Youtube or Google Drive, this will allow you to keep archives without running out of space on your devices.

3. Be Positive. This is supposed to be a game for you and your dog. Being positive makes it more fun to play. If you feel you're starting to get frustrated that your dog isn't getting a turn down, or popping out of the weaves, go back to the basics of something he/she knows, reward and take a break. It gives you a breather and time to gather thoughts, but also allows your dog to understand they did something good and pleasing.

4. Join a Community. Find an agility Facebook group. There are quite a few out there and belonging to a community is a great opportunity to meet new people and have different perspectives. Also, finding course maps and breaking them down into digestible chunks can be difficult. Facebook groups make it easy to find small sequence maps to work through.

These are pretty basic, but sometimes it helps to get back to the basics and re-group. The biggest piece of advice is play the game with your dog. Agility is supposed to be something fun and team building for you to do with your dog, not a frustration. Stay positive and good luck with training!

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