I’ve been thinking a lot about creating deep and solid partnership with my dogs. And how to help others do the same.
Most of the time what we think about is how to be better at our handling and impeccable with the training of our dogs…the mechanics of it. Like our position, body language, signaling, timing.
We practice our skills. We rehearse being calm and clear, good leaders. We remember to breathe. All important. Really important. Cannot be overstated important.
That gets us far. We’re happy, our dogs are happy.
It’s not enough. We fall apart. Our dog doesn’t do what we expect. We get frustrated, annoyed. Maybe even angry. Sometimes it’s brief, but often it goes on, starting a spiral that sucks us and our dog into the abyss where partnerships are wounded.
We look around at what just happened, and don’t know how we got here. Geez. Sometimes we blame ourselves. Other times we blame our dogs. Or the conditions. Or the sheep. Or the equipment. Or the judge. Or the trainer/coach. Or the bad luck at being last to run and the entire crew is already in break down mode, distracting us and our dog.
Eventually we (emotionally) recover and go back to training, practicing, getting better and more prepared.
We believe that once we get to a certain level of expertise, our partnership with our dog will reach the level of the “stars”…like those teams who are brilliant…no matter what is going on around them. You know who I mean, right?
Oh, how we long to be like that. Calm, confident, competent…partnered with a dog equally prepared and awesome. Standing in the winners circle…happy and filled with gratitude and grace.
What’s the secret? It’s so simply, really.
You know those moments in training or competition that I mentioned earlier, when things fall apart?
Those moments when things start to fall apart are doorways to inspired partnership.
Think about it: you are standing in a threshold that leads directly to brilliance.
You have one brief millisecond to decide.
Will you step through to the place where partners are true partners? To the place where you work with your dog to get thru the hard?
Will you choose to step into that place where there is no blame. There is no guilt, no frustration, no old baggage?
There is just you and your dog in this place.
And your common goal…your purpose for engaging in this activity…your shared delight at solving the problem at hand.
This is the place that truly inspired partnership happens.
It’s what I call a Choice Point.
It’s a choice that is potentially life-altering. It takes you on one life path or another.
In this place of partnering, you can be the handler and trainer you dream of being.
How to make a better choice:
1. You take a breath.
2. You connect with your heart…your heart connects to your dog.
3. You assess the challenge at hand and together, with your dog, you create a plan to work thru this hard.
4. And you work your plan with focus and devotion … always knowing the process is more important than the outcome. Yet, it’s the process that will get you the outcome you most desire.
5. Then, you come out the other side of this ‘hard’ more deeply connected to your dog. More prepared to step into the next level of partnership. Then…
You smile. That was easier than you thought it would be.
Your dog looks up at you with loving, smiling eyes…and you know that you made the right choice.